"How do I move into the field of Business Analyst?" or "How do I move up within the field of Business Analysis?" These are common questions heard in today's job market. The field of business analysis appears to be expanding even as companies cut back in other areas of the project teams in I.T. One indicator of the growth of the Business Analyst role is the growing number of memberships of the IIBA. In March 2004 there were 37 members. By the end of 2005 there were 1091, and by the end of 2006 that number was 2300. That has increased in 2008 where the numbers were over 6000. Consequently a growing number of people are wanting to know how to transition from their current role orhow to take their BA career to the next level. Ten to fifteen years ago there were not that many resources, tools and common practices documented for the role but today the answer to questions about analysis work is available and accessible.
Whether you are a programmer, a software engineer, a business subject matter expert (SME) who wants to transition into a Business Analyst role,a recent graduate who is trying to determine how to break into the B.A. job market, or your company just one day changed your title to Business Analyst,this article contains a list of 12 things you can do that will help you connect with the vast community of knowledge and resources. It will give you insight as to what makes a job candidate stand out from the rest. Clearly someone that takes advantage of the 12 things listed is someone that is passionate about this profession. If you take heed to this list, it will also separate you from those colleagues that have the title of business analyst versus those who have a passion for it.
As a business analyst or aspiring BA, research and investigation should be second nature, so this list should be a catalyst in your continuing education and professional development. Following these 12 recommendations will put you in a position to get the job opportunities you seek and to excel.
1. Associate with Other Professional BA's. The Business Analyst rolehas internationally recognized professional associations. Professional associations are typically non-profit which seek to bring a group of people together to learn about a specific occupation. Professional associations typically have oversight and safe guard the interest of the legitimate practice of an occupation. These professional bodies also help standardize and enforce standards of training which result in certifications.
Being a member and attending meetings means being in the company of others who have a passion for the profession andis energizing to say the least. You will be connecting with people who havea vast and varied experience in the field. You willalso be able to make contacts that may have insight into job opportunities. Join, participate, volunteer, become a speaker or become a leader in a local chapter of an organization for Business Analyst
2. Seek the Body of Knowledge (BOK). A body of knowledge is a complete collection of concepts, terms and activities relevant to the Business Analyst profession. The body of knowledge is defined by the professional association. The book known as the BA Body of Knowledge is a collection of information that covers the set of tasks, knowledge areas and techniques required to fulfill the responsibilities of the BA. It reflects what are currently accepted practices. It is written by a group of volunteers that are highly experienced professionals and practitioners. The BABOK helps to endorse consistency in the profession and for training provided for the profession. Body of Knowledge appears in many professions, notably the PMBOK for Project Management.
3. Become Certifiable. The BABOK is a reference guide and is the foundational material for the Certified Business Analysis Profession credentials. As a certified professional you have demonstrated that you are experienced and have expertise in the area accessing business needs and requirements for the purpose of determining business solutions. Those who have credentials are in an elite club. Credentials are often what employers look for or use to differentiate exceptional candidates. The certification is a way to recognize your experience and skills as well as your commitment to the profession.
Certifications are intended for senior level business analyst with significant business analysis experience. In order to apply to take the testyou must be able to document 7500 hours of B.A. experience.
4. Talk like a B.A. Know the language of the Business Analyst. Does Elicitation, Scoping, Enterprise Analysis, Validation, Verification, SMART objectives, stakeholder analysis, traceability matrix and wireframe mean anything to you? If not, start doing your research. What about SDLC, RACI, ROI,UML, BPMN, IDEF, COTS, ERD, DFD, RUMBA, SOA, ITIL, CRUD, UI or UAT? I'd be concerned if you went to a job interview and did not know what someone meant by data models, data warehouses, workflow diagram, process model, a prototype, use case, agile, waterfall, iterative or business rules. Like most professions Business Analysis has an extensive glossary of terms, tools and techniques.
5. Tools of the Trade. Microsoft Word, Excel and Visio might be enough to get you started in the field of business analysis but some high power tools are popping up on job descriptions more and more. There are document repositories, collaboration tools, rules modelers, requirement management tools, process management, workflow automation, Use Case management and prototyping tools. Don't be blind-sided in your next interview at least be familiar with what is being offered. A good BA does their homework.
