Business Analyst Job Description - Responsibilities, Skills and Requirements
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What Does a Business Analyst Do?
A business analyst is a professional who helps companies to improve their business processes in order to achieve certain business objectives.
Let's try to answer this simple question: business analysts - what do they do?
The aim of a business analyst is to make organizations and their processes leaner and more efficient and to help companies implement the changes they need to make to remain competitive.
To do this, business analysts start by analysing the current situation and the company’s processes (for example, in a manufacturing company, the supply chain, marketing, sales, finance and control processes). They then identify the company’s needs and, on the basis of the evidence gathered, identify solutions to meet those needs. The chosen solution may be a strategic organizational restructuring, an optimization of management processes, the adoption of new business models, or the design of a new technology system and the roll-out of new software and automated processes.
Once a company’s objectives have been identified, with input from the various company departments (e.g. marketing, production, sales, operations, accounts), a business analyst will then plan strategies designed to meet those objectives and determine the budget needed to put them into practice. The next step is to define the requirements of the project or plan to be implemented to meet the company’s needs and to communicate those requirements clearly and effectively to the various stakeholders involved (a process known as requirements elicitation).
Next, business analysts identify Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that can be used to monitor business performance and gather data to verify that results are in line with forecasts. They produce periodical reports and statistics comparing the actual and forecast situations and analyse the results together with the project team, the project manager and the clients. On the basis of the data gathered, the business analyst develops strategies to resolve any problems that arise and to achieve the desired objectives.
Business analysts use a variety of business analysis tools and techniques to identify needs, define requirements, monitor progress and verify results. These include Business Intelligence tools for gathering and processing large quantities of raw data (Big Data) and identifying significant trends and new business opportunities. Data analysis techniques can be used to make forecasts of market conditions and user/consumer behaviour and to provide practical recommendations for optimizing processes and increasing their efficiency in order to secure competitive advantages for the company.
The analytical skills of a business analyst can be applied to virtually any type of business activity and in fact they are used by companies and organizations from a vast range of sectors, including telecommunications, IT, banks, insurance, manufacturing, transport and logistics, e-commerce, supermarkets, retail and public service.
Some business analysts focus on a specific area of business. Specialist analysts include:
- IT business analyst - specialist in innovative Information Technology solutions (also known as an applications analyst)
- CRM business analyst - analyst who works with data regarding clients. Specialist areas include analysing client behaviour and monitoring the response to marketing and sale campaigns
- Sales business analyst - specializes in analysing sales data by channel, category, market, carrying out profitability analyses and supporting sales managers with sales planning and forecasting
- Supply chain business analyst - specialized in optimizing and monitoring supply chain performance
Many business analysts work for consulting and systems integration firms, where they work to help clients innovate and improve their processes, while others work in-house as employees of companies big enough to have their own internal business analysis function. While this latter category of business analyst will mainly work in an office, consultants carry out much of their work at their client’s offices. Working hours will tend to vary, depending on the project(s) an analyst is working on and the deadlines that have been set.
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Business Analyst Duties and Responsibilities
The responsibilities and duties of a business analyst include:
- Identifying a company’s needs and objectives
- Defining an action plan and a budget
- Identifying and constantly monitoring KPIs
- Analysing gaps against budget and forecasts
- Processing data and presenting it in periodical reports
- Identifying critical areas and opportunities for improvement
- Proposing plans to improve the results obtained
- Performing data analysis to support the company with strategic decision-taking
One of the most important responsibilities of a business analyst is facilitating communication between the company departments and stakeholders with the aim of ensuring that any new processes or systems are aligned with the needs of the business units affected.
How to Become a Business Analyst - Education and Requirements
There is no single set route for becoming a business analyst, although the ideal candidate would preferably hold a degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Information Technology, Economy, Engineering Management or a similar field.
Business analysts also need information technology skills and the ability to use advanced tools designed for analyzing and processing large amounts of data (e.g. data analysis, modeling and visualization tools)
Other desirable characteristics include a knowledge of corporate processes, marketing and project management, as well as previous experience, either in the same role or in a similar function - for example as a functional analyst or process analyst.
Business Analyst Skills and Qualifications
Job adverts for business analysts often require the following skills:
- Ability to gather, organize, analyze and evaluate data
- Knowledge of principal business analysis tools (MS Excel, SQL, flowcharts)
- Experience working with databases
- Report-writing skills
- Analytical skills
- Organizational and planning skills
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Collaborative approach and problem-solving skills
What's the Career Path of a Business Analyst?
A career as a business analyst will typically begin in a junior position. Applications for such positions are usually invited from recent graduates and young professionals interested in working with data in a dynamic and competitive environment. To progress from here to a position as senior business analyst, candidates will require a talent for interpreting data, precision, the ability to complete projects on their own initiative and a problem-solving approach. A job as a business analyst may be a springboard to a job as project manager, program manager or business strategist. An alternative might be to focus on developing one’s Business Intelligence skills and become a business intelligence analyst.
Finally, with their process analysis and project management skills, business analysts are well placed for a move into a management role, for example as a planning and production manager.
Top Reasons to Work as a Business Analyst
A career as a business analyst could be the ideal choice for anybody interested in a career focused on innovation in which data analysis skills are used to achieve strategic objectives.
Business analysts examine processes and create innovative solutions with a high technology content designed to obtain the desired results and achieve continuous improvement. With each new project bringing fresh challenges, the work is never dull and offers the opportunity to interact with a variety of different people. One of the main appeals of the job is the ability to measure the impact of one’s own work on business results and to contribute one’s personal expertise to the success of a company - undoubtedly a source of great professional satisfaction.
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