A business analyst (BA) is a person who processes, interprets and documents business processes, products, services and software through analysis of data. The role of a business analyst is to ensure business efficiency increases through their knowledge of both IT and business function.
Some tasks of a business analyst include creating detailed business analysis, budgeting and forecasting, business strategising, planning and monitoring, variance analysis, pricing, reporting and defining business requirements for stakeholders. The business analyst role is applicable to four key areas/levels of business functions – operational, project, enterprise and competitive focuses. Each of these areas of business analysis have a significant impact on business performance, and assist in enhancing profitability and efficiency in all stages of the business process, and across all business functions.
Business analysis has been defined as "a disciplined approach for introducing change to organization" through management, processing, and interpretation of data in order to "identify and define the solution that will maximize the value delivered by an organization to its stakeholders".
A business analyst's job description tends to include "creating detailed business analysis, outlining problems, opportunities and solutions for a business, budgeting and forecasting, planning and monitoring, variance and analysis, pricing, reporting, and defining business requirements and reporting back to stakeholders".
There are many business activities which the business analyst is involved in. Some areas in which business analysts can have an important role are in financial analysis, quality assurance, training, business policy and procedures, market analysis, organizational development and solution testing. More specifically, business analysts are required to use the data which is gathered for the purpose of analysis and interpret greater meaning for the business. This can then be used to improve business performance through identifying areas for potential growth, cost reduction, understanding customer behavior, and observing economic trends and forecasts, and then reacting appropriately.
Successful business analysts should influence the business environment by providing reliable guidance in decision making for the future through observing data which reflects the behaviour of the business in the past. Business analysts are essential at all levels of a business, as both tactical and strategic planning require analysts who help with "incremental improvements to products, business processes, and application".
Business analysts have an increasing need to provide a business with sustainable solutions. The Business Analyst "plays a key role in making sustainable choices, providing direction to business and influencing demand for specific technologies". Business analysis practices have the opportunity to use business data in a positive way, which can lead to the transition of a sustainable world.
Due to the range of applications a business analyst can have, there are specific areas in which they can function. Kathleen B. Haas describes the requirement of business analysts in four areas of business – operations focus, project focus, enterprise focus, and competitive focus.
Business analyst skills can be applied to a variety of roles within business processes.
Business analysts can also work in areas relating to project management, product management, software development, quality assurance and interaction design.
These skills are a combination of hard skills and soft skills. A business analyst should have knowledge in IT and/or business, but the combination of both of these fields is what makes a business analyst such a valuable asset to the business environment. As a minimum standard, a business analyst should have a "general understanding of how systems, products and tools work" in the business environment.
Some IT employees may transfer from the area of IT into a business analyst role, as their skills are often applicable in both.
There are broader categorized skill sets which business analysts require in the work place.
There are a number of qualifications that can lead to a career as a business analyst.
The combination of all these skills and qualifications provides the business environment with deeper understanding into the behaviour of markets, products, competitors, economies, and operations within and around a business.
A successful business analyst requires access to large amounts of data, and in the process of using this data they must be aware of challenges relating to data privacy, careful management of analytical resources, team success, and effective communication of results to external parties. Considering all these factors into their tasks reduces the risk of inaccurate conclusions being drawn.
Data privacy is an increasingly common issue, as social media and Big Data are becoming more prominent, and hence it is important for businesses to ensure that they handle and distribute only the necessary data to the appropriate employees.
Management of analytical resources is necessary for business analysts to consider, as there are many ways in which a business can implement high initial costs in the process of analysis of data, and hence resources should be carefully managed so as to not lose business profits.
Team functionality and success is important in all areas of business, and business analytics is no different. Business analysts work best in environments where group dynamics are balanced and teamwork is maximised to ensure the best conclusions are drawn from the data.
Effectively communicating to external parties is an important challenge for business analysts. The language a business analyst uses in their every-day job is likely to be difficult for other groups within and beyond the business to understand. Hence, it is essential that the business considers how they communicate their conclusions to others.
Some business analysts of significance include:
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