Business Analyst jobs(Also known as Data Analyst, Systems Analyst, Requirement Engineer)
The term business analyst (BA) may refer to a variety of different careers. There may be a lot of jargon employed within this profession but the fundamentals of this career will normally include some or all of the following: meeting with clients, scoping and modelling a project or element of the business, and presenting results to client. The scope of business and range of employers of business analysts is as wide as business itself. It is possible to work for both independent firms who are commissioned to work on specific projects and provide an opinion from an outside perspective, or within a particular business or industry e.g. energy or transport. The term business analyst has become synonymous with IT specialists, however, the scope of the job is wider than this. Several elements common to the role are
- identify areas for improvement
- evaluate problems and opportunities within the business
- through the use of modelling and scenario analysis evaluate the feasibility of a solution and possible outcomes
- present the solution and develop the business case for implementing it
- monitor the continued need for and success of the solution and adapt as necessary
ResponsibilitiesWhile not exhaustive, a Business Analyst would be expected to be responsible for
- Client relationships - maintaining an active relationship with the client.
- Time Management - normally projects will have a deadline but management of the project is normally the analyst's responsibility.
- Model building - taking account of changes in parameters e.g. changes in interest rates or sales and building them into your models.
- Billing and Fees - charging time appropriately and setting budgets with clients.
- General demeanour - helpful, co-operative and thinking through a problem.
- Communication - developing ideas and presenting them to management and producing focused reports to a high standard.
QualificationsThere are no formal qualifications required to perform this career although education to degree level is the norm. Skills developed in other professions and a detailed knowledge of the industry can prove vital and previous careers that have involved modelling work e.g. actuarial science may prove useful. Increasingly Business Analysis is becoming synonymous with systems engineering, which is technical and IT driven. Consequently a programming and IT background can be beneficial for certain areas. In order to provide recognition several key bodies have emerged:
The International Institute of Business Analystsoffers the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®). This qualification is awarded by the IIBA to candidates who have successfully demonstrated their expertise in this field. This is done by detailing hands-on work experience in business analysis through the CBAP® application process, and passing the IIBA CBAP® examination.
The Information Systems Examination Boardoffers a wide range of qualifications but of particular interest may be their Diploma in Business Analysis which provides a foundation in core business analytic skills.
Working ConditionsWork will normally be done in an office environment. IT specialist business analysis (systems and requirements engineering) will be particularly computer based. The work is often project based with analysis of a certain area and this can mean that as a deadline approaches hours can be very long. The project-based nature of the job can mean that a business analyst focuses on a particular project for an extended period. This may be as short as a couple of weeks for minor projects or up to 2 years for major analysis or changes to the business model e.g merger & acquisition implementation or buyout analysis. For the less IT dominated side the first stages will normally entail spending time with the management of a company and assessing their current systems and areas for improvement. This will define the scope of the project and will often be onsite and require good access to management and accounts. A period in the office, building and running models will then be common before presenting the proposed solution or range of solutions to the client. In this role an ability to travel and spend extended periods away from home can be necessary.
SalaryBase salaries for new entrants are normally around £25,000 -£45,000 depending upon industry and experience. The move into management consultancy - a somewhat natural progression - can increase salaries significantly and with reasonable experience it is possible to earn in excess of £100,000 plus bonuses. Consultancy work can be both on a self-employed or employed basis. Most of the big firms offer comprehensive benefits packages including pension contributions, death in service cover and private medical care.
SkillsThe list below is somewhat intimidating but most businesses will assist and pay for you to develop these skills and provide the necessary training. As with most jobs commitment, thought and a desire to learn are thus paramount.
AnalyticalAs the name attests, being able to analyse a situation and present a solution is key. Excellent attention to detail, the ability to monitor profit and risk outcomes and reporting and presentation skills are important.
TechnicalTechnical skills can be very important within this profession. Having a knowledge of programming and statistical modelling techniques (Matlab and Visual Basic) and financial statement analysis will be advantageous.
KnowledgeUnderstanding the business and having a wide appreciation of the business environment are imperative. Being able to learn about a business quickly and filter information is also important.
PersonBusiness analysts will need good communication skills and may need to present technical information. Tact is very important as evaluating a business can involve criticism of current practices and staff. Evaluating a client's needs and working well with people are important. Problem solving ability is a must. A client-facing analyst will need to be presentable and smartly dressed. There is a distinction between project managers and business analysts and some business analysts may be desk based and not need all of these skills.
ExperienceWhile it is possible to go into the IT side post A-Level (or equivalent) most of the major employers will expect education at degree level or higher and it is not uncommon to have achieved an MA or MSc. Experience of programming or modelling work is important although not essential. Having a background in a particular industry can prove beneficial.
EmployersMost jobs are within big consultancy firms. However, almost all large firms will have business analysts in one form or another.
Consulting and Management Consultant firmse.g. L.E.K Consulting, Mercer, AON, Watson Wyatt, Guy Carpenter, Oliver Wyman, Hewitt, Mckinsey & Company, Accenture, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and KMPG.
Career ProgressionManagement Consultants and Project Managers often work hand in hand with business analysts to meet clients’ needs. Successful roles in a range of IT careers are also common. There is an increasing trend for Private Equity houses to employ business analysts for their modelling skills. The rewards achievable in this profession can be exceptional but job security is limited and hours very long.
James Cameron, 26 years old is a Business Analyst working for Mercer Ltd.