Business analyst are the fix-it men and women of the corporate world. Their job is to improve business processes (e.g. productivity, output, distribution, etc.) and their solutions are often technological ones.
Business Analyst Responsibilities
Business analysts have high-powered, high octane jobs. On any given day, they may be asked to:
- Establish the objectives and scope of business and IT systems
- Identify multifaceted organizational problems and devise data-driven solutions
- Conduct statistical analyses, surveys, training workshops and tests
- Recommend changes to processes, personnel or product offerings to make internal departments more efficient
- Invent new systems (e.g. stock control) or alter existing ones
- Make specific IT recommendations and support their implementation
- Act as a liaison between management and technical developers (e.g. system architects)
Business analysts have varying degrees of technical know-how. Some tackle each job by employing their know-how in business administration, finance or management. The benefit of this approach is that they can see the “big picture” – the scope of the challenge within the industry. Others come at the problem with extensive knowledge of IT processes.
Note: Although the roles are often merged in small companies, the job of a Business Systems Analyst (BSA) may be much more technical in nature (e.g. coding, designing programs, etc.) than a conventional analyst. When you’re looking at job descriptions, examine the fine print to determine what your tasks might be.
An Interview with a Real Business Analyst
We interviewed Chris Hunter, Business Analyst at Monster Worldwide, to find out what it takes to succeed as a business analyst. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of being a business analyst, their impact on Monster’s overall success, and Chris’s advice to students.
For students and recent grads, I highly recommend finding a job via Monster! But in all seriousness, finding the right business analyst role requires patience and diligence. I assumed I’d find work right out of school, but it took more than half a year to find this ‘monster’ opportunity.
Lastly, students should access great resources, such as industry books, trade articles and more, to understand the variety of roles that they may find themselves in. Likewise, keeping up on trends, data environments and new methods will always add to your skill sets. Whether through a certification, class or conference, always be hungry to keep learning and growing.
Business Analyst Salaries
Because the term “business analyst” may mean anything from a lower level analyst to an extremely well-paid independent consultant, you’ll find significant variations in salary statistics. According to PayScale, the best-paying jobs for a business analyst (unspecified) congregate around San Francisco, New York, Houston and Los Angeles – the sites of major global, IT and financial corporations.
Average Salary (2015): $65,991 per year
Median Salary (2015): $58,100 per year
Total Pay Range: $40,738 – $88,708
Business Analyst, IT
Median Salary (2015): $66,000 per year
Total Pay Range: $46,005 – $101,431
Business Intelligence Analyst
Robert Half Technology 2015 Salary Guide
Average Salary (2014): $101,250 – $142,250
Average Salary (2015): $108,500 – $153,000
Average Salary (2015): $71,050 per year
Median Salary (2015): $66,000 per year
Total Pay Range: $45,823 – $100,808
Senior Business Analyst
Median Salary (2015): $80,387 per year
Total Pay Range: $59,721 – $116,619
Median Wage (2012): $78,600 per year
Lowest 10%: Less than $44,370
Top 10%: More than $142,580
Business Analyst Qualifications
What Kind of Degree Will I Need?
At baseline, most employers will expect to see a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, accounting or a field related to their industry (e.g. healthcare, telecommunications, etc.). The more you know about IT (e.g. computer programming, database management, etc.), the more attractive you’ll be as a job candidate.
You can also consider a BS in computer science or IT, but make sure it includes courses that expose you to subjects such as organizational behavior and development, statistics and continuous quality management.
In order to advance their careers or transition to independent consulting, many business analysts choose to earn an MBA or a master’s degree in a financial field. In addition, some schools now offer master’s programs and graduate certificates devoted to business analytics.
What Kind of Skills Will I Need?
- Analytical Skills: Using requirements and systems analysis to dissect a complex business problem and create unique solutions.
- Interpersonal/Leadership: Effectively communicating/negotiating with – and tactfully directing – a wide variety of staff, including the IT department.
- Management: Employing requirements planning, strategic business process modeling, traceability and quality management techniques.
- Written & Verbal Communication: Translating tech-speak into language that management can understand.
- Technical Expertise: Using one’s knowledge of big data, computer programming, systems engineering, database management, etc. to achieve strategic business goals.
- Business Acumen: Understanding how individual processes and technologies relate to the whole of the business; monitoring industry trends and predicting new developments.
What About Certifications?
One of the most coveted professional certifications in the field is the CBAP designation by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®). This is intended for those who have advanced knowledge of:
- Business analysis
- Systems analysis
- Requirements analysis or management
- Process improvement
PBA certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) tests candidates on their ability to work effectively with stakeholders to define business requirements, shape the output of projects and drive successful business outcomes.
Qualified applicants include business analysts working on projects and programs or project and program managers who perform business analysis during the course of their work.
Jobs Similar to Business Analyst
Before you become a fully-fledged business analyst, you may have to start with an analytical job such as:
- Developer (i.e. Programmer/Systems Analyst)
- Quality Assurance Analyst
- Database Administrator
- Industry/Domain Expert
- IT Support Specialist
- Infrastructure (IT) Specialist
Related job titles that may require more years of experience include:
- Business Intelligence Analyst (BIA)
- IT Business Analyst
- Management Analyst
- Senior Business Analyst
Business analysts tend to jump between IT and business departments. Once you’ve reached the proverbial ceiling, you could consider becoming a:
- Project Manager
- Product Manager
- Account Manager
Those with significant technical expertise also become Business Architects, Business Process Analysts, CTOs or work as independent consultants.
Business Analyst Job Outlook
In the past, business analysts have relied on experience and reactionary analysis to make decisions. But big data is changing this picture. The amount of information now available to companies – both internal and external – is staggering.
- Instead of employing an expert go-between, business users now have the power to automate tasks and interrogate raw data directly.
- Instead of conducting laborious surveys of customer behavior, data scientists are using data mining to analyze key points (e.g. impulse buying decisions, movement patterns within a store, ad placement, etc.) and make accurate statistical predictions.
- Instead of using analysts to identify problems, supercomputers like IBM Watson are finding answers to questions businesses never knew they had.
As of yet, no one is suggesting that business analysts will completely disappear. However, experts are united in their opinion that the role is rapidly changing.
Business analysts are merging into the roles of business intelligence analysts and data scientists, becoming more data-centric in their thinking. They are now deeply involved with big data projects from the beginning, setting parameters, defining data needs and making sense of results.
Today, enthusiasts suggest that no one can replace a business analyst’s industry expertise or their ability to step back from the data and look at the larger picture. However, they may be underestimating the power of cognitive computing. Watch this space…