A Comprehensive Guide to Your Business Analyst Career

Business analyst acts as a liaison between the information technology (IT) division of the company and management. He is responsible for analysing the company’s business systems and identifying different options for augmenting the working of business systems. It is the job of an analyst to clearly understand the problems of a company and create viable solutions for the woes confronting the business. While creating these systems, it is his job to provide technological solutions to different business problems.

Duties

1= Defines and records various business functions & processes.
2= Consults with management and personnel to clearly define business needs, procedures, problems and different levels of systems access.
3= Develops new systems and makes enhancements to current systems in order to ensure that it is in close conformity to the needs of the user.
4= Identifies various opportunities for improving business processes through information systems.
5= Provides assistance in training technical staff.

Requisite qualifications

In reality, there are no particular qualifications that you may need for doing analyst jobs. Business analyst job has become synonymous with engineering and IT. As a result, an IT background would be required for certain job profiles. Also, a post-graduate degree in finance is an added benefit. The IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) is offering a certified professional certification, which is recognized across the world.

Remuneration

In the last few years, there has been a spurt in the economic growth. Due to this, there are various business analyst jobs which are available in the market. The package of an analyst is quite lucrative and the job comes along with other perks as well. The package depends on factors like company, experience, work profile, location and skills. The IT sector business analysts are drawing good perks. On an average, an analyst can earn around Rs 5-12 lakh/annum.

Sectors generating jobs are

Construction
Oil & gas
Telecommunication
Insurance & finance
Information technology
Hospitality

In India, there is no dearth of jobs for analysts. Some of the top companies offering business analyst jobs are-

Genpact
Infosys
Wipro
Deloitte
IBM
Oracle
TCS

Career progression

Analysts usually start their careers in entry-level job roles. They primarily focus on information, research and interviews. As an analyst gains more experience, they start working on important projects, which demand an impeccable use of complex tools and knowledge. Once a business analyst has gained work experience and skills within different job roles, he/she may also start own consulting business or move into other managerial roles.

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Life of an Offshore Business Analyst

This article details on the role as an offshore business analyst and the changing role of offshore business analysts.

With the boom in outsourcing and the focus of firms shifting to add efficiency at lesser cost, more BA roles are being created offshore. Not to say that all jobs are being shipped offshore, but we definitely see firms being more receptive to not restricting a business analyst role being only a client facing role. The world of outsourcing has now evolved to the hybrid model (on site / offshore model of outsourcing and in some cases near shore for strategic reasons). In fact I know a lot of firms that have as a mandate for deals a 40:60 rule when it comes to projects. 40% on site and 60% offshore to better leverage the capabilities offshore and of course manage the project margins better. Organizations, project managers and leads often struggle to increase the offshore numbers and reduce the on site number (70:30) or so in the interest of margins.

Traditionally in the IT and the ITES sector, the offshore roles were restricted to development. The growth of Offshore Development Center’s (ODC) in India in the software export zones are a testimony to this fact.

How does it impact you as a business analyst?

If you are a developer or a programmer, then this could be your golden opportunity to scale up to a BA role. Today there is a big gap between the demand for BA and the supply of quality BA candidates in market. While organizations are looking for quality resources that can scale up from being mere programmers and software developers or testers to take up the roles of solution designers and solution providers. While requirement gathering may be one part of your role, BA roles are expanding to include more responsibilities in the name of optimization.

If you are a programmer or a developer looking to scale up to the role of a BA, keep in mind, the task is not simple. I have in the past had emails from readers, who just send me their profile and ask me to do a magic to get them into a BA role. People always tend to take the easy way out. With a business analyst role, this is a “no-no.”

If you wish to be a business analyst, you need to be willing to put in the efforts to scale up from your current role and expand your area of responsibilities with limited to no supervision. You will need to think out of the box (Think outside the bun as it says in Taco Bell ads) and look at adding value to the project and organization. These are sure shot ways to success. I would rather stick to these time-tested methods than trying my feet on short cuts.

What can you do to position yourself better as a business analyst?

Simple – Scale up. Take on more responsibilities in your offshore role. I know it is easier said that done. But that is your only solution to move up the chain to be a business analyst. Please also keep in mind that a business analyst role comes with its own challenges, responsibilities and of course rewards. If you are looking to be an offshore business analyst or are currently in an offshore business analyst role, then a few pointers below might help you.

