Business Analyst in IT – how do you become one?
In my previous articles I’ve laid out my personal views on what is that a Business Analyst do and what kind of skills should he or she master. But how do you become one? What is the optimal way to start a career as an Analyst in IT industry? This article guides you through the stages of entering into this profession.
From the professional standpoint, people working as Business Analysts usually originate from the tech industry or have general business background. Those with a technology background are often educated in IT area and they have planned their careers as an Analyst from the beginning. There are also IT specialists (software testers or developers, deployment specialists, etc.) who at some point decided to change their professional profile by becoming Analysts. A separate group are those people who hold no formal IT education but were previously working in specific industry areas and have a vast knowledge in a particular domain.
Regardless of what you career path have been so far, if you plan to become a Business Analyst, the advise and tips below may prove helpful.
Know the theory
The easiest advice would be to say: “read the BABOK”, but that would be also an understatement. The idea is to build your knowledge on firm foundations. When planning a career as a Business Analyst, it is best to familiarize yourself with the industry’s theory and specific terminology. Of course, a great source for this type of knowledge is naturally the BABOK, widely recognized and respected publication. Another potential resource is the IREB Syllabus. The IREB (International Requirements Engineering Board), next to the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), is another well established association related to Business Analysis.
A well structured theoretical knowledge serves as an appropriate base that will let you absorb industry’s related information in an easier and more effective way. Particularly when studying the practical know-how on specific techniques and tools. Knowing the so-called best practices on early stages of your career allows you to avoid making common mistakes and will shorten your way to reach the desired level of professionalism.
Once you have the knowledge, it is good to highlight it and communicate it to others (your potential employers) by getting certified. When you obtain a certification, not only it confirms your knowledge, but also proves the fact that you treat your Business Analyst career seriously and are involved fully.
Both institutions mentioned before (the IIBA and IREB) have prepared relevant certification, designed for analysts in early stages of their careers, or those who are planning to get into Business Analysis professional field.
ECBA (Entry Certificate in Business Analysis™)
IIBA offers a certification on the ECBA level. As the name indicates, this is a basic (entry level) certificate for Business Analysts. It is of course based on the BABOK.
You must fulfill the following conditions in order to obtain this certificate:
- Register on the IIBA website and create your personal profile
- Collect 21 ‘Professional Development (PD) hours’, which usually translates into 21 hours of professional training
- Agree to the terms laid out in the ‘Code of Conduct‘ and ‘Terms and Conditions‘ documents
- Pass the exam
- Consists of 50 questions
- Lasts 60 minutes
- Is based on the BABOK
- Is taken online
- Is conducted in English
Unfortunately, the passing score for this exam in not officially communicated. Information on fees related to this certificate may be found here.
CPRE (Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering) Foundation Level
The CPRE Foundation Level is a basic level certificate offered by the IREB, intended for junior Analysts. The knowledge scope required to get the certificate is defined in the IREB Syllabus which is available in English and Polish (as well as in other languages).
You must fulfill the following conditions in order to obtain this certificate:
- Pass the exam
- Consists of about 45 questions
- Lasts 75 minutes
- Is based on the IREB Syllabus
- Is held in one of the IREB certified and associated examination centers
- Is conducted in English and Polish (other languages are also available)
The passing score is 70%. Information on fees related to this certificate may be found here.
English language is the key
When planning your career as a Business Analyst, being fluent in English is essential for several reasons. First reason is that the IT market is dominated by projects where English is the main language used for communication. Even when the entire project is developed in Poland, very often it is also intended to be marketed abroad and at least some of the stakeholders are based in a foreign country. It will be very difficult to work effectively as a Business Analyst without being able to communicate in English.
The second reason is that most industry publications and valuable sources are available exclusively in English (e.g. the BABOK). Some publications are translated, in more or less professional manner, but it is best to use the sources in their original form. This approach will also allow you to get familiar with the industry’s specific terminology which originates mostly from the English language.
Mind the knowledge gap
In one of the previous posts, I described the main knowledge areas useful in Business Analysis. What to do in case you find that you lack some of the key skills? There is a variety of opportunities to help you close the knowledge gap.
Universities would be the obvious places to start looking for some formalized knowledge. Many of them offer courses specifically on Business Analysis or courses related to this area. There is no doubt that by studying IT you will develop your technical skills, learn about designing web or mobile applications, or get to know some programming languages. If you study management, you will be exposed to the knowledge on how to model processes, analyze organizations and other related issues. The faculties of economics may also offer some indirect content on Business Analysis matters.
More and more universities offer postgraduate programs related to Business Analysis. A good example is the Wrocław University of Science and Technology with their postgraduate course on Business and Systems Analysis. The formal university education is, without a doubt, a good and effective way to acquire the knowledge necessary to start your career or to organize and structure the knowledge you already have.
The basic publication for every Business Analyst should be ‘A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge’, the well known BABOK. The earlier you familiarize yourself with its content, the better the quality of your work and your career outlook.
There are plenty of publications on Business Analysis, both in Polish and English. They are mostly focused around best practices, popular techniques, modeling, etc. The list of recommended publications will be presented in the series of posts under the Recommended Publications category.
The market for various trainings and courses on Business Analysis develops constantly. There are many companies offering their bespoke training programs or courses based on the recognized standards (mostly on standards worked out by the IIBA and IREB). Some of the courses are even certified by these two organizations. Some of them also prepare candidates to take the exam and obtain the points required to get the certificates.
Events and meetups
There are various events and meetups dedicated to Business Analysis. You can easily find a list of upcoming events on relevant websites and Facebook profiles. Usually, these events start with a short talk, an introduction to the subject, followed by a discussion between the participants. This is a great networking opportunity and an occasion to engage in an interesting and productive conversations while learning about different viewpoints and other people’s experience.
Of course, blogs are an excellent knowledge source too 🙂 You can find at least several blogs worth your attention.
The final step of your preparations to start a career as a Business Analyst is of course finding the right employment. Unfortunately, most companies require few years of experience, which is an issue to everyone who just makes their first steps in this area. This approach, however, is changing, and maybe due to the increased demand for Business Analysts’ work, more companies are willing to engage the ‘Juniors’ – people who are just starting their careers as Analysts. These companies increasingly perceive Juniors as an investment. Sure, in the beginning they will require some guidance, extra training, supervision and help in fulfilling their tasks. But in the long run, the effort will pay off in a form of well qualified employee effectively performing his or her duties.
Companies open for Business Analysts who just start their career may be found on the online platforms listing IT jobs. Luckily for Juniors, there seems to be more and more positions directed to them.
- If you plan to become a Business Analyst, start with getting the basic theoretical knowledge
- If you already have the basics, identify potential knowledge gaps and address them
- When looking for a university course, check the reputation of the institution, check the profiles of the lecturers and, above all, examine the course program and cross check it against your goals and expectations
- Familiarize yourself with the recommended publications, especially on matters like: modeling, collaboration with stakeholders, techniques for collecting and describing the requirements, etc.
- Get certified – it will confirm your knowledge and involvement
- Study English – most probably it will be essential when you start working as an Analyst