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What is a Business Analyst?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Business analysts are business professionals that concern themselves with evaluating the overall structure of a given business, including such important facets as sales and marketing, management, accounting, systems management, facilities, and labor. The range of analysts run the gamut from the Accounting business analyst to the IT business analyst. After making an objective evaluation, the business analyst usually offers constructive suggestions on how to improve the efficiency of specific areas of the company, with an eye to increasing both the stability and the profitability of the company.

For many years, a business analyst would apply general principles to just about every type of company, regardless of the industry affiliation. To a degree, this was often successful, as the basic principles regarding risk management, communication processes, utilization of labor, and process management translate well into just about any business setting. As computer technology emerged in the middle of the 20th century, the IT business analyst emerged as a way to help companies convert to electronic data use rather then relying strictly on traditional methods. Today, many business analysts continue to provide this level of service across the business community, often helping many struggling companies to make changes that put the operation on a better foundation.

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In recent times, it is not unusual to find a business analyst who focuses on a particular industry or a limited set of business functions. One modern example is the business analyst that specializes in evaluating the information technology infrastructure of a company. The IT business analyst tends to focus on the quality of the computer hardware used in each department of the company, the efficiency of the network that links all sections and locations of the company together, and how efficiently information flows from one area to another using software and databases. Often, the IT business analyst that specializes in IT functions is able to offer constructive advice on how to integrate one or more components of the system, or possibly migrate to a new software package or network. This is done with an eye toward streamlining the flow of data and improving the bottom line for the corporation as a result.

An IT business analyst may require anywhere from a few days to a year in order to complete a detailed analysis of a company and develop a comprehensive report that identifies strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for changes. In some cases, an IT business analyst may choose to contract with the client to remain on board while the upgrades or enhancements are implemented.

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Mammmood
Post 4

@allenJo - There is a huge demand for people who can fill this niche—acting as liaisons between programmers and end users. IT business analyst jobs pay very well, from what I understand, and some people get hefty bonuses. If you can manage projects in such a way that you save the company money and contribute to its bottom line, you will usually be rewarded.

allenJo
Post 3

@Charred - They are similar, but the business analyst is more detailed. The business analyst spends more time working on requirements, measuring outcomes (i.e., what was promised versus what was delivered) and producing progress reports. They sometimes give specific direction to programmers using flow charts or other computer diagrams. In other words, the business analyst gets down to the nitty-gritty details of getting the job done.

The project manager has more of a high level overview—they just want the job done, they’ll leave it to the programmers to work out the details. Because the business analyst gets involved in the details, he or she must be familiar with programming concepts. It’s for this reason that many who choose a business analyst career come out of a programming background, either having worked as developers or as programmer analysts. The project manager does not need that kind of experience.

Charred
Post 2

@allenJo - That’s interesting. But what is the difference between business analysis and project management? From what you’ve described those duties could be performed by either one.

allenJo
Post 1

The IT Business Analyst job description involves being able to meet with both the developers and the end users to come up with a solution to a problem. As such the business analyst needs to be able to speak two languages—“computerese,” so that they can talk with programmers, and business, so that they can talk to the end users or the stakeholders.

At a company I worked for the business analyst came up with a list of requirements, milestones, expected deliverables and timetables for delivery for the project we were working on. At the time we were trying to build a back-end data warehouse for an intranet in our department, and the business analyst was critical in working with the I.T. department to let them know what we needed to get the job done on time.

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