Career as a Business Systems Analyst

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Many business analysts' find themselves in their role quite by coincidence but once there either decide this is a role they love or hate. There are certain requirements (if you'll pardon the cliche) or competencies you must display to be successful in this profession. We will first explore the foundational knowledge and skills needed in the early part of a business analysts' career and then what is required to progress.

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A lot of people think that coming up with solutions to business problems is the hardest part about being a business analyst – particularly when working with a client who knows more about the business than you ever will. Don’t believe it, after all you’ve already made considerable progress in understanding the problem – and your understanding is based on level-headed analysis rather than a potentially emotional interpretation by your client.

Now it’s time to look for solutions – to be creative and think outside the square. In this paper we’ll offer a few tips and techniques for getting the creative juices flowing. We’ll show you that anyone can be creative and that solutions can come from the most unexpected places – you don’t have to be a subject matter expert to come up with valid, workable solutions to business problems.

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Like all professions, business analysis has its golden rules – rules that are fundamental to the design of successful business systems. They might seem like common sense but it’s surprising how often we forget them and get ourselves into hot water.

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Agile is here, and it's coming soon to an organization near you-if it's not already there. As a business analyst, are you ready to make the transition to this value-centered development approach? How will your role change? What will you do differently? What will you actually do as part of an agile team? What agile analysis practices might you adapt if you're working on a traditional (waterfall-style) project?

In short, how can you make yourself more valuable to your agile team and organization using your business analysis skills and abilities?
 

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Wyeth CIO Jeffrey Keisling explains how working with the business on IT staffing helps promote IT-business alignment.  He also outlines the two areas of hiring focus: business analysis and business process.

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As budgets tighten and organizations continue trying to achieve return on investment faster, cheaper and with better results, they are trying to create and evolve their overall enterprise architecture.

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In recent years it has become more and more apparent that the job description of Business Analyst has become diluted and distorted. Can this be considered the natural evolution of a profession or is it a profession that no longer has a clear job description? Is this a profession that has moved past the point of clear boundaries or are the boundaries still there but blurred based on the need to adapt to a changing world to meet the needs of people rather than the needs of the business? What can we do to win back the respect that the Business Analyst profession deserves? Exactly whose responsibility is it to maintain a professional and respected image of this profession? Should the recruitment process of Business Analysts be an exercise in requirements gathering?

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If it is allocating your internal resources, making a new hire, or bringing in a consultant; what is the best process to match the right business analyst to the right project? For organizations that truly value the role of the business analyst this is one of the most frequently pondered questions.

Companies that want to have the right people in the right roles need to address four main stages; defining the BA’s roles in the project, attracting the best talent, matching the BA to the project and finally, making the selection and continuing to support.

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If a single word can represent an entire year, then 2008 was the year of change. Of course, the next American president ran an entire campaign on change, but, more specifically, the business world as we know it will simply never be the same. We’ve all learned that no company—no matter how thoroughly it is woven into the fabric of the economy—is isolated from the need for improved efficiency, due diligence and corporate responsibility.

With change having such a profound influence on 2008, 2009 will likely be shaped by the business world’s ability to adapt to that change. And, of all the groups of professionals working today, few will serve a more important role in that adaptation than business analysts. Requirements management and development, which has for so long been the unsung hero of the successful project lifecycle, is poised to begin receiving the prominence it deserves.

Here are 10 key trends to look forward to in business analysis for 2009. They represent the on-going evolution of requirements management and development and the ever-increasing value of the modern business analyst.

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If Agile is to become the next zeitgeist for development, what will become of the traditional Business Analyst?

We all know the traditional waterfall mantra: analyze, design, build then test... underpinned by the common belief that the more you analyze up front the more you save in maintenance later on. This has had a huge impact on the way we organize our teams: separating functions and putting a heavy emphasis on theoretical modeling.

When a project kicks off, the classic Gantt chart dictates that analysts are on-boarded early for a lengthy requirements analysis stage. Once the requirements specification is 'signed off' the analysts are often relieved of their posts for the design crew to take over. The 'sign off' fest continues until eventually the user community is (invariably) force fed a UAT phase and the fledgling product is launched; all the while resources are inhaled and exhaled as the project plan demands. The project then becomes more of a way to co-ordinate a set of individual skill sets and activities.

