Variety, the spice of a Business Analysts Life
Part of the reason why some people still struggle with what it means to be a business analyst, is because it is in fact a very diverse career by definition. Business Analysis in terms of what it means in every aspect of this profession is defined very clearly in the IIBA® BABOK® guide, and yet, if you read this guide, you will agree that there is enormous scope for a business analyst to do a wide variety of things with their careers. So let’s look at some of the aspects which make our career so diverse and interesting.
# All industries have business analysts.
Business Analysis applies to any organisation big or small and in any industry where there is any form of business need that requires a business solution. Business Analysis plays the role of analysing the business needs regardless of domain or industry and facilitates the translation of this into a business solution. So you pick where you would rather work, or keep it interesting and move between industries every few months or years.
# Business Analysis can live at the top or the bottom of the corporate ladder.
Granted that enterprise analysis is more often performed by more experienced business analysts and therefore you need to work towards this as a career goal. It does however exist as a very interesting and challenging analysis role at the top end of the corporate ladder. This makes Business Analysis even more diverse because it is one of very few careers where the same set of skills is applied at the two ends of the corporate ladder. The only real difference is that the level of business problem will be more conceptual than physical at the top end rather than at the bottom end.
# Business Analysis can be fluffy and feel good or very technical and detailed which are you?
Some Business Analysts are naturally talented in discussing business needs in a language that business stakeholders really understand. These business analysts are great at conversing with the these stakeholders about their business needs in terms of their business goals they would like to achieve or are not achieving. They can then translate these required business benefits that the business asks for into business requirements which can in turn be captured as part of a proposed solution. Then on the other side, you find business analysts who like the specifics and the details surrounding good business requirement definitions with appropriate detailed specifications. These business analysts are good listeners, good detailed documentation experts and can be relied upon to support their counter part business analysts who “talk the talk”. You choose where you fit, and you play your business analysis role equally well.
# Do you like to work in a loud and explicit way or do you prefer it to be implied and assumed?
In some types of projects, often more waterfall based projects, you will find that there is a great emphasis placed on requirements gathering activities – running workshops with everyone, documenting requirements and running these requirement documents through various cycles of reviews and approvals. This is what I referred to as loud and explicit business analysis. In other cases, the requirements gathering side of the project is still very important but it is more fluid and implied in the every day life of the project. Often this is the way requirements are managed within an Agile project environment. Business Analysis is therefore applied in two different ways without changing the nature of what is being done. This makes business analysis very adaptable and flexible as a skill set.
# Which part of the project life cycle would you prefer?
When you are a software developer, you really get involved mostly in the build aspect of the software development cycle. With business analysis, you get involved at some or all of the stages of the software development life cycle. This applies to both traditional and Agile approaches. Your involvement will vary depending on which stages you get involved in, but you will nevertheless be performing some aspect of business analysis throughout. So you choose, once again, what type of business analysis activities you would most enjoy doing!
# Do you want to be part of a project team or the operations team?
Some business analysts are employed as part of business operations. They tend to work on business cases, feasibility studies and a variety of other enterprise level business analysis activities. This is great because not all business analysts like the project environment. Most business analysts are however employed in projects and thrive in that environment of peaks and troughs. Depending on your preference, you can once again, choose what type of environment you would like to be a business analyst in.
# Business Analysis can be domain agnostic or it can be deeply ingrained in a domain.
The one big divide that I have noticed through the years between different business analysts are that there are business analysts who taught themselves to be experts in one specific domain and then there are other business analysts who effectively taught themselves to be an expert business analyst in any domain. Both of these types of business analysts are equally valid and purely a matter of preference. In some cases a particular role expects of the individual to be a subject matter expert as well as a Business Analyst and in some other roles it requires purely business analysis skills. Once again, this leaves the highly skilled business analyst with a choice about whether they want to focus on one domain and share their role as a subject matter expert as well or whether they would like to remain a pure business analyst who is an expert in transferring their business analysis skills between different domains.
So in a nutshell, these are some of the diversity aspects to consider when you choose to be a business analyst. There are many more dimensions for a business analyst to choose from when they embark on this career. It is a great idea to jump in and try out many different parts of what this great profession has to offer before choosing which aspect you most enjoy!
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