Interested in how to become a business analyst? Have you read up on the reasons to become a Business Analyst and are now interested in joining the field? Well this is the post for you.
Business analysts and the field of business analysis are a fairly new concept – Ancient Greeks may have had nurses and the Roman Emperor Augustus may have formed the first fire department but neither civilization had business analysts!
As it is a relatively new position you will find that many businesses will have wildly different job job functions all being touted under this term “Business Analyst”. And with these wildly different responsibilities and functions comes a huge pay disparity (but also huge opportunities for you to scale your income quickly).
So if you are still interested let’s get started. In this post today we are going to be looking at how you can become a business analyst; starting with what a BA actually is and what they do, then looking at what experience and qualifications are required to get a BA job and finally looking at the best practices for landing yourself that dream BA role.
- 1 What is a Business Analyst
- 2 Business Analyst Career Path
- 3 Business Analyst Salary
- 4 What qualifications are required to be a Business Analyst?
- 5 What experience is required to be a Business Analyst?
- 6 How to Land a Business Analyst Job
- 7 FAQ
What is a Business Analyst
The business analyst role was first introduced within the Software Development Project Space. There was a need for a skilled person who was fluent in both the technical aspects of the software/systems but also with the wider business. Someone who could liaise between these two groups to assist in the delivery of the project. Nowadays however the Business Analyst role has branched out – so while most roles are within IT structures (or IT adjacent) there are a number of roles growing in other industries and workstreams. Notably the legal sector has seen a large demand for business analysis.
At its core a business analyst is someone who looks at how a business is run and offers up suggestions on how to improve. Then later offering assistance to the project that seeks to implement the recommendations.
A business analyst succeeds in doing this by analysing the existing business’ processes, workflows, methodologies, systems, documents etc etc, looking for areas where actionable improvements can be made.
Once the actionable improvements have been found and defined. It is the business analyst’s job to produce a requirements document (that lists what is needed in the updated process/system) and hand this over to the project team who they will work with in developing the new process to ensure the changes are delivered correctly.
Business Analyst Job Description Example
One of the largest private banks in the UK is looking for a number of highly competent senior business analysts to work across a number of different projects to support the Bank with new transformation initiatives.
You’ll take on a critical role supporting the bank with implementing new functionalities that increases the efficiencies of internal and external process and ultimately helps support the Bank’s vision for simple change.
You’ll be working in a vibrant team and helping shape the future of the business.
This will prove to be a great development opportunity, to hit the ground running and take your career to the next stage.
As part of this role, you’ll be producing business requirements, supporting teams in understanding the requirements and aligning with the Banks long-term strategic vision. You’ll have an opportunity to build working relationships with a wide ranging network of stakeholders and third party suppliers across multiple enterprises.
Some of the types of responsibilities that you may have, but not limited to:
- Supporting the business with transformation ideas and translating these into requirements and work closely with the IT team to implement these.
- Capturing, validating and documenting business and system requirements and making sure that they’re in line with key strategic principles
- Frequently interacting with key stakeholders and the team to obtain and document functional and non-functional needs
- Analysing existing system documentation to summarise existing system functionality as it relates to the work at hand
- Supporting the identification of team priorities based upon feedback from the customers, key stakeholders and the team
- Previous experience and background with Banking, strong preference for Wealth Management
- A good understanding of the Agile methodologies and experience of working in an Agile environment.
- Evidence of technical Business Analyst knowledge and complex requirement gathering
- Proven record of delivering projects
- Experience of full project lifecycle
- Up to date understanding of analysis approaches, tools and techniques
- Strong stakeholder management skills and is an analytical thinker
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to work on multiple projects concurrently
- Understanding of JIRA and Confluence tools which the Bank use.
Nice to have
- BCS/ISEB Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis
- Business process and data modelling experience
- Risk-based testing experience
- Business process and data modelling experience
The above is just an example of a job description you will find when looking for a job as a business analyst. This one is specifically for a BA in the banking sector. You can see some of the skills that employers are looking for just from the one advert alone. However, let’s take a look at some more skills that you need to be able to show off in your CV and in an interview setting if you want to land that BA job…
- Interpersonal Skills
- Communication Skills
- Presentation Skills
- Negotiation Skills
- Technical Skills
- Organisation Skills
- Business Acumen
- Analytical Skills
- Problem Solving Abilities
Business Analyst Career Path
Due to the varied nature of the Business Analyst role the career path is not so much a path as it is a tree.
