Generic/Broad Job Description
A business analyst solves business problems by designing information systems which execute the strategy defined by the business. These solutions generally achieve one of the following goals for the business: implement a new/novel business process, increase efficiency and productivity of existing business processes, or reduce operating costs of existing processes. A quick note: many of you reading this might think the snapshot of the profession focuses too much on systems. That may be so, however the reality is that most, if not all, projects have solutions that rely heavily on information systems and technology. This is the reality of today's business analyst.
The business/systems analyst gathers and analyzes new business requirements and weighs them against the existing business systems and processes. Working closely with the business stakeholders, the analyst guides the process of modeling and designing new systems which implement the goals of the organization as expressed by the business requirements.
Next, they document the solution, the blueprint of the new system, by creating documents and diagrams which specify system-user interactions, describe how data should flow through the system, and spell out the logical operations the new system must perform. They present their design to the business and, once approved, they work closely with the system architects and programmers to implement the solution.
Typical Work Activities
Most business analysts and systems analysts are involved in creating, modifying, or maintaining some type of information system or software. Depending on the size and nature of the organization, work activities include, but are not limited to:
- interacting with the business organization representatives, including executive management, to understand the business process and the needs of the business
- gathering business requirements from identified project stakeholders identifying potential solutions to the problems posed by the business needs and requirements
- translating the business requirements into functional requirements (what features should the system have)
- creating functional specifications for new systems which solve the given business problems
- presenting solutions to business stakeholders and facilitate the iterative refinement of the system requirements
- working with the developers (programmers) to make sure the functional specifications are un-ambiguous
- creating (or helping others create) test scenarios and verifying the system
How does one become an analyst?
Effective analysts have comprehensive business knowledge in addition to the systems design skills. They generally become analysts in one of the two ways:
- Earn a degree in a business related discipline (such as economics, finance, or accounting) and, on the job, continue their education by learning systems design skills and by getting involved as stakeholders in IT projects. Many such business practitioners attend additional courses in software design, use cases, modeling in order to round out their modern analyst skills.
- Another very common path is to earn a degree in computer science or related field (such as engineering, information systems, etc.) and begin work as programmers, web designers, etc. Slowly, on the job, they acquire business domain skills from the projects they worked on as developers. Most developers take additional courses in communication, writing, requirements elicitation to round out their modern analyst skills.
Many business analysts go on and earn advanced degrees some focused on a business side such as an MBA and some in the technical field such as Masters in Information Systems or Computer Science.
How much does it pay?
According to the 2005 statistics published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual wage for Computer Systems Analysts was $68,300 with the highest-paid 10 percent of analysts earning more than $102,750.
Managers of computer and information systems teams earn a median annual wage of $96,520 with the highest paid ones earning in excess of $145,000 per year.
How many jobs are out there and in what industries?
In 2005, there were almost half a million computer systems analysts in United States and about 259,000 computer and information systems managers.
Today’s analysts are employed by virtually every industry which uses computer systems such as: all levels of government, software design companies, financial institutions, internet companies, manufacturing companies, universities, etc.
What about the future?
Over the next ten years, the number of information technology analysts is expected to grow much faster than the average career. People with proper training should have great job prospects. Those who have college degrees in business and courses related to computers also should be able to find jobs in this field.
The 2006 research by Money Magazine and Salary.com, ranked “Computer IT Analyst” to be the 7th best job in America with an average salary of $83,500 and a 10-year growth outlook of 36%. According to the same research report, the annual job openings for this position reached 67,300 – that’s a lot of job openings.
Read on: Definition of the Business Analyst Profession