Part of the reason why some people still struggle with what it means to be a Business Analyst is because it is a very diverse career by definition. Business Analysis 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 that make our careers 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 a form of business need that requires a business solution. Business Analysis is analysing the business needs (regardless of domain or industry) and facilitating the translation of need into a business solution. So as a Business Analyst, you pick where you would like to work, and you can keep it interesting by moving between industries every few months or years.
Business Analysis can live at the top or the bottom of the corporate ladder.
Enterprise analysis is more often performed by experienced Business Analysts; as a result, this is a career goal that you need to work towards. 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, as it is one of the few careers where the same set of skills can be applied in both junior and senior roles. The only real difference is that the level and type 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 these stakeholders about their business needs in terms what they would like to achieve, or what they are not achieving. The Business Analyst can then translate these required business benefits into business requirements which can in turn be captured as part of a proposed solution to the problem. Then on the other side, some Business Analysts like the specifics and the details surrounding good business requirement definitions. These Business Analysts are good listeners, good documentation experts, and can be relied upon to support their counter-part Business Analysts who “talk the talk”. Your strengths and your choices will determine where you fit, and remember that both types of Business Analysts play their roles 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, particularly those that are more waterfall-based, you will find that there is a great emphasis placed on requirements gathering activities – running workshops, documenting requirements and running these requirement documents through various cycles of reviews and approvals. This is what I meant when I referred to “loud and explicit” business analysis. In other cases, the requirements gathering aspect of the project is still very important, but takes a more fluid and implied role in the everyday life of the project. Often this is the way requirements are managed within an Agile project environment. Business analysis is therefore applied in two very 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 get involved mostly in the build aspect of the software development cycle. With business analysis, you are 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, and push to be involved in the parts of the projects that you want to be!
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. However, most Business Analysts are 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 is that there are Business Analysts who taught themselves to be experts in one specific domain, and then there are others who taught themselves to be experts in any domain. Both of these types of Business Analysts are equally valuable. In some cases a particular role requires the individual to be a subject matter expert as well as a Business Analyst and in some other roles it requires pure 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 have one aspect of their role as a subject matter expert, or whether they would like to remain a pure Business Analyst who is an expert in transferring their business analysis skills between different domains.
In a nutshell, these are just a few of the huge number of things 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. So jump in and try out as many different parts of the business analysis profession as you can, before choosing which aspect you most enjoy!