What Exactly Is a Business Analyst, Anyway?

To start things off; let’s say that, if you where to ask ten different HR Professionals what a Business Analyst is, that you would probably get about 10 different answers. Well that is basically the problem that the emerging field of “Business Analysis” is facing. So, to get a little clarity on the matter, let’s start by dividing all analysts into the two major categories; business (non-technical) and technical. These will be the two main divisions within the title. This is not to say that one isn’t able to or on occasion required to work on both sides of the fence. This only goes to prove how confusing the title “Business Analyst” really is.

The first side of this very broad coin is the business side. This will be those professionals who apply a specific methodology to provide solutions that increase the value of a company or a business.

The opposite side of the coin is going to be the IT or Technical side. Now, this side has a basic function of applying specific methodologies to provide “technical” solutions to problems, which increases the ability of the company, which in turn increases the value of a company. Confused yet? OK, moving on.

Many times analysts are hired to not only find the problems but to also provide solutions. This is a completely different role than a project manager. As a general rule a company will acquire the services of an analyst or a firm to address a particular issue or problem that it is facing. The analyst will then go to the business, collect data, apply methodologies and principles, and create a solution. At this time a requirements analyst will assess the needs and requirements (this may or may not be included in the solutions initially provided). This information is then passed on to a Project Manger. The PM will then follow his/her proven methodologies and techniques to produce the final product on budget and on time, hopefully.

Basically to describe what a business analyst is, we have to describe the work that a business analyst does. Because it doesn’t matter if the title is business analyst, process analyst, requirements analyst, operations analyst, business systems analyst, systems analyst, consultant, programmer/analyst, etc; the only thing that makes an analyst an analyst is the systematic approach to problems and solutions through predefined methodic principles.

Just a few of the characteristics of a BA will be that the analyst;
• Works with businesses to identify improvement opportunities within processes or operations
• Gathers, documents, and analyzes needs and requirements that a business may have
• The BA solves problems that companies have

There are different organizations that create or adhere to accepted standards of practice in the field of business analysis. One of which would be the certifying agency of the International Institute of Business Analysis another would be the Object Management Group. These organizations will adhere strictly to certain methodologies that when properly employed will lead not only the analyst, but their clients, to a successful outcome regardless of current situations.

Methodologies can vary greatly depending on the disciplines of the particular analyst or firm. No single methodology is right or wrong; however do keep in mind that there are several well defined sets of disciplines that can be verified with a simple internet search. If an analyst claims to use a particular system or discipline, check out.

So just to sum everything up, a business analyst is basically defined as somebody who performs certain tasks to make your business better. Like it has been said before, if you have a problem with your car, you find a mechanic. If you have a problem with your health, you find a doctor. If you have a problem with your business, you find a business analyst.