4 Surprising Reasons Your First Business Analyst Job Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Expect

You finally find a job as a business analyst! You start your new job with high energy. But then days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. One day you wake up and realize that while you might have the business analyst title, this isn’t at all what you expected out of a business analyst job.

Two of our community members are dealing with this very issue.

I need help with a bit of an identity crisis. I was recently hired as an IT business analyst. After 6 months on the job I realize that what they really want is more like a project coordinator or admin assistant. My boss forbids me to write design documents or detailed requirements for our software projects. How can I turn this around, or is it likely to be a mistaken hire?

***

 I recently made a big change; moved overseas and managed to get a Business Analyst position coming from a more Service Delivery in IT/Telecommunications background. However the job hasn’t been what I expected so far…I have been here for almost year and while I think I have done some good stuff here like writing training and other documentation as well as testing some pretty complex solutions, I haven’t really had the opportunity to do any of the core BA activities. What advice would you have for this sort of situation?

What’s going on here? There are a few reasons why this might happen.

The Job Title Was Wrong In the First Place

It may be that the manager or human resources professional in charge of putting together the job description simply titled it wrong. Take a second look at your job description. Do the responsibilities line up with the definition of a business analyst role?

If there isn’t a fair amount of overlap in responsibilities, you have the title but not the role.  You’ll need to determine if you can turn this role into a business analysis role, move into another role in the organization that does have business analysis responsibilities, or if it’s time to move on by moving out.

Your Manager Doesn’t Understand Business Analysis

Perhaps you have the title and the job description is a fairly close match to a true business analysis role. Then what?

Well, if your job description says “analyze requirements” but your manager forbids you to write detailed requirements documentation, then it might be that your manager doesn’t truly understand what it means to be a business analyst. This is an opportunity to educate your manager. Use references from books and websites (like this one maybe!) to help communicate how you could be helping the organization.

But this conversation should not be one-way.

Take time to understand why your manager hired a business analyst in the first place. In that answer lies the value of employing a business analyst to your manager and the seeds of some real business analysis responsibilities. For example, if your manager wants “requirements analyzed” or “clarity for the dev team” but doesn’t want a “detailed requirements spec,” understand what they are expecting. Ask for work samples, templates, or a detailed explanation of what’s required.

It may be that you two are using different language to talk about the same deliverable or the same language to talk about different deliverables. Getting more specific can often clear up these misunderstandings. And this leads us to our next possible issue.

You’ve Made Some False Assumptions About Business Analysis

It is possible to be a business analyst without writing a detailed requirements specification.

I’ve made my fair share of assumptions about what a business analyst should do (read this not-so-fun story as an example), but in the end I’m most successful when I focus less on specific deliverables and more on applying my BA skills to the benefit of the project.

More Pressing Matters Take Priority

If none of the above fits, it’s quite possible your manager hired you to do business analysis but organizational priorities have since shifted. Since the skill set of a business analyst tends to help us do well in a wide variety of roles, they reassigned you to more pressing tasks.

If this is the case, it’s time for a heart-to-heart conversation with your manager. You deserve to understand if this is a temporary sidetrack or a complete redefinition of your role. With this information in hand, you can make a good decision about staying put or pursuing other opportunities.

Choose Your Path

No matter where this analysis takes you, realize that you always have a choice and it’s your responsibility to choose.

  • You can choose to stay and do the work in front of you to the best of your ability, letting go of the resentment and frustration.
  • You can choose to gradually expand your role to higher-level responsibilities and inch your way into business analysis.
  • You can choose to move into a new role in a new department or a new company, with more potential and opportunity.

Whatever you choose, we at Bridging the Gap are here to support you in expanding your skills and experiencing more confidence and success as a business analyst. Be sure to check out our online business analyst training and business analyst template toolkits. And don’t miss the book on getting started as a business analyst – How to Start a Business Analyst Career.

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Comments

  1. Srila Ramanujam says

    Nice and helpful inputs, and I would like to add that sometimes it might just be well the worth to be doing some ancillary and support tasks to Business Analysis, if for a short period, for I believe BA is never a very tight compartment of set tasks only…..it most often depends on the domain and industry that the Company / project is in and the phase that the project is currently in.

    So really sometimes I’ve had to do tasks heavy on QA and test reviews or documentation or may be even coordinating tasks between onsite and off-shored teams on an onsite-offshore model or may be just pure requirements facilitation tasks, and I found all these various roles aided me to have a all-round training and exposure to doing analysis work

  2. Great points Laura!
    If you find yourself in this type of situation, its an opportunity to practice some analysis of the circumstances. Since there is always context to decisions made by management, understanding the context is really important. If, in the process of discovering what truly planned for you, you figure out this position isn’t what its supposed to be, use the experience to ask better, more focused questions when interviewing for your next one.

    I’ve run into several instances where a BA was requested by way of a generic job description… I learned to take apart the descriptions by preparing 2 ways: 1) preparing my relevant experience to show how I can perform what’s listed; and 2) asking questions that try to pick apart the request to see if what is in the description is truly what is expected.

    Sometimes all it takes is one experience such as this to really tune you into the fact that “Business Analyst” is sometimes used because the person requesting doesn’t know what else to call it within the context of the company standards. I had a consulting position early on in my BA career where I was doing production support work on a reporting team with very little analysis effort expended. As Laura points out, I talked to client management (and my own company management) about working on projects to really get the best value for what they were paying. It worked for a short time but eventually, with support of my company’s mgt, I moved on to a different assignment where I could use more of my skills and actually grow.

    Cheers,
    Steve

    • Steve,
      Great comments. I would agree that in many cases this situation can be avoided by some upfront analysis both of the written job description and then in the job interview. A job interview should really be a two way street to find out if a particular job is a good fit. I’ve had my fair share of wrong opportunities be presented as part of my consulting career as well.

  3. Hi Laura et al,

    I’ve just concluded 18 months of the very same scenario. The 6 month contract role I was hired for was actually extended two times. There were two very attractive external opportunities offered during this time that I refused as I was in the midst of rolling my contract into a F/T position. I did have the conversations with management that you describe an was assured the BA work was ‘in the pipe’, yet the changes didn’t come. Then the F/T opportunity dissolved. I don’t fault management as there were other factors that influenced the change in focus. Restructuring, politics, etc. Perhaps in a situation like this where you find yourself with some time on your hands could be spent discovering areas in your department where help is needed and/or improvements could be made. It doesn’t hurt to offer your assistance especially if your suggestion has the potential to make management look good.
    Use the time well; study the BABOK for ways to improve your situation…make it a WIN-WIN!

    • D,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s definitely difficult to make a decision when you aren’t getting complete information about the opportunity at hand. I would definitely agree that this is also a good time to engage in your own learning and look for ways to contribute to gain more experience in areas related to business analysis.