A Perspective on Business Analysis from Belarus

A series of articles have been published here on what a BA career path looks like and how to become a star BA. I’d like to share a perspective on becoming and building a career as a BA in Belarus. I represent Belarusian Community of Business and Systems Analysts (analyst.by). We have published numerous articles on our website on how to start a successful BA career, what training courses to attend, how to prepare oneself for an interview and what to expect/where to progress next. In this article, I would like to give a quick insight on what being a business analyst in Belarus means (there’s really much in common with a typical BA image, but we do have certain specifics). I hope you’ll find enjoy this topic and if you have any questions or thoughts to share, feel free to contact me directly – I’ll be glad to share my experience.

What’s a Typical Business Analyst in Belarus?

As you may know, Belarus is one of the world’s recognized centers of offshore IT outsourcing. It brings certain specifics to the activities a BA must perform on a project, as well as to the ways these activities are handled. The most commonly met type of IT analyst in Belarus is a requirements analyst – a specialist responsible for eliciting, analyzing, documenting/modeling/prototyping and managing requirements for an IT-solution.

Sometimes he/she may play a role of a true business analyst when there’s enough knowledge and expertise to examine customer’s business domain and processes and potentially come up with a non-IT solution, but in most cases (due to outsourcing specifics) clients engage into projects already having a solid vision of what IT-solution they need and how it should look, therefore leaving no room (or no need) for an analyst to perform robust enterprise analysis.

Who Becomes a Requirements Analyst?

In our country we don’t have any specialized educational institutions where a person can get all knowledge and skills required for being an IT-analyst. The most typical ways to become a requirements analyst (RA) are the following:

  • To graduate from an IT or economics university, where one gets a technical or business background, then attend BA training courses on a commercial basis or inside an IT company.
  • To switch career from a developer or quality engineer to a requirements analyst.

Lately we have faced a huge increase in the amount of graduates who want to work in IT but do not know where to start. Information technologies area is extremely popular in Belarus due to relatively high salaries, especially when compared to working at government enterprises. This leads to more and more people who graduate from non-IT institutions wanting to start their career as a BA, being under the impression that BA activities are significantly easier than those of a software developer (which obviously is completely wrong – that’s a separate and huge topic for discussion). Below are typical minimum requirements imposed on a BA newcomer (these are entry skills which serve as a basis for future training):

  1. Analytical (systems) thinking. Obviously, the core skill required for this profession and it’s something that should be gradually built through the whole life, while partially being trained during higher education.
  2. Social skills and ability to communicate, including listening skills and ability to quickly and efficiently express own thoughts and systematize information.
  3. IT background — required in order to efficiently communicate requirements and issues to/from the development team.
  4. Solid knowledge of the English language. English is not a native language in Belarus, but it is required in most projects since typical customers are from United States and Europe.
  5. Ability to learn quickly and efficiently.

Sadly, there’s no IIBA chapter in Belarus, however, as I mentioned before we do have a solid business analysts community (analyst.by). So the people planning to start a BA career now have someone to apply to. From our side we are doing our best to popularize the profession and provide newcomers with all the necessary assistance they need.

What Are Typical Activities of a Requirements Analyst?

Typical activities of an RA on most projects are as follows (and I assume that there’s no big difference between Belarus and western countries here):

  1. When a project starts, RA elicits requirements for the solution. It’s notable that our analysts are not always able to communicate with customer face-to-face. On small projects or when a customer’s budget is strictly limited, all communication goes online, which obviously affects efficiency and imposes certain restrictions on analyst’s work. Therefore email and IM communication specifics and culture are paid a lot more attention during training rather than face-to-face elicitation sessions.
  2. Analyzing and formalizing requirements by refining statements, investigating gaps, creating visual models if needed and user interface wireframing.
  3. Documenting requirements. Requirements managements systems didn’t gain much popularity here yet, therefore mostly used approaches for capturing requirements are classic software requirements specifications and Wiki-based systems.
  4. Managing requirements by providing assistance to the team, managing project scope and accommodating changes when needed.

There’s a list of additional activities occasionally performed by RA when needed:

  1. Taking part in projects’ pre-sale along with marketing guys and project managers – processing leads and opportunities, creating and submitting proposals, investigating preliminary requirements for planning and estimation purposes.
  2. Coordinating development team. As product owners on team’s side, analysts often drive the whole software development process, especially in small and relatively easy projects.
  3. Having advanced skills in technical writing analysts often assist or even solely handle creation of any additional documents required by the project – software design documents, user acceptance scenarios, etc.

What’s Next?

What can a BA expect to become next? There are several career paths that a BA here in Belarus may take. Transitioning into a business architect, SME or business consultant is not a frequent option due to the same specifics I mentioned above (other than moving to a different country where these roles are more widely spread). The common career paths for a requirements analyst are:

  1. Project manager/product owner (vertical growth). Analysts start diving deeper and deeper into project details paying attention and taking certain control over a project’s timeline, budget and staff. This path is particularly applicable for senior BAs and team leaders, who develop and master team coordination and management skills.
  2. Senior (“star”) requirements analyst (horizontal growth). An analyst may keep working in the requirements analysis area and constantly expand his knowledge of domains, tools and techniques, as well as get more and more experience in diverse projects. Such specialists are of a great value and IT companies tend to offer huge benefits to get people of such scale aboard.

Other transition paths may include various related IT professions, for instance, UX architect or quality assurance specialist – these are less frequent, but still possible options worth considering.

I’d appreciate if you would share details on working as a business analyst in your country in the comments and if you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or others from the analyst.by community – we will always be glad to share our experience with anyone interested!

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