The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that American employers will need about 876,000 business analysis-related professionals by 2020. The demand for business analysts is clearly here, but the question is, who will take the best jobs?
To succeed as a business analyst, one needs to possess a diverse set of skills that encompasses both the technical and the personal aspects of the profession. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at these two broad categories, selecting two top skills every BA should master.
Technology & Techniques
When it comes to knowledge of the IT industry and business analysts, Carey Schwaber, a Senior Analyst of Application Development at Forrester Research, has this to add:
The business technology analyst operates a business function or business process and implements changes to how that process is automated using tools like BPM solutions and rules engines. Their job is to know how the business should best operate simultaneously, and to optimize business processes, business information, and business experiences, and make sure those changes are implemented in the software.
To accomplish these goals, a business analyst should have a good grasp of commonly used applications, such as Microsoft Office, including Excel and Visio. VLOOKUP, PIVOT, SUMIFS, or COUNTIFS are just the tip of the iceberg.
Other popular software tools for business analysts include Rational Requisite Pro, a requirements management tool, Balsamiq, a wireframing and mock up tool with a high focus on usability, and Mindjet MindManager, a commercial mind mapping software application. These are just examples – the purpose of the tool you select, how easy they are to use and what you can accomplish with it are what matters.
Keep in mind that even the best software tool in the world is dependent on the data provided and skills of the business analyst using it. It’s advisable for business analysts to educate themselves on techniques relating to gap analysis, financial planning, risk assessment, and statistical analysis. Online providers of courses, such as Udemy and Coursera, have high-quality educational materials on diverse subjects.
To know which techniques and technology to recommend to the business, it goes without saying that a solid understanding of the business and the peculiarities of the industry is essential.
Talking about how to pick an excellent business analyst, Jim Shepherd, Senior Vice President of Research at AMR Research, said, “You're looking for someone who can translate between the technology folks within IT—and sometimes the external consultants and software vendors—and the business people. They often don't speak the same language.”
All business analysts depend on their communication skills whenever they talk with clients, managers, co-workers, and developers, which happens every single day. They must be able to quickly understand often not-so-eloquently-explained ideas and rephrase them in a way that makes them accessible even to someone with no technical knowledge.
Business analysts also need excellent problem-solving skills to adapt and resolve problems as they come. Finally, it’s also advantageous for business analysts to be flexible in the workplace. With new projects and goals come new co-workers and stakeholders, and getting too used to the same people and the same environment can be detrimental to good performance.
Other skills like influencing, leadership, negotiation are also important to excelling on the job.
What other skills do you think should be considered here?