Mostly it depends on where your focus lies as a BA and what experience you develop. If you work closely with the project team during delivery then you can learn the skills and gain the experience to move into Project Management and then Program / Portfolio management and then onward to Head of Delivery.
Let’s Say your focus is on Data and MI reporting. You can shift into a data analyst role (this is a highly paid role in most industries these days) moving into the privacy and compliance areas should you choose.
Pretend for a moment that the majority of your role is spent assisting with the testing of new solutions, with this experience you can move into a Test Manager role.
This varied nature of business analysts responsibilities leave your career path options fairly flexible.
And the most obvious career path would be within BA-ing itself. Start as a Junior BA, progress to a Senior BA in charge of major projects, move into a managerial role overseeing multiple BAs and onward and upward like that.
Business Analyst Salary
The average salary for a Business Analyst will vary greatly between locations, between business sectors and will even vary between companies. Here are some of the National averages for BA salaries:
If you are looking to benchmark how much you will get paid (or if you are trying to gauge if you are currently being under/over paid) then the key is to look for roles within your desired industry, within your commutable area (or the area you wish to work in); noting the required skill sets and experience being asked for.
For example right now I can see that there are a good few BA jobs available in the pharmaceutical industry in the city closest to me. These jobs are paying £80,000/$110,000 for Business Analysts with relevant qualifications. HOWEVER the key detail is that they require you to have experience within the industry.
What qualifications are required to be a Business Analyst?
There are no requirements, legal or otherwise, that say a Business Analyst needs to have any specific qualification. That being said, most job openings for BAs ask for candidates to hold a degree in a related field.
What you may find with larger organisations – or organisations that have very developed Project Management Office processes – is that they might require specific BA qualifications or certificates.
Some you may come across are:
It is important to note though that a lot of companies hiring business analysts are looking for skills and experience rather than qualifications. If you are able to show that you have what is required to do the job then do not be discouraged by a self-perceived lack of qualifications
What experience is required to be a Business Analyst?
Similar to the discussion on qualifications, strictly speaking to become a business analyst there are no experience requirements. You do not need to have been in similar roles in the past in order to achieve success in business analysis. You just need to have the right business analyst skills (as discussed above) and an employer willing to take you on.
Unfortunately however, the way things are “strictly speaking’ is not always how they present themselves in the real world. A lot of jobs are going to want you to be able to show significant experience in “similar roles”. Now this does not mean that you need to have spent years as a Business Analyst in order to apply. But it does mean that you need to show that you have some experience in what the hiring manager is after.
Make sure to read the job description in full and see if any of the requirements match your experience.
Do you have experience leading a team? – Useful if there is any test management responsibilities
Do you regularly present reports to senior leadership? – Useful when showcasing your stakeholder abilities
Have you ever proposed a new way of working that benefited your company? – Useful in showing that you understand business processes and benefit realisation
Never be disheartened by how a job advert has phrased their requirements. If you have been in the workforce there will always be a way to tailor what you have done to what they want from you.
How to Land a Business Analyst Job
Landing a job as a BA is pretty much the same (at a high level) as landing a job anywhere else. You’ve got to; know where to look, polish up your CV/resume, decide on whether a Cover Letter is needed (it often isn’t) and hoping all of that goes well you have to rock up and nail the interview. Let’s take a look at each step in turn…
Where to look for BA positions
Looking for BA jobs is easier than it ever was. There are many job marketplaces competing for your attention. Make profiles on the major ones and set up alerts for your desired role, industry and salary. The top ones I recommend are:
Make sure you have an up-to-date profile on all of these websites and you will find a steady stream of job opportunities. On top of this you might want to look at your specific industry to see if there are any niche job boards to view, for example if you are interested in working for the Civil Service there is:
Similarly if you are interested in working for a particular firm then check out their company website and look for a careers page to see what is on offer. Hop onto LinkedIn and see if you can connect with any of the hiring managers. That is a great way to be one of the first to know about new jobs.
As you are looking for BA jobs don’t ignore the lucrative contracting market. Seek out contract recruiters on LinkedIn and follow the posts they make. You need to be quick because these jobs are usually taken up very quickly in my experience.
Writing a Business Analyst CV / Resume (full post)
“How am I supposed to write a CV if I do not know what the hiring manager is looking for”.
This is the complaint I hear the most when I talk to people about applying for jobs and my answer is always the same. You do know what the hiring manager is looking for, it is right there in the job advert.
Take the information from the advert and slide it straight into your CV in the appropriate spot. Copy the exact words if you like.
