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An Inquiry into the Roles of the BA and the BSA

How do we define the role of a BA. Is there a difference in responsibilities executed by a business analyst and business systems analyst? Or, are the titles simply synonymous with each other? Attempting to clear out some of that fog is the purpose of this article. As much as I enjoyed writing this, I also look forward to receiving your feedback and thoughts…keep the flow of information going.

An Inquiry into the Roles of the BA and the BSA

Firstly, I don’t believe the two terms mean the same thing; they are different roles, albeit entailing some very common responsibilities. The terms are used interchangeably all too often (I for one am guilty of that), implying the absence of distinction between the two roles. In actuality, the bigger picture shows a few, not a lot, but handful of noticeable differences. And sure, there might be more differences that I have not uncovered.

The way I went about determining the difference was to go on to Dice, and randomly pick out independent samples of the “business analyst” vacancies. I picked 30 of them – a minute sample size considering the greater population of 12,000+ vacancies. And I did the same for the “business systems analyst” job title. I examined the descriptions of all 30 posts in both groups, and documented and analyzed them (here, analysis wouldn’t have been possible before structured documentationJ).

Again, let me remind you of some pointers:
  1. I picked out only those ads that said “business analyst” and “business systems analyst” as the Job Title and no other variations.
  2. Ads were picked randomly, meaning I clicked on the ad without much thought, except the one above.
  3. The one thought I did give was to make sure I wasn’t picking ads by the same recruiter (and it turned out neither of the samples had repetitions after all). Each ad was independent of the rest.
The summaries of the two groups have been attached below.

Apart from the commonalities that the two roles share (which is common knowledge), here’s what I found the differences to be:

  1. At least 6 out of 10 business analyst positions require the candidate to have a good deal of project management knowledge, and will be expected to wear that hat as part of the of the responsibilities. This is a preferred skill for a minority of recruiters, for the rest it’s required. This area has major emphasis when BA’s are sought; they have to rise to leadership in the same position. Whereas for the business systems analyst, only four ads that mentioned project management skills. And even if they did, it was a preferred skill, not a required one. 
  1. More than BSA’s, BA’s are expected to have OOAD experience. 
  1. BA’s are expected to provide training to users, not just demos of the software developed. (I wasn’t expecting this; I’ve worked in places where a separate training dept. would take care of that.) 
  1. Experience with the UML was of greater demand from BSA’s than from BA’s. 
  1. BSA recruiters placed considerable emphasis on experience with Oracle and SQL, and design of relational databases. It’s almost like what project management is to the BA, SQL is to the BSA. 
  1. More than BA ads, BSA positions, albeit assorted, required knowledge of or experience with technologies like XML, Java, and UNIX.
In conclusion, except for # 3, the other differences couldn’t have been just coincidence in 30 distinct job ads. I think they are real differences and I’m sure there are a few more out there.


Summary of the BA ad

Summary of the BSA ad

This entry was published on Oct 17, 2007 / . Posted in Roles and Responsibilities. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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