How to become a business analyst

What are the skills needed and what kind of salary can you expect?

Business analyst ad in a paper circled in yellow highlighter

Just about any industry uses business analysts, from IT and telecoms to retail and financial institutions. 

There is a growing demand for business analysts in many organizations. And anyone who loves crunching numbers and trawling through data to find insights may find this is the career for them. 

But what do business analysts do and how do you become one? There are various ways to become a business analyst. As a first step into this career, you should determine if you are a good fit for such a role and figure out what skills, training, and qualifications you need.

What is a business analyst?

The job title sounds generic, but being a business analyst is certainly not monotonous. The role is diverse and wide-ranging and changes from business to business. 

Depending on the organization, this can be an entry-level position or a role for experienced professionals. This means business analysts are engaged with a wide variety of tasks, and the job description from one company to the other can be very different.

A business analyst works inside an organization and reviews data so an organization’s plans align with business goals. This could be a one-off project or continuous development of the organization and act as a conduit between technology specialists and the wider organization.

Why are business analysts important?

Business analysts are important to many organizations as they make digital transformation easier, which is an essential undertaking in the modern business world. Their role is crucial to the future of any business. They do this by frequently assessing business functions to gauge the effect a proposed transformation or new solution may have on an organization. 

What responsibilities does a business analyst have?

The business analyst’s role is varied, but they have several shared responsibilities across the board.

The key responsibility is to find business issues or inefficiencies and provide recommendations — usually through deploying some sort of technical solution.

There are a few important elements business analysts are responsible for:

  • Investigation: Analysts must discover the principal business problems needing to be tackled and unearth any information connected to the project.
  • Requirement analysis: Analysts must organize, specify, and model requirements to ensure they are comprehensive and clear.
  • Requirement specification: Analysts must verify that documentation of requirements is formatted in an easy-to-understand way for stakeholders. They must also be easy to share.
  • Requirement verification and validation: Business analysts must ensure requirements align with the business problem faced, they are ratified by all the applicable stakeholders, and meet important quality standards.

What are the key skills of a business analyst?

A business analyst must have a wide range of skills, but here are some key ones you’ll need to get your career going. 

A technology head

The most important skills a business analyst can have are technical skills. Most analysts work in an organization’s IT department, and their recommendations usually involve a technical solution.

In today’s digital world, analysts must have a good understanding of what IT solutions are available and know about the latest key trends and technical innovations.

Research know-how

Projects are all about solving a problem for the business. Before any decision is made, all possible outcomes need to be explored. Identifying the most suitable outcome requires an analysis of the situation. This involves investigation and research. 

To thoroughly research the problem requires asking probing questions, investigating all the angles, and looking at how other organizations tackled similar issues. All this knowledge is necessary when presenting findings back to the organization so it can make an informed decision.

Be a critical thinker

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Research is essential to the business analyst role, but it is not just a case of presenting findings. To be a great business analyst, you must get the crux of the matter. This means thinking about all the means of fixing a problem. 

An analyst must show how they have determined assorted possibilities and studied the most feasible ones, even if this means “thinking outside the box” and moving into uncharted areas.

When evaluating options, they should consider the effect and probability of each alternative. An analyst must also consider the risks of selecting or not selecting a specific result. A wide-ranging appraisal of several choices should ensure the organization is confident it has made a wise choice.

Be a people person

Business analysts spend a lot of time talking to people, such as users, management, clients, and other stakeholders, about these issues, so being a people person is a must-have skill for this job. 

Being attuned to diverse opinions, inspirations and intentions are indispensable to balance the range of characters within an organization effectively. Knowing where within a business a person is, who they are responsible for, and who they report to will help figure out their risk profile and decide how to present assumptions and proposals.

Be a communicator

In line with being a people person, business analysts must be good communicators, as you must communicate your findings to everyone and gain buy-in to whatever outcome is eventually pursued. Having clear lines of communication will ensure all stakeholders are updated on the progress of a project.

What qualifications and experience do you need to become a business analyst?

Given that the job requirements are varied, relevant qualifications can vary from industry to industry and even from company to company. 

While a business analyst needs no particular degree or qualification, one of the best ways of getting such a role is to have a computer science degree or an MBA. You can also get a postgraduate qualification in business information systems or business management.

Several organizations, such as the IIBA, IQBBA, IREB, and PMI, offer certifications that can boost your chances of becoming a business analyst. These certifications include, but aren’t limited to, the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP), the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA), the Certified Business Analysis Professional CBAP certification, and the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PBA).

Generally speaking, most business analysts spend three to four years earning a degree to gain an entry-level position. Even with an entry-level job, it will take a few more years in such a role to learn all about different aspects of the field.

What do business analysts earn and what are their prospects?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management analyst employment, including business analysts, is expected to increase by 11% between 2019 and 2029. This is much faster than the average of all occupations. 

The BLS also found the median pay for this category is $87,660 per year. The lowest 10% earned less than $50,990, and the highest 10% earned more than $156,840.

As a business analyst, the more experience you have will determine your salary. Location will also play an important part in salary.

The prospects for choosing a business analyst role are good, as businesses always need to change and reappraise their procedures to adjust to unpredictable circumstances. Being a business analyst, you can help organizations by asking questions, pinpointing the biggest problems, and answering them with new, data-driven solutions.

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