Should business analysts learn data analytics – This is a question I encounter quite often, should a business analyst be technical or learn technical skills.
I would not say no to it and then the next question comes how much technical skills are right for a Business analyst.
This is what a business analyst asked me recently:
“What’s your take? What is your take on a BA’s role in data analytics? Should business analysts learn analytics (business analytics or data analytics)? Or there is a good amount of demand for pure play BA’s still and will it continue to have the demand. Can I continue being a pure play BA, documenting and modeling requirements for applications or should I learn data analytics and allied tools?
My answer to this:
Business analysis is an emerging and evolving role and growing rapidly.
That’s precisely the reason why you see global bodies like IIBA and PMI investing heavily into it.
Business analysis as a role may vary a lot from one organization to another, and there are wide variations in them.
Since this is an evolving and growing field, the roles and boundaries are still not well defined.
Business analysts do a lot of things.
- They gather, elicit and document requirements
- They ensure a smooth development of the established requirements
- They manage changes coming up to requirements
- They ensure that the development/technology team has understood the functionalities and requirements, and is moving in the desired path
- They also envision the product roadmap
- They talk and understand the need/issues of the stakeholders
- They also work as internal consultants
So as you see above the role is quite vast and varied, while as per BABoK V3, BAs are change enablers. This is quite true.
With all this how much technical skills is expected from a business analyst to know, this is a debatable question.
Some will say BAs don’t need to be technical, they are the functional experts. Some will say they need to be domain experts and not technical.
However, the below technical skills are essential for business analysts to perform their role:
Some excerpts from my article on IT tools for a BA – https://batimes.com/articles/top-10-it-skills-for-a-ba-grab-them-today.html
- Software Engineering Methodologies like SDLC e.g. Waterfall, Iterative (Agile/Scrum)
- High-Level Technology like Database structure, OOP – a good understanding of database concepts is a great skill for all business analysts.
- Knowledge of Reporting Tools – another great area of interest for Business Analyst is Reporting tools, BI and reporting mechanisms etc.
- UML and various Modeling and diagramming Tools (such as Rational Rose, Star UML (Free software) and Enterprise Architect)
- Modeling tools are something like an instrument for a BA. The popular modeling tools in use in industry are Rational Rose, Star UML (Free software) and Enterprise Architect.
- BPM Tools –
- They say a picture is a thousand words worth. BPM tools are useful for depicting the process in a visual manner. The Popular BPM tools are MS Visio and BizAgi (free software)
- Testing Tools – Business analysts are testers on behalf of the most stakeholders and sponsor for the application to see the light of the day. Test automation tools are a great productivity booster.
- Requirements Management Tools – Few popular requirements management tool in the market are OSRMT – Open source Requirements management tool, DOORS, Rational Requisite pro.
- Mindmap – As business analysts, we are expected to explore details about a particular situation or solution. Mindmap is a very helpful technique to elaborate any concept.
- Prototyping tools – Prototypes are great ways to evaluate and collect feedback on requirements and features.
Prototyping tools such as Pencil, iRise, SmartDraw are few popular prototyping tools. Of which Pencil is a free plug-in whereas iRise and SmartDraw are licensed products. Pencil, iRise, SmartDraw
- MS Office Suit – Last but not the least, it may sound very generic; however as business analyst s at any point of time we will have to be fairly proficient on the MS office tools like MS Excel, MS Word, and MS PowerPoint. These office tools are going to be handy for all our life, hence definitely worth to invest some good time in these tools.
Some more BA tools details can be found here – https://www.adaptiveus.com/top-10-business-analysis-tools/
Now coming back to my first question – do they need to keep pace with the new trends like data analytics to make their profile richer
My take would be as given above business analysis primarily revolves around requirements gathering, modeling, stakeholder mapping, stakeholder management. Solution assessment etc. but the flavors may vary.
On the contrary data analytics is a domain close to this phonetically but varies quite a bit from business analysis.
Data analytics primarily deals with analyzing a large volume of data, modeling the data with the intent of coming up with useful information and inferences.
It comes up with a hypothesis and behavioral pattern on the basis of predictive analytics to support decision making.
Data analysis uses statistical models to come up with the hypothesis and decisions.
Ex – Footfall pattern of a retail giant during various months of the year, and subsequent sales of the products.
Analysis of this data will help decision makers to procure items and place them in the store as per the behavioral pattern and the predictions of sales as per product.
Hence coming back to our question again, business analysis and data analysis though related in decision making, both are different from each other
The irony is in many organizations the terms are often confused due to the fact that they are phonetically similar.
There is a great future with pure-play BA role in making the requirements process stronger. Hence there is no compulsion or need to get to the other side of the fence and switching to analytics.
Being a pure-play BA one can continue doing all of this:
- Asking right questions
- Solving a business need or problem
- Thinking ahead for the product/solution
- Trying to solve the problems of the business users
- Coming up with better solutions that take care of stated and implied needs etc
- At a strategic level – Product visioning, road map etc.
Be it IoT, AI, Healthcare or Banking or any other domain the responsibilities don’t change much.
Continue to write and model better requirements if that fascinates you.
Continue to ask better and smarter questions, continue to elicit and model better requirements and build better systems.