Business analysis is the new role that has gained popularity among the corporates during the last 10 years or so. The reason being they help the organization to visualize a system without actually implementing the system and at a minimal cost. Though Information Technology introduced business analyst to the world, today we find business analysts in hospitality, healthcare, automotive, banking, financial services, insurance, retail, entertainment and manufacturing industries. The role of a business analyst is to elicit requirements from stakeholders and to recommend a solution to solve organizations’ problem. The position of BA gives the opportunity to work truly cross-functional and freedom to move freely across various departments of the organization. This autonomy combined with business analysis skills enables BAs to have a superior understanding of the organizations’ business model than anyone in the organization. Business analysis is an amazing profession where one has high visibility in the organization, moves with top brass, tons of learning opportunity, lot of satisfaction and of course handsome pay and perks.
The purpose of this article is not to explain what a business analyst does, but to examine the potential of the business analysis career. As business analysts have years of cross functional experience they have exceptional understanding of the business model and have good relationship with the management. BAs have good people skills that help them to work without formal authority. They rely on their leadership skills. Someone as business analyst with several years of experience has a better insight about the organization and the industry. This makes them an excellent fit to the top management positions such as VP, Director and CEO.
Why a business analyst has a better chance than his or her counterparts in the organization? The key differentiating factors are
- By profession BAs are trained to be cross functional that helps them to visualize entire organization including the business model.
- BAs are fewer in number in any given organization, hence less competition among themselves and more importance for their work. For example in one of the automotive company there is only one business analyst for 1,300 staff. In a popular retail online store there are only 3 business analysts for 1,000 staff.
- Business analysts are constant learners which enables them to introduce best practices and solutions within the organization.
- There are only few layers (hierarchy) between BAs and top management.
Those who are working as business analysts should understand the huge potential of this career. At the same time, one should not think that this is easy to achieve. There is an equal opportunity available in front of all the business analysts, but only those who meticulously plan their career can attain these heights. Here, I am suggesting a three pronged strategy to make this happen.
- Master the profession of business analysis to become a front runner in your organization.
- Acquire the necessary skills that will help you to succeed as a member of senior management.
- Create a conducive atmosphere.
1. Mastering Business Analysis
IIBA is the world’s first and leading professional association committed for the development of business analysis profession. It offers certifications such as Certificate of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) and Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP). We have about 4,325,206 (as on 7-July-14) business analysts in LinkedIn alone and the total number of business analysts in the world would be easily about 10 million (a study undertaken by Fhyzics). Out of this, only about 3,200 are CBAP certified, which is roughly 0.03 per cent.
International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), Canada prescribes three areas that need to be mastered by a business analyst.
One, BAs should possess certain competencies such as analytical skills (creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, learning and systems thinking), business knowledge (regulatory framework, industry knowledge, organization knowledge and software applications), communication skills (verbal, written and teaching), behavioral characteristics (ethics, personal organization and trustworthiness) and interaction skills (facilitation, negotiation & team work).
Second, they should have strong understanding of knowledge areas such as business analysis planning and monitoring, elicitation, enterprise analysis, requirements analysis, requirements management and communication and solution assessment and validation.
Third, a good understanding of relevant techniques.
2. Skills needed to perform at Senior Management
You should have an excellent understanding of accounts and finance, sales and marketing, operations, human resources, economics, process improvement, information technology functions. But the question is where to get all of these. I would recommend an international MBA in a good B-School with a process improvement certification like Lean or Six Sigma.
3. Conducive atmosphere
In my opinion, in top tier companies, where too much of specialization is involved there are chances that the BA may be pegged into a corner with few processes to work on. On the other hand, those BAs working in a medium size or even smaller organizations have huge opportunities in front of them to showcase their capabilities in the best possible manner.
A word of caution, are you looking for a short term hike or a long term bash? Don’t be tempted for the small benefits by constantly jumping from one organization to another. But anchor yourself in an organization for at least 5 to 10 years.
This will help you not only to succeed as an excellent business analyst but also to reach the top position. So take advantage of the god sent opportunity of you being a business analyst.