Overview of a Business Analyst Career
Overview of a Business Analysis Career

As companies compete for market share, grow their businesses and work to increase profit margins, the business analyst (BA) has become a valuable asset. A business analyst explores ways to maximize a company's organization and increase efficiencies in its operations. Often the position, which is sometimes called a business systems analyst, requires examining the information technology (IT) structure which shares data among different disciplines within the company. There are times when the BA may work strictly on one facet of the company, such as IT, finance or sales.

The standard college degrees offered for a BA education are in business administration, typically requiring a major in business analysis. Having a degree is helpful in being hired for management level jobs, but it's not always essential for entry level positions. There are also certification programs available, which grant the title of certified business analyst. Having a sound business judgment, along with being a good troubleshooter, can earn you the job as well.
The pay scale for a BA position varies depending on the specific job functions performed and your location. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary for a management level BA in 2007 was just over $71,000. Salaries posted online can reach into the low six figures. As with most management positions, experience is a strong factor in determining the pay scale.
The Role of Business Analyst

According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), the business analyst "acts as a liaison among (a company's) stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate, and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies and information systems."

Business analysis involves "the set of tasks, knowledge, and techniques required to identify business needs and to determine solutions to business problems." Responsibilities of the job include risk assessment, goal planning, issues management, and outcome forecasting, along with reviewing and reporting on recommended changes.

There are three primary roles a business analyst can fulfill within the position. As a strategist, you'll advise upper management on suitable policies, structures and/or processes that align with the company's long term objectives. As an architect, you would design organizational frameworks that create efficiencies within current and future business models. And as a systems analyst, you align the company's operations with IT systems in order to create greater efficiencies in sharing data.

Because a company analysis can be a multi-dimensional project, it generally requires a project manager. The project manager directs all the activities performed during an initiative. For smaller projects, the BA may also fill the role of project manager; however, the two positions are typically distinct and require different training and experience. The BA will usually manage a set of requirements within the project, whereas the project manager will oversee the entire set of requirements and likely make presentations to decision makers or stakeholders.

At the point where a company's information systems are involved, a business systems analyst (BSA) is responsible for system requirements. His purpose is to both create system efficiencies and translate the business requirements into systems requirements. For example, if a user requirement is to "determine how the customer heard about us" then the BSA will develop a solution that allows company website visitors to enter a response into a database.

The BA can also be responsible for employee training during implementation of the solutions. In the event that the project requires outside assistance, the BA may hire and manage the external project members.
Business Analysis Process
The goal of the business analyst is to determine the most effective way to implement an initiative (called the solution), and there are several phases of a project, each with a set of tasks to perform. Larger businesses usually require a team to perform the myriad of tasks that are involved.
Within a project, there are fundamental needs that will be defined and addressed. A business analyst is responsible for gathering, documenting and communicating these needs, called requirements. A requirement, according to the IIBA, is either:

1) A condition or capability that must be met in order to fulfill a contract or meet a standard or some other formal measurement;

2) A condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to solve a problem or achieve an objective; or

3) Documentation of 1) or 2). Requirements are categorized by their function, role, or property as it relates to the analysis project. For example, a user requirement describes a need that must be fulfilled in order for an employee to perform their tasks.
There are several industry defined requirement definitions explained in Figure 1-1.
Figure 1-1. Requirement Definitions
Whether alone or part of a team, the BA may be involved in one or more of the following phases of a project:

· Enterprise Analysis:

o Examining the organizational architecture.

o Conducting feasibility studies to determine potential solution options and their viability.

o Strategic planning to determine the organization's future.

o Defining objectives and determining expected deliverables.

o Developing the business case to address the value and costs of a proposed solution.

o Assessing risks inherent with adopting a proposed solution.

o Preparing a business package to present to decision makers.
· Requirements Planning and Management:

o Determining the analysis team roles and responsibilities.

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o Identifying the stakeholders to be involved in the analysis.

o Planning the work distribution among the analysis team.

o Defining the risks associated with the project.

o Developing project requirements and documentation.

o Selecting the analysis activities.

o Establishing goals and output estimates.

o Understanding the requirements scope.

o Determining measurements and reporting activities.

o Establishing procedures to manage requirements changes.

· Requirements Elicitation:

o Gathering data from various sources.

o Providing source documentation.

· Requirements Analysis and Documentation

o Analyzing and structuring the stakeholders' needs for use in implementing the solution.

o Describing the current and future state of the organization.

o Creating data, behavior, process or flow, and usage model.

· Requirements Communications

o Creating a communications plan.

o Uncovering communication risks and problems.

o Managing requirements conflicts.

o Packaging the requirements communications.

o Making presentations to stakeholders and decision makers.

o Conducting a requirements review.

o Obtaining requirements approval.

o Exploring alternate solutions.

o Communicating the impact of solutions.

o Managing quality assurance and implementation of solutions.

o Conducting a post implementation assessment.
Business analysis can take months or even years to complete, from enterprise analysis to post implementation assessment. It typically requires substantial investments in time and money, so the position of business analyst is important to the survival of the company.