Does a Business Analyst Label Themselves as an IT Person?

Reader Question:

I just realized that what I love to do and have always done best is business analysis. But I am a civil engineer, have no desire to be in IT. I know I can be successful in many other areas but do not want to label myself as a business analyst if it will come across that I am an IT person. Thank you.

Laura’s response:

This is an interesting question and my answers has two perspectives. First, from a pure role definition perspective, nothing about business analysis necessitates working with IT. The BABOK defines business analysis as follows:

Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among
stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization,
and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.

Within this definition business analysis can include a IT projects, but it can also focus on business process or policy changes or organizational operations. The BABOK also stresses that you can be a business analyst operating under a different title. Business analysis is more about the activities you do than the title you have (or what you choose to call yourself).

But the reality is that *most* business analyst jobs you see listed today do involve some work with information systems. So the use of the term “business analyst” does confer some relationship of IT, though not to the degree of terms like programmer analyst, systems analyst, and technical analyst. Since you are concerned with labeling yourself as an IT person, you are probably concerned with how the term is used more than how it should be used.

One way to handle this, is if you are applying for a process-oriented position, label yourself as a “business process analyst” or “business operations analyst”. You can still pursue BA training opportunities and use BA tools to build your professional knowledge, without being constrained by the term as it’s currently used.

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Comments

  1. I am Performance and Data Analyst in a Business Metrics department (in Canada) and it is very clear to me that the term ‘Business Analyst’ is a huge misnomer in the corporate HR universe. BAs (IT based) are Systems Analysts that work on Business Systems plain and simple. Oh well, that’s fine if we call them BAs. I have found that if what you’re looking for is how to describe someone who knows actual Business practice and can interpret data, create reports, analyze and recommend value based decisions than you’re talking about a Business Intelligence Analyst. The only problem with that is that you run into the problem of being to closely tied to software products labelled Business Intelligence. Keeping in mind that BI products are the bread and butter tools of today and tomorrow’s true non-IT Business Analyzers.

    • I forgot to mention, my background is in Business Economics and my bias is that I believe a Non-IT Analyst should have both a Business orientation and a pure analytical background, ie Math, Stats, Econ, