Part detective, part interpreter and part visionary, a business analyst is 100 percent problem-solver extraordinaire. The business analyst’s role is to build a bridge between the business and IT sides of a company to facilitate a technical solution to a specific business problem.
What a Business Analyst Does
Business analysis begins with developing a solid grasp of an organization’s capabilities and structure. “A business analyst has to understand what a company already can do, what it knows, how it’s organized and what’s already in place,” said Gary Mesick, a senior business analyst at Boeing and an instructor in the Certificate in Business Analysis offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education. “It requires a lot of organizational and institutional knowledge to be an effective business analyst.”
Common Job Titles
Business Analyst, Management Analyst, Systems Analyst, Business Process Analyst, Requirements Engineer
Projected Job Growth
Washington State: 20%
Median Annual Salary
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; PayScale.
As a business analyst, you’ll need a head for business and technology because you need to gather and analyze information from both sides. When it comes to being tech savvy, though, you don’t need programmer-level abilities. But you do need a certain amount of technical aptitude. For instance, you need to understand an organization’s IT systems along with software development processes like Agile and Waterfall. You also have to be able to talk about tech options with IT professionals and analyze those options to come up with a solution.
In this role, your work culminates in presenting your analysis to decision makers. “Business analysts need to simplify and communicate the information they’ve gathered to a general audience who doesn’t understand all the ins and outs,” Mesick said. By doing this, you help stakeholders make informed decisions about a solution.
As you might imagine, a person who has such a strong combination of soft skills and technical talents is in high demand.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in management analysis, which includes business analysis, will grow at a rate of 14 percent between 2014 and 2024. A recent search on Indeed.com showed more than a thousand business analyst job openings in Seattle, including jobs at Amazon, T-Mobile, Nordstrom, Sound Transit, Microsoft and the University of Washington.
Mesick noted that the explosion of data, online businesses and new technology all contribute to this increasing need for business analysts. “Somebody has to serve as the translator between businesses and IT groups,” he noted, “and that translator is the business analyst.”
Breaking Into the Field
Becoming proficient in industry-standard tools and practices is a necessary step to becoming a business analyst. While you can learn on your own, professional training, like a certificate program, can certainly cut down the time you need to get up to speed.
“The benefit of taking the certificate is that it takes the knowledge areas in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge — the industry standard for business analysis — and turns them into practical action,” Mesick explained. “We say, ‘Use this tool, use this template, use this approach,’ and a student can actually do the work that's described in the body of knowledge.”
If you’re interested in becoming a business analyst, the Certificate in Business Analysis is a great place to start. You might also want to explore some of our related programs for more ways to keep learning.