You have to remember that beating the initial application sift is the most important role of your CV.
During the hiring process it is unlikely that someone in a senior position (ie. the decision maker) will even read your CV until you are being interviewed or you are on the shortlist of candidates to interview.
Before then you need to beat out the automated recruitment software and the junior HR staffers who will have hundreds of CVs to check. Putting in the exact words that appear in the job advert makes their job ten times easier.
They say they need X –> you tell them you can do X –> They put your application through to the next stage.
It’s that simple.
If you have any doubts have someone review your CV for you.
Submit Your CV For Review
Writing a Business Analyst Cover Letter
In the above post I go into great detail about why in most cases it is a waste of time writing a cover letter. The short version is that there is a very very small chance that your cover letter will ever be read by anyone – let alone a hiring manager.
And since the prevailing wisdom is that a Cover Letter should be tailored to the job you are applying for, it really does not make sense to use what little time you have job hunting tailoring a bespoke letter for each job – for no additional benefit – when that time could be better spent applying for more roles.
But there are certain times that a Cover Letter is either required (the application system forces you to upload one) or when you’ve been told that the hiring manager does actually read them.
In these times I recommend to keep your letter brief, don’t re-hash all of the information that is in your CV. Instead use this time to highlight specific tasks/projects that you have completed that show your ability to perform the functions in the advert, directly copy the relevant section to accentuate your point.
“Proven experience of business analysis practices” – Last year I was tasked by my employer to produce templates for business analysis processes due to my high performance when producing these documents for projects.
Simple and to the point. No need to get into War and Peace, just mention a few items from the job description and describe how you fill that role.
How to Answer Business Analyst Interview Questions
It’s not exactly new but it’s what everybody raves about. For those that are unfamiliar, the S.T.A.R method outlines how questions should be answered during an interview.
Questions like “Tell me about a time that you were late to deliver an important deliverable” should be answered as follows:
Situation – What was the project? what was going on? Why was the deliverable going to be late?
Task – What was your role in the delivery?
Action – What steps did you take as part of your task. What did you do to mitigate the issue?
Results – What happened? Was everything OK in the end? Did you learn anything from the experience?
S.T.A.R is definitely a great way to answer questions during an interview, but you still need to have things to talk about in the first place. So prior to any interview what you need to do is sit down and come up with as many ‘stories’ as you can from your previous experience.
Take notes if it makes it easier.
For each story you need to figure out how to describe the Situation, the Task, the Actions & the Results.
Now comes the tricky part. You need to go back and ensure that what you have said relates to one of the key skills/requirements within the job advert.
If your story does not have any crossover with anything in the job advert then move on and come up with a new one.
Got your stories and how they link back into the job advert?
What software do I need to know to be a Business Analyst?
As a business analyst you will very likely need to have advanced abilities with all of the software systems used by your employer. This includes the obvious things like Excel (and/or Sheets), Word, Outlook, Teams etc. It will also include project specific tools like MS Projects, Jira, TestRail. Some other tools to get yourself acquainted with would be Confluence, Power BI, Tableau, Automation.
Try to anticipate the hiring managers question ahead of time by researching what software is used by the firm
Are Business Analysts and Data Analysts the Same?
While Business Analysts and Data Analysts often have overlapping functions they are different roles. BAs will use data (if need be) to aid their decision making and drive more effective business change, conversely Data Analysts are more focused on the actual data itself and not its application. In fact a Business Analyst may enlist the help of a Data Analyst when gathering information.
Can a BA work from home?
BA’s can absolutely work remotely. With the widespread adoption of online meeting and collaboration tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack) it is now even easier to get the job done from the comfort of your own home. Be sure to ask any prospective employer what their home working policy is before signing up – you don’t want to be surprised later on.
Do I need to learn SQL / Python to be a Business Analyst?
A business analyst does not strictly need to know any software/tool/script/language in order to function in their role. That being said, if you are working in and around data then SQL and Python are both very powerful tools to use and being able to wield them will make you a much more effective Business Analyst (Python can also help automate a lot of your tasks!)
Is Business Analyst an Entry Level Role?
Business Analysis is a field not just a role. In large organisations it is a department with junior members all the way up to department heads. Entry level Business Analyst jobs will typically look for recent graduates and will have them fulfilling minor roles within projects. More experienced BA roles will be the lead analyst on projects or within product management. Senior BAs will be given managerial roles looking after junior team members. So, no a BA position is not just an entry level role, it can be an entry level role, but it can also be so much more.