Business Analysis Career - F.A.Q.>

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What are the key responsibilities of a business analyst?

A business analyst working in the IT space is typically responsible for the following:

Requirements discovery. Discovering the underlying business need to be addressed and gathering information to understand the software and project requirements via conversations with stakeholders, document analysis, research.

Requirements analysis. Identifying, specifying, organizing and modeling the requirements to ensure they are complete, unambiguous, and address the real business problem or opportunity.

Requirements specification. Documenting the requirements in a format that is appropriate for the business and technical stakeholders of the project.

Requirements validation, sign-off, and knowledge transfer. Ensuring the requirements map to the real business need, are approved by all relevant stakeholders, and meet essential quality standards. Transferring the knowledge about desired outcomes, requirements, assumptions, risks to the delivery team.

Requirements change management. Analyzing the impact of changes in requirements, updating requirements documentation.

Beware of "false" BA jobs

Many companies (including Fortune 100) consider "business analyst" a "catch all" role in which people will be asked to help out with whichever tasks nobody in the delivery team is interested in doing, from coordinating project tasks to testing bug fixes and writing user guides. If you take a job with the title business analyst but in charge of other activities, this will not help you develop a career in business analysis, so be careful with the choices you make.

Don't rely solely on titles. Do ask a lot of questions during the interview process to truly understand what expectations the hiring manager has for the role.

Example of questions that may help you identify red flags in a role that may give you the title of business analyst without helping further your career because you'll not be doing real BA work:

What type of certification will help me get a job as a business analyst?

First, keep in mind that most hiring managers care about what you can deliver, not what you know or how many degrees or certificates you have.

The best training/study plan for someone interested in finding a new job as a business analyst will depend on your background, previous experience, and type of company you're targeting. Your goal is to be prepared to answer interview questions with confidence and know-how. That's why focusing on certification is not helpful -- you'd be spending a lot of time memorizing things that may not be relevant at all for your specific job search.

The best time to get a certification in business analysis (if you really want one--most talented BAs develop a successful career without it) is when you're employed and your employer is paying for the exam and any supporting courses. Then it's fine to use the opportunity to review concepts, and get exposure to new techniques. Don't make the mistake of thinking that adding a certificate to your resume will increase your chances of being hired in the first place-- at least in the U.S.A., this is not common (anecdotal data we've collected from other countries like Australia and Canada also indicate a low correlation between investment in certification and your chances of landing a BA job).

The type of training and experience that will be the most valuable for you when looking for a BA job will vary depending on your geographic location and choice of industry and BA role. Start by doing a search on a website like to see what companies in your geographic area are looking for in candidates for positions you're interested in applying to.

Next, spend some time at Bridging the Gap, a site that specializes in helping new and experienced business analysts develop a career in business analysis. There you'll find a huge number of free and paid resources. Don't try to absorb everything at once; create a focused study plan that concentrate on closing the gaps in knowledge and experience that you've identified in your job description search.

If you have 5 hours a week to dedicate to accelerated learning, you may benefit from the 9-Week Bootcamp Program offered by Adriana Beal.

I'm in a different country -- how can I get a job in business analysis in the U.S.A.?

It's very unlikely that a company will be interested in interviewing and bringing someone from outside the U.S. to work in the country as a business analyst (especially if the person will require a working visa, which is the case when you don't have U.S. citizenship or a green card). Your odds will greatly improve if you do one of two things:

What can I do to increase my chances of landing a job in business analysis?

Having a resume that highlights accomplishments (as opposed to job responsibilities) that relate to the business analysis work (e.g., writing technical documents, interacting with stakeholders to clarify issues, etc.), and being well prepared for interviews are the two things that will help you the most.

Let's say you're a developer QA professional interested in taking a BA job with a consulting firm. Your strength may be understanding the software project lifecycle from end to end, and the ability to work on multiple projects at the same time, and your weak spot may be lack of experience interviewing stakeholders to elicit information the right way to create high quality requirements. You need to identify your individual improvement areas, and start studying the relevant topics so that when you're interviewing you can answer skill and behavioral questions like the ones below with confidence:

Note that you can give good answers for behavioral questions that start with "tell me about a time when..." even without prior experience with the exact situation the question describes. If you genuinely don't have an example from your past that fits the question you're asked during an interview, it's okay to say that and try to come up with something reasonably close. You can say:

If you have 5 hours a week to dedicate to accelerated learning, you may benefit from the 9-Week Bootcamp Program offered by Adriana Beal.

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