16 Questions that help you decide if you want to be a Business Analyst

by | Nov 11, 2015 | Business Analysis

Are you confused on why you should choose your Business Analyst career? This interview clarifies most of the common questions you had about your career.

The conversation is between the founder of Apnacourse.com, Satish & founder of Adaptive US, L N Mishra. The discussion is about why anyone should choose Business Analysis as a profession, its future prospects and trends in the next 10-15 years.


Satish: Hello everyone, welcome to the Knowledge Series of apnacourse.com. I’m Satish, the CEO and founder of Apnacourse. In today’s session, we will focus on business analysis, its trends, opportunities and what the future lies for business analysts. I have with me Mr. LN Mishra.

LN Mishra: Hello everyone.

Satish: Founder of Adaptive US, thank you for joining in sir.

LN Mishra: Thank you.

Satish: Adaptive US is a leading training, and consulting, and a solutions firm in business analysis. Sir, I have a few questions from some of our business analysts. The idea of such knowledge sessions is to help them understand the reason behind business analysis, and get them up to date on what are the trends in it.

LN Mishra: Sure, sure.

Satish: Start with a couple of questions on what is business analysis. What is business analysis, and who is a business analyst?

LN Mishra: Very good. Let me explain business analysis in a very simple term. As we all know, businesses exist to make profits, that’s the primary factors why business houses exist, or business organizations exist. Business analysts helps organizations to do two primary things. One, it enables them to take advantage of the opportunities that is coming in the marketplace.

Say for example, today because of internet technology and a lot of advertisement in technology, there are a whole lot of opportunities which are coming up in the organizations way, which was unthinkable even five to ten years back. Second thing, organizations also have their existing problems, or challenges. Some of their processes may not be running well, sometimes they may not be able to serve customers on time.

Business analysts actually help organizations to take advantage of the opportunities that is coming in the marketplace, or solve their internet challenges. These are the two main activities what business analysts do.

Satish: What are the skills that are needed by a business analyst? It has to be specific skill set, or anybody can become a business analyst?

LN Mishra: To my knowledge, anybody can become a business analyst, there is no reason why somebody cannot become a business analyst. It’s a lot to do with common sense, a lot to do with stakeholder interactions, and of course, if you want to become an IT business analyst, then you need to learn little bit more on the IT side of it.

The business analyst that we’re typically getting to see in India, and US, and many other countries, are IT business analysts. Those people of course need to have some knowledge of IT, but I have seen in my own life people who started their careers in human resources, they started their careers in finance, sales and marketing, they all happen to be successful BAs. It’s nothing like that you must be MBA graduate, or an IT graduate to become a business analyst.

At the same time I would clarify that you must be willing to learn new things. If you’re not willing to learn new things, you will never become a good business analyst. If you are good in business, you need to learn technology, if you are good in technology, you need to learn business.

Other than that, I do not see a major stumbling block in somebody becoming a BA. Of course as a BA, we primarily interact with stakeholders because we need to understand their challenges and expectations, so BAs must have good communication and facilitation skills, they must have good understanding of technology, and a little bit on requirements; design, modelling, those aspects, and good documentation skills. These are the three key skills that BAs should have.

Satish: Okay, because you mentioned IT, are we trying to say that only IT has a huge demand for business analysis, or is it that of the various industries, IT seems to bring that demand because of its requirement analysis and documentation processes?

LN Mishra: True. When we come to requirements engineering, a large part of it is of course dealing with IT organizations, but if you are looking at an enterprise analyst career, it is common to all sectors. There is nothing like, hospitality can’t have business analysts, schools can’t have business analysts, any organization can have business analysts. But the typical demand is from IT sector, that’s what I’ve seen in India and the US, but other sectors also will open up, and they will take business analysts.

Retail has started taking a lot of business analysts, financial services has started taking a lot of business analysts, which was not the case even five years back.

Satish: As a business analyst, is there a certification or a training that somebody goes through to become a business analyst, or it is the company that just designates a person as business analyst?

LN Mishra: Of course the designations do come, but in my opinion, you can learn yourself, it’s not that you can’t learn yourself, but a self-learning is a very long process, and you may lose out time, you also may not get adequate guidance on what is right, what is wrong.