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Does it ever feel like no one really appreciates what you do as an architect? It doesn’t matter what you’re designing, the consensus seems to be that what you do is just a lot of planning and thinking. No one seems to understand how much time and effort you have put into understanding every nook and cranny of the business so that your projects succeed not only from a physical deployment perspective, but from an organizational perspective as well. Essentially, your main role is to lay the foundation for your entire organization to succeed in business. Whether that’s from an enterprise, application, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), or other architectural design doesn’t matter. Your role is clearly one of the most pivotal in any organization, yet it's also one of the most misunderstood.

I say “one” of the most misunderstood because there is another worker bee in the hive who performs just as many pivotal yet misinterpreted tasks as you: the business analyst. As you work at defining the organization and deployment structures of your design, business analysts work at defining business problems and opportunities and turning them into solutions for customers. In other words, the business analyst is another key role that’s often misunderstood.

The misunderstandings occur because on the surface, it appears that both of you are attempting to do the same job. You—the architect—are undoubtedly the best person to design a practical solution for business requirements that you’re not particularly close to. At the same time that you are designing a solution, the business analyst—arguably the person much closer to those business requirements—is attempting to design a practical solution for them. Ultimately, you both want the same thing: a solution that works for the business and is cost-effective. The problem is that the two of you are coming at that solution from different angles.

Just imagine the possibilities if you and the business analyst learned how to put those angles together to form the perfect square.

Author: S. E Slack

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The U.S. economy is bleeding jobs, but -- at least, so far -- the high-tech industry is something of a safe haven. That's not to say there haven't been tech losses or that it's easy to find an IT job. However, people with the right skill sets and the savvy to sniff out the particular areas of demand are much better positioned than professionals in some of the more-beleaguered industries.

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Demand for IT business analysis is also on the rise right now, according to Rubillo, driven by a couple of different factors. Of particular importance in these recessionary times is the need for analysis that can wring out the most efficiency from a software application.

"Companies are increasingly aware of understanding the real world implications of an IT investment," said Rubillo. "A new software application, for instance, can result in bottlenecks in the supply chain, or a need for new resources -- or the ability to cut back on others. Companies want to get ahead of these developments as they implement their new IT investments."

Companies are also looking for untapped savings from pre-existing systems, he added.

Author: Erika Morphy

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Good business solutions begin with good business analysis. But what's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing?

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the set of skills that go to making a good business analyst. Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook -- Note: subscription required) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst, grouped into categories such as Core Capabilities, Business Knowledge, Job-Specific Skills, Technical Knowledge etc. (I was particularly pleased to see this last category: It is important but not quite obvious that business analysts should also have a rudimentary general understanding of technology environments and architectures… mostly built up through seeing past analysis engagements fructify into delivered solutions).

Although the workbook is obviously intended as an assessment tool, I also found in it good for use as a training tool — for example, to bone up on technology approaches to business needs and to study sample projects, correlating the original business requirement with the type of solution delivered.

Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious (in no particular order)...

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It has been just over a year since I published my book, and that makes it easier for me to measure what has happened since then.

I have spent this year visiting many companies and discussing their business analysis function. In some cases, I have performed an assessment on the business analysts as well as the business analysis function within many large Corporates.

It has now got to the point where I could document the findings before I start the investigation. The reason for this is that the problems are the same. From articles and discussions from other countries it appears the problems are similar the world over. These are the problems I encounter most often:

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Today the term Business Analyst is synonymous with a career in the IT industry but the most successful and valuable analysts are those who understand the 'business' rather than those who understand IT. So what exactly is a Business Analyst? What is the Business Analyst’s role? What is the best background for this job? What skill set is required? What type of person is the best fit? What training is required and available?

Each organisation seems to have its own ideas about the role, skills, responsibilities and expectations of the Business Analyst. Given the importance of the job, a common definition would assist both practitioners and employers. We explore some of the issues here.

Written by Derrick Brown, IRM's Director and instructional designer, it shares first hand observations and experience gained from training thousands of Business Analysts since 1980, first in the UK and since 1984 in Australia.

Author: Derrick Brown

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