6. Master at least One Domain. Is a specific business segment that represents a particular industry of goods or services. Business Analyst become very knowledgeable in a particular domain because they become emerged in the language and intricacies of an industry as they elicit requirements. The business analyst should be able to retain the knowledge transferred from Subject Matter Expert so that they become subject matter knowledgeable. Through second hand knowledge the BA should be able to fully represent the needs and concerns of the business on behalf of the business.
7. What's in Your Artifact Portfolio? When you go on a job interview do you have a sample portfolio of your work? Artifacts are the by-products of your body of work. So you say you're good at eliciting, analyzing and communicating requirements then show me. Provide a sample of a requirements work plan, provide a Requirements Package, provide a requirements presentation. Seasoned BA's can take a real world project and make it generic so that they can share it with potential employers. A new BA could use an artifact created by that student as part of a class or webinar.
8. It's Hard to be Soft. A BA has to be equally hard and soft. They have to have the hard skills which include the mechanics and specific techniques of creating models, charts, and artifacts. Soft skills are also instrumental to the BA. Knowing how to negotiate, facilitate, problem solve, garner consensus, manage the politics, showing leadership, be motivational, be an active listener,and be persuasive. The BA role consistently demands that we have to deliver "bad news" without making enemies.
You can learn both hard skills and soft skills but the later often requires a rework of your attitude and even your style. You may have to adjust the way you communicate your motivation, your creativity and even your body language. Furthermore, your soft skills are subjective and based on the impressionothers have of you. It's not what you do or what you say that leaves the most lasting impression, it's how you make people feel. The bottom line is, hard skills will get an applicant an interview, but soft skills will get that person a job.
9. Commune and Connect. There are so many ways to reach others in your profession and many times you can do it from the comfort of your computer. You can twitter, collectivex, get linkedin, go to a webinar, facebook, myspace, emagazines and blogs galore. One thing about the community of BA's is that it still feels very intimate and evolving, you don't have to stand on the outside looking in, you can get actively involved in organizations, write articles, provide your input, be heard, shape the BABOK. BA's, by most regards, are natural communicators and inclusive by design,you'll notice that when you are interacting with them. However don't just connect via the internet, step away from your computer and also put in some face time with fellow BA's. There are conferences nationally and internationally that give youconcentrated information on matters and networking. You'll leave knowing the status and direction that your profession is going in. The key is to then act upon that information and stay ahead of new trends.
10. Be Non-Functional. Non-functional does not mean the same as dysfunctional. In the analyst world there are requirements we refer to as non-functional. Non-functional requirements reflect system qualities (e.g. usability, efficiency, configurability, supportability, scalability, reliability, availability, performance, response time, security). Non-functional requirements live in a no-mans land between functional and technical requirements. The technical folks say that the non-functional requirements grey area bellows to the BA, some BA's say that it's not necessarily a user or business requirement so it's not their responsibility. As a conduit and liaison between business and technical the BA that is comfortable in both worlds as well as the gray area in between is going to be the BA with the most job offers. If there is an aspect of the requirements that will affect the end product or the users experience than it's a requirement worth the analysts attention.
11. Know You Are NOT. Know that you are not an order taker, a scribe, a recorder, a technical writer or just paying the bills until a project management position opens up. A true professional business analyst stands up and advocates for our community. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding our role. Take every opportunity to enlighten your project team on the valuethat the BA provides. If you are having trouble articulating what makes you valuable to your team seek out a mentor who can bring you up to speed.
12. Go All The Way. You want to be a full life cycle BA. You don't want to just create the requirements document, turn it in and then take on your next assignment. A full life cycle BA supports the requirements ensuring the end product address the goals and problem that the project is suppose to solve. A BA's goal is to ensure a successful product and a successful solution.
These tips will allow you to become an extremely valuable and very marketable commodity in the job market. Bosses prefer people who are enthusiastic and passionate about their role and demonstrate it through a higher standard and quality of work. Team members are attracted and request professionals who aren't just doing their job but providing value to the project and are vested in the success of the project. This list provides you what you need to go the extra mile. Going above and beyond is the earmarking of a true professional in their chosen field.
Author: Jacqueline Sanders is a Senior Consultant in the Laboratory group and Medical Informatics at Quintiles in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 22 years of experience in information technology on a verity of large scale software implementations in the role of process, data and technical analyst across many industries including banking, internet applications and health care. She spent 5 years specializing in projects using the Agile methodology. Upon receiving her CBAP and PMP, she also does consulting, public speaking, teaching and coaching aspiring business analysis.