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Business Analyst job description
A business analyst is a problem solver who plays a critical role in defining and enabling business change. They can make a real difference to business success and their influence can impact the way that a company operates. Is this fast-paced and rewarding role for you? Read on to discover what it takes to be a business analyst.
What is a business analyst?
A business analyst, often referred to as a BA, is an employee or a consultant who focuses on helping a company to understand and deal with change.
The business analyst definition is someone who investigates an issue within a business. They then identify and analyse areas for improvement, and define the requirements of a solution.
Having a creative and analytical mind is essential. And, being a strong communicator is the skill at the very heart of this role.
Business analysts can earn well. Salaries are generous for those with the passion and talent to succeed in demanding, fast-paced business environments.
Anyone can be a business analyst, at any stage of their career; whether you’re a university student seeking out your first role, or a vet who fancies a career change (this actually happened). If you have what it takes, the business analyst role could be for you.
Read on to discover insights from experts in the discipline and people who are already doing the job. Here, we’ll examine what the job entails, and the skills and qualifications you’ll need. We’ll also delve into how to get a job as a business analyst and what it takes to succeed.
Business analyst glossary
A business case is a written or verbal proposal that helps a leadership team to decide on a course of action. For example, if a finance department needs a new piece of software, a business case would be put forward to explain why the software is needed and how it will help the team and the company to perform better.
Change management is a collective term for the processes and techniques that handle change within a business. Change management teams and processes ensure that change is implemented with minimal disruption to daily business activities.
Requirements are the end results of investigations that are undertaken by a business analyst. When business change is required, a BA gathers together the needs of the individuals who will be affected. Using the example above, a business analyst may gather together the requirements of finance administrators and finance managers who will be using the software. This helps the business analyst and technology teams to ensure the software solution is fit for purpose.
Solutions are services, processes or products that solve a particular problem.
A stakeholder is anyone who is affected by business change. For example, a finance administrator may not have a choice in the type of new software that is implemented but will be affected by it. Therefore, they will need to be considered when a business analyst works with the technology team to find the most appropriate software solution.
What does a business analyst do?
The role of business analyst is vast and varied. Business analyst duties are diverse and often depend on the seniority of the business analyst, the skills they have, and the type of industry in which they work.
Fundamentally, it’s an advisory role. Business analysts advise the company on best outcomes for a particular business problem. Business analysts are also facilitators. They support colleagues from across the company to resolve business issues and put appropriate solutions in place.
When a company identifies an issue that they’d like to fix, the business analyst will look deeply into the situation. They’ll hold discussions with all stakeholders, including anyone in the company who is affected by a business problem, such as an HR team, or business unit manager. And, they’ll ensure an in-depth understanding of the requirements. Then, they’ll suggest appropriate solutions.
“Finding out what everyone needs and helping all the relevant parties to agree on the best course of action, is a crucial part of the role,” suggests Nick De Voil, president of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA UK). “A good business analyst will help stakeholders formulate a route from where the business is today, to where it needs to be in the future.”
A big part of the role is to “make sense of the mess,” says Lawrence Darvill, director of renowned business analysis training and consultancy firm, Assist Knowledge Development.
“They see where the issues and opportunities arise, and then consider the best approach to steer things towards a resolution.”
“I bridge the gap between the business and technical development team,” says Devica Jamnadas, business analyst at global information services company, Experian. “I make sure everyone understands the requirements of the business, and that the development and testing teams can implement what the business has requested.”
Business analysts are found in almost all sectors, such as finance, banking, retail, utilities, and technology. They’re also known by several other terms, including:
However, the job title of the business analyst is interchangeable, meaning that someone could be doing the job of a business analyst but they are known by a different title.
Additionally, some companies will define these roles differently and may employ business analysts as well as systems analysts, product managers and product owners as very separate and distinct roles.
To find out more about business analyst specialisms, check out the Business analyst jobs section below.
Business analyst roles and responsibilities
The day-to-day duties of a business analyst will vary, depending on the industry and the type of role. For example, IT business analyst responsibilities will greatly differ from those of a junior business analyst.
