Today’s companies need to make sure that their investments in information technology create real business value. The business analyst — who gathers customer requirements and communicates between IT and the business — is a key player in the process.
Ask IT recruiters about growth areas and they'll usually mention business analysis. While the title has been around for years, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is just five years old, and the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK) is just entering version 2.0. By contrast, the Project Management Institute is almost 40 years old and has been certifying project managers for a quarter-century.
Why is business analysis emerging as a needed skill set? According to Mike Amidon, associate program director for the Continuing Professional Education at the University of Minnesota, "In the old days, a business unit would ask its IT department to create a solution, which often was far from what the unit really wanted. Lots of unhappiness followed. So finally, IT wised up and decided that perhaps it should be better at gathering the business unit's requirements, modeling a proposed solution and then building it. Result: Happy customers."
Business Needs And Solutions
According to the BABOK, "Business Analysis is the set of tasks, knowledge and techniques required to identify business needs and determine solutions to business problems." The BABOK uses the title "business analyst" to describe what various companies and organizations might call business systems analyst or systems analyst. According to Amidon, BAs are often "people who have evolved into the role, but their business cards don't reflect it."
The BA may help with strategic planning of business solutions. Once a project is defined, the BA works with the business to determine its requirements and creates process maps, workflow diagrams and other documents that the IT department can use to create a solution for the business need.
Hard And Soft Skills
According to Amidon, the BA needs "a balance of analytical skills and good communications." Getting an accurate description of business requirements calls for "making the customer comfortable and willing to open up to you," Amidon says. On the other hand, the BA needs to turn those customer needs into a logical model, "written in terminology that IT can translate into code."
The University has recently begun offering a 30-hour Certificate of Business Analysis that is accredited by the IIBA. The certificate offers "an engineering approach that encompasses all activities" required for the BA role. The plan is to offer the certificate program to the public twice a year. For more information on the certificate, go to www.cce.umn.edu/certificateprograms/. For more on IIBA, visit the website: www.theiiba.org.
Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.