Business Systems Analyst as a Career Option
If you are an IT professional in India, thinking of working abroad, you might want to consider a business/systems analyst position.
It’s a position in high demand with high earning potential and which can serve as a great foundation for moving up the corporate ladder into management or business operations.
In Money Magazine’s Best Jobs in America list for 2006, the Computer/IT Analyst career was ranked 7th, out of 50 best jobs, with a 10-year job growth of 36.10%.
In their “Best Careers 2007” report, US News and World Report lists 25 professions that will continue to grow in demand. With the advent of outsourcing, it is not surprising that the software engineer or web developer professions are NOT on the list - however systems analyst is.
All industrialized nations are heavily outsourcing the programming of software to other parts of the globe such as Russia, India, China, Eastern Europe, and South America.
While there’s still demand for developers, of course, the information economy has created an ever increasing need for business analysts and systems analysts.
As a matter of fact, the very outsourcing of programming jobs has caused a spike in the demand for business systems analysts. The increase distance between the business stakeholder and the programmer has created an increasing need for higher quality and more precise analysis artifacts such as requirement documents and functional specifications.
In addition – in a more an more competitive economic landscape business organizations continue to strive to improve their business processes and reduce costs. Business analysts are at the center of most of these initiatives.
So are you ready to make the move?
Before you take the plunge, you should do a quick self assessment to determine if the business analyst role might be a good fit. You’re probably a good candidate if:
- you don’t want to spend the rest of your career in front of a monitor debugging code,
- you love to talk to people and socialize,
- you not only love to talk to people but you are actually a good communicator,
- you are good at organizing information in a structured and concise manner for others to consume,
- you want to, and are able to, grasp the big picture,
- you are fascinated by how companies actually make money, about the business systems and processes in place.
OK… so if you still think that business systems analysis is for you, then let’s take a quick look at what you need to begin a career as a business/systems analyst.
For starters, if you are a developer you already have a great advantage:
- you think in a structured manner,
- technology is not magic but something you actually understand,
- you are most likely used to working in a variety of industries,
- lack of detailed business knowledge causes you to ask very relevant “why” questions,
- you know how to talk to the technical side, and
- you probably have already been reviewing artifacts created by the business analysts.
So what’s next?
If I were forced to pick the top two skills or abilities that a BSA must have I will always pick strong communication skills and analytical (structured) thinking.
The first thing you need to focus on is communication skills. No matter how good your communication skills are you can always learn more. This is a must have skill for the business systems analyst.
If you are assessing your abilities and trying to figure out which aspect of communication to work on next, here are some areas to consider (pick the one in which you are the weakest and run with it):
- ability to verbally communicate your thoughts and ideas to others and make yourself understood,
- ability to understand others and to ask relevant questions which cause the other party to give you the information you are looking for,
- ability to write clearly and in a concise manner (when creating analysis artifacts - less is more)
Analytical/Structured Thinking Skills
The next thing is structured (logical) thinking… this is one of those aptitudes which, at some level, I almost want to categorize as “you either have it or you don’t.” However I haven’t yet found conclusive evidence to support my claims – not yet.
So for now, work on improving your analytical and problem solving skills as without them, you will fail as a business systems analyst or, at best, you will be a technical writer with a BA title.
If you are assessing your skills in this area you might want to consider focusing on the following:
- techniques which help you organize your thoughts or the facts about a given problem,
- methods of making a problem more manageable such as: divide and conquer, abstraction, problem solving patterns,
- formal reasoning skills such as: propositional reasoning, identifying and controlling variables, suppositional reasoning, etc.
For more details check out Mind Tools, a good resources of ideas and techniques to improve your analytical and structured thinking skills.
Keep on Learning
While I would argue that a software developer/programmer with strong communication skills and great analytical/structured thinking can easily land a business/systems analyst job, there numerous other abilities and skills you should develop if you plan to make business analysis a long-term career.
Here are some things to think about:
- Requirement Elicitation Methods – as a business analyst you will be eliciting requirements from the business stakeholders therefore it will serve you well to become familiar with various requirement gathering techniques such as: end-user interviews, job shadowing, questionnaires, etc.
- Vertical domain knowledge – if you are interested in a given industry (ex: mortgage banking, pharmaceutical, etc.) or if you already have previous experience in a given industry you should consider beginning your business analyst career in that industry. Of course – learn as much as you can as the more you know about a given business domain the more effective you will be as an analyst.
- Knowledge popular modeling techniques (activity diagram, sequence diagram, data flow diagram, workflow/process flow diagram, etc.)
If you have questions or feedback on this topic or to ask any questions you may have related to getting started as an analyst – visit the Business Systems Analyst Forums part of the Modern Analyst Community.