However, there will always be some similarity between roles.
“I’m the conduit between the IT teams and the business,” says Shaun Neish, senior business analyst at Kleinwort Hambros. “I understand the functional business needs and how these relate to the overall objectives.”
Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric and expert business analyst blogger, explains how business analysis is a broad field. “Traditionally, people think of this role in terms of requirements analysis/engineering, but it’s broader than that. The role is about helping stakeholders who have a problem to understand the problem, formulate the requirements and deliver the solution.”
“In the past, business analysis has also been described as an internal consultancy role,” continues Reed. “Business analysts are conscious of the business needs. They help people to make informed decisions about where to invest money to facilitate business growth and change.”
Business analyst responsibilities
Business analyst and senior business analyst responsibilities can include:
Understanding business needs as they relate to a potential change or transformation.
Gathering, identifying and documenting business requirements.
Explaining technical jargon to non-technical/commercial teams.
Simplifying requirements, so they are easily understood across the whole team.
Business process modelling and improving business processes.
Identifying costs and business savings.
Implementing, testing and deploying solutions to business problems.
Supporting business transition and helping to establish change.
Creating functional specifications for new systems and processes.
Acting as an advisor to senior managers and executive teams.
Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development and author of several books on the subject of business analysis, says, “Business analysts are responsible for the business change requirements within an organisation.”
“Change can relate to many things, such as the requirement for a new computer system or change to an area of a company. To understand the change, you need to understand what’s required. Business analysts work with stakeholders to understand what they want from the change.”
“My colleagues and I created the POPIT model. It’s used widely across the industry and covers five areas: People, Organisation, Process, Information and Technology. Change has an impact on each of these areas,” continues Paul.
“Business analysts will also be involved in analysing and improving business processes. They’ll look at the problem and if the proposed solution will solve the problem. Some will also get involved in feasibility studies, and will work with a team to put together a business case.”
“Others will focus on process improvement, or identifying costs and benefits. Some BAs will test and deploy solutions, helping with transition and embedding change. Business analysis is such a varied career choice, which is what makes it so exciting,” concludes Paul.
Why should I become a business analyst?
Business analyst career prospects are exceptional. Having BA experience can lead to varied and challenging management positions in many sectors.
Business analysts often progress into management consultancy, general management, project management and business architecture.
And, business analysts are often in high demand. This means salaries can be excellent. See the Business analyst salary section below. Those with the right skill set are seldom short of opportunities.
“Becoming a business analyst is an excellent way of establishing breadth of experience,” says Joseph Da Silva, chief information security officer for Electrocomponents plc.
“As a business analyst, you’ll be exposed to the business more so than any other commercial or IT role. In my previous role as a BA, I worked on IT, finance, marketing, and HR projects and gained phenomenal knowledge. Without a doubt, it was the grounding for my future career.”
“If you want credibility as a leader in your field, and you want to affect change in a business, a BA role will set you up for this,” concludes Da Silva.
Business analysts are highly valued within a business that is experiencing change. They can have a direct impact on a company’s success, and there is often massive variety in the role.
Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development, explains that if you recognise the importance of understanding a problem and analysing a solution, then you’ll enjoy a role as a business analyst.
“Had I not chosen to become a business manager and business owner,” says Paul, “I would have continued my career as a specialist business analyst. Expert BAs provide a holistic and experienced view that organisations find very valuable.”
What is the best part of being a business analyst?
“You’re always learning,” says Mike Goodland, director of Metadata Training, a company that specialises in training business analysts and contractors.
“And, you get to help businesses do what they do, but better. As a business analyst, you really can change the world and make people’s lives better, even if it’s in a small way.”
Goodland continues, “Business analysis is a role with very high job satisfaction. People that fall into it — either accidentally or on purpose — are happy, curious people who are always willing to learn new things.”
“I love talking to people!” says Devica Jamnadas, business analyst at Experian. “Interaction with people and communication are things I really enjoy about this role. Also, I love the fact that I’m a facilitator. I enable things to progress. Making things happen in a business is really satisfying.”
