Becoming a Business Analyst

Magnifying glass over icon of a person

Magnifying glass over icon of a personA common question that gets asked at BA events and forums is “How do I become a business analyst”. Often people wanting to enter the profession feel that they are stuck in a chicken-and-egg scenario: They want to get their ‘first’ BA role—but all the job adverts they can find ask for 3 (or 5 or 10) years of experience. It can be a frustrating dilemma—without experience, it’s difficult to get a role—and without a role it is difficult to get experience!  In this article, we’ll explore seven tips for breaking this cycle.

 

1. Becoming vs discovering – maximise your current experience

A fundamental point to start on is that, when it comes to business analysis, one thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be employed as a ‘business analyst’ to do business analysis.  There are many people in organisations that undertake a sub-set of the business analysis role who have very different job titles.  This leads to an interesting pattern—rather than consciously setting out to become business analysts, some people discover they are already undertaking business analysis!

This is an important subtlety.  Often, those seeking a BA role for the first time actually have more BA experience than they are giving themselves credit for.   Take the following examples:

 

Role Potential BA experience includes
Working as a domain subject-matter expert (SME) on a project Helping to define problems, requirements and solutions.  Also, pre-project problem and strategy analysis.
Call Centre manager improving processes and implementing process change Problem analysis, process analysis and mapping, process improvement.
Salesperson at an IT vendor Helping to understand the client’s needs (requirements elicitation and analysis), communication of requirements and helping to assess potential solutions
Test manager peer-reviewing requirements Requirements verification (i.e. quality checking). Understanding end-user needs and acceptance criteria.
Developer Working with users and BAs to understand the implications of requirements and designs—likely to include elements of requirements clarification and analysis.   Experience may also include data modelling, prototyping etc.

 

With this in mind it is worth reflecting on the valuable BA experience that you already have, maximising the experience you can get in your current role.  It can be valuable to keep a log of your experience and the types of assignment or project that you’ve worked on—this will be useful when preparing your CV or resume, and will also be useful if in future you apply for certification such as CBAP or CCBA.

 

2. Consider certification

When applying for your first ‘pure’ BA role, certification will help you stand out.  There are a number of certification schemes available, and the particular scheme that is right for you will depend on your location, experience and aspirations.  You may find my previous article BA Certification BCS or IIBA useful, if you are based in the UK.

 

3. Plan continuing professional development

Irrespective of whether you take certification, it is crucial to keep up the momentum and continue developing professionally.  This needn’t be expensive – there are many cheap (and free) resources online that will help you keep up to speed with developments in the profession.  Read blogs, articles, papers and interact with online communities.  Get familiar with global business analysis standards and techniques.

 

4. Expand your network

The word “networking” can be a scary word, can’t it?  Yet, one way of developing as a BA (and to hear of potential job opportunities) is to meet and connect with other BAs in your area.  There are IIBA events around the world (including a very active IIBA UK chapter).   By engaging with the BA community in your area, you’ll be able to hear useful and interesting experiences from other practitioners, and become part of a valuable network that you can contribute to as your career builds.

 

5. Volunteer

If you cannot get enough quality BA experience in your current role, another consideration is could you volunteer?  Is there a charity, or a not-for-profit organisation that would benefit from your BA skills?

 

6. Build your CV/Resume and look for (and apply) for roles

Even if you don’t think you’re quite ready, the process of reflecting on your experience, building your CV or resume and researching the job market will be useful—you will find out how buoyant the market is, and the types of opportunity in your area.   Make contact with a few reputable recruitment consultants—ensuring you get recommendations from your network where you can.  Get a few trusted contacts or colleagues to peer review your CV.  If you find you are lacking in certain skills or areas of experience, this gives you areas to target.

 

7. Never stop practising

Business analysis is a discipline that is practiced. Learning is a core part, but so much is learned by doing.  It’s important to keep up the momentum, keep maximising your BA experience and ensuring your knowledge and experience doesn’t fade away.

 

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, I hope that it has given you a useful starting point.  If you are looking for your first BA role, remember that there is a global support network of BAs out there (via forums, LinkedIN groups, IIBA etc) who can help.  Help is only a Google search away!  If you are reading this article and are an experienced practitioner, I’d really appreciate it if you could add your thoughts and comments belowHopefully this article will become one of a number of handy reference points for those considering entering the profession.

 


 

What tips would you give people entering the BA profession?  Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? I’d love to hear them—please add a comment below!

 

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This post is supported by www.technojobs.co.uk/business-analyst-jobs, and www.technojobs.co.uk/analyst-jobs part of the Technojobs Group, and opinions are my own.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your BA career, why not visit the websites above today–dedicated exclusively to jobs for the business analysis profession

7 thoughts on “Becoming a Business Analyst”

  1. Excellent post with lots of really useful tips, one I would add is be aware of your strengths and use these to target the types of roles you look for. Business Analysis is a very broad profession in which you can use a range of interests and skills, make sure you are using the ones you are good at and motivate you in your career

    1. Thanks Corrine, I’m glad you liked the article, and thanks so much for adding a comment Your point about strengths is a really important one too — as you say, the profession is very wide, and it can be worth ‘targetting’ specific parts of the role. — Adrian

  2. Hey Adrian
    Thanks for your post, and I agree with Corrine…. Plenty of valuable and useful tips. By your request to offer more, I have the following. First, if employed in ash.org that has business analysts, seek opportunities to shadow them for a day or on a regular basis. This is a great way to learn and ask questions. Second, I think I would disagree on the suggestion for certification. While there is huge value in consuming the content while studying for the exams, they remain primarily memorization and regurgitation exercises with no evaluation of the practitioner’s ability to apply the principles. So focus on the reading, as you said. Finally, I would stress acquiring a mentor, if possible (disclosure: I mentor business analysts). Mentoring in any profession provides a safe and accelerated learning environment for the mentee, who is able to broach subjects and obstacles openly to build knowledge and confidence.

  3. My organisation has a real need for BAs but, as yet, no named role, although there are plans to create one or more posts. I am attempting the ‘become a BA by stealth’ method, ie, take on any and every BA task that appears so that, over time, the BA work out weighs the stuff in my current JD. When (eventually) the posts appear, I should be in a perfect position to fill one of them.

    This is the theory, at least…

    1. Hi Rose, thanks very much for the comment, that is very interesting to hear.

      The “BA by stealth” is a very smart move. This enables the *value* of analysis to be illustrated, so that people buy into the idea of analysis. Ultimately, it is about the business *analysis* (irrespective of what the job title is). As you say, when the posts appear, you’ll be very well placed.

      Best of luck, and thanks again for the comment!

    2. In a way, I did this too. I took on more roles in the company to both enhance my skills and get myself out in front of people. Two things I would suggest:

      1. Never underestimate the value of informational interviews. Get yourself in front of the right people, ask the right questions, and get those in charge to see that you are interested and valuable. Knowledge is key, the more you know the better prepared you will be when it comes time to make the change over.

      2. Talk to your manager and work out a plan for your career change. Your manager can be your biggest sponsor, so use it to your (and their advantage)! Remember, it looks good on them if they help you successfully make the change and you excel at the role.

      The biggest piece of advice I could give is this: You Own Your Career. No one else will advocate for you if you don’t first advocate for yourself.

  4. All good points and one that aided me the most was putting myself through the BCS Business Analysis Practice module; well worth the extra effort to show employers that one is serious about becoming a business analyst by self development.

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