Now Is A Great Time To Be A Business Analyst
Business analysts come in two flavors. There's the "accidental analyst"—the person who wakes up one morning to find themselves thrust into this new and mysterious role, hoping to figure out how to do this successfully before anyone notices their overwhelm, or who's been dragged kicking and screaming into the role. (Yes, the one over there, with the drop-jawed, deer-in-the-headlights expression.) And then there's the "deliberate analyst" who's weighed the options with care, and enthusiastically chosen the role for its match to personal interests, strengths, and skills.
If you've been thrust into "playing business analyst" as a sideline to your "real" career, thank your lucky stars, because it may just be the career opportunity of the moment. But if you've navigated here deliberately, pat yourself on the back; you've made an extremely well timed choice.
What makes this such a great time to be a business analyst? Three factors have changed in recent years: There's unprecedented support for business analysis as a profession. The International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) now offers worldwide professional recognition, with uniform standards and widely recognized certifications. The latest edition of the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge has helped establish a common terminology and a set of repeatable processes and competencies. There's been an explosion of resources, including books, scholarly articles, online tools, blogs, professional training, and coaches who'll guide you wherever you are.
Just a few years ago, the IIBA didn't exist, and "business analyst" was a catchall term for people in roles that vaguely seemed to match the title. There wasn't much in the way of common vocabulary, consistent tools, resources, or support for learning. There's a new, widespread, growing recognition of the value that business analysis brings to the table. The profession is becoming ever more widely recognized, with a consistent definition of the role, and increasing appreciation for its value. Business analysts, business systems analysts, and systems analysts now use similar tools, strategies, and concepts, especially in information technology.
Last but not least, it's been hailed as a recession-proof job. Career expert Laurence Shatkin ranked Computer Systems Analyst as the most recession-proof job in2008, in his book 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs (referenced in this Time Magazine article). And US News & World Report included Systems Analyst among the 30 top jobs for 2009.
There's never been a better time to exercise business analysis skills for the greater good. Consider, for example, these highly transferable skills:
- The ability to get to the root cause or source of problems and issues, and help choose the best approach for solving them. Consider the environment, the economy, and the countless other problems that now impact our world. Those with the ability to unearth the root causes are best able to help solve the right problems.
- The ability to translate business goals into objectives, objectives into concrete needs, and needs into solutions. Consider the businesses and governments that hold lofty goals that they need to turn into actionable objectives. Those with the ability to turn high-level goals into tactical solutions can help us succeed.
- The ability to communicate clearly, unambiguously, and effectively. Think of the mountains of information that cross our paths daily, and how little gets through, how much is misunderstood, and how buried we are by the sheer volume. Those with the ability to clarify and shorten key messages can help us break through the drivel.
- The ability to listen to what someone is saying, and hear what they mean. Think of our increasing isolation in a highly connected world. Think of the heartache and conflicts caused by failure to hear and be heard. Those with the ability to listen can help us regain our human connections.
- The ability to build and maintain relationships. Consider how rapidly we now judge others, and how easily we build walls between us. Think of how readily we turn on each other in to compete over money and other material gains. Those with the ability to build relationships and nurture them through adversity can help us work toward peace and common good.