“Being able to solve problems,” says Alex Papworth, business analyst mentor, and business designer and coach for Lloyds Banking Group. “There’s a sense of satisfaction from being a trusted advisor and making things happen.”
“I also thrive on the intellectual challenge,” continues Papworth. “A business analyst is a guardian for business investments. When it comes to change, BAs make sure the company gets it right first time. Getting things wrong can be costly, and it’s the job of a BA to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
Shaun Neish, senior business analyst at Kleinwort Hambros, explains how the best part of his role boils down to three things: challenge, knowledge, and impact.
“I love to challenge myself with a new problem every day,” says Neish, “whether it’s trying to understand why part of the business operates in a certain way, or thinking outside the box to come up with innovative solutions to a business problem.”
“I also take great satisfaction in being the expert and sharing knowledge with colleagues to help us to achieve our goals,” continues Neish. “As a BA you’re constantly searching for the root causes of problems and then delivering practical solutions to solve them. It’s very rewarding to see all your hard work make a really positive impact on the business.”
Business analyst salary
Salaries for business analysts are as diverse as the job itself. Typically salaries will be dependant on the location and industry in which you work. They’ll also account for things like depth of knowledge, specialisms, and the size of the firm that’s hiring you.
Junior business analysts can earn in the region of £20,000 to £25,000. Senior business analysts earn around £40,000 to £60,000. And, a head of practice could expect an annual salary of at least £80,000.
The average business analyst salary in the UK is around £52,500.
The financial services sector tends to pay the highest salaries for specialist skills, while some of the lower paid roles would be with lesser-known small and medium-sized enterprises. However, these companies are excellent training grounds for junior business analysts.
The 2015 business analyst survey produced by IIBA UK provides a deeper understanding of salaries for business analysts. From 668 survey participants:
2.5% said they were paid less than £25,000,
16.1% were paid between £25,0001 and £35,000,
28.2% were paid between £35,0001 and £45,000,
24.2% were paid between £45,001 and £55,000,
13.2% were paid between £65,000 and £75,000, and,
10.3% were paid more than £75,000.
From the same survey, 61.4% said they received a bonus, and most received some form of extra compensation in their remuneration package. Additional perks included company cars, product discounts, savings/share schemes, medical schemes, and a subsidised pension.
Where do business analysts work?
Business analysts can work in a variety of companies almost anywhere in the UK. They are typically found in organisations where there is a need for change management.
“You’ll mostly find business analysts in large corporations, particularly in the financial services sector, ” says business analyst mentor, Alex Papworth.
“However, a lot of people could be doing the job of a business analyst, but are called something else,” continues Papworth. “For example, I work in the digital space as a business designer and coach, but I’m using the same skills as a BA. When looking for jobs, it’s more important to look for the skills required rather than the job title itself.”
“Within an organisation, business analysts are often required to work on more than one project, where the projects don’t require a full-time BA,” says Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development.
Sometimes, larger businesses will outsource all or part of their business analysis needs to specialist business analyst companies and management consultancy firms. These firms will hire business analysts to work on specific client projects that match their skill set. This means that a business analyst could be working on projects for more than one client at a time.
“The majority of IIBA UK members work in the finance sector,” says IIBA UK’s president, Nick De Voil. “Saying that, BAs can work anywhere. We do have members that work in the retail, energy and utility sectors. And, technology organisations, computer companies, media and law companies, and consultancy firms.”
“Business analysis is a specialist role, so we’re seeing the increased demand for BAs in the public sector, too,” concludes De Voil.
If you’re interested in becoming a business analyst, you can typically find work in whatever sector interests you the most.
Business analyst jobs
The roles available for business analysts are as diverse as the businesses in which they work.
While some roles focus on IT and technology change, others analyse the impact of change in operational departments such as finance and HR.
“Lots of people do business analysis work as part of their everyday job without realising it,” says Mike Goodland, director of Metadata Training.
“The reach of business analysis is extensive and the term ‘business analyst’ relates to anyone who effects change in a company. There are probably 20 to 25 different role titles that cover people who are doing the job of a business analyst.”
