Interview Questions for Business Analysts and Systems Analysts

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How do you gain a sufficient understanding of an industry in which you previously had no experience?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 19339 Views // 4 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Domain Modeling, Data Analysis & Modeling


To gain a quick yet sufficient understanding of a new industry the business analyst must choose tools and techniques that generate a high-level, overarching view of the space with the least amount of time investment possible.  

The first, and possibly most effective, tool for this purpose is the business entity model.   The business entity model (or logical data model) documents the “things” or “nouns” that the business uses or interacts with in order to accomplish their work.  Examples might be a bond, a loan, a borrower, a stock, a savings account, etc. 

After the entities of the business are identified, attributes which describe each entity are also identified. So a “Borrower” may have attributes such as Name, SSN, Date of Birth, etc.  In this way, the attributes further refine our understanding of the "things" within our domain.

Finally, the relationships between entities are identified.  For example, a Borrower can have a Loan, and a Loan can have Collateral. 

As attributes and relationships are identified for each entity, the business analyst and the rest of the project team can quickly understand the details of the business domain regardless of the level of previous domain knowledge.  While a business entity model will continue to be updated and refined over time, creating a basic business entity model early on does not require a great deal of time.

Another great tool is the context diagram.  The Context Diagram (a specialized version of a data flow diagram) shows a system under consideration as a single high-level process and then shows the relationship that the system has with other external entities (systems, organizational groups, external data stores, etc.)  So it maps the domain in terms of processes, the data used by those processes, and the movement of data throughout an organization. In this way, the Context Diagram works hand-in-hand with the Business Entity Model using the information already documented.

Chris Adams
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pmalouf posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 6:43 PM
Sounds like this is an answer for designing a database for an information system, not gaining an understanding of an industry in which you previously had no experience.
Chris Adams posted on Thursday, January 15, 2015 12:19 AM
Understanding the "things" or "nouns" of the business (Business Entity Diagram) and then understanding the highest level processes (Context Diagram), are very effective ways of understanding a new domain with a relatively small time investment.

They also become the building blocks of future work products such as the database design, as you point out. However, a business entity diagram is at a logical level. This will need to be translated into a separate physical database design that has been properly optimized.
Chris Adams
sandesh posted on Thursday, March 5, 2015 6:41 PM
First thing I would do is identify a SME in the area and setup a quick 1 hour overview session where I would ask questions like:-

1. What is the business model?
2. What are the raw materials?
3. What are the business processes and who run them?
4. What are the finished products?
5. Who are the target consumers?

You can even apply these set of questions to Finance industry whose raw material is also information and whose finished products are also information.
SarahM posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 9:16 AM
I have had a lot of success learning new areas by reading the user manuals for existing applications or processes. Also following around an employee for a day. More often than not, UML type model charts have not been available.
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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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