Business Analysis is a complex field. It contains a large number of disciplines and techniques necessary for success. That’s why it’s important to understand that the term Business Analyst applies to a generalist role. In addition to that generalist field, there are also several Business Analyst specialist roles to be aware of.
A good analogy is to the medical profession. Your family doctor is a generalist, but when there’s something seriously wrong with you he will refer you to a specialist. A generalist’s knowledge is broad but not as deep. By contrast, a specialist’s knowledge is narrow but deep. The same holds true in business analysis.
Who hires people for Business Analyst specialist roles?
Whether a generalist or specialist BA is best for a role depends on an organization’s business demands and available resources. Some organizations may have business issues that do not require the deep expertise of a specialist. Small businesses may have a limited budget that requires hiring fewer people with more generalized knowledge.
Other organizations may have deeply complex business problems that require a much higher level of expertise in a particular area. They may look to hire individuals that can do specialized work.
Here are four Business Analyst specialist roles that are hot on today’s market, along with the skills they use.
Business Process Analyst/Process Improvement Analyst
A Business Process Analyst (or Process Improvement Analyst) is an individual with deep knowledge of how to document, model, change, and create business processes.
It is distressingly common to find business organizations that have limited or no documentation of business processes they support. If the documentation exists, more often than not it is out of date or inconsistent. When the time comes to improve a process or create a new one, nobody has any real idea of the details of what currently exists.
A Business Process Analyst comes to the rescue. First, she probably has knowledge a formalized business process “language” like Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN.) She will also likely know how to use a BPMN tool such as Appian to create process models that are consistent with one another, stored in a common repository, and using common elements across models.
A Business Process Analyst knows the right questions to ask to discover every detail of a business process. Once she fully understands and documents an existing process, she is able to create a future process that enhances or changes the old one.
In the most complex work, a Business Process Analyst will use a Business Process Management (BPM) suite of tools to document, change, and manage business processes. These tools can actually create software code automatically based on the models. Businesses love this, because it standardizes the management of processes and reduces the need for expensive custom coding.
Business Rules Analyst
A business rule describes what happens when a certain set of facts exists. They are true-or-false statements that are compared with incoming information to determine an outcome. A simple example of a business rule is for a bank to approve a loan to a borrower if and only if he has a certain credit score or higher. The typical business organization is full of business rules.
A business rule is related to, but distinct from, a business process. A process describes a sequential set of tasks to produce an outcome. Business rules provide the framework in which processes operate. Business rules are independent of, and apply across, business processes.
A Business Rules Analyst specializes in capturing, managing, and creating business rules. The skill they use is what you would expect if you sat down and wrote every single rule for playing chess. It can be a massive undertaking, requiring meticulous attention to detail. Similar to business processes, an organization often has little or no documentation of its business rules.
A Business Rules Analyst may manage business rules in a way similar to which BA’s do general requirements management. A more technically minded Analyst may work with a Business Rules Management System (BRMS) such as Drools. These tools store business rules as their own component that is separate from software code. This separation of components makes business rules easier to maintain “on the fly” without having to resort to software changes. The BRMS may also include its own software that processes business logic with a minimum of custom code.
Business Intelligence Analyst
Business intelligence (BI) is the use of data and analytics to obtain meaningful insights about your business. A BI analyst is someone that makes those insights happen.
Businesses are awash in data that they don’t know what to do with. They increasingly generate data on every business process, problem, and solution they have. The advent of the Internet of Things promises to make things exponentially worse. Alas, the data often just sits there, unused.
That is why the BI Analyst is one of the hottest Business Analyst specialized roles. Businesses are crying out for someone who can tell them meaningful information that derives directly from the organization’s data. They want to make faster, better decisions based on their data.
Business Intelligence Analysts are experts in telling a story. They use data as the building blocks, creating something captivating that the target audience easily understands. The stories may simply be reports the business uses to monitor performance. Or a BI Analyst can construct dashboards that summarize large quantities of data on a simple interface. BI Analysts prepare charts and graphs necessary to support information on executive presentations. And the most advanced form of BI is actually predicting the future based on current data trends.
BI Analysts usually learn a tool such as Tableau that provides advanced analytics capabilities. But you can build BI with something as simple as a spreadsheet. Either way, you must know how to use the tool to dig deep into the data and pull back what you need to tell your story.
By the way, if you want examples of the compelling stories that data can tell, then be sure to check out the r/DataIsBeautiful sub-reddit.
Business Systems Analyst/Systems Analyst
To understand what a Business Systems Analyst does, you must know about the role of a pure Systems Analyst. A Systems Analyst is a technical role that sits between business analysis and software development. Similar to a BA, a Systems Analyst may capture technical requirements that developers need to produce code. They may also create high level software design documents. Systems Analysts generally have full understanding of solution architecture, which provides the blueprints for properly creating the software. They may also capture the details of interfaces between a solution and interfacing applications.
A Business Systems Analyst, then, exists on a spectrum between a pure Business Analyst and a technical Systems Analyst. A Business Systems Analyst understands technology well enough to know what is possible for creating and enhancing business solutions. He is not as technical as the Systems Analyst, but neither is he completely technology-agnostic like a pure Business Analyst.
The position requires sufficient mastery of data, processes, and technology to understand how they work together. The Business Systems Analyst can then leverage his integrated knowledge to guide Systems Analysts and software developers on how to create solutions that best meet business needs.
Both the Systems Analyst and Business Systems Analyst roles are in high demand. Since a BA is often called upon to act as a “jack of all trades,” some organizations need a specialist with technical chops to help shepherd a solution past the pure requirements stage.
Putting it all together
As you progress in your Business Analyst career, you may discover you have an interest in one focus area. Knowing the available Business Analyst specialist roles in demand can help guide your career in the direction you want.
These roles enable an organization to conduct a “deep dive” into a complex problem that the business must resolve. Not every business needs a specialist, since generalized knowledge is often more than enough. But when it does, these specialists bring deep expertise.