Understanding the basic principles of business may seem like a matter of looking at the amount of money coming in as revenue against the amount of money spent, but that doesn’t give you a full understanding of the underlying performance of any company.
To better understand these metrics, business analysts are often brought in to study, organize, and educate companies to be lean, mean, efficient money-generating machines. They do this by looking at workflows, policies, and specific business needs and opportunities.
Business Analyst Background
Business analysts typically operate in one of four fields:
- Business development (i.e., define business needs and opportunities)
- Business modeling (i.e., calculating expected and potential growth of a company based on their market)
- Process design (i.e., creating or adjusting internal and external workflows to standardize them within specific team and departments)
- Systems analysis (i.e., building operational rules for the business and specific requisites for operating in the company’s information technology space)
While these four fields may seem disparate, they are interlinked through a business’ operations. After all, how does a company’s IT policy inform its growth opportunities? To answer the appositional question in the previous sentence, if a company is unable to store customer information on an internal server, they aren’t able to grow their relationship with that or any customer.
Requirements And Necessary Skills
There are many skills needed in order to excel as a business analyst. To develop your abilities, you’ll need to be adept at cost-benefit analysis and forecast modeling. To communicate company needs, you’ll have to be adept at technical writing and public speaking. You’ll need to be able to lead people by setting forth a vision and having the documentation and knowledge to back up any requests.
In order to understand the underlying systems of any company, a business analyst will need to be well versed in many software applications, from the Microsoft Office Suite to database interfaces like Tableau or Periscope. Knowledge of SQL will aid in deep dives of the business’ collected knowledge and metrics.
Many online job descriptions will also list more specific requirements:
- Able to influence and convince stakeholders
- Direct reports and manager projects
- Detailed knowledge of internal systems and the ability to adapt to the latest software and technologies
- Conceptual thinking skills
- Comfortable delivering good and bad news to executives and team leaders
- Develop relationships both within and without the company
- Expert-level technical and documentation skills
- High-level time management skills, with the ability to break down tasks into their component parts and explain them to a layman
- Lead teams and projects from initial to final stages
- Past history of leading and managing major projects
- Solution-oriented, with the ability to provide feedback and not just criticism
Salary Overview And Growth Trends
The average salary range for a business analyst is between $81,000 and $149,000 nationally. This range is in line with the need for analysts in most companies as they grow, scale, and need to become more efficient.
To note, there are many factors that may determine how much you make on a yearly basis:
- Company size
- Level of completed education
- Location of company
- Previous experience
While it is possible that a company may not require a master’s of business administration (MBA) to be hired for a business analyst position, most likely it will be a necessity, especially if you have little experience in this arena.
As companies become more data-driven and focused on key metrics to understand and drive their business needs, analysts will become more and more necessary, thus creating plenty of opportunity for those in this field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests growth of 12 percent in this field by 2026. This means that 96,000 business analyst openings are expected to be available over the next eight years.
Specific Areas Of Need For Business Analysts
So, having gone over the subfields of business analysts, as well as the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in this position, why is the business analyst field growing? Beyond the need for better understanding of the business or the company, analysts see opportunities as companies become increasingly more modern.
There are two aspects of data integrity that are important here. The first, and perhaps most important, is data security. Business analysts often work closely with their information technology and security counterparts to identify security shortcomings in their networks and servers. By analyzing and identifying these potential shortfalls, companies can keep their information secure and out of the grasping hands and prying eyes of hackers, competitors, or general ne’er-do-wells who are seeking to profit off this internal, confidential information. There are bad actors out there who are attempting to do damage by leaking internal financial information, sought-after research, or even the areas of potential business growth and development.
Another way to think of data integrity is accuracy. Internal data and metrics are useless if they do not precisely measure what they are supposed to measure. For example, if your company is weighing the efficiency of its customer service team, various metrics will be recorded, such as average call length per customer service representative or internal quality assurance scores. (It turns out when a business states a call is being recorded for training purposes, they aren’t lying).
However, if the method of recording these metrics is off, or if the data doesn’t adequately describe what it’s supposed to measure then the integrity of that data is nil. For example, think about measuring a call center agent’s impact solely by call length, not the number of calls per hour. This ties into other aspects of growth, such as operational efficiency.
Information And Cyber Security
Similar to data integrity, companies are increasingly concerned about information and cyber-security. Remember the recent retailers and credit agencies who’ve dealt with hacks that have leaked compromising customer information, like social security numbers or credit card information?
As companies continue to move their interactions with their customers online, business analysts must work with their information security counterparts to identify these vulnerabilities and close them. If they are unable to do so, a company will not be able to grow and scale, as customers will not trust them with their personal information.
Operational Efficiency And Impact
Business analysts are often focused on efficiency and impact. Data-driven companies are continually fine-tuning their internal workflows and methods, so they can maximize each employees value and minimize time spent on efforts that don’t lead anywhere.
So, business analysts must use their analytical mindset to measure how each team works and determine their real impact. If a concierge-style squad dedicated to high-revenue clients isn’t shown to increase that revenue further, then perhaps the efforts of that team are best directed elsewhere or suited for other tasks.
The best projects of specific, measurable goals let each project contributor, as well as the company at large, know when they’ve succeeded and when they’ve failed. Business analysts are well-suited to determining those goals and ensure they are both realistic and worthy of the team’s time and attention.
As companies grow and the number of projects increases, making sure teams are pulling in the same direction as the company becomes ever more critical. Without highly skilled business analysts paired with each project manager, it may prove to be impossible to know when the project is fully completed.
Business analysts can live in a world all their own, with multiple professional certifications available to help your earning potential:
- Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
- Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA)
- Certified Foundation Level Business Analyst (CFLBA)
- Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE)
- Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)
- Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) Certification
As companies become increasingly modern and data-driven, the need for well-skilled business analysts will continue to grow, as will business analyst salary. While this may seem like the need is mostly centered in tech-heavy locales like Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Austin, even traditional businesses will need to operate efficiently, with high levels of data integrity and security. This means that no matter where you are located, there will be opportunities for this position.
Due to the high skill floor needed to be a business analyst, salaries are often just as high, with the lower range sitting in the low $80,000s. With enough experience at your back, along with an MBA and a proven track record of success, it can be relatively easy to crack six digits, regardless of whether you are working for a small or large company.
If you have your MBA, are comfortable dealing with numbers, metrics, and data, and are confident in your ability to communicate these things both orally and through writing, then being a business analyst is a worthwhile profession.
If you find pleasure in locating and solving operational inefficiencies, working across teams and departments to measure their business impact, and identifying new critical areas of potential growth, both in and outside of the company’s current markets, then being a business analyst isn’t just a high-paying, worthwhile position, it can be a fun one, too.