With the technological leap in the IT and computing domains, an IT Business analyst in one of the most critical role in the information technology space. He is responsible to analyze the existing/new systems from different perspectives, recommend solutions and align the IT part of the overall business with the strategic initiatives of the organization.
The role of an IT business analyst is also one of the most financially rewarding role in the complete Business Analyst domain with the average salary of $84,000
Now, you might think that an IT business analyst has to know the in and out of the technologies that are being used in his project and might be even asked to sit and write some code for his project. Well, be rest assured, this can’t be further from the reality. Actually, IT business analysts are required to ‘think’ and ‘talk’ from the perspective of Information Technology.
Let’s understand how the existence of IT Business Analysts came into being – Before the advent of business analysts in IT, the work of requirement gathering, analysis and documentation were conducted by programmers and coders themselves. This was possible because the problems/challenges faced by any organization at that time were more on the technical side and less on the business side and thus, the programmers aptly fitted to the role. But gradually, the complexity of the issues faced by Organizations grew multi-fold and they were no more technical in nature, they were now a blend of business demands and technological hindrances – a combination out of the scope for a traditional programmer. There was a need for somebody who could understand technology, its implementation and suitability and still talk in terms of business – The birth of an ‘IT Business Analyst’.
An IT Business analyst, with his knowledge of Information Technology, act as a mediator between business and technology, proposes novel solutions and improves the overall quality of services and business operations. Furthermore, he is fully cognizant of the recent technological developments, has thorough understanding of the procedures and best practices of his domain and possess exceptional communication abilities.
IT Business analysts have grasp over application design, implementation and development concepts, they document and model data, participate in project management activities, conduct quality assurance and control, liaise with different stakeholders and are responsible to make sure that underlying technology is able to address the business issues.
I would like to call the job of an IT business analyst as highly ‘expandable’ (The ‘Sylvester Stallone’ of the IT!) – When the need arises they are ready to plan, elicit, analyze, document, liaise, validate, oversee and present while keeping a constant eye of the business perspective of every challenge they handling.
Listed below are the typical set of responsibilities an IT Business Analyst has to carry out. But, given the diverse nature of the job itself, IT analysts may see themselves carrying out additional tasks and activities specific to their project:
- Study the systems and operations and identify the scope of the problem – Done from the perspective of the business domain to which the project/issue belongs
- Liaise with key stakeholders and conduct brainstorming sessions to get exact requirements.
- Analyze the problem from different angles and perform gap analysis.
- Discuss the problem with the technical team and recommend technology needed to address the same
- Document exact business needs along with both functional and non-functional requirements.
- Prepare use cases, business requirements documents (BRD), system requirements specification (SRS) documents and other functional documents. Related Article – 9 Important Documents created by every Business Analyst
- Based on system needs, create prototype, wireframes, mockups and screens.
- For large projects, data and process models also needs to be created.
- Interact with the development team and help them understand the technical aspects of the solution.
- Oversee the development, conduct meetings and perform project management.
- Conduct usability and functional testing and recommend corrective and preventive actions.
- Present the developed solution to the concerned audience and solicit feedback.
- Participate in migration, handover, end user training and deployment activities.
Common Skill set
These are some of the more common skills that are expected from all the analysis roles in general and the IT Business Analyst role in particular:
- Analytical and problem solving skills
- Comprehension and interpretation capabilities
- Exceptional command over verbal and written communication
- Interpersonal skills
- Management skills
Specific Skill set
Apart from the skills listed above, detailed below are some of the specialized skills that the IT BA must have. Let’s run through them
- Knowledge of software development methodologies
In Information Technology space, the solution development for every project is carried out through a development methodology and the knowledge of these methodologies is one of the key skills for any IT business analyst to be successful. Some of the most common methodologies are ‘Waterfall model’, ‘Rapid Application Development’ and the recent ‘Agile Software Development’. A practical understanding of these methodologies will help an analyst figure out the process that will be followed for development, ‘what’ will happen ‘when’ in the development cycle and accordingly plan the analysis, elicitation and other activities.
- Understanding of business concepts and cognizance of technical frameworks
The business analysts must either have a prior background to business concepts (for instance an MBA) or must be well versed with the procedures, policies and processes that operate within global organizations. Additionally, they should also be cognizant of technical frameworks as they need to first understand the business priorities and requirements and then see how to achieve those requirements through the available tools and technologies.
Presence of both these skills in the arsenal of an IT business analyst will ensure that they have got what it needs to work as a conduit between business and technology.
- Data modeling and data mining skills
Data modeling consists of translating the layout of a system/application into easy to understand diagrams, flowcharts and models. A business analyst must be adept in creating such models and have a working knowledge of the different types of models. Since data modeling help identify relationships within the system to be build and also aids in highlighting any errors or ambiguities before the coding actually begins, this skill is one of the ‘must-haves’ for an IT Analyst.
Additionally, the focus today is on big data and organizations such as Dataminr have already started extracting relevant and real-time information for their clients from twitter and other social media feeds. Now, to work in such a setting, the IT business analyst should have an ability to handle large amount of data, asses it and draw out relationships and patterns. Well, this skills is not something unique that is being asked from an analyst and should be viewed as an extension of his existing analysis and analytical skill-set.
- Hands-on experience on different testing methods
Work of an IT Business Analyst is constantly hovering around web and application development and thus he can’t get away without a knowledge on the different testing methods. He should have a knowledge of how the developers are performing the unit testing, should know when and how to perform the functional testing, must perform system and integration testing, followed by acceptance testing. Also, an IT BA should aid the testing team in defining and creating the test cases and their structure and should help in carrying out the regression testing. Lastly, he should be able to assist the client in conducting the User Acceptance testing and must facilitate the same.
So, till now you would have clearly figured out how appealing the role of an IT Business Analyst is as they are one of the very few lucky ones who get to work within a unique blend of business and technology. In today’s agile driven environment, IT analysts gets to work in multiple projects at a time belonging to diverse background and domains and share a major role in each and every stage of the project – right from the creation of a project charter till the project rollout !
If you are a business analyst reading this, let us know your perspective about this role and how you think IT analysts today are contributing to the success of software projects.