As well as operating in many sectors and across many domains, business analysts can also be known as:
Business requirements analyst.
User experience analyst (UX analyst).
If you’re considering a career as a business analyst, below are the most common types of jobs, together with their responsibilities and salary outlook.
Junior business analyst
What does a junior business analyst do?
Junior business analysts often work under the leadership of a senior business analyst. They can join teams that work across a variety of projects and deliver support to many areas of a business.
Business analysts at this level may have transitioned from an IT or operational role. Or, they may have joined the company as an apprentice or part of a graduate scheme.
Typical tasks can include:
Analysing business processes.
Understanding why change is required in the business.
Assisting with change management processes and procedures.
Delivering and supporting the implementation of projects.
Scoping and configuring bespoke solutions to specific problems.
Analysing the impact of business decisions, such as the need for a new IT system.
Providing support to senior business analysts.
“Business analysts gain deep and broad knowledge of their industry,” says Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric. “Typically, more senior BAs are involved throughout the breadth of the business and change lifecycle, starting by understanding the business problem that needs to be addressed. Junior BAs will work under the guidance of a more senior BA and may have limited scope.”
“But, a junior business analyst will be expected to learn fast… there’s a very steep learning curve in this role,” continues Reed. “As they gain confidence, they’ll be challenging stakeholders that are far senior.”
Junior business analyst salary
An apprentice junior business analyst could expect an annual salary of around £18,000 to £20,000. Whereas an entry-level junior business analyst on a graduate scheme could expect to earn around £25,000 to £30,000.
Senior business analyst
What does a senior business analyst do?
According to the Assist Knowledge Development business analysis career planning tool, an experienced senior business analyst has already developed a comprehensive toolkit of approaches and techniques.
Senior business analysts can adapt to the needs of a business situation or project. They’ll negotiate an agreement between different, and often opposing views from stakeholders across the business.
Typical senior business analyst responsibilities can include:
Contributing to the identification of projects.
Developing business cases.
Building data models and model business processes.
Investigating business problems and opportunities using root cause analysis.
Documenting business and technical requirements.
Understanding the rationale for the analysis approach. And, contributing to agreements about how to proceed.
Facilitating group workshops and meetings.
Building relationships with all key stakeholders.
Senior business analyst salary
Salaries for senior business analysts are much higher than those for junior analysts who are just starting their career.
Typically, a senior business analyst earns between £47,500 and £60,000, with an average salary of £52,500. This rises to around £67,500 in London.
IT business analyst
What does an IT business analyst do?
An IT business analyst concentrates on projects related to a change in IT systems. Or, projects that heavily involve the use of IT and technology to solve a business problem.
IT business analysts understand, from a business perspective, what the requirements are and how a particular IT process or procedure needs to work.
“They’ll then relay this information to the technology development teams,” explains Joseph Da Silva, chief information security officer for Electrocomponents plc.
“They’ll also relay information from the development teams back to the business, translating any technical information into business language. It’s important that everyone understands the implications of the process.”
“Often they’ll focus on technology change against business needs and will report to the IT corporate team,” says Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric.
“IT business analysts can also work on a contract basis with an outsourced business,” confirms Kulvinder Reyatt, senior management consultant and CEO of London-based boutique management consultancy firm, Brite Advice.
“They’ll analyse and implement IT solutions for a client’s business requirements.”
Although the job of an IT business analyst is mostly technical, it will also incorporate a significant element of business focus. IT business analyst responsibilities could include:
Bridging the gap between the IT team and rest of the business, such as operations, marketing, finance and HR teams.
Negotiating business requirements with stakeholders. Then analysing and documenting requirements to present a business case.
Solving business problems with an IT solution.
Designing the features of an IT system or technology platform.
Implementing the new IT/technology system into the business.
Take a look at IT business analyst roles in your area to get a sense of available opportunities.
IT business analysts are sometimes also called IT analysts, systems analysts, data analysts, UX analysts, or requirements engineers.
IT business analyst salary
The average salary for an IT business analyst in the UK is around £52,500.