Communication Challenges – An offshore business analyst often gets struck in the web of communication. Being offshore is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage because you are more affordable translating to more options and opportunities. It is a dis-advantage because you never truly know what the client is thinking, how he/she is reacting to your comments and what is lost in translation and interpretation over the phone.

So you as an offshore business analyst will need to put in twice the amount of effort to manage client perception than an onshore business analyst. Make no mistake – Onsite business analyst roles are equally hard if not much harder at times. I could be a perfect example. As someone who has been the face of the project for the client, being chewed and crushed in managing perceptions yet swimming through to save face, I had the privilege of being an on site and an offshore business analyst / management consultant. Listening and communication is your core to be great at an offshore role. Work on it.

The effectiveness of the process is always in question depending on the complexity of the business requirement but with time and effort we could evolve to be better in the offshore business analyst role.

Standardization of processes – Traditionally it is only the development and testing phase of the projects that were typically done offshore. But things are changing progressively. Now clients require that even the requirement gathering be done offshore through phone and other modes of virtual communication. Though a big challenge, it is well adapted by the industry.If you are an offshore business analyst, look at standardizing your requirement gathering process. Based on your industry and past project experience, come up with effective questionnaire’s that could help the client answer as many questions as possible to provide clarity on scope and requirements. If you do not understand an answer, ensure you do what is needed to get clarity from the client on the question. Never assume an answer irrespective of how logical the answer might seem.

If you wish to be truly pro-active, I would in fact, go one step ahead and start circulating questionnaires to industry leaders and to your past clients in your respective industry seeking their inputs on the current challenges in a specific area. This would turn out to be great inputs to help launch your product or service to the client. I’m also certain that the client appreciates the fact that you still think about them and their problems though you are not working on their project at the moment.

Organizations are now looking to bridge the demand / supply gap of business analyst by promoting senior programmers and solution designers to the take up business analyst responsibilities. Are you up for it?

Your resume, experience and expertise could make all the difference between you being a BA or remaining a programmer. Do visit the services page on our website – “The Smart Consultant” to understand what we could do to help you with your resume and transition to your dream business analyst role.

As always, I wish there was a perfect black book to help you. But there never is.

For those of us who believe a BA role is to necessarily only meet with clients and gathering requirements, I hope this article is a wake up call. Welcome to the changing world of business analyst.

For more information on business analyst certification, please refer to the IIBA website.

If you are an offshore developer or a BA or a BA working onsite then, please share your thoughts and experiences through the comments section of my blog.

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Project Phases for Business Analysts

This article is focused on enabling better performance in business analysts and aspiring business analyst professionals. In this regard, I thought knowing the basics of project phases may be a useful read. Basically I’m hoping to touch upon the various aspects of a technology project that achieves a specific business outcome in which business analysts play a vital role.

Why choose technology projects for business analyst discussion?

Our world today is governed by technology. From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we hit the sack in the night we are in a way ruled by technology. A business analyst role in a way is better appreciated when there is technology involved. As mentioned earlier in my posts, anyplace in this world, that combines people, process and technology would result in a problem.

If there is a business analyst, who is working exclusively on process without any impact to technology or without any aspect of technology involved, I would like to meet him or her. So coming to our topic – let us try to understand from a business analyst and consulting stand point in a simple way the different phases of a functional business project that involves technology.

Note – Please note that I’m refraining from getting into Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) or Agile. I would like to keep the context of this post brief and not specific to a particular project management style though what I do state would align to most methodologies.

Is a business analyst actively involved in the project sub phases?
Business project that involves technology are often split into 2 large phases in the consulting world. The first phase is called Scoping and the second phase is called Delivery. Both these phases contain multiple sub phases in which a business analyst plays a vital role. We will look at them in detail.

The sub phases of a the Scoping phase of a consulting project are usually split into Scope Definition, Analysis and Functional Design.

The sub phases of a Delivery effort in a consulting assignment includes Technical Design, Construction / Build, Test phase that includes System Integration Testing (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing.

Scope definition – From my experience, I have noted than often the scope definition of the project is prior to a business analyst being assigned to the project. In some cases, the business analyst might get lucky and stand to be included in the scope definition of the project. But usually in this phase a project / functional manager, the program manager and subject matter experts play a major role. In some cases, this phase is also called blue printing.

In certain instances the scope phase include the requirements gathering process while in some cases, it gets pushed into the analysis phase of the project.

