Does a Business Analyst Have to Have the title of “Business Analyst”?

Editor’s Note: You may have seen that CNN just published a new ranking of jobs with high growth potential. I was encouraged and discouraged to find business analysis at #26. We made the top 100, but shouldn’t we be higher? Jake Calabrese provides this fictional conversation to highlight an alternate interpretation of the top 100 list.

Tom: Hey Jerry, nice to see you, it’s been a few years! How have you been?

Jerry: Doing well, summer was a blast, did some camping, hit some concerts, was a lot of fun and non-stop… I guess like everyone is these days.  Been working as a business analyst for the last few years, it’s really interesting!

Tom: Really?  We have some BAs at our company, they are great typists!  Kidding… uh… really… but seriously, that’s a step backward, writing down what people tell you?

Jerry: Um… that’s tough to answer… there are a lot of people who have different definitions of what a business analyst does… I don’t want to get caught up in titles.  A business analyst is someone who is engaged in solving real problems for organizations.  There are people who “document requirements”, but most business analysts are doing far more than this.  They are working on…

Tom: I’m not convinced, but for the sake of argument, suppose I buy your story… you know I have been a Development Manager for years, like you were.  Why would I want to work in a position as a business analyst where it is a step back money and prestige wise? I mean I have “Project Manager” on my business card now, you think I want to change to “BA”… that sucks!

Being open to alternate titles can open otherwise closed doors within business analysis.

Jerry: Well, as I said there are a number of titles out there, with a ton of room to grow.  I actually just about a CNN Money poll that put IT Business Analyst as the #26 job in the top 100. Also, while I call myself a business analyst, my business card says “Management Consultant”… I think that trumps a PM 🙂 .  I also have to add that a Management Consultant is #3 on the list.  They describe it as: “Advise companies on how to grow the business or battle a problem. Economic upheaval is forcing many firms to rethink strategies, creating a need for advisers on everything from pricing and operations to cost-cutting and sales growth. Information technology consulting is one of the fastest-growing areas, as is helping companies explore international markets.”  That is what I do and I love it!!

Tom: Interesting… so BA’s have a real career path?

Jerry: Is there any other?  Here, take a look at this list… Software Architect is #1, they do business analysis and need coaching, mentoring and help on many projects.  Healthcare Consultant is #16 and the description sounds like business analysis to me…  “Conducts organizational studies and evaluations, designs systems and procedures, and prepare informative manuals to assist healthcare organizations and hospitals in managing their healthcare system more efficiently and effectively”.

There are a number of other positions that have tremendous overlap as well.  The Program Management Director is very similar to many Business Architect and Enterprise Business Analysis positions out there.

I think in many cases, BAs get caught up trying to defend a title, rather than focusing on the value they bring.  They sell themselves short and limit their growth.  In my current position,  I do some coaching and one of the largest issues I run into with business analysts is that they do not have the confidence to really realize what they are contributing and how valuable they actually are. I’ll email to the link to the article: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/2010/full_list/index.html.

Tom: Interesting… I’ll have to think this over.  I am going to talk to some others and see what comments they have on your ideas…  It was nice seeing you, let’s get together for lunch sometime soon and talk more…

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Comments

  1. This reminds me of the arguments from Total Quality Management proponents in the 80s/90s. No one really listened to them or understood the value that they could bring to their companies (at least in the UK) and those that remained were barged out of the way by an army of expensively trained Six Sigma Black Belts.

    I work as an independent business process consultant and gaining the IIBA’s CBAP qualification has made me a better consultant. Unfortunately, too many people in the UK seem to think that a BA is ‘something to do with IT’.

  2. Jenny Nunemacher says:

    I’m often not comfortable with my title of business analyst, either because no one knows what it is or they think it’s a financial analyst type job. Fortunately, I haven’t had anyone think of the role as limited to being a scribe.

    I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work with community groups, and in those contexts I represent myself as either a generic analyst (I can analyze whatever is needing analysis!) or more specifically, and operations analyst who focuses on improving operations to meet (or sometimes clarify-then-meet) organizational goals — with a little bit of scribe and communicator thrown into the mix as well, since I am so good at it. 🙂

  3. Great comments! The IT BA does always seem to the focus. I see some signs of moving beyond that, but so many people are still unsure what a business analysis really means, it is a slow process. The management consultant really is the “organizational analyst” (business or organizational consultant are 2 more). The take away to me is to call your self what you need to, in order to get people to quickly “get” what you do. The skills you have may be business analysis… perhaps that’s not your title.