“Salaries can range from £45,000 to £120,000. It depends on the specialist technical skills and knowledge needed for the role,” says senior management consultant, Kulvinder Reyatt.
Contract business analyst
What does a contract business analyst do?
Contract business analysts are hired to fulfil a specific need within a business. For example, it could be that a company needs more business analysts for a short time to top up their internal talent pool. Or, a contract business analyst could be hired on an interim basis because they have a specific skill set.
“‘Contract’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘short-term’,” says Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development. “Some contract BAs work in organisations for years. They can get involved in many different projects.”
As a contract business analyst, you could expect your responsibilities to include:
Providing ideas and suggestions to problems that arise from the business.
Developing business cases to convert ideas into a deliverable solution.
Documenting and analysing existing business processes.
Process mapping the current state of the project. And, defining a future operating model. This is known in the industry as ‘As-Is’ and ‘To-Be’.
Working on projects that are very specific to your skill set and industry knowledge. For example, you may have a language skill that is essential for the project. Or, you may have experience in retail, logistics or financial services.
Contract business analyst salary
Contract business analyst salaries can be higher than other business analyst jobs. This is often due to the interim nature of the role. Contractors are also typically self-employed, so they can command a day rate rather than an annual salary.
Day rates for contract analysts start at around £250 to £300 per day. But, they can rise dramatically, depending on location and experience.
Technical business analyst
What does a technical business analyst do?
Strong technical skills are essential in most areas of business analysis.
Although the role of a technical business analyst is closely aligned to that of an IT business analyst, “a technical BA would specialise in a particular domain, such as industrial control systems, or SAP,” explains Joseph Da Silva, chief information security officer for Electrocomponents plc.
Duties and responsibilities of a technical business analyst can include:
Owning and developing relationships with partners and stakeholders.
Designing and maintaining systems and processes.
Supporting IT teams to build new technologies that are required by the business.
Reviewing all services, systems and applications to meet the highest standards.
Taking the lead on technical changes and enhancements to existing processes and systems.
Working alongside others, such as quality assurance and development teams, to test and implement new technologies.
Senior management consultant, Kulvinder Reyatt, says that technical business analysts will typically work within the IT and technology team. “They pull together a thorough understanding of the business and formulate technical solutions to business problems.”
Technical business analyst salary
Technical business analyst salaries are largely dependant on the type of industry and specialist knowledge required by an employer. However, they are similar to IT business analyst salaries.
Salaries for a technical business analyst start in the region of £30,000.
Financial business analyst
What does a financial business analyst do?
Finance business analysts are responsible for analysing financial data and supporting the business to improve revenue and profits.
“They typically sit within the commercial team,” says senior management consultant, Kulvinder Reyatt. “These analysts have a specialist skill set and can work in any business. But, they are most often found in the financial services sector.”
Responsibilities of a financial business analyst could include:
Acting as an authority on economic business design decisions.
Analysing business performance. And, assisting with activities such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Preparing management reports.
Working with finance teams to understand and improve financial performance.
Documenting business requirements, processes and information flow.
Understanding and articulating the impact of change, specifically as it relates to company finances.
Producing, reviewing and challenging financial models.
Supporting staff within the business to understand and monitor workflows.
“I’ve been working in the finance industry as a senior business analyst since 2004,” says Shaun Neish. “Probably eighty percent of the projects we run are highly regulated, so as a BA, you really need to have a strong appreciation for industry regulations. No matter where you work as a BA in the finance industry, everything we do is driven by data and regulation.”
“These days, with the advent of open banking, you also need to appreciate where banking fits within the world, so being abreast of banking technology really helps,” continues Neish. “Knowledge of encrypted data security is also really useful. I have to pass several levels of security to even access my own work emails. People who come to work as a BA from other industries can find this level of security quite frustrating, but it’s vital for the work we do.”
“If you want to be a BA in the financial sector and have domain knowledge, even if you don’t have BA experience, I’d encourage you to apply.”
Financial business analyst salary
Typically, finance business analysts earn between £47,500 and £60,000, with an average salary of £52,500. This rises to around £67,500 in London.
