Business Analyst

The Job and What's Involved

Business Analysts investigate and analyse business activities and use information technology (IT) to make them more efficient. For example, they may help a business to save time and money by producing an integrated IT system that deals with orders, payments, despatch and stock control.

Business Analysts can work in-house or be employed by a third party, for example a consultancy or software house. They usually work on a project basis and their job title can vary from one organisation to another.

Their responsibilities may include:

  • Working closely with the client's management team and staff, discussing the business structure, IT issues and requirements.
  • Interpreting the project and the client's requirements to create an appropriate IT solution.
  • Analysing how realistic the client's requirements are in terms of time, effort and cost.
  • Providing expertise in the modelling or mapping of business processes.
  • Presenting recommendations to senior management
  • Agreeing on a project schedule.
  • Liasing with staff to ensure the project budgets and deadlines are met.
  • Testing systems and identifying any bugs or glitches.
  • Running workshops.
  • Providing staff training and manuals for users.

A Business Analyst works as part of a team of IT professionals, which may also include systems analysts, programmers and designers.

The role of a Business Analyst can vary greatly depending on the employer and type of organisation. The size and budget of a project may determine how much responsibility the Business Analyst has.

A Business Analyst usually works between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines, including weekend and evening work.

They generally work in an office environment. Site visits may be required to gather information and interview employees. There may be some traveling, which could involve short periods away from home; a driving licence would be useful.

Part-time or flexible work is possible. Smart-casual or business dress is normally expected.

Starting salaries may be between £17,000 and £25,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Business Analysts are employed across all industry sectors, from financial and retail, to non-profit making organisations, local government and the health sector. Employers also include management consultancies, software houses and IT service or solution providers.

The IT industry is rapidly expanding, with new products and applications being introduced all the time.

There are job opportunities throughout the UK, with a higher concentration in south-east England and London. There may also be opportunities to work overseas.

Vacancies may be advertised on company and recruitment websites, in trade publications and in the local and national press.

Education and Training

Business Analysts are usually educated to degree level. Many have relevant work experience and vocational skills, perhaps gained as part of a sandwich course. They may have a technical background or move into this position from a business role.

One of the most common routes into this type of work is to be promoted from other departments in the organisation. Evidence of analytical and business skills is required, as well as an aptitude for IT.

The following are examples of qualifications that provide a good grounding in IT.

BTEC National Diplomas in computing, IT and business related subjects. Applicants need four GCSE's/S grades (A*-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. These courses normally last two years full time.

SQA National Certificate in IT. Entry requirements are four GCSE's/S grades (A*-C/1-3) or equivalent, and courses normally last two years full time.

Higher National Diplomas (HND's) in computing, IT or business subjects. Applicants normally need one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/S grades (A*-C/1-3), or a BTEC/SQA National Certificate or Diploma, or equivalent qualifications. Courses can be full or part time.

Degrees in subjects such as IT, computing, business systems and software engineering. Applicants need at least two A levels/three H grades, or equivalent qualifications. Employers consider applicants with degree courses such as computer science, maths and physics, as well as graduates of business, arts or humanities subjects who have a flair for problem-solving.

Degree courses usually last three or four years full time or four or five years for sandwich courses. Check with individual universities or colleges for exact entry requirements.

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Most training is on the job and includes in-house training courses combined with external qualifications.

Many private sector suppliers offer training and IT qualifications and there are NVQ's/SVQ's in IT at Levels 2 to 4.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential for Business Analysts to keep up to date with industry developments. Professional qualifications can be obtained from various organisations, including the British Computer Society (BCS) and the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS).

Supported by professional bodies, Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) and SFIAplus enable IT professionals to benchmark their skills against industry training and development standards.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A Business Analyst should:

  • Have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Have a good understanding of the business environment.
  • Be able to listen to and interpret their clients' needs.
  • Have project management skills.
  • Have strong IT skills.
  • Be objective, with a logical and enquiring mind.
  • Be adaptable and able to absorb information quickly.
  • Work well on their own or in a team.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Be thorough and precise in their work.
  • Be able to use their initiative.
  • Keep abreast of new IT developments.

Your Long Term Prospects

The career structure varies from one organisation to another. Business Analysts can choose whether to specialise in a technical, hands-on role, move into people management or work within another IT-related area, such as security.

One promotional route is to become a senior analyst and then to progress to project manager. Experienced analysts may also use their business experience and knowledge to find work as a management or IT consultant.

Business Analysts may move into teaching, lecturing or training, or become self-employed as contractors.

Get Further Information

The British Computer Society (BCS),
1st Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 01793 417417
Website: www.bcs.org and www.insidecareers.co.uk/it

Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS),
5 Kingfisher House, New Mill Road, Orpington BR5 3QG
Tel: 0700 002 3456
Website: www.imis.org.uk

Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP),
Charles House, 36 Culmington Road, London W13 9NH
Tel: 020 8567 2118
Website: www.iap.org.uk

National Computing Centre (NCC),
Oxford House, Oxford Road, Manchester M1 7ED
Tel: 0161 228 6333
Website: www.ncc.co.uk

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