Business analysis is a hot field. But within that field, some skills not usually associated with business analysis are becoming especially valued. The hottest Business Analyst skills today are becoming those that help businesses change quickly to meet rapidly changing technological progress.
If you’re a Business Analyst with these skills on your resume, you can expect plentiful job choices in the years ahead. If you are already a Business Analyst or are just getting started, consider gaining some of these skills to complement your toolkit.
Are “traditional” BA skills still among the hottest business analyst skills?
Yes they are. Skills like requirements gathering, business process re-engineering, and the other activities of business analysis continue to form the core of how organizations can transform their businesses.
But it’s also important to understand that the Business Analyst’s job role is evolving. No longer can a BA rely only on the traditional skill set. Today’s market demands more. Technology is transforming business at an increasing rate of speed, and BA’s must adapt. Gaining knowledge of these disruptors–and how business analysis complements them–sets a Business Analyst up for future success.
Here are the hottest skills for Business Analysts–outside of the “traditional” BA skills–that I’m seeing right now.
If you use Gmail, you are familiar with cloud computing (or at least one kind of cloud). Business and government entities are quickly moving reams of systems and applications out of their locally hosted/owned data centers. These applications are moving to distributed computing platforms provided by vendors with expertise in building highly scalable infrastructures that are much more efficient and cost-effective than owning the IT assets yourself. Not everything is peaches and cream, however, since cloud computing brings with it a host of governance, security, and data privacy issues.
The deployment of cloud computing has serious impacts on business organizations. This requires Business Analysts to assume the critical role of helping to manage that change. There are many tasks related to cloud computing that a Business Analyst may take on. A few examples include managing technical requirements, re-engineering business processes to accommodate cloud, negotiating Service Level Agreements with cloud providers, and monitoring performance of cloud environments to ensure the business is getting what it pays for.
Data and Analytics
Data is another huge growth area, and any expertise in this field is in high demand. Other terms used to describe data expertise include “business intelligence” and “analytics.”
There are four components to data requiring somewhat different skill sets. The first is data analysis, where you work with raw data and learn insights from what the data tells you. The second is data architecture, including identifying the best sources of data and figuring out how to make it available across an enterprise. The third is data presentation, where you move data from its raw form into informative graphics and charts that help to tell a story or monitor the performance of an organization. The fourth is predictive analytics, where you use data to predict what will happen in the future.
The most probable data role for Business Analysts is data presentation. This requires a BA to use state of the art tools like Tableau to provide insights about what business data says. She will often do this for executive and non-technical audiences. But a Business Analyst can also contribute in other ways including identifying data sources, writing data-related requirements, or even just scraping together some quick data for an ad hoc report.
Robotic Process Automation
If you have not yet heard or read about Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs such as “Amelia,” you will soon. They are borderline sci-fi scary. These cognitive programs have the ability to learn quickly from sources such as the internet or internal documents, and apply that knowledge to solve problems in real time. To give one example of where that is useful, a customer contact center (that place you call when you have trouble with your Amazon order, credit card, etc.) is an ideal place for an AI like Amelia. The more questions she gets, the more she learns (by quickly researching) and stores away in her memory for the next time someone asks her a question. Before long, she can answer just about anything a caller may ask her.
AI will require substantial changes to the business processes of any organization that installs it. Processes must accommodate the AI’s need to learn through querying available information sources. Those sources must also be structured semantically in a way that the AI is able to read and process the information. Workflows may also need to change based on the sequence of events that an AI requires. Business Analysts with the proper knowledge can play a key role in all of these activities.
One of the controversies in the Business Analyst community is what role a BA should play in the “Agile” software development environment. There is no established role for the BA among the three named roles–product owner, project manager, developer. This raises a question about how a Business Analyst can adapt to an agile environment. However, there are many other roles also not specifically named in Agile (architect, risk manager, QA analyst, etc.), but they are still important. The same is true for a BA.
In my opinion, a good BA can occupy ANY of the three major roles in Agile and add major value. In doing so, however, she must acquire the additional skills needed to fill the role. A BA product owner must become a true advocate. A project manager BA must learn to manage. A BA on the developer team can be a bridge between the business and developers if she understands technical jargon.
Business Analysis remains as essential as ever, Agile or no Agile. A BA can therefore add value anywhere that business meets technology–including in the Agile environment. BA’s with Agile skills will do very well as Agile continues to spread.
User Experience (UX) design is the process of maximizing the satisfaction of someone who uses technology. We are all familiar with websites and software programs with horrible interfaces that people hate to use. UX design is the way to make sure that doesn’t happen with your system.
Many Business Analysts are familiar with creating “wireframes” or mock ups of what system screens should look like. This is simple UX design. But UX design encompasses an entire discipline that applies specific techniques, methods, and processes to maximize user satisfaction when interacting with technology.
UX design is especially hot because new technologies are changing the way that people interact with computers. For example, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, which superimpose images over the real world, will increasingly demand new ways of giving commands and interfacing with computers.
At its heart, UX design is another way of figuring out a business need. It therefore bears much in common with business analysis. As such, it’s not too difficult for a BA to gain UX design expertise if he wishes. Plus, there are business analysis activities that complement UX design including requirements, usability testing, and ultimately ensure true customer satisfaction.
Whether a BA learns UX design himself or knows how to work with UX designers, he will enjoy many job opportunities.
What do you think are the hottest Business Analyst skills in the marketplace right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments!