I Want to Become a Business Analyst, What Training Do I Need?

As someone who wants to become a business analyst, you probably feel overwhelmed by the training options available.

  • ba-trainingThe list of EEP providers on the IIBA website spans 4 or 5 huge pages.  (We know, we start with “B” and you still need to scroll an incredibly long way down the page to find us.)
  • Your local university has an MBA program specializing in technology or business change and a relevant undergrad program too.
  • You might be lucky enough to have a local “BADD” or BAWorld Conference.
  • Then there are webinars, books, and mentors vying for your attention and your financial investments.

And even if you earn the right credentials, there are still those pesky experience requirements. How do you deal with those? (Luckily, we can help you tackle the chicken-and-egg experience challenge.)

But if you are in the market for some sort of training or professional development, how will you decide what will work best for you? Let’s take a quick look at some steps you can take to simplify your decision-making process.

What option will work best for you? That’s the question I’m going to help you find the answer to.

Step 1: Get Clear on What You Want Out of Your BA Training

There are so many BA training programs out there that you really get to pick and choose an option that’s going to fit your budget, learning style, and skill-building needs. But this also makes for a more difficult decision process. How do you get started? By getting crystal clear on the benefits you want out of business analysis training.

Ask yourself: When you see yourself 6 months or 2 years down the road, where will you be because you participated in a training program?

If you are not a business analyst today but want to become one, your answer could be, “I want to find my first business analyst job” or “I want to create a BA role within my current organization.” You might also just want to learn more about the profession, to determine if BA is the right career choice.

Step 2: Put Training in Context of Your BA Career Goals

Understanding what you want to achieve will help you break down your options. Examine your goal and consider what parts of that goal training will help you achieve.

There are a lot of pieces and parts to getting started in a business analyst career. Learning about the profession is important, but so are aspects such as building your professional network, building on-the-job experiences, searching for a job, or influencing your manager.

Often, formal training kick starts all of these other activities. And it’s very likely that you’ll leave your BA training program with a lot more on your to-do plate than when you started.

Step 3: Decide What Skills You Need to Learn

Everyone comes to business analysis from a slightly different place.

  • Some are excellent analyzers and need to improve communication.
  • Others are natural communicators and need to learn about formal analysis models.
  • Still others have done a fair amount of BA-type work but need to learn about the end-to-end project life cycle.
  • Many BAs that are just getting started assume they need specific IT skills.

You can find training programs that focus on any slice of business analysis. Most introductory business analysis programs focus on the business analysis knowledge areas — the set of techniques and activities a business analyst does, or what we might call the “business analysis process.” Other programs blend soft skills and BA skills. Still others situate business analysis within the entire project life cycle.

If you feel stuck here, you might start by completing a transferable skills assessment and seeing what experience you already have that’s related to business analysis. This should help you decide whether your learning should focus on the “hard” or “soft” skills of business analysis. Also, start looking at job descriptions to see what qualifications are required by those hiring business analysts. Don’t forget those underlying competencies as they often form the most important set of qualifications for new business analysts.

Step 4: Consider What Type of Training You Want

In today’s environment there are so many learning options. They range from self-study in an online environment to degree programs at a local university. As the amount of face time with your instructors and classmates increases, so does the cost. On the low-end, you might find a good online training program covering a specific skill set starting at $300-500. On the high end you might spend tens of thousands of dollars in a degree program that covers all aspects of business analysis. In the middle are short training classes where you might spend a few thousand dollars plus travel expenses, depending on your local area.

Do you want to spend a few days immersing yourself in the learning materials? Or, would you rather have bite-sized chunks that you can assimilate each week?

If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have been completely sold on classroom interaction in a live environment. But over time the online tools have gotten better and my approach to learning has matured. Today, I couldn’t imagine sitting in a classroom to assimilate professional knowledge.

My best recent investments have been in online learning environments where I can proceed through materials at my own pace and apply what I’m learning as I’m learning it. I learn by doing, so this combination has helped me achieve so much more than I ever did in a classroom.

Step 5: Explore Your Training Options

There are many options to learn about business analysis and achieve the benefits you are looking for, and it can help to think outside the box.

You might consider mixing and matching any of these options:

  1. University programs
  2. 2-5 day courses
  3. Virtual, instructor-led courses
  4. Online courses
  5. Conferences
  6. Local networking meetings
  7. 1-1 Mentoring or Coaching
  8. Group Mentoring or Coaching
  9. Webinars
  10. Books
  11. Study groups
  12. ….

If you want to get creative, you can blend these options to suit your own learning needs and style. For example:

  • A few well-timed webinars and a peer study group could give you the accountability you need to take action.
  • An online course such as the virtual, instructor-led training programs we offer here, can include some 1-1 coaching or documentation reviews.
  • Self-directed book learning could be paired with 1-1 mentoring to help you apply the new techniques successfully.

It comes down to what you have to invest financially and how you not just learn, but make forward progress. Because at the end of the day, what you want from training is not just head full of information, but to take a tangible step that moves your career forward.

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