If a finance business analyst has a very specialist skill or is highly experienced, this figure can rise significantly.
What roles can I be promoted to after business analyst?
As a junior business analyst, you should gain as much experience across as many different projects as possible. The more exposure you have, the better your career prospects.
Once you’ve experienced multiple projects, you’ll build valuable skills and have a better understanding of the areas you enjoy most. Once you have an idea of the things you really like to do, or the areas in which you love to work, you can start working towards your specialism.
For those who want to progress or specialise, the business analyst career path is exceptional.
Senior management consultant, Kulvinder Reyatt, explains the next step up from a business analysis role is a senior business analyst or practice head. “Practice heads pull together other business analysts to work on specific projects.”
“Or, if working for an outsourcing business, someone with BA experience could take on a client director role,” continues Reyatt. “A good BA can end up running their own business, as an IT director, or chief information officer. Or even as an industry analyst, depending on where they’d like to specialise.”
Business analysts can also move into roles that include project or programme management. General management, portfolio management, or business architecture are also options.
Business architecture benefits from “overlapping business analysis skills,” explains Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development. “A business architect analyses and defines the value streams and capabilities of a company. These reflect how the business works and helps the business to change and offer additional products and services.”
“I’m an associate BA so the next role for me is senior BA,” explains Devica Jamnadas, business analyst at Experian. “My ultimate goal is to work in project management. Because I have exposure across the business, there’s lots of opportunities available to specialise at a later date.”
Business analyst career opportunities
The career journey of a business analyst is an exciting one. Because business analysis roles are so broad and varied, a traditional career path is difficult to define. Typically, the route of progression is:
Junior business analyst > Business analyst > Senior business analyst > Lead business analyst.
Other job titles include: practice head, managing business analyst and expert business analyst.
“A lot of business analysts are content to see themselves in the role for most of their career,” says IIBA UK’s president, Nick De Voil.
“It’s a very rewarding field of work. However, I’ve known a lot of people with BA experience who’ve moved into other management roles. Such as general management, service management, IT management, service design and management consulting roles.”
Mike Goodland, director of Metadata Training, confirms that a BA role is often a career in its own right. “Some people stay in this role until the end of their career, and there are many excellent BAs that earn more than £800 per day.”
“Experience as a business analyst can open doors for your career,” continues Goodland. “BAs are exceptional C-level execs. They have the experience, connections and knowledge to make great leaders. It’s a fantastic career path for someone that wants to make a real change in the world.”
How to become a business analyst
If you’re considering business analysis as a career option, you may be wondering how to become a junior business analyst.
Business analysis is a fast-paced and competitive industry. So, gaining work experience through summer internships or work placements can be beneficial.
“I wanted to become a doctor, so did my A-levels to suit that career path,” says Devica Jamnadas, business analyst at Experian. “But, I quickly realised that I loved IT and computing. Also, I’m a natural teacher so wanted to do something that reflected those skills. During the second year of a computing degree at De Montfort uni, I came across the BCS foundation qualification and put myself through it. I also explored ITIL and Prince2 qualifications before I started my third year.”
“I knew I needed some experience to land a BA role,” continues Jamnadas, “so took some work experience on the frontrunners scheme at uni. Most universities have these schemes. It was something I could put on my CV. Then, I applied for a graduate role at Travis Perkins and gained excellent experience there, before I found the perfect BA role at Experian. I started this job in March of this year and I love it.”
A degree is not essential to becoming a business analyst. But, many employers do look for candidates with solid education, vocational qualifications, and/or experience in a similar field.
Another route to consider is the business analysis apprenticeship programme. Large employers pay an apprenticeship levy against their wage bill, which they then claim back against apprenticeship training. This means they can use the tax to retrain current employees or to recruit graduates or school leavers to an apprenticeship scheme.
“One such apprenticeship scheme is the information systems business analysis programme,” explains Nick De Voil, president of IIBA UK. “There are several training providers that provide training under this scheme.”
