If you’re the type of business professional that likes analyzing data, excels at problem solving, and wants to bridge the gap between technology and business processes, then a career as a business analyst might be a perfect fit. Business analysts are charged with streamlining internal processes to help the organization reach key business objectives. In a competitive modern business environment, this is a key role that is in high demand and garners high salaries.
If this sounds compelling to you, let’s dig into how to become a business analyst.
Business Analyst Job Description: What Does a Business Analyst Do?
To set the right background, the business analyst role is focused on a number of key areas and activities:
1) Communicating with a wide variety of people, including IT, operations, executives, everyday employees, and customers to examine challenges and evaluate solutions fairly
2) Act as facilitator across departments, and document and report on findings
3) Engage in open dialogue with key stakeholders and communicate what they’ve learned to the appropriate parties
4) Analyze data and insights to search for patterns and trends
5) Leverage observations and analysis and document recommendations in the form of charts, graphs, or other visualizations
6) Evaluate details of chosen solutions to ensure they are optimized for design and implementation periods
7) Maintain requirements through a constantly changing set of variables
8) Drive greater productivity, grow revenue and fulfill specific long-term business needs
Why Pursue a Business Analyst Career?
If you want to know how to become a business analyst, you might also wonder why businesses need and value business analysts.
Business analysts are highly skilled professionals who perform vital duties at companies of all sizes. According to the International Institute of Business Analysis, there are several key reasons that companies are hiring business analysts:
Business Analysts Empower Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is a key initiative at most companies in order for them to stay competitive, but only 2 in 10 consider their technology level to be advanced enough. Business analysts make digital transformation easier and simpler, acting as the glue to hold digital transformation plans together. Business analysts help bridge the client-developer gap by using analytics and information to enable change.
Business Analysts Translate Complex Development Processes
Once technology projects are deployed across an enterprise, someone must ensure that all employees understand what it means for the organization. The business analyst is skilled in translating the intricacies of how the business works for technical staff, and providing quick answers to staff and managers as to the business benefits of technology adoption.
Business Analysts Drive Change Management
Business analysts help ensure that employees adapt to new changes in processes. They do so by acting as a change management practitioner, facilitating solutions to problems, preparing staff for upcoming changes, and reinforcing changes once they are adopted.
How to Become a Business Analyst: Technical Skills Required
Few have such a wide-ranging set of skills to put into play every day like the business analyst role. Among the most important technical skills required for business analysts:
A business analyst will need to explore potential solutions everywhere, scouring the internet and gathering information and statistical data as the first step in forming a final solution. They must be able to gather accurate information and analyze it on a daily basis, providing quality requirements for everyone associated with a project. Business analysts have to become an expert on every issue; research is the first step to conducting financial planning and risk assessment.
Once information is gathered, the analytical part can begin. Data analysis requires running gap analysis, risk assessment, financial planning, and statistical analysis. And crunching numbers is not the only requirement for a business analyst. You also need to understand how to interpret and analyze the data and show how it can become the ideal solution for the company.
A business analyst must also understand how to take the information gathered and analyzed and illustrate exactly how much everything is going to cost to achieve strategic goals. The financial plan is usually created after the vision has been set, and it requires an accurate assessment of how each course of action will cost at every step of the process, and quantitatively how much the company will benefit.
The final technical skillset required by a business analyst is organization and constant documentation. Writing down, recording and documenting every stage from creation to implementation helps the business analyst stay organized and able to seamlessly explain steps to stakeholders. Documentation is also important for communicating technical concepts to non-technical employees.
What Technology Tools Do Business Analysts Use?
For those who are looking into how to become a business analyst, one of the most important things is to be current on the types of technology tools analysts use every day. Business analysts must be proficient in methods for gathering, analyzing, and reporting on data and information in an efficient way.
Requirements management encompasses the collecting, organizing, analyzing, and prioritizing the data for areas like product development, where business analysts must collect customer needs to build better products. Examples of tools that business analysts use:
1) Rational Requisite Pro: IBM tool that facilitates collaboration and communication among project management teams. It assists in organizing and prioritizing requirements and is effective in linking requirements to a database for sorting and querying,
2) Jama: Popular tool for multiple team collaboration for building a single complex product. It handles requirements prioritization, validation, problem statements, and project tracking.