  4. Historically, I’ve gone on record as a big proponent of those in a position to influence the profession to use the title — it seems to me that this is a big way that we help support business analysis becoming a bonafide profession that is widely recognized.

    Here’s a comment I made on why I wrote a “Business Analyst Manifesto” instead of a “Manifesto for those that do Business Analysis work.”

    “But there is something special about those who embrace being a business analyst over and above incorporating business analysis work into their role. It doesn’t mean you have to have the title in your job, but to stand up and say “I want to be a business analyst” or “I am a business analyst” is the kind of career self-identification that’s important to the profession of business analysis.”

    http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/about-bridging-the-gap/business-analyst-manifesto/

    In a job search or consulting sales situation, I agree with Jake 100% — use the title that will resonate with the person you are speaking with and don’t get hung up debating titles.

    But, this doesn’t mean that titles don’t matter. I would still like to see business analyst inch it’s way up this job list and whatever others are out there like it, if only because then the management consultants who are not actively involved in the profession might be encouraged to take notice and get involved. And this builds a stronger profession for all of us to participate in.

    And for this to happen, we need to embrace the title when we are in a position to do so — maybe after we land the job or the client. 🙂

  5. Nathaniel Maras says:

    I see it is inevitable at some point that these titles will change to fit the employers or clients perception of what they need versus who they think can deliver for them. Its quite an interesting point that a lot of employers or clients perceive BAs to be synonymous with IT. And I can understand why this is, as well as why Tom (blog) exclaimed they were just good typists.

    If we break down what the majority of analysts (BAs) are doing and I think it is fair to say that they are paid within companies to support or help develop systems. Where this occurs, you have a fairly much defined scope and a boss who tends to set it and determine what gets done – a PM or a director. Not many BAs work for business solving their problems directly.

    I believe this is because there are other players involved in this lucrative space. Jerry (blog) claims his a management consultant. Government and Private sectors are full of these guys and they are making a killing out of it. What is interesting is that the skill sets are fairly similar – the difference is how you are engaged to begin with. It makes sense in the market place for these firms to continually ensure that these differences (how they are engaged and what they can deliver) are defined and separated.

    The last thought I have on this is that people get so caught up on titles and not about the value they provide (like the blog poster said). If you look around in many companies, there are a plethora of people from all backgrounds doing ‘business problem solving’ and ‘adding value’. They would never bundle themselves as a ‘BA’. And, for every non-BA who provides great value and BA who ‘types’ within a particular domain – this further compounds the pre-existing notion for the client, of what a BA does.

    There was a recent post in Modern Analyst from Eric (Mendix) who spoke about the ‘business engineer’ and certainly there are a lot of people in design – business management – consultant roles who enter this space and convince clients about the better value they can provide to ensure greater efficacy.

    The trouble is for the BA I see is that the sacred ground we stand on is being eroded. Its a big say I know – hear me out.

    We have developers, PMs, architects, business, UCD, testers, process modellors, rules analysts, consultants, designers background people doing more and more of the BA role, which is tending to cut the amount of engagement business clients have with us. Each of these other discipline are expanding their skill sets and influence domain to improve the sense of value they provide. Where to for the BA: into technical or the management consultancy space? The current ground is to broad and easily occupied by other – it like centrist politics!

    Either way, if BAs all do not straighten their backs and prop their chests out with a sense of purpose and meaning in what they do – someone else will occupy this space. And this is the crunch – its dependent upon you the individual to make that difference, win the next job, get that promotion and gain a better reputation as a ‘doer’ and someone who breaks the back of work, is resilient, resourceful and gets results. Hey, that sounds like other jobs again – so we better get cracking and getting better.

    Regards, Nat

  6. Nat, Thank you for your thoughtful comment

    “We have developers, PMs, architects, business, UCD, testers, process modellors, rules analysts, consultants, designers background people doing more and more of the BA role, which is tending to cut the amount of engagement business clients have with us. Each of these other discipline are expanding their skill sets and influence domain to improve the sense of value they provide. Where to for the BA: into technical or the management consultancy space? The current ground is to broad and easily occupied by other – it like centrist politics!”

    What a great point! And, yes, I see this happening all the time. Business analysis is a fertile ground and many, many professions are well-positioned to inch into it. There’s nothing about what we do that makes it irrefutably “ours.” It’s up to us as individuals, just like you said Nat, to seize opportunities and occupy our space.