What is a business analyst?

Business analysts help businesses improve how they operate.

A business analyst’s job is to identify areas where businesses aren’t using their full potential or aren’t maximizing profits. They use data, specialized software and business analysis tools and techniques to problem-solve and improve business strategies.

Business analysts also talk with customers, clients and staff. They figure out how to best improve an organization’s business processes.

Business analysts look at background information and data that most people never see. They take this information and turn it into visual models so everyone can understand and plan accordingly.

What does a business analyst do?

Business analysis generally forms part of an existing role – you don’t to be in a leadership role to have ideas on how a business might improve.  

Business analysts work as consultants across all levels of an organization and may be involved in everything from defining strategy, to creating enterprise architecture, to leading project teams.

Business analysts are responsible for communication and collaboration between departments. They are the ‘middleman’ between the management and technical teams within a company.

Whether working as a consultant, or conducting business analysis as part of an existing role, the main tasks of a business analyst generally include:

  • Investigating existing business systems;
  • Reviewing data about current work habits;
  • Identifying potential improvements;
  • Interviewing users to identify technology challenges;
  • Writing business cases to justify investments;
  • Specifying IT requirements;
  • Implementing business strategy

Analysts generally wok on multiple projects simultaneously. At any one time, a business analyst might fill one of the following roles in addition to their usual duties:

Project teams

Business analysts often work as a requirements engineer in close coordination with users as part of a project team.

In the initial phase of a project, when the requirements are being interpreted by the solution and design teams, a requirements engineer works closely with both IT teams and clients to ensure that users’ requirements are clear.

Business analysts often work with project managers, writing the business case, and specifying the expected benefits whilst the project manager focuses on planning.

Project managers

At times, business analysts will be required to take on a leadership role.

This happens most often during the initial planning phases, or when help is needed to implement changes in development.

When this happens, analysts will spend their time making sure everyone keeps working towards a singular goal, overseeing timelines and balancing budgets.

Systems analyst

Business analysts with knowledge of programming or the industry-specific tools being used to develop a product might be tasked with translating the high-level software jargon used by IT specialists into plain English so that everyone without a background in IT can understand it.

Business analyst careers

Almost every industry employs business analysts in one shape or form, but most business analysts work in information technology or for management consulting firms.

Business analysts typically need industry experience or a knowledge of IT.

If you enjoy evaluating and analysing data, creating solutions, working with a variety of people and have a good grasp of information technology, a career in business analysis could be for you.

4 steps to becoming a business analyst

  • Understand the role
    Use online resources and other sources to make sure you have a good understand of what is required of you as a business analyst.
    • Research the tasks and responsibilities of a business analyst;
    • Conduct industry-specific research – If you want to work as a consultant in engineering, make sure you have a good understanding of the industry;
    • Talk to business analysts about their role.
  • Develop your skills
    Business analysis is a demanding and complex role, make sure you have what it takes before choosing this career.
    • Critical thinking and analytical skills – you’ll need to be able to ask the right questions to succeed as an analyst. This means thinking ‘outside the box’ and paying very close attention to the small things;
    • Communication – a good chunk of what a business analyst does involves talking to customers, team members and stakeholders;
    • Business analyst skills – you’ll need to be familiar with common business analyst tools and techniques. You can often learn these from attending a specialist business analyst training course.
  • Get qualified Professional certification can help you gain an understanding of the tools, processes and techniques commonly used by business analysists. Some qualifications you might like to have are:
    • BCS Business Analyst certification
    • PMI Professional in Business Analysis
  • Get experience
    Not many people jump straight into work as a business analyst because the role often requires industry specific knowledge.
    Find the industry that most interests you and get to work!
    Over time you’ll develop an in-depth understanding of the industry and come away with your own ideas on how to improve it.