So You Want To Be A… Business Analyst
I haven’t always been a Business Analyst. Like many of my colleagues and peers, I moved into Business Analysis after doing a few other jobs beforehand. In my case I used to work in the production department of a book publisher before working on an IT project. That project introduced me to the BA role and over the course of the project I took on more and more ‘BA-ish’ tasks. Now, many years later, as a hiring manager for Business Analysts at the FT, I often come across people keen to get into the profession, but are stuck on how to do it.
This article aims to provide some ideas and inspiration for anyone who might like to start a Business Analysis career, and how to land that first BA role.
My main core message, and if you take anything away from this post it’s this, is to find ways to be a BA, and to do business analysis, because I think that’s the best way to learn about the role. In this blog post, I’ve provided some ideas and tips that might help you on your way. Then when you’re applying for a BA job, you can demonstrate how you’ve used your skills!
Below are my 12 tips to help you progress into a BA career.
1.Understand what a Business Analyst does, and what the role entails. A very general summary is that Business Analysis is about people, processes and systems, but the BA role can take many different shapes in different organisations. The IIBA has a reasonable summary of the role. The British Computer Society has a good book, imaginatively called Business Analysis, which goes into detail about the skills and competencies a good BA needs to have. Alternatively, look for job ads on LinkedIn or other job sites, and see how the role is described.
2. What BA skills, tools and techniques do you already have? Make a list. For example you might be great at presentations. Communication is a key BA skill. Can you show how you presented something complicated in an easy to digest way? Have you conducted a customer survey and analysed the results? Have you worked on a project to introduce a new tool or system, and helped your team learn to use it?
3. Can you do some business analysis in your current role and build up your experience? Depending on whether you have the time, and if your boss approves, could you spend some time looking at the business processes that you or your team do? Why do you do them? What are the pain points? Can you identify ways to improve the way your team works? If so, you’re already on your way to being a Business Analyst!
4. Alternatively, if it’s not possible at work, you could volunteer some time to help a charity improve their processes, or make website improvements.
5. To make it more fun — make it personal! Document your process for booking a holiday, or a regular journey that you make. What are the pain points? What could you improve or do differently to resolve them?
6. Examine websites or apps that you use regularly, especially those with some sort of customer journey or flow (e.g. buying something). Assess what works well, or what doesn’t.
7. Observe your friends or colleagues carrying out a process or activity. Interview them and ask what they like/dislike about how they do the tasks. What could be improved?
8. Learn about data analysis and why it’s valuable for business analysis: it can help you validate an idea, or discover a problem that was previously hidden. Learning Google Analytics could be a good place to start, and it’s free!
9. Facilitation: can you volunteer to chair meetings? Can you run a workshop?
10. Find a mentor — a BA within your organisation or outside it. They can provide advice, and feedback on your BA skills.
11. Review a system or tool that you use. What competitor tools are there on the market? How do they compare? Would any be a better fit for your organisation? Why?
12. Find a company that could provide training for you. Companies exist that will provide training and opportunities to work in other companies as a way to ‘learn your trade’. This requires more investment on your part, as you become an employee of the training provider and act as a consultant to partner organisations. The benefits are that it gives you a ‘training ground’, and exposure to organisations that hire BA’s, so this could be something to consider.
If you can find creative ways to try out and develop your BA skills, this will stand you in good stead for finding that first BA role. And if you’re already a BA, what would you add? If you have any great ideas that have helped you, please share them in the comments below!