“It’s also useful to join a professional, industry-recognised organisation such as IIBA UK,” continues De Voil. “Seeking out career opportunities through professional networking is an excellent way into the industry. IIBA UK now offers free apprentice associate status to anyone who’s enrolled on the IS business analyst apprenticeship scheme. This makes it even easier to network with other professionals at the very start of your BA career.”
Entry to a career as a business analyst is not just for graduates and younger apprentices. If you fancy a career change, there are lots of options available for you, too.
“Many people want to become a BA mid-career,” explains Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric. “Look out for opportunities to do business analysis in your current role. Position yourself as close to the BA team as you can and take a business analysis certification.”
IIBA UK and BCS accredited training providers, such as Assist Knowledge Development, Metadata Training and Blackmetric have certification schemes. To learn more, see What qualifications do you need to be a business analyst.
Business analyst skills
When it comes to essential skills for business analyst roles, Joseph Da Silva, chief information security officer for Electrocomponents plc, explains that “communication skills are the most critical.”
“You need to understand how the technical and business elements relate to each other. And then communicate complex subjects to non-technical people.”
“A good business analyst will know how to gather and analyse information. They’ll then articulate it in a way that all parties can understand,” continues Da Silva.
Other business analyst requirements include:
Negotiation and conflict resolution skills.
Relationship management, to build a sustainable relationship with stakeholders.
Active listening and questioning skills; essential in gathering data and requirements.
Analytical thinking and problem solving with the ability to see root cause.
Investigative and influencing skills to dig deeper into a problem.
Ability to deliver presentations to peers and senior stakeholders.
Ability to assess the impact of change.
It’s crucial that business analysts are highly IT literate. IT skills required for business analyst roles can include:
SQL databases and C++ programming.
Strong Microsoft Excel skills.
MS Visio or similar.
What are the most in demand business analyst skills?
Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development, explains how the range of skills a business analyst needs can be underappreciated.
“We often see [job] adverts that ask for many different skills, and some are not really related to the core role of a business analyst. The most important thing for BA to understand is that they are an analyst. This might sound obvious, but anyone new to the role needs to have solid analytical skills.”
“Interestingly, the skills shortage seems to fall within particular business domains, such as financial services and banking,” Debra continues. “Because banking and finance are industries that need experience even for entry-level business analysts, there tends to be a skills shortage here.”
Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric, agrees that while agile and digital skills are important, interpersonal, communication, and conflict management skills are critical. “You can’t be a business analyst without these skills,” Reed concludes.
What qualifications do you need to be a business analyst?
So, what are the qualifications required for a business analyst job?
If you want to become a business analyst, having a degree is a distinct advantage. But, “it’s not a deal breaker if you have some relevant experience,” says Adrian Reed, principal consultant at Blackmetric.
There isn’t a set degree subject that’s most relevant. But, Reed indicates that business management and IT degrees are typical amongst those working as business analysts.
Other degrees, however, could be equally as useful. Especially those with large analytical elements, such as maths, science, or English literature.
“More and more employers are now asking for certification, particularly for senior roles,” states Reed.
“A degree is a normal route,” confirms Mike Goodland, director of Metadata Training. “But, a diploma in business analysis will really stand out on your CV, too.
“Some BAs have a masters’ degree in systems analysis or information systems or even an MBA,” concludes Goodland.
The most recognised business analyst qualifications and certifications are:
Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis
BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis
BCS Advanced International Diploma in Business Analysis
These qualifications validate the skills of business analysts from junior to expert level. Whether you have a degree or not, these are the qualifications to explore if you’re interested in a career as a business analyst.
What makes a good business analyst?
Aside from experience and formal qualifications, business analysts need well-rounded attributes.
The most successful people in this role can negotiate, influence, and manage conflict. They can stand up and present to groups of people who are senior to them, and they can mentor staff with less experience and skills.
But, if you’re wondering how to be the best business analyst, our experts have some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions that people don’t want to answer,” says Nick De Voil, IIBA’s UK member experience director. “It’s your job to help the organisation make sense of things by diplomatically challenging the status quo.”
