10 March 2010

What is a Business Analyst, by Jan and Derek

Everyone that writes on the role of the business analyst eventually has to cover their take on what the role actually is about.

One of the best articles I read when doing research for my own position was by Jan Kusiak and Derek Brown. Last year I met Jan at the BA World conference and had a friendly argument about the value that a BA should provide.

My take went straight to the top of the startegic apex. A business analyst needs to be able to link their contribution to the organisational mission.

Jan countered with the fact that BAs develop their career over time and usually come out of frontline operations areas, first as an SME in either a business area of technology domain. He explained that a fledgeling analyst needs to master the basics of the role; communication, systems thinking and so on, before elaborating and extending their capabilities.

It takles a while, it seemed he was saying to me, for a typical analyst to really build their skills to a level that gives them the ability to get to where I think they (we) should be operating.

Fair enough. Everyone has their own path.

Anyway, RQNG has just published an updated version of Jan and Derek's take on "What is a BA."

If your work with business analysts, if this is your job today, or if you want to become a BA this is a great read.


  1. I think its time to change the title, or have alternate ones. I like "Requirements Specialist", because that's what it come down to, irrespective of all the other stuff that gets jammed under the "Business Analyst" umbrella.

  2. Me again.

    I want to disown the idea of changing the title completely, because (1) it is way too late to do that given the IIBA and CBAP, and (2) other roles have lots of different titles and sub-titles.

    So, I think "Business Analyst - Requirements Specialist" is a fine title.

  3. Business Analyst, Systems Analyst, Business Systems Analyst, Technology Analyst... I could go on and on about the different names that apply to the role. My take on it is this... I don't care what your title is, I want to know about what you do. I've seen Product Owners for software applications who are some of the best BAs I've ever met, even though they've never had that title or any formal training. Its what you do and how well you do it that counts to me.

    To paraphrase a southern comedian I heard in my youth, "I don't care what you call it. You can call the dish 'Corn and Beans' but its still Succotash."

  4. Thanks for all your comments, glad the paper offers some food for thought. Many of the ba's we come across in our training courses work for large corporates and are involved with maintenance and enhancement of legacy or core systems. There's not a lot of scope for creativity here - their job is very much just "documenting requirements". The more experienced ones tend to be working on business changing projects which offer a lot more scope for adding business value. This probably explains why ba job ads range from $50K salary to $150K or more. Sadly, many organisations don't see their ba's as anything other than documenters but we have to balance this with the fact that it's core systems that do the day-to-day work of large organisations.