You can always learn through experience, but that would be a hard teacher, and it may take you three years. So you would have lost three years of valuable time in learning something that is desirable. The same thing possibly can be learned in a month if you are going through a structured training.

Coming to certifications, there are many popular certifications today which are available in the market. One is CBAP, Certified Business Analyst Professional from IIBA. CCBA, Certificate in Competence in Business Analysis, again from IIBA. CPRE, Certified Professional in Requirements Engineering from IREB. Then there is the certification coming up recently from PMI which is called PMI-PBA, and British Computer Society’s Business Analysts certification. So there are a couple of good certification skills available in the market. The advantage for a person who does not have a background, if he or she gets certified, it proves the fact that, that person knows basics of business analysis, so the clients, or customers, or organizations, are open to talk to them.

Satish: Is there a difference between these five certifications you mentioned, or do they compete with each other? What’s the difference between a CCBA and a CBAP?

LN Mishra: Coming to CCBA versus CBAP, there are two levels of certification. One, CCBA is typically aimed at junior business analysts, so typically if you have about three years experience, you are eligible for CCBA. If you have five plus years of business analysis experience, then you are eligible for CBAP. That’s the main difference between the two certifications, otherwise the programs, curriculum fees, are pretty identical.

The other course which is CPRE is again meant for junior business analysts, but the good advantageous part is, it does not have the experience criteria, so anybody can take it, that’s a plus point, and the exam fees are also much more reasonable. I would always advice people who are starting their career, to look at CPRE, and those who have already spent some good amount of years in business analysis, to look at CBAP.

Satish: Post CBAP or a CCBA, have you seen a significant growth in a professional’s career? It could be in terms of better projects to handle, in terms of better income.

LN Mishra: Yes, yes, it is. In fact we have seen with our participants their salary jumping anywhere between 50% to 80%. Significant jump in their career, salary, kind of organizations that they were … There is a significant change.

Satish: You see this trend to continue for the next five, ten year or so?

LN Mishra: I believe so because business analysis is a very upcoming field, it’s not an old field, so there are not many professionally qualified people. I think worldwide there are probably about 30,000 qualified professionals, only 30,000 which is a very small number, and the demand runs into millions actually.

Many organizations have realized that to have a successful project, they must have BAs, which was not the case 10, or 15 years back. That realization has come to the industry, and that is where you will see a big demand coming up for business analysts.

Satish: In today’s world of analytics taking space, people talk of SMAC, IoT concepts, would business analytics take precedence over business analysis?

LN Mishra: Actually business analytics is a subset of business analysis. It’s actually a subset, but it relies quite a lot on data. Since many organizations have gathered plenty of data over time, the systems have build together data, that’s what happened. Now there is a good demand for analyzing this data, to understand the pattern. In fact in future, business analysts also would be expected to know business analytics.

Please understand the skills are complimentary, they’re not going to compete with … Even I keep telling, even if you’re a project manager, you’ll need to learn business analysis, because in future these roles should get fused and the person who is capable of performing multiple roles will probably go up. If you are capable of performing only one type of role, the roles may come down, you never know. I’ve seen personally project management is actually going down, the demand for pure play IT project managers has drastically reduced.

The people are looking at a role which is more of a combination of project manager, and a business analyst. I will strongly suggest don’t bother whether you’re called a business analyst, you’re not called a business analyst, learn the skills, skills will take you ahead.

Satish: Because you mentioned this fusion of roles, do you think as a business analyst, the person needs to know the programming language of analytics, like Hadoop or Cloud?

LN Mishra: No, that is not required, unless you’re looking at a career in business analytics. Otherwise a pure play business analyst need not know programming language, that’s not generally expected, but it is good to know data models, that is the only technical part that I would suggest business analysts to be aware of.

Satish: Assuming that the learning of data models is easy?

LN Mishra: It’s not very hard, it’s not very hard. Anybody can understand. In fact when we train people, we almost spend a day on understanding data, data models, so that people are familiar with those concepts.

Satish: Given these outbursts of startups in India, you would have seen this growth in the last couple of years. Do you see a figment of business analysts in startups, because we’ve almost always spoken of BAs in the MNCs or large IT companies.

