Recently we have been getting a lot of people asking us about and coming to the site looking for information on “How to Become a Business Analyst.” This is a great sign for the profession, but in looking to point people to information I wasn’t really happy with what was out there. So, I took a few minutes to put together my thoughts.
There is no set way to become a Business Analyst (BA). The field has seen many changes over the last 5 years, but there still is no right way to become a Business Analyst. Many times people transition to the role from past work as a Programmer or Project Manager, since in many smaller organizations the BA responsibilities are performed by people in these positions. After a while organizations tend to see the benefit of having true, dedicated Business Analysts and individuals who excelled at performing the responsibilities while in other positions are the logical first choice. However, more recently the growing popularity and need for business analysis professionals has resulted in the creation of business analysis degrees/certificates at higher education institutions. Though still in their infancy, it is possible in the future that we will see a shift towards obtaining these degrees/certificates before entering the business analysis field.
Nevertheless, if you are looking to become a Business Analyst here are a few suggestions on how to get started:
Become a Member of the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis)
Started in 2003, the IIBA is an independent non-profit association focused on furthering the field of Business Analysis through dedication to the development and maintenance of standard practices, and certification and recognition of practitioners. They created the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) as a collection of knowledge within the BA profession that serves as a reference for standardization and accepted practices. With 100 chapters worldwide, and thousands of member around the globe, the organization is a great place to network with people already in the Business Analysis field in your local area or industry. They have links to free resources, webinars, communities, and even job boards to help you get started.
A few years ago the IIBA also introduced the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) designation, awarded to those who have successfully demonstrated their expertise in the field. More and more companies are beginning to recognize the CBAP designation and the value and expertise these professionals bring to their organization.
For more on the the IIBA visit www.theiiba.org
Find a Business Analysis Mentor or Network
You will only get so far on your own. Utilize those around you or those that have come before you to help expedite your way to becoming a BA. These people are valuable resources with gems of knowledge. You can learn from the successes and failures to make your road to business analysis an easier one. Ask them about the resources they used, the books they read, training they took, etc. These people can also be a support structure to help you through difficult times when you have questions or find yourself frustrated. Tap people passionate about business analysis who are active in the community.
And don’t forget to network with people who are also looking to become Business Analysts. These people are in the same boat as you. You both will be able to feed off of each other and maintain motivation.
Educate Yourself on the BABOK Knowledge Areas
There are 6 Knowledge Areas as laid out by the IIBA’s BABOK. They are: Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Elicitation, Requirements Management and Communication, Enterprise Analysis, Requirements Analysis, Solutions Assessment and Validation, and Underlying Competencies.
You can find a wealth of knowledge on these Knowledge Areas online for free through whitepapers, web seminars, podcasts, and blog posts. There are also plenty of books, including the BABOK itself, which can be used to get up to speed, but they range in price. Whether you decide to seek certification through the IIBA or not, knowing the BABOK Knowledge Areas will be vital to your success as Business Analyst. They will help you speak in widely accepted terminology, as well as give you a strong foundation on the principles and deliverables suggested by the IIBA.
Seek Professional Development Training
If you get through the first two, it would be worth your while to then seek out professional development training. Tons of courses and Boot Camps are available to help you get up-to-speed quickly. Self-study and education through available resources is great, but the expert advice and hands-on experience gained in training courses is a vital asset. Many people start off strong when self-teaching, but often initiative and ambition falls off after a while and they find themselves stuck. Training offers you the chance to get revitalized by meeting others in the field, while providing you with a wealth of knowledge in a short amount of time.
Training can be expensive, but programs like the ASPE Scholarship Program have come up out of the increased number of unemployed professionals seen our struggling economy. They help fund training for individuals looking to change careers or extend their skill set to make them more marketable in today’s job hunt.