What is the Business Analyst Career Path you are on? – 7 Different Career Path Options for Business Analysts
A lot has been said about how to become a Business Analyst but little has been said about how to progress from being a Business Analyst to the next level of your career. The Business Analyst Career Path has not been well defined and this is simply because of the diverse set of opportunities that exist for an experienced Business Analyst.
This article is building upon a previous version of this article and will attempt to outline the main options a Business Analyst can consider to follow in their Business Analysis Career Paths. But before we discuss all these different pathways, let’s start with the basics of what a Business Analyst is.
What is a Business Analyst?
Resisting the temptation to be too academic and theoretical when describing what a Business Analyst is, lets look at a practical and simplistic definition: A Business Analyst is someone who works with people within an organisation to understand their business problems and needs and then to interpret, translate and document those business needs in terms of specific business requirements for solution providers to implement. Business Analysts are often good communicators and pays attention to detail. They also spend a lot of time analyzing and solving for business problems. Business Analysts would typically produce business requirement artifacts which not only describes the detail of business needs or requirements but illustrate and specify these requirements using a variety of tools and techniques specific to the profession of Business Analysis.
So once you have been a Business Analyst for a few years, it would be a natural progression to seek the next step in your career path as a Business Analyst. Let’s now consider some of the mainstream options that the Business Analyst can pursue and how to go about it.
#1 Career Path Option: The Business Analysis Profession is my passion; let me be a Career Business Analyst
The nature of this profession allows for a business analyst career path in simply becoming a professional Business Analyst (or remaining a Professional Business Analyst for many years). This is because the profession consists of a set of skills which are highly specialized and can be applied to any industry and to any subject matter area successfully. This allows for the Business Analyst to move between industry, company and subject matter area with ease which becomes their career progression and focus of professional development. The transition between industries becomes more seamless as you gain more and more experience as a Business analyst. This is what often attracts Business Analysts to becoming highly skilled in delivering a skill set within more and more challenging subject matter areas or industries. The other key dimension of the job is that it allows for activities at various levels of the organization to be practiced – from the enterprise level analysis right through to defining detailed system requirements. This career path suits Business Analysts who love the rush of the project environment and the need for solving more and more complex business problems.
Ideas for how to become a Professional Career Business Analyst
If you are not yet a Business Analyst, start by finding your first Junior Business Analysis role. You can read here about how to achieve this. If you are already a Business Analyst and would like to make Business Analysis your professional career, you should consider the following:
- Change industry every couple of years to gain more in-depth and practical experience applying pure Business Analysis Techniques.
- Make sure to work towards Professional Business Analysis Certifications such as the CCBA ® and CBAP ®
- Do regular endorsed Business Analysis training to make sure you stay abreast of what is going on and gain valuable new skills and knowledge as a Professional Business Analyst.
#2 Career Path Option: I love managing people, let me be a Business Analysis Manager
The Business Analysis Practice Manager is a great option for an experienced Business Analyst who loves managing people and who would like to provide leadership to teams. This is the ultimate team based role and has further potential to climb up top the traditional corporate ladder. If corporate hierarchical levels are what you are after, then focus on achieving this role! The Business Analyst who really enjoys a varied role with resource planning, managing people with line management activities will flourish as a Business Analysis Practice Manager. This Business Analyst Career Path option will however take you away from applying practical business analysis techniques on a day-to-day basis. So be ready to be an adviser, mentor and line manager when you work towards becoming the Business Analysis Practice Manager.
Ideas for how to become a Business Analysis Practice Manager
Be proactive: As a first step, volunteer some time to do a project for the group that will develop the Business Analysis Practice overall. For example, if you think that improving the templates that all the Business Analysts are using is going to add a lot of value to the whole group, suggest to your line manager that you will launch and manage an internal project (in extra available time-slots) to improve and help the department develop.
Mentor peers: As a senior Business Analyst in the group you should mentor and support your fellow business analysts actively which will in turn put you in an informal leadership role. If you do this consistently and across the board, you will gain leadership momentum and kudos among your peers.
Set goals and make it known: During your performance reviews with your line manager, make sure that you state your goal of becoming the Business Analysis Practice Manager. It is very important to do this to make sure people know where you are heading and you will be surprised at the support and opportunities that will be coming your way.
#3 Career Path Option: I love talking to people, let me be a Relationship Manager
In its simplest form this role is all about talking to, understanding, persuading and negotiating with people. One of the foundation behavioral competencies of a Business Analyst is the ability to build strong stakeholder relationships throughout their roles within the System Development Life Cycle. This makes Relationship Manager the perfect career path for a Business Analyst who wants to branch out into another specialism within the corporate world and progress and develop their careers to the next level. If communication and relationship building is your passion, then focus your career path in this direction.
Ideas for how to become a Relationship Manager
Emphasis on results not documents. If you want to become a Relationship Manager then achieving outcomes as a result of your strongest attributes (persuasion, negotiation and listening skills) will be to start putting your focus on achieving any type of positive result rather than focusing on delivering documentation on time. If you focus on every success you achieve for your project or team as a result of a conversation or relationship you have you are half way to becoming a Relationship Manager. So put the emphasis on your conversational results especially when it comes from your conversations with more senior stakeholders.
