Want to be a business analyst? Read this
Business analysts are the Swiss Army Knives of the IT world.
By inhabiting the space between stakeholders, project managers and consumers, they understand business directives, the technology and expertise needed to execute these initiatives, and how the consumer will perceive the end result.
When the stakeholders have an objective and need a roadmap for making it happen, it's the business analyst's job to chart the best course of action. He or she uses facts compiled through research, a soothing yet assertive tone of voice and a strong understanding of digital trends to summarize business requirements. If the project manager lacks the time, money and human capital needed to meet stakeholder and/or consumer requirements, it once again falls on the business analysts to arbitrate a better way by sitting down with stakeholders. And if customers aren't pleased, business analysts break the news, and guide a new strategy.
In so many words, the business analyst must "marry the needs of the business with the various capabilities and resources available to it." In an age that's rife with digital transformation, their are plenty of marriages to officiate, so to speak.
The only question now is, do you have what it takes to fill these shoes? If you're relatively unfazed by what you've read so far, then you're off to a good start.
Drafting requirements, collaborating with developers, diffusing bombs
Business analysts live and die by requirements. These include consumer demands, internal pressure to achieve a certain objective or a combination thereof.
In the past, distilling the vast array of user stories and a laundry list of stakeholder expectations (which sometimes conflict with one another) into a set of finite requirements sometimes felt a bit like trying to turn water into wine. This could create tension between project managers and business analysts. Once requirements were summarized by the business analyst, they'd go directly to the project manager and developers, who would more or less be responsible for solving these problems. As you can probably imagine, there was frequent pushback between the two roles regarding what was reasonable or what was necessary.
But today, agile software developments is the go-to framework. Under this model, open collaboration between project managers and business analysts isn't only normal – it's actually encouraged, and in some work places, required. To be clear, this doesn't change the role of business analyst. However, it does enhance the experience, primarily by making BA and PMs more sympathetic to one another's roles, and ultimately more well-equipped to handle change.
Oh, and a final side note: Be ready to diffuse bombs. There may be situations in which stakeholders don't see eye-to-eye with one another, or for that matter, with you. In some cases, it may be necessary to bend to another person's will. In other cases, you may know best. It's really just a matter of knowing how to diplomatically prove as much.
So on that note, don't be surprised if during an interview, you're asked how you would respond to a hypothetical contentious situation. As with most things in life, the secret is not to roll over on your point, but not to be overly stubborn either.
Strong communicators who understand the value of research, who can wrap their minds around business objectives and who have a strong grasp of technology (preferably with PMP certification and some coding knowledge) are bulls-eye candidates for business analysts roles.
If that's you, click here.