Analysis phase – Again while the term Analysis strictly refers to analyzing the business requirements gathered, more often the requirements gathering process start in this phase. The analysis phase of the project actively involves the business analyst interfacing with the stakeholder and gathering the business requirements and analyzing the requirements to better understand which requirements fit into the scope area defined and which doesn’t.

It is a big challenge that in some instances business requirements often exceed the given project scope and may need to be identified by the business analyst and De-scoped. To the contrary in some cases, there is scope creeps and a lot of the business requirements are missed being documented. The analysis phase is definitely an area where a business analyst plays a critical role.

Functional Design – In the consulting world, the design phase is split into functional design and technical design. The function design is the phase where design elements with respect to data flows, requirements mapping to data flows, requirement functions that can be met through the design etc will be documented.

Technical Design – Technical design as the name suggests is the design document that provides the technology that defines the systems that will specifically be used to meet the functional business requirements documented by the business analyst. While the functional design document details the functions that would be met as a part of the design implementation, the technical design sticks on to the technology used, type of server to be used (Windows vs Linux), the type of database to used etc.

A lot of times in organizations these two documents are combined together to house a single design document. The usefulness of the comprehensive design document is completely contingent on the methodology followed by the organization. In some cases, where the business analyst is more functional some parts of the comprehensive design document becomes a challenge to understand.

A business analyst in the design phase plays the role of a solution expert. The business analyst is required to validate that the design document and the solution proposed meets the project objectives and the specific business requirements that have been captured.

Build / Construction – While in a strict sense a functional business analyst role would be restricted to requirements planning, requirements gathering and documentation until hand off to the IT teams, organizations today take a holistic view of the business analyst function. A business analyst might not play a very active role in the construction phase of the project. That certainly does not mean that a business analyst moves on to another project at this stage or has a relaxing time. While the IT team works on the construction phase of the project, a business analyst may be required to work on supporting the Testing preparation along with the project manager.

Apart from potentially supporting change management deliverables, a business analyst may be required to help drive reviewing the test strategy, test plans, test scenarios, cases and scripts.

The CBAP handbook specifically calls out that creating design documents, test strategy, test plans or executing test cases is not considered as relevant work experience for CBAP certification. I’m sure most of us would agree that irrespective of our likes and dislikes and what the handbook says, for all practical reasons, a business analyst usually ends up taking on these deliverables.

In my opinion getting our hands dirty on these deliverables is very good as you would no longer be restricting yourself to the role of a business analyst but scaling up to be a management consultant.

Test Phase – I hate to break it to you, but testing is further split into sub components.

A business analyst would know that the systems integration test is more often the key to solving most of the issues and problems in a technology project. While in the build phase, the IT team would ensure that they perform selected core testing on what they built, it more often becomes the role of a business analyst to support integration testing. The systems integration testing involves passing data through source and down stream systems to often test the interface / data flow between the systems through predefined test cases/ scenario having a specific test result.

The User Acceptance Test (UAT) succeeds the systems integration test. In this phase, the testing is performed from an end-user / customer perspective. It is expected that the testing from systems integration throws up a little of problems and bugs that will need to be solved prior to entering UAT. During UAT, the end-user or customer is given the flexibility to help choose the business scenarios they would like tested. The expected results (which should match to the expectation of the user) is often shared with the user to enable boost their confidence and sign off on the testing phase.

Testing is always done in a server environment outside of the real-time production environment. So, if you are in a meeting and hear people discussing about testing environments, don’t be baffled. It is merely a server environment that often replicates the production environment but allows you to make mistakes and correct them.

Implementation / Go Live – The implementation phase of the project is when the codes and solution tried and tested through the other phases of the project are moved into the production environment. Once the codes are moved into production and the systems are ready to Go Live, with the flip of a switch the changes are posted into production and are live to be reflected.

As you would have noted, the role of a business analyst is more than often exemplified in the initial stages of the project. During the initial stages of the project, there is a greater need for the business analyst to interact with the stake holders, gather requirements, document them, analyze requirements etc. Thus a BA becomes the bridge between the business stakeholders and the IT teams making the role extremely important. At the same time, it is also important for a BA’s to understand the impact of their role and their work on other areas of the project.

For all aspiring BA’s, I do hope this article though lengthy, provided you good insight into what happens beyond your role. Hope you liked it. Please do feel free to share your comments.

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