Tell people your plans. You need little encouragement and this idea will certain come natural to you, but make sure you explicitly tell people around you that your ambition is to become Relationship Manager.
#4 Career Path Option: A popular career path, I want to be a Project Manager
Now this path is a popular one for Business Analysts to aim for because it is familiar to them and they often have a working example in the form of a Project Manager to learn from on a daily basis. It is however worth noting that the Project Manager’s role requires a whole different set of skills and the focus is completely different from that of Business Analysis. However, it certainly is a good career path to aim for if you would like to change direction and skills completely by starting to manage budgets, time-frames and stakeholder expectations instead. This can be a very fulfilling and highly rewarding career path to follow and is certainly a traditional direction that a lot of Business Analysts head into.
Ideas for how to become a Project Manager
Assist the Project Manager with Project Management Tasks. This might sound obvious but for a Business Analyst on a project team this is the ideal environment to gain practical Project Management experience by volunteering to take on Project Management responsibilities.
Plan the Business Analysis Activities. Demonstrate your Project Management skills and knowledge with comprehensive Business Analysis plans, work breakdown structures, resource and effort estimates. Again, you are in the perfect situation as a project Business Analyst to develop your practical Project Management skills.
Get trained. It will be a wise idea to do some formal Project Management training in the methodology you believe is followed with your market or country.
#5 Career Path Option: Let me develop my team and be the Business Analysis Competency Manager
Another Business Analyst Career Path option is for those Business Analysts who are passionate about playing a part in establishing this growing profession within organizations. The focus with this career path is on the development of Business Analysis competencies (competency frameworks, processes and tools) to support the Business Analysis competency growth within the organisation. This is very well suited to people who would like to embrace the theoretical and developmental aspects of Business Analysis rather than the practical and hands on application. This role is often highly sought after but there are more and more organizations that are embracing Business Analysis as a profession and therefore opening these types of roles up for people to aspire for in their career paths. This makes this Business Analyst Career path a necessity and it is becoming a more regular one available to ambitious Business Analysts.
Ideas for how to become a Business Analysis Competency Manager
Champion Business Analysis. Become the champion in your Business Analysis Practice or department for everything relating to Business Analysis process, tools and best practices. Always volunteer to lead and participate in internal Business Analysis development opportunities.
Venture outside the organisation. Make the effort to go outside the organisation to events such as the local IIBA Chapter meetings and bring the information into your Business Analysis Practice. This will quickly transform your Business Analysis career into a Business Analysis Competency focused Business Analysis or manager role.
#6 Career Path Option: I want to be the expert, let me be the Subject Matter Expert
The Business Analyst Career Path of Subject Matter Expert is a slightly round about career path but very rewarding option for a Business Analyst. This Business Analyst career path is the role of being an expert in a specific domain, industry or subject matter area. It can be a very interesting and challenging career path for an individual who has a specific area of interest and want to make that their career. As a Business Analyst you will be exposed to many subject matter areas and hence you find the one that you find challenging and interesting this is a great type of career to pursue. Once you achieve this career path as a career, you will find a whole myriad of related careers opening up for your in the future.
Ideas for how to become a Subject Matter Expert
Learn the specifics. Instead of being subject matter agnostic in your approach as a Business Analyst, you should focus on becoming the expert in your chosen subject. Be the person that people come to with questions when they have run out of options for that specific area of interest. Learn everything there is to know about your subject and this will go along way to achieving the career path of Subject Matter Expert.
#7 Career Path Option: Organisational information integration is my passion, make me the Business Architect
Last, but by no means least the Business Analyst Career Path of Business Architect. This career path is well suited for senior Business Analysts with a good enterprise level understanding and aptitude for seeing the organisation from a holistic perspective. In the role of Business Architect you are closely involved in the integration informational needs, which support the company strategy and objectives from both a customer and a operational process or functional perspective. This is quite a mouthful and a growing profession within industry but a very rewarding career path for a Business Analyst who want to take a big-picture view and increase business efficiency and streamline business operations in an integrated way.
Ideas for how to become a Business Architect
Find a company. Firstly, make sure you are working in an organisation where there is a role for a Business Architect (ideally more than one!). Be careful to not only look for that role title but perhaps consider role titles like Enterprise Architect or Strategy Analyst as alternatives. This is a relatively unknown career path but becoming more widely needed and hence wide spread.
Opportunities for a secondment. The role of Business Architect is possibly one of the harder roles to find and walk into and therefore it is a good idea to get your ‘foot in the door’ as it were. Try and find an initiative or project where you can get involved where you will be exposed to a Business Architecture type activity or project. Keep doing this until have enough experience to use when applying for a Business Architecture role in the market.
So it is fair to say that with these great career options, Business Analysts really do have a lot of alternatives to strive for as career paths. It is important as a Business Analyst to learn about as many as possible Business Analyst Career Path options and to then have specific career goals set to achieve them.