Business analysis is a rapidly growing market. If you’re an analytical thinker, problem-solver, and effective communicator, then a career in this expanding field may be a great fit for you.
As a Business Analyst in software development, you’ll use technology-focused data analysis to improve the business operations and productivity of your company. You’ll work with both technical and non-technical teams and focus on how to encourage business growth.
If you just recently learned about the field of business analysis, you’re not alone. As a relatively new field, the need for Business Analysts has seen a spike in recent years. This is because companies and organizations are producing and storing more data than ever before.
But, recent studies have shown that up to 55% of this data is unused, resulting in a new term — “dark data.” Dark data is information that’s collected by organizations but unused for analytics, business relationships, or monetization. This seems like a job for Data Analysts or Data Scientists, right?
Maybe in the past, but not anymore. Leveraging the data to improve its viability for businesses involves more than just data analysis. And this is where Business Analysts come in. In this article, we take a closer look at what Business Analysts do, what skills you’ll need to succeed in this role, and how to get started in the field of business analysis.
What does a Business Analyst do?
Put simply, a Business Analyst (BA) evaluates business data to improve decision-making within the organization. They essentially act as a bridge between management or stakeholders (the decision-makers) and production (the decision implementers).
Their goals are to maximize profits, streamline production, and increase efficiency. Business Analysts are proficient in four primary kinds of analysis:
- Strategic planning. This type of analysis reveals the needs of an organization.
- Business model analysis. The BA uses this analysis to define policies and market strategies.
- Process design. Process design analysis is used to standardize workflows.
- Systems analysis. This type of analysis involves determining the requirements of the IT team.
While analyzing data is a huge part of a Business Analyst’s job, there are other roles and responsibilities that BAs take on. Here are a few of them.
Identifying business goals
Besides analyzing the actual development project, a BA identifies business goals and milestones like product benchmarks, key performance indicators (KPIs), and sales strategies. The BA communicates the business growth and expansion rates expected by management and stakeholders to members of the production team, including IT.
Once business strategies are in place, the BA can outline the development's direction and assign the various areas of responsibility. This is basically the translation of the business plan into a production strategy.
Here, the BA will help both management and production share a clear vision of the path forward. As a result, decision-making now becomes cohesive on both sides of the table.
Compliance and follow-through
As a project advances, the BA will continue analyzing the data to ensure the project meets the overall business expectations. This involves maintaining communication with both the project team and stakeholders whose feedback helps ensure things stay on course and that improvements are made to fulfill the business model.
Along with serving as a mediator between decision-makers and the IT team, BAs also use financial reports to establish business goals and strategies, optimize spending, and maximize profit. Generally, a BA’s responsibilities include:
- Identifying technical requirements and then prioritizing them
- Creating detailed reports, making data analysis “visual”
- Outlining problems and their respective solutions
- Identifying business opportunities
- Budgeting and financial forecasting
- Project planning and management
- Variance analysis
- Product pricing
- Defining business requirements and goals
- Facilitating communication between management and production
- Ensuring follow-through progress reporting
The extent to which a BA assumes these various responsibilities depends on the phase of the project they’re involved in. There are four basic phases to any project:
- Elaboration. This is the creative phase of a project. Here, the BA may work closely with the creators of the concept to determine its feasibility from a development point of view. They also might evaluate the market potential of the product and the cost benefits of the methods of production.
- Solution/Design. Much of the initial research has been done by this phase, and primary decisions have been made. The BA would ensure that business requirements are set and can be met, choose the best tech stack for the project, and prioritize any backlog to bring the project up to date before production. Solutions are sought for any foreseen problems, usually before development begins.
- Development. At this point, active software development begins. Roles have been assigned, and the BA monitors progress and ensures that development meets or exceeds business and technological milestones.
- Maintenance. During this final stage, consumer feedback provides data for necessary changes and improvements to be implemented. The outcome should meet or exceed the expectations of stakeholders, and the business should begin to realize profits.
What skills does a Business Analyst need?
A BA can’t afford to limit their skills since their role quickly evolves along with the tools and methods used by businesses today. Their skill sets can be divided into four major areas:
- Oral and written communication
- Consultation and interpersonal communication
- Facilitating interdepartmental communication
- Data analysis and visualization
- Analytical thinking coupled with problem-solving
- Accurate and clear reporting and a detail-oriented mindset
- Business analysis
Familiarity with business structure
- Cost-benefits analysis
- Process modeling
- Stakeholder analysis
- Organizational skills
- Understanding of networks
- Knowledge of databases and how data is gathered and stored
- Basic coding and other IT skills
What tools do Business Analysts use?
A Business Analyst primarily uses tools for gathering and analyzing data, preparing reports and visualizations and fostering communication. Some of the tools they’d commonly use include:
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Access
- Google Analytics
Analysts increasingly need at least some knowledge of coding or programming skills to fulfill their evolving job description. Some popular programming languages for Business Analysts to know are
- Python: Python has a wide range of libraries that extend its use into data analysis and visualization.
- SQL: SQL is used to manage data stored in relational databases.
- R: Like Python, R can also be used to analyze and visualize data.
How can you become a Business Analyst?
If you’re interested in exploring a career as a Business Analyst, we recommend looking over our courses on programming languages — including Learn Python, Learn SQL, and Learn R. We also recommend checking out our analysis courses, including:
Start your journey to a fulfilling career in business analysis with us and sign up for free today.