Business Analyst in IT: what you need to know and do
What is a business analyst responsible for? Should they be able to program? What qualities do they need to develop? Experienced EPAM Business Analyst Daniil Tkachev answers these and other questions about the profession below.
Who is a business analyst?
— On the one hand, a business analyst is a thoughtful person who knows how to work with large amounts of information. On the other hand, they are sociable; skillfully establishing contacts and writing understandable documents.
In IT, a business analyst is the person who answers questions about what to do and why to do it on a project. Their work starts the moment a customer appears, and continues until they have created a detailed document describing the operation of the final system. This documentation is not technical, though, and the analyst is not responsible for the project architecture or other substantive components. Also, their work may not be contained in a single document. Often, analysis continues in parallel with development, and system requirements are spread across multiple documents. The business analyst must make sure that everything that needs to be done is done, and that the work meets the client's goals.
Suppose a customer asks to create an online store website. To properly complete it, you first need to ask a lot of questions. Why this site? What does the client want to achieve? And so on. Business analysts study business processes step by step so they can answer practical questions such as: what will the site be like, how many pages should it have, what payment systems exist, how should the site work? At each stage, the business analyst must carefully analyze the responses. Then, they need to collect the information received and describe the solution. The result of this analysis will be documentation describing how the site should work.
What does a business analyst do?
— The tasks of a business analyst include assessing and processing the available information, controlling and making sure that everything necessary to the successful completion of the project is done well.
There is a common mistake often made by beginner analysts. The mistake is believing that their task is to broadcast what various project participants say; “the client told me — so I tell you.” But this misses a key role of a business analyst, which is to analyze what they’ve heard. The information reported by project participants during the project is likely to be incomplete, occasionally redundant, and sometimes contradictory. Therefore, it requires thoughtful analysis, not merely repetition. Structuring information and extracting key points from it for the benefit of the project is the task of the analyst.
Business analysts do not need to be able to program. It will be helpful, however, if they understand how programs are created, at least at a general level.
What skills do business analysts need?
- Excellent communication skills. It is important to be able to listen, interpret, and meaningfully engage other project participants, and to establish and maintain effective communication throughout the course of the work.
- Attention to detail and a methodical approach. A business analyst needs to be able to quickly dive into a new area, since the projects on which they work may vary widely: today you are working with a photo processing system, tomorrow with a video playback system, and the next day with an E-commerce solution.
- Analytic mind. It is important to be able to reason, structure thoughts, and express them clearly both orally and in writing.
A good business analyst has qualities that allow them to effectively communicate with, and build interaction and working relationships between, all project participants.
Knowledge of English is also a bonus. You can work as a business analyst without strong English, but not for long. If you don’t have the necessary language skills, you will be extremely limited in your choice of companies and your professional development. Even if you do not need to communicate with a client or team in English, you will likely need to study specialized literature in English.
What to read about business analytics?
— In order to understand what an analyst does, and become familiar with the position, it is useful to start with the following books; they are often recommended to those taking their first steps in the direction of business analysis:
- Software Requirements (Developer Best Practices) by Karl Wiegers and Joy Beatty. Many analysts start with this book. It will give you the big picture view of who an analyst is and what they do.
- A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) by IIBA contains a body of knowledge on business analysis. It collects the main practices, methodologies, terms, and stages of business analysis. It will familiarize you with business analysis tools and common terminology.
You can ask questions about business analysis, and other areas in IT, in our Discord community.