“A good business analyst is aware that they are an analyst,” says Debra Paul, managing director of Assist Knowledge Development. “This is not an admin role where you simply take down requirements. A good BA has a toolkit of skills, is prepared to challenge and suggest solutions. Most importantly, they have a very analytical mind.”
As a general rule, a good business analyst should have “communication, listening, and negotiation skills,” says Devica Jamnadas, business analyst at Experian. “As a BA, you need to negotiate with the business about what’s reasonable, and also with the developers about what’s possible.”
Personalities that suit business analyst jobs
Employers look to hire people to the role who are curious, passionate, assertive, brave, communicative, analytical and organised.
Anyone can have the relevant skills, qualifications and experience to be a business analyst. But the ones who truly shine and progress well, are also very likeable.
“They’re inquisitive people,” says Nick De Voil, IIBA UK’s president. “They absorb lots of information about new subjects without difficulty. They love to build relationships, and they’re excellent at developing empathy.”
Senior management consultant, Kulvinder Reyatt explains that lots of different types of people would suit a BA role. Especially those who are not afraid to challenge. “Also, if you have extensive negotiation skills, you’ll do well.”
“You may have to ask people to do things they don’t want to do,” continues Reyatt, “such as relax their business or technology needs in favour of commercial viability.”
“If anyone asked me what I do, I say I’m a problem solver,” says business analyst mentor, Alex Papworth. “Being a critical thinker in this role is hugely important.”
“You also need to understand that you can’t be a solo operator,” continues Papworth. “People are at the heart of your success because you enable other people to be successful.
Business analyst work experience
Business analysis is a fast-paced and competitive industry. To succeed, experience is essential.
Recruiters will often hire candidates with some business analysis experience, even at entry level. So, the more you can show, the better your chances of success in landing a role.
Applying for work experience can be challenging. Especially if you don’t have the relevant qualifications. When writing your application, emphasise why you are passionate about working as a business analyst.
Explain what it is about the role that you’ll be particularly great at. For example, if you’re at university and you’ve taken part in society activities, or have led a debate team, then detail this in your application.
When applying for an internship, it could also be useful to enquire about shadowing a more experienced member of the team. Don’t forget to detail what you’d hope to learn from the experience.
Also, mention your willingness to undertake further training and development. Such as, studying towards the relevant industry qualifications.
Another route to explore is the business analyst apprenticeship. We’ve provided more information about the apprenticeship programme in the How to become a business analyst section.
If you’re hoping to change career and have previous analytical experience, then the role of business analyst could be for you.
“Lots of accountants and people who work in finance retrain as a business analyst,” says Mike Goodland, director of Metadata Training.
“The most extreme case of retraining I’ve seen is a guy who was working as a vet. He found a job with a management consultancy halfway through studying for his diploma and has gone on to have a fantastic career as a business analyst.”
“It’s not easy to get into business analysis, but it has been recognised as a highly desirable career choice,” continues Goodland.
“Employers look for people who have proved themselves with good communication and technology skills. If you have previous experience in change projects, or you’re an expert in a relevant area of business, then this will help.”
Business analyst job description summary
As we’ve discovered, business analyst jobs are fast-paced, exciting and rewarding. Especially for people with analytic minds who want to influence positive change.
If you’re considering a business analyst role, then here are our top ten takeaways.
Business analysts can work in any area of business where change is necessary.
Business analysts make sense ‘of the mess’. They see where the issues and opportunities are, and then consider the best way forward for all parties.
Business analysts are excellent communicators and negotiators. They can explain technical jargon to non-technical teams.
The average business analyst salary in the UK is around £52,500. But, salaries can quickly reach more than £100,000 for exceptional performers and expert analysts.
A business analyst role is often a career option in its own right. Some BAs are very content to stay in the position and develop deep expertise in their field.
A degree is not essential to become a business analyst. But, it is advisable to take professional qualifications to validate your experience.
The most successful business analysts are not afraid to ask questions and challenge the status quo.
A business analyst apprenticeship is a good route into the role.
Anyone can become a business analyst, at any point in their career.
Business analysis is a highly desirable career choice.