Getting Started as a Business Systems Analyst

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The title of "Business Analyst" is one of the fastest growing in the IT industry. In fact, the United States Department of Labor projected a 29% increase in computer systems analyst employment by 2016. There are many resources available that explain what a business analyst is, often in terms of comparing the responsibilities of an analyst to those of other team members we're more familiar with, like project managers, software testers, and systems architects.

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"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. 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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Business analysis involves analyzing a business: what its goals are, how those goals connect to specific objectives, and determining the courses of action that a business has to undertake to achieve those goals and objectives.

The formal definition of business analysis found in version 2 of the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge is:

Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals. 

Author: Kevin Brennan, IIBA

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Every year, organizations around the world face startlingly high project failure rates. Some research has shown that less than 30 percent of software projects are completed on time and on budget—and barely 50 percent end up meeting their proposed functionality. If you’re a big league baseball player, failing five to seven times out of ten will get you an endorsement deal and a spot in the Hall of Fame. But, for the rest of us, these types of failure rates represent billions in cost overruns and project waste.

In 2005, ESI International surveyed 2,000 business professionals to try to find out why projects fail. The answers were numerous and varied and included such common thorns in the side as inadequate communication, risk management and scope control. But of all the answers, one showed up more than any other. Fifty percent of those surveyed marked “poor requirements definition” as their leading project challenge.

Failing to properly and accurately define requirements at the very beginning of the project lifecycle points to a distinct lack of business analysis competency. The role of the business analyst is an important one, and, sadly, one that is underutilized by many organizations around the world. In essence, a business analyst acts as a translator or liaison between the customer or user and the person or group attempting to meet user needs. But, that’s just speaking generally. What about the specifics?

Below, I’ve put together a list of eight key competencies that every business analyst—or every professional performing the duties of a business analyst—should possess. I’ve included specific emphasis on tasks associated with junior, intermediate and senior business analysts. If performed effectively, the items on this list could save organizations millions.

Author: Glenn R. Brûlé

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You may be the new kid on the job block, but that doesn't mean your salary has to start low on the totem pole. The PayScale.com Salary Survey identified an array of exciting jobs that pay a total compensation close to or above an impressive $50,000 per year right from the start. Here are some of the 10 hot professions that show you th...
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A colleague of mine asked me recently what makes a good Business Analyst, and this stumped me for a while. I had a rare opportunity to go trout fly-fishing recently and as the fishing was slow I was able to contemplate this question. You will gather from this that the question had worried me as I seldom think about work stuff when I am fly-fishing. 

So what does make a good Business Analyst? 

I decided to go back to basics; if I want to know what makes a good Analyst then I need to ask what do we, as Business Analysts, do? If I could understand that, then I can start to understand what makes one Analyst better than another.  

I asked around in business analysis circles for an on line description of what we do. Although I got a few different answers, I found I got the most consensuses with “a Business Analyst elicits, documents, and communicates business requirements”. But what does that mean?

Author: Robin Grace

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I’m sure there must be a thesis somewhere on this question: How do you know whether a specific decision or action definitely influences the actual event? I like soccer analogies — in a pre-World Cup game against Argentina, Sven-Goran Eriksson was praised for his tactical decision to bring on Peter Crouch and the 3-2 victory that resulted. Yet, Erik...
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Is there a place for business analysts in IT today? Not if their primary function is just to analyze business needs. As the pace of change accelerates, business people want more than analysis; they want workable solutions to their problems. Analysis is only part of the job that needs to be done. It can clarify situations and trends, identify pr...
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