It has only been recently that business analysis has become officially recognised as an independent profession. Since 2013, the number of job openings in this field has been increasing along with demand for qualified professionals who can plan and implement the most effective strategies for business growth. If you are planning a career in this fast-growing industry sector, you may want to have a look at the core skills that you will need to become a well-equipped business analyst.
Which are the most important skills for modern business analysts?
To enter the profession, most business analysts need to have at least and undergraduate degree in business, computer science, management, or an IT-related field. To gain a more detailed understanding of this sector, it is recommended that those interested in becoming business analysts study towards industry-specific qualifications, such as the ones offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis or the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS). The BCS also offers professional certifications in Business Analysis, such as a Diploma in Business Analysis, which covers important topics like commercial awareness, business analysis practices, requirements engineering, business modelling, agile management, business architecture, stakeholder engagement, and data analysis.
Other Useful Skills
- Critical Thinking: Many business models fail because individuals within the respective organisations cannot critically evaluate their processes and performance. This is why business analysts need to have fine-tuned critical thinking skills that allow them to go deep into organisational processes to find where problems and opportunities are.
- Effective communication skills: business analysts must be able to pick up verbal and non-verbal cues, ask the right questions at the right time, and be excellent listeners. It goes without saying that as a business analyst, you will also need to have outstanding written communication skills, as part of their job involves creating documentation that will serve as a frame of reference in the implementation of various business strategies.
- Detail oriented and organisational skills: requirements traceability (being able to trace the origin of business and product requirements) is one of the key tools used by business analysts. Being effective at this task requires having a very good eye for detail and the ability to break down processes and requirements into manageable chunks. In turn, this means that business analysts need to be naturals at organising and managing large amounts of complex information.
Technology is an integral part of the role of a business analyst. Some of the most commonly used IT packages in this sector include business process modelling tools (such as Oryx, Lucid Chart, Enterprise Architect, and Argo UML), project management tools (JIRA, Liquid Planner, Wrike, or WorkFront), and requirement management tools (DOORS, Process Street, Caliber, or SpiraTest). A background in (or knowledge of) software engineering or programming can also be useful.
Joining a professional body (such as the International Institute of Business Analysis or IIBA) shows commitment to the profession and willingness to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. The IIBA has nearly 30,000 members worldwide, as well as several local chapters and special interest groups dealing with topics ranging from pharma and biotech to business analysis techniques. As of September 2016, the IIBA will be offering its own certification programme, which has been created to equip business analysts to meet the needs of modern businesses and organisations. The programme will be split into 4 levels, which have been designed to suit the needs of junior business analysts or those in entry-level positions, mid-career professionals, and those with 10 years’ experience or more.
Knowledge of Agile Methods
An increasing number of organisations are converting from waterfall (or traditional) styles of project management to Agile frameworks. Understanding of this management approach is essential for business analysts, first of all because it will help them gain an in-depth understanding of the issues affecting their client’s business environment, and secondly because it will enable them to fit into the organisational culture of the companies they work for.
According to a recent market study published by the International Institute of Business Analysis, one of the key trends in this sector involves the increasing demand for business analysts who possess diverse competencies. According to the study, organisations are interested in hiring professionals who can carry out the task of relationship managers, knowledge engineers, process analysts, and project director. To sum up, being a successful business analyst in the modern working environment entails possessing the right combination of both tactical and technical skills.