The New Business Analyst Economy: Doing More With Less


The New Business Analyst Economy: Doing More With LessIn virtually every industry in which business analysts find themselves, employers are trying to do more with less. Normally, this means budget and personnel cuts, which are forcing many analysts to also do the work of project managers, prototype designers, and other roles—and often with a smaller budget for software and other analysis tools. In this environment, it may seem challenging for analysts to find ways to cut back even more, but proactively doing so will benefit not only your employer but your projects and your career. Here are a few ideas to research and pitch to your manager for cutting costs as you go about your daily work.

Go from local to completely virtual. Interviews, focus groups, and surveys are the stock in trade of the analyst and the key to much requirements gathering. Often, this can be done virtually—online, over the phone, or via Skype (which is relatively inexpensive). Find ways to reduce travel, even within your city or region. In general, the more quickly, locally, and efficiently something can be done, the cheaper will be.

When travel is unavoidable, you can still travel for less. If you must travel for your work, explore bargain airfare and rental car sites. Often companies have a contract with a travel agency on whom they rely to get the best deals. In reality, the deals may not be so great. Check bargain travel sites for yourself and suggest any deals you find to the agent. If they refuse to book them, inform your employer. Also, if a colleague is traveling with you, share a rental car, when possible.

Give up the paper. Many old-fashioned analysts (including me) like the security of a paper copy of any existing document, and the convenience of carrying it to meetings. Today, redundancy back-ups are just as secure as any paper copy, and laptops are just as portable as paper. Paper, print/copier maintenance, and supplies are more expensive than most of us would imagine. “The liquid in printer cartridges - which carries a price tag of about $10,000 per gallon - costs far more than the most expensive bottle of champagne any of us will buy over the next few weeks,” notes Leslie L. Gordon in her ZDNet article, “Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption.”[1] When you host meetings, use a projector to show everyone a document at once rather than printing a copy for each participant. If some of the participants insist on a paper copy, send them each a PDF ahead of time that they can download themselves. And if you must print, select the two-sided and black-and-white options.

Use more salaried employees as resources. When someone needs help creating a prototype or designing a survey, for example, the hourly paid intern or assistant is usually the first source to whom many personnel will turn. But your salaried colleague may have some spare time in her schedule and be willing to take on that survey design in exchange for some research help from you when your schedule clears up. No one wants an overloaded schedule, so be sensitive to your colleagues, but learn to look beyond the hourly staff for available resources when your project needs additional help.

If you’re in a rare quiet period, share the wealth. Most analysts are overloaded these days, but occasional lulls in work do happen, often due to waiting for feedback or design. If you don’t have another project waiting in the wings that needs your immediate attention, find a way to help one of your colleagues who is drowning. Not only will this benefit your company’s bottom line, but your colleague is likely to remember and return the favor.

Do some research before putting in a purchase order for new software or other business tools. Something perfectly suitable may be available for free. For example, would the free version of Survey Monkey meet your needs just as well as paid survey software? Or an unused license may already be available. A department’s administrative assistant is a good resource to start with to check for unused software licenses that may still be valid. And find out if existing licenses cover multiple users. Before requesting survey software, for example, see if marketing already has something that you are also allowed to use.

Look around, not online, for continuing education opportunities. Continuing education and training are essential to keeping a business analyst sharp, focused, and on pace with their evolving industry. Many analysts are finding their travel and training budgets sharply cut or eliminated, but that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to learn (and show their management they’re dedicated to evolving in spite of a slow economy). Often, staff within your own company can train others on software such as Visio, InRule, or other useful tools. If you’ve tapped your company’s resources for training, look at other companies within your immediate community. They may be willing to do a trade-off and send an employee to train on site at your firm for a few days on their specialty if someone from your firm will respond in kind. But if hiring an outside trainer is unavoidable, it’s usually more affordable to bring someone in to your offices than to send numerous staff to an off-site conference.

Practice energy conservation when you can. Many energy efficiencies, such as thermostat control, are in an employer’s hands, but an analyst can still contribute in significant ways, such as setting your computer to sleep after just a few minutes of inactivity, turning off screen savers, shutting equipment down at the end of the day, and turning off your office lights if you have natural light from a window.

Building on the energy conservation initiative, propose a four-day work week or telecommuting. Few things help a department’s energy savings as much nobody using any. If people work from home, the department’s lights are off, the thermostat can be conservatively set, and all electronic equipment should be off. If this is not practical, explore working four 10-hour days rather than five 8-hour days. Theoretically, this should cut 20 percent of your department’s energy costs a year.

Think intentionally about ways to make your unique role more efficient. Though most of the above suggestions are generalizations that theoretically can apply to any analyst, cost-cutting measures unique to your daily role are ones that only you can recognize. As one employer noted, “The individual human being at work knows better than anyone else what makes him or her more productive . . . even in routine work the only true expert is the person who does the job."[2] Even if your company has not implemented any type of suggestion box or idea campaign, apply your diligence and creative juices to thinking of ways to increase efficiencies and productivity in your work and your department, and then pitch them.

These types of measures can help analysts ensure that their employers are able to not only retain their workforce, but hopefully avoid salary freezes and benefit cuts. “Even as the recession cuts deeply into their revenue, some companies are . . . keeping their employees and finding other ways to trim costs.”[3] The more analysts help their companies with this type of endeavor, the more valuable they become.

Of course, in addition to these basic cost-cutting measures, the best thing that a business analyst can do to benefit her employer economically is to excel at her work, avoid redundancies, be conscientious in her research, and create excellent requirements. Continue to hone your craft, along with exercising thrift in your daily activities to help foster a culture of cost savings, and your financial benefit to your company will be substantial.

Author: Morgan Masters is Business Analyst and Staff Writer at, the premier community and resource portal for business analysts. Business analysis resources such as articles, blogs, templates, forums, books, along with a thriving business analyst community can be found at

1Gordon, Leslie L. “Nine ways IT can help organizations ‘go green’ and reduce paper consumption,” for ZDNet. Accessed May 25, 2010.

2Smith, Gregory P. “Leading Companies Use Ideas to Boost Productivity and Cut Costs,” ManagerWise. Accessed May 25, 2010.

3Paul, Dalila J. “Companies Cutting Costs, But Not Workers,” New Jersey Business News. Accessed May 25, 2010.

NOTE: Top article image © Willee Cole -


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