3) ReQtest: A cloud bug tracking tool used by developers and testers. It handles case management and includes real-time reporting and tracking mapped to specific requirements.
4) iRise: Business analysis tool for sorting and grouping requirements. It uniquely combines text requirements and user stories with web and mobile prototyping.
5) Orcanos: Visualization and reporting tool for managing requirements, including traceability and reporting.
6) Microsoft Excel: One of the most common general tools used by business analysts for data manipulation, data storage, resource management, operations management, requirements tracking, and more.
7) Balsamiq and Axure: Tools used for designing wireframes to show the positioning of elements in the UI and display potential solution structures.
8) Many tools are used for creating business process diagrams and flowcharts, including Visio, Tableau, PowerBI, Bokeh, Plotly, Infogram, LucidCharts, Qlikview, Spotfire, and SmartDraw
9) R: Important data analyst tool for data manipulation.
10) Wrike: Work management tool for managing tasks and maintaining workflows.
11) MindMeister: Online tool used by business analysts for brainstorming and mind mapping.
Do Business Analysts Need to Code?
The short answer is no, a professional generally does not need to know how to code to become a business analyst. There is often a misconception that since a business analyst works so closely with software development teams, they need programming skills. However, although business analysts deal with IT professionals and processes on a regular basis, they are not involved in coding and programming. Yes, they deal with IT and software requirements, as well as development and functional testing, but they don’t specifically require programming skills.
How to Become a Business Analyst: Be Prepared for Interview Questions
During an interview for a business analyst role, you will be expected to share how your experience translates into business analyst success on the job. Having structure helps. When answering any interview question, try following the STAR interview response framework to structure your answer with these four components: Situation: Explain briefly the issue you were dealing with in a positive, constructive way. Task: Describe your specific role in the situation. Action: Show what you did to resolve the situation. Result: Show any lessons learned and how you positively impacted the business.
Here are some common interview questions:
Q: How do you manage changing project requirements?
Changing requirements happen often and this is a good chance to show your logic, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills. This is a common situational interview question intended to understand your work and management style. Show how you evaluate project costs and resources, and how you handle problems that arise.
Q: What is the most important aspect of analytical reporting?
Analytical reporting offers information, analysis and recommendations so that those using the data can make informed decisions. Business analysis are expected to know the benefits and limitations of analytical reporting. Show how you’ve used analytical reporting in the past, how it impacted your critical thinking, and measurable results that followed.
Q: How do you explain data to coworkers who are not familiar with business analysis?
Not every stakeholder is an expert at data-driven analysis, particularly senior executives. Business analysts must create reports and presentations that share findings in an easy-to-understand way. You must communicate complex ideas in clear terms, so share how you’ve created simple visualizations or reports that still share business value.
Salary Structure of a Business Analyst
Salaries for business analysts vary between $72,729 and $90,485 USD, with the average clocking in at $80,994. The business analyst salary can vary greatly depending on a range of factors, including years of experience, education and certifications, location, and other skills that are paired with business analytics skill on the job. According to Indeed, years of experience impacts business analyst salary:
1) 1 to 2 years of analytics experience: $80,650 average salary
2) 3-5 years of analytics experience: $85,450 average salary
3) 6 to 9 years of analytics experience: $89,582 average salary
4) More than 10 years of analytics experience: $94,744 average salary
Are you Ready to Become a Business Analyst?
This business analyst career guide is designed to show you how to become a business analyst, how challenging and rewarding a business analyst job opportunity can be, and how you can be a major contributor to your organization — also, how you can become a business analyst with no experience. The answer is upskilling!
It will be necessary for you to acquire the right skills in advance, and a great way to start is enrolling in this Business Analyst Bootcamp. In this comprehensive bootcamp, you will learn to develop a data mindset and analytical skills to interpret and communicate data for business problems. Regardless of your job function or background, this UMN Business Analytics Bootcamp will demystify data analysis and equip you with the required skills to apply to your workplace through a blend of self-paced videos, live sessions, masterclasses from distinguished faculty at UMN’s Carlson School of Management, and hands-on projects.