What is a Functional Analyst?

One question that has been coming up in our recent business analyst webinars is what is a functional analyst and how does this role differ from a business analyst job role?

Functional AnalystI’m always the first to say that business analyst job titles can be extremely deceiving, as they are used inconsistently across organizations. However, that doesn’t mean that titles aren’t useful ways to categorize different types of job roles within the business analysis profession, especially since the business analysis profile is extremely broad.

(Before I forget, I want to be sure you know about my step-by-step BA career planning course (it’s free) that’s designed to help you, the mid-career professional, kick-start your business analysis career.)

Here’s a broad characterization of a Functional Analyst job role.

  • Specializes in a specific business domain.
  • Focuses on functional software requirements.
  • May have light (or heavy) technical or systems design responsibilities (that require more in the way of technical skills), including configuring, updating, and installing the system.
  • May have ongoing duties not specific to projects that involve executing on certain processes using the system of expertise. Examples include reporting, data updates, testing, and troubleshooting.
  • May have data analysis and/or data analytics responsibilities that require skills such as advanced Excel capabilities and SQL.

And what about a Business Analyst?

In contrast, a Business Analyst job role is defined in a very general way and is an all-encompassing role that is not limited by domain, nor is it necessary focused on software solutions.

(However, the vast majority of job roles today with the Business Analyst job title do include some aspect of a software solution, and that’s why it gets a good amount of attention in our 8-step business analysis process, even while we talk about business analysis techniques that go beyond the software.)

So a Functional Analyst is both a subset and specialization of Business Analysis and also an expansion, as many of the responsibilities typically falling under the Functional Analyst umbrella are not formally considered part of the business analyst job role.

As always, job titles are deceiving.

When deciding whether or not to pursue a particular opportunity within business analysis, focus on the responsibilities in the job description and the required skills. Those will be better indicators of whether or not you are qualified for (and interested in) a specific position.

As an aside, you might be interested to know that a quick search on the Indeed job search platform, showed approximately 600 jobs with the title “Functional Analyst” and more than 15,000 jobs with the title of “Business Analyst.” Obviously, “Business Analyst” is the more popular job title.

Learn more about Functional and Business Analyst Job Roles.

Click the links below to learn the answers to some of the more frequently asked questions related to functional analysis:

What’s the Difference between a Business Analyst and a Systems Analyst?

What’s the Difference between a Subject Matter Expert and a Business Analyst?

Why Do We See Technical Skills in Business Analyst Jobs?

(And if you like what you find here, be sure to sign up for our free step-by-step BA career planning course.)

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Laura Brandenburg

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