What is a Business Analyst?

What is a Business Analyst?

big-data_conew1 via luckey-sunThere is no way to completely define what a Business Analyst is other than to say, rather broadly, that it is someone who performs business analysis. This definition opens up a large gap that now needs to be carefully filled in and will most likely not be completed in this one blog post.

It would be a huge overstatement to say that anyone can perform business analysis as it does take a special set of skills to shoulder the weight and responsibility that comes with the practice of proper business analysis. Anyone can hit refresh on a report, but a true Business Analyst can make the data come to life in a way that makes sense to many different levels of an organization.

Project Management Institute (PMI) recently put out an initial draft of Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide, and detail out what they call a “partial list” of the important skills needed for those who are performing business analysis:

  • Analytical skills,
  • Business and industry knowledge,
  • Communication skills, including strong business writing and verbal communication skills,
  • Conflict management,
  • Creative and critical thinking,
  • Cultural awareness,
  • Decision making,
  • Facilitation,
  • Familiarity with multiple project and development methodologies,
  • Influence,
  • Issue management skills,
  • Leadership skills,
  • Learning skills,
  • Negotiation skills,
  • Organizational skills,
  • Political awareness,
  • Presentation skills,
  • Problem solving,
  • Systems thinking,
  • Technical awareness, and
  • Availability to work effectively in a team environment, including virtual teams.

Sure, that seems like a long list, and it is a great place to start.

What’s in it for me?

If those are some of the individual skills needed for proper business analysis, then what benefits do Business Analysts bring to the companies they work for?

PMI concludes that when a Business Analyst does their job correctly, projects and programs can expect the following results:

  • High-quality requirements are produced resulting in the development of products and services that meet customer expectations;
  • Stakeholders are more engaged in the process and buy-in is more readily achieved;
  • Projects are more likely to be delivered on time, within scope, and within budget;
  • Implemented solutions deliver business value and meet stakeholder needs; and
  • Organizations develop competencies in business analysis that are reusable for future projects.

All of that to say that when Business Analysts do a good job, the company has the insights to make revenue-impacting decisions. These decisions could lead to innovation and innovation leads to more publicity and increased sales.

Of course, the company could just make bad decisions, even though the analysis is tight and right on mark, and that will happen from time to time. As a good Business Analyst, you get to gather more current data and begin working again to help direct the company through change and improvement.

Great Business Analysts are in high demand. Those who can not only crunch numbers, but look out at the horizon of the industry, notice a shift coming and be able to either guide the company in that direction or put up a detour sign because the bridge is out ahead. Without dedicated Business Analysts, data would have no meaning, projects would lack direction, and companies would fumble around in the dark hoping to stumble upon the next big thing.

Where do I go from here?

Well, you are starting in the right place. Knowledge and community. That’s what Your Business Analyst Guide is all about – giving you the most relevant knowledge to do a better job tomorrow than you did today, and a assembling a group of people who are dedicated to the art of Business Analysis to support you, be a sounding board for ideas, and answer questions.

Look for other blogs on this same topic, or closely related topics (like Data Analysts, Financial Analysts, or Operations Analysts). Seek out podcasts and books that will help you learn about the field and what kind of people thrive. But don’t just stop there. Holding on to knowledge will get you no where. You need to begin applying that knowledge. After all, we learn by mistakes and failures. If you are not applying what you know and seeing if it actually works, how will you know if we are telling you the truth?

Sure, soak it all in. Ask questions and get to know some of the folks in the field. But don’t just keep it here. Go help others understand what proper business analysis is and is not. And usher in innovation by bringing people and data together.

Keep the conversation going!

Are you a seasoned Business Analyst? What other skills would you add to PMI’s list above? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

New to the idea of business analysis as a field? Introduce yourself below and share what you find most exciting about it.

image via luckey-sun

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