LN Mishra: See, many of the startups that will come up in India, they will be in product space. If you observe the startups, they’re not services, and all product companies do need business analysts. Somebody who would understand product requirements, document them, and make it available for developers. Startups also would have a large number of BAs. There’s that sometimes BAs are not called as BAs, that’s how it is. They may be called as product owner, project owner, but essentially, they’re business analysts.

Satish: In the market today, do business analysts have an identity? Can a business analyst go to the market and say, “I am a business analyst,” like a software engineer?

LN Mishra: Yes, it does. In fact, many large organizations have business analysis competencies being formed. I know BA competency exists in Tata Consultancy, it exists in Cognizant, it exists in CGI. There are many organizations which are setting up their BA competencies so they would have a career path also later for BAs. In fact, I would suggest anybody who is looking at a CXO opening, they must have been through some business analysis experience in their career.

Satish: Post a certification, a certification is like a tag, suppose a tag like a CCBA or a CBAP, what is the next level for a business analyst?

LN Mishra: One, all of these certification schemes also have levels. Like when you do CPRE, there is a purely foundation level, advance level, and expert level, so there are career progressions available. I would also suggest to them to look at even other areas, like maybe you can do a program on Strategic Change Management, because once you are a very senior business analyst, you can actually be assigned to the responsibility of transforming an organization.

Looking at a course on Strategic Change Management, all those things will evolve, because BA is a relatively recent phenomena. Even when I was a BA in Infosys, we were not called BAs, and that is just about 15-year-old story. The BA as a profession is kind of about five to ten years old, designated I would say, it was always there, but I think the career schemes and parts will open up as we go.

Satish: Is it right to assume that business analysis has demand globally, so it’s not only an India or a US …?

LN Mishra: No, no, no. Business analysts are there everywhere in the world. In fact we have got people from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East, Africa everywhere, every part of the world people coming and joining our programs. It’s a global requirement, there’s nothing to do with India or US. Organizations are there everywhere, and they all need help.

Satish: Where do you see business analysis evolving in the 10 to 15 years? You said it will fuse into the analytics and the project management space, but do you see a larger role as business analysts becoming the key growth drivers of organizations?

LN Mishra: Yes. In fact if you look at all senior management roles in a company, are practically business analysts. If you are the CEO of your organization, are you not thinking about doing product lines?

Satish: I do, yes.

LN Mishra: You do? Do you not look at market expansion?

Satish: Right.

LN Mishra: You do? These are all business analysis activities. Just that we may not call you BA, we put a designation out on a person, but what you’re doing is practically business analysis. Entire top management of any organization you take, all [C-level] people are practically business analysts. In my view, every organization should take a look that from middle management upwards, everybody must have an expose to business analysis skills, whether they’re designated a BA or not, it’s very immaterial.

Satish: Just to finish off wholly as icing of the session, what would be your secret sauce to aspiring business analysts?

LN Mishra: Okay. Please understand BA is not a very easy role, some people have an impression that BA is an easy role, it’s not. It requires a lot of hard work, and it also requires your skills to gel well with a lot of people, because you are a kind of an integrator, you’re talking to multiple people.

It’s a fantastic career to have, I have been a BA for so long, 15 to 20 years now almost, I have enjoyed every day of doing my BA work, so many products and solutions that I have developed and designed which has gone to market. It gives me that pride that the systems that I envisaged are actually in production, including the last one that we went live was for the largest petroleum company in Oman, and it has gone live successfully, and it has been thought of being progressed towards a government level entity. That means the entire Oman would use that system. It gives you good pride that your systems have been going around, people are using them, they’re finding value in it. It’s a fantastic experience.

Satish: Sure, I know. Thank you so much Mr. LN Mishra.

LN Mishra: Thank you Satish for this opportunity.

Satish: Thank you. Most of your insights into business analysis will help a lot our participants to know more about it, and as you rightly said, CCBA, CBAP and CPRE are growing certifications, there would be a good demand for them, we will keep our participants appraised. We will touch base again in a future date.

LN Mishra: Thank you, thank you so much.

Satish: Cheers, thank you so much.

Satish Rajagopalan, CISA, ITIL Foundation
CEO & Founder at Spearhead EduOnline Pvt Ltd. (the company that owns and operates ApnaCourse.com). He holds a btech in Computer Science, an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and a post graduation in Finance. Read More.

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