Beyond the Business Analyst Role: What’s Next?

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The preceding articles in this series discussed career paths involving advanced business analysis roles – the “Responsibilities of the Business Analyst Manager” and “Lead Business Analyst: Are You Ready for the Challenge?” These are logical career paths that can be very rewarding for a Senior Business Analyst.

Beyond the Business Analyst Role: What’s Next?However, what if you want to use your business analysis skills, but don’t want to be in BA management or a team leader role? What if you want a different kind of role, but one that still uses your business analysis skills? Are there other roles out there for a skilled Business Analyst?

The answer is yes! There are a number of other kinds of roles that you can advance depending on your personal interests and passion. In the final article of this series, we explore other career opportunities that are available to an experienced Business Analyst.

In the Business Analyst role you’ve demonstrated a number of core business skills that can be used many roles. In fact, many senior executives, including CEOs, have business analysis as a role in their background. Some of the core transferrable abilities include skills such as:

  • Communication

  • Analysis

  • Problem solving

  • Planning

  • Flexibility

  • Systems thinking

  • Business and industry knowledge

While these skills are critical to the BA role, they are also core skills of other business and management roles, such as:

  • Product Manager – The Product Manager is accountable for investigating, selecting and developing products for an organization. The role involves both product development and product marketing responsibilities throughout the life cycle of the product.

  • Product Owner – The Product Owner is accountable for the Product Backlog in an Agile/Scrum environment. The Product Owner creates the product backlog items and prioritizes the information for implementation by the agile development team. The role makes is accountable for all decisions related to the work for the product.

  • Enterprise Architect – The Enterprise Architect works with business stakeholders to build a holistic view of an organization’s strategy, process, information and information technology assets. This role is accountable for ensuring that business and IT are in alignment by linking the organization’s business mission, strategy and processes to the organization’s IT strategy. Enterprise Architects operate across organizational and computing silos to drive common approaches.

  • Business Architect – The Business Architect is accountable for shaping and promoting the business architecture of an organization. Business architecture is the part of the enterprise architecture that is related to corporate business, including documentation and diagrams that describe the architectural structure of the business. This role converts high-level strategy and business needs of the organization into an integrated vision the future and redesigns business capabilities to deliver this vision.

  • Project Manager – The Project Manager (PM) is accountable for the delivery of a project. There was a time when a Business Analyst was often consider a “junior” PM and project management was the only career path for the BA. For the most part, these roles are now seen as distinct roles with some overlap in skills and responsibilities. On smaller projects it is not uncommon for a person to play both the BA and PM roles for the project. Project management is a good additional skill set to have a background in for other higher level management/executive positions.

  • Account Manager – The Account Manager is accountable for the client relationship and for growing the account(s) that they are responsible for. Sometimes they are also responsible for selling new accounts. The Account Manager serves as an interface between customer service, delivery teams, and the sales team in a company.

    At Geneca, we have a similar role - “Client Partner (CP)”. The CP is accountable for the client relationship, as well as finding new business opportunities. Many of our CPs come from a business analysis background and a few of our BAs have grown into this role.

  • Senior Management - The ability to advance and/or increase you influence is endless. There are senior management roles in business, IT management, marketing, finance, HR and other business areas. A lot of business and marketing roles use many of the same skills that a Business Analyst uses every day.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these roles that correspond well to core business analysis skills and are good next steps for a Senior Business Analyst: The Product Owner, Product Manager and Business Architect roles.

Product Owner

The Product Owner (PO) represents the business stakeholders and acts as the “voice of the customer” on projects, ensuring that the technical team delivers value to the business. It is a product management type role found in Agile environments, especially when using the Scrum approach. The PO maintains a prioritized list of business features/functionality in a “product backlog,” generally in the format of “user stories.”

Generally the PO is co-located with the technical Agile team and participates fully in the Agile process, attending iteration planning sessions, daily stand ups, iteration reviews and retrospectives. He/she is accountable for ensuring that the product backlog is current prior to each iteration, including the correct prioritization and sequencing for all backlog items, user story details, and user acceptance criteria for the item. During the iteration planning session, the PO provides context and answers questions that the team has about the backlog items. The PO is also available to the team during an iteration to provide any additional detail that is needed about the requested business functionality.

The PO works with business stakeholders and customers to do the necessary analysis and create user stories in preparation for inclusion in future iterations, just as a BA creates requirements for the team. Unlike a BA, the PO is the “keeper” of the vision and goals for the product. While he/she works with the business stakeholders and customers to understand what is needed, the PO is the owner of the vision for the product. The PO is the ultimate decision maker on what items are included and the order that items are implemented. He/she also determines whether or not to accept or reject the work that the agile team developed. The PO communicates the status of the project externally to business stakeholders, customers, and upper management.

Product Manager

The Product Manager role is a strategic and business-oriented role that focuses on delivering solutions to meet market needs. The role is accountable for investigating, selecting and developing products for an organization. The role can be focused on new product development or on enhancements and support for an existing product. The role involves both product development and product marketing responsibilities throughout the life cycle of the product. The Product Manager is also accountable for the success and profitability of the product and how the product fits into their company’s business model. They need to plan for the roll out of the product, for product training, how to communicate new features and elicit feedback on the product’s success.

As Business Analysts we often work with Product Managers as key stakeholders when defining the requirements for a project. To move into a Product Management role, BAs need to shift their focus from understanding the requirements for a specific project into thinking about how to make their product(s) superior and differentiated from competitive products. Product Managers are concerned with the customer experience of their product. They need to understand technology enough to know how their product will be built and to understand the level of effort needed, but do not need to be technology experts.

Business Architect

The Business Architect (BArch) provides a global, forward-looking view of the organization by converting high-level strategy and business needs of organization into an integrated vision the future and redesigning the business capabilities to deliver the goals of this vision. This role is a more strategic and overall business focused than the Product Manager or Product Owner roles. The BArch researches the feasibility of new initiatives and assesses them against the future vision, looks at organizational readiness and sustainability, risks and challenges of the initiatives to provide the basis for determining which initiatives best advance the company’s goals and vision.

The BArch needs depth and breadth of knowledge across the entire organization (administration, supply chain management, enterprise resource planning, finance, customer resource management, strategic line-of-business processes, etc.). They have deep business knowledge as well as broad technology knowledge, combined with large-scale, cross-functional process expertise. The BArch is a change agent who helps shape and foster continuous improvement, business transformation and business innovation initiatives.

Senior BAs who have worked on multiple, cross-functional projects have built up the type of knowledge that helps them advance to the BArch role. Many core business analysis skills and techniques – strong communication skills, analysis, problem solving, planning, systems thinking and in-depth business and industry knowledge, process modeling – are core to the business architecture role too.

The Choice is Yours

As you can see there are a lot of career advancement opportunities for senior Business Analysts, from increasing your influence and experience within the business analysis role, to business analysis management and team lead roles, to opportunities in project or product management, business architecture, and beyond. The important thing to do is to evaluate your own skills and interests and determine where your passion lies. Your core business analysis skills allow you to fashion a career that best suits what you want.


Author: Cathy Brunsting, Senior Business Analyst, Geneca

Cathy Brunsting is a Senior Business Analyst at Geneca (www.geneca.com) and a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). She has over 25 years of experience in all aspects of business analysis, systems development and project management, from project inception to customer acceptance. She is skilled in the analysis of business problems, as well as the design, implementation, testing, and on-going support of technical solutions. Her areas of expertise include Insurance, Interactive Solutions, e-Business Solutions, Financial Systems, Gaming and Lottery Systems, Telecommunications (Operator Console, Voice Recognition, and Call Processing), Order Entry/Subscription Services, and Database Design. Ms. Brunsting was also the founding President of the Chicagoland chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA).

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COMMENTS

saikat2005 posted on Monday, March 3, 2014 3:29 PM
One of the other roles one could explore is entrepreneurship preferably in technology business. All the BA learning are common to entrepreneurial skills.
cathycmb posted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 3:56 PM
That's a good suggestion @saikat2005. I agree that BA skills can help you with starting your own business too.

Does anyone see other areas for which our BA skills can help prepare us?
CharuR posted on Thursday, March 6, 2014 7:19 PM
Gerat article - must read for all Senior BAs!
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