There has been a noticeable influx of newcomers to the field of business analysis as the importance of skilled and well-versed Business Analysts becomes more apparent with organisations stepping into the modern era. It is becoming ever more vital for companies to be able to predict upcoming trends and implement changes accordingly.
Similarly, it could be a crippling factor for any business to set unrealistic goals and expectations when undertaking a new venture or when introducing new products into the company. This is where a skilled Business Analyst will make a notable difference in the advice and direction that they are able to provide.
What is the Difference Between a Business Analyst and a Project Manager?
It is often the case that the roles of Business Analyst and Project Manager become blurred. There are two areas where these roles may “bleed” into one another namely:
When planning a project, most of the responsibility will fall on the Project Manager, however, it is up to the Business Analyst to provide a business analysis approach with estimates of effort against the business analysis tasks that need to be performed.
Here it is imperative that the Business Analyst and Project Manager agree to the planning activity boundaries that each will be responsible for. This will negate any miscommunication and the duplication of vital project data.
It is often the case that the Business Analyst and the Project Manager will need to engage the same stakeholders. This may cause the stakeholders to raise an issue with the Project Manager and not the Business Analyst, causing the Project Manager to agree to a new requirement or change to a pre-existing requirement, unbeknownst to the Business Analyst.
This is not only a case of miscommunication on the part of the Project Manager, but also shows that there is a lack of awareness from the stakeholders on how to properly engage with different members of staff. Here, the Project Manager should abstain from an agreement for change until all the involved parties have been consulted.
Many aspiring Business Analysts are unclear as to what is required to be effective in their chosen field. Although it is well known that a Business Analyst seeks to align the practices of an organisation with it’s business needs, there are also other responsibilities that they will perform, for example:
- Requirements planning – This involves the creation of a plan to outline the business analysis activities that are needed by a project. This plan will also typically include the business analysis approach, work effort estimates and resource requirements.
- Requirements elicitation – Here, the Business Analyst needs to elicit stakeholder requirements including the identification of stakeholders, engagement of those stakeholders, and the management of all the requirements outputs received during stakeholder engagement activities.
- Requirements management – This responsibility entails the management of requirements documentation, reviews, prioritisation and validation activities.
- Stakeholder engagement – This needs to be done continuously, but will only be limited to engagements that are related to requirements.
Business Analyst Skills
When considering a career in business analysis, keep in mind that the most successful applicants typically possess a certain set of core and soft skills that are vital to the role. These are:
Communication – Business Analysts need to communicate effectively in order to not only ascertain what the needs of the organisation are, but also to relay the information that is necessary when engaging with stakeholders. This does not only pertain to face-to-face meetings, but also to communication via electronic means, such as emailing, conference calls, web meetings etc.
Problem-solving – Every project will have its fair share of problems. The Business Analyst will need to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the problem and the solutions that are available.
Critical thinking – When considering a solution to an organisation’s needs, there will typically be various options for the Business Analyst to evaluate. They will need to decide on the solution that provides the best fit for the business, whilst keeping the stakeholders’ needs in mind.
Documentation skills – The ability to create documentation that is clear and concise is a skill that will help keep vital data organised and easy to find. This will negate confusion and frustration when referring back to these documents.
Facilitation – Business Analysts will facilitate meetings with stakeholders and often with other members of staff (sometimes known as interviews) in order to reach a conclusion as to the best solution to offer the organisation.
Knowledge of business analysis tools – Although the basic computer programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are used more than any other, it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with modeling tools, requirements management tools and project management tools. These will only prove to be helpful as your career progresses.
Self-management – When dealing with issue management and delegation, it is vital that a Business Analyst possesses good self-management skills. The same goes for deadlines that need to be met as they will be solely responsible to ensure that they are kept. This skill will show that you are able to do the work without being directed, giving other roles in the company the freedom to concentrate on their responsibilities (business as usual).
Take constructive criticism – Business Analysts are constantly barraged with feedback, whether it is about their documentation or the solutions that they have proposed. Not all feedback will be positive and this needs to be seen as an opportunity to learn from the opinions of others in the organisation.
Relationship-building skills – In order to engage multiple stakeholders, the ability to forge strong relationships becomes a vital skill. This does not necessarily end with stakeholders, however, as a thorough Business Analyst will also engage with project teams in order to bridge any gaps that may exist. This could prove to be a vital skill, not only towards your reputation as a Business Analyst, but towards completing the project as it was intended.
Be a team player – In your every day duties as a Business Analyst, you will deal with a range of individuals in gathering the information that you will need to devise a solution to the organisation’s needs. You will need the ability to interact with different personalities on different levels of the organisation and be able to communicate both ways (speaking and listening) with the same level of interest. Where there is a concern about a risk or issue, it needs to e taken seriously and given the same amount of attention as those weightier and more likely risks and issues.
Business Analyst Training for Beginners
So where is the best place to start your business analysis training? Gaining an internationally recognised certification will put you head and shoulders above any uncertified candidates that are looking to get into a business analysis role.
BCS Business Analysis Foundation Certification
Accredited by BCS (The British Computer Society), the Business Analysis Foundation certificate is known the world over as one of the most popular starting points for a career in business analysis. The focus of this course lies in the tools, techniques and principles that are used when analysing an organisation’s needs.
It also teaches the knowledge needed to devise solutions to the problems that the business is facing, allowing the Business Analyst to propose and implement them where needed the most. All these factors combined make this course the perfect Business Analyst training for beginners.
During this course, students are taught the analysis of strategy, how a business case is created, the implementation of change in an organisation, business process modelling, business systems modeling and the roles and responsibilities that a Business Analyst will be expected to fulfil.
You will be able to undertake the course from the comfort of your own home via online training, making it easy to set aside the amount of time that suits you to complete the course before sitting your exam. Once you have passed your Foundation exam, you will be eligible to study the Practitioner course, giving you the ability to take the skills that you learned from the Foundation course to an even higher level.
Why Should I Become Certified?
There are many advantages to gaining a business analysis certification, other than the obvious fact that you will stand out among any uncertified candidates that may be vying for the same position. A prospective employer is far more likely to discard a CV that does not list a certification without even reading through it and will typically move those with an internationally recognised qualification to the front of the queue.
But the advantages pertain not only to the interviewing phase of employment. A certified business analysis professional is likely to receive a starting salary that is between 5% and 15% higher than the market average. Once you have cemented yourself as an asset to your organisation and have proven that you have the skills and knowledge needed to become a real asset to your organisation, this figure is only set to rise year on year.
Many employers put enough value in a certified employee to ensure that they remain certified by contributing to their recertification and, hence, maintaining their status as business analysis practitioners. They may also be inclined to send you on professional development events that will enhance your professional marketability.
Last, but by no means least, certified individuals are far more likely to advance through the ranks of their organisation than their uncertified counterparts. This is because, by gaining a certification, you will have proven that you are dedicated to your role and strive to better yourself as a Business Analyst. With this advancement you will also reap the rewards of an even higher salary and a CV that is highly sought after.
Stepping into the world of business analysis may seem daunting at first, but with the proper training and the applicable set of skills, you will be able to start a career that is not only rich with opportunity, but in reward alike. The average salary for a Business Analyst in the UK is £50,000 – a number that will only increase as you gain experience in the field and build your reputation as an in-demand professional.