Vertical Domain or Industry


The question of how essential domain expertise is to a business analyst is a recurring debate in the BA community. One school of thought maintains that domain knowledge is not critical. A skilled BA, the thinking goes, can walk into nearly any project situation and do an effective job of exploring requirements, relying on previous experience and a rich tool kit of requirements techniques. The counterargument avers that an analyst who has deep subject matter knowledge can be far more effective than a more general practitioner.

I have experienced both situations, from inside a company as a regular employee and from the outside as a consultant. This article offers some thoughts about when domain knowledge is valuable, when it’s essential, when it’s not necessary, and when it can actually pose a risk.

Many business analysts fail to achieve top performance while starting to work on a new domain simply because of their fear of making mistakes. I’ve heard analysts freely admit that looking less than competent is what they fear most. “I don’t know what I don’t know” they will tell me, “and in particular in a domain I’m not very familiar with, I’m always afraid I will miss an assumption or an avenue I must address.”
Visit any active discussion forum for business analysts and aspiring BAs, and invariably you will find at least one thread asking how to develop domain knowledge, either in a new industry, such as health or insurance, or a new business function, such as marketing or supply chain management. Alice just got a job working for the first time in financial services, and is worried that her lack of experience in this domain will get in the way of her doing a great job. Bob keeps getting his resume ignored for analyst jobs in government agencies because most of his experience is in ecommerce applications. What to do?

Prior to the creation of something as potentially complex and ubiquitous of a website, an analyst must create a thorough, precise set of requirements in consultation with the right subject matter experts and business stakeholders. But unless one is armed with the proper planning procedures and techniques, the prospect of creating requirements for something as vast as an online business presence or functioning e-commerce system (or both) can be intimidating.


Mobile application development is hot. Smart phones and tablets sales are exploding, and technical teams are exploring ideas for new applications. With new development work, sometimes roles like Business Analysis get left behind as programmers rush to code a new mobile app. Even when we’re in a rapidly changing industry, taking a bit of time to work on design is still important. In fact, it can be the difference between an application that is used and one that is discarded and left behind.


Did you know that you could make a positive impact in people’s lives by working as a Business Analyst (BA)? By describing data flows, writing use cases, creating diagrams, re-engineering current processes or mapping the system’s data outputs and inputs, you could make a change in somebody’s life. As impossible as it sounds, it is happening on a daily basis. Throughout the US the Business Analysts in the Healthcare industry work hand in hand with the Healthcare professionals in the hospitals, the insurance companies, the government, as well as regulatory and non-profit agencies and organizations to make the US Healthcare better.

According to the MS Encarta Dictionary, healthcare is defined as the “activities to maintain health; the provision of medical and related services, aimed at maintaining good health, especially through the prevention and treatment of disease.” The healthcare industry also includes the people performing these activities, their skills, and the tools and systems they use daily. The modern health care depends on an ever growing interdisciplinary team of professionals; and this includes the Business Analysts.

The Business Analysts in the Healthcare Industry are exploring many business processes, multiple use cases and alternative flows at every point of contact where the patient interfaces with the healthcare professionals. At the same time there are various software and hardware systems interacting with each other and a multitude of standards regulating every aspect of the data exchange. When you add the different vendors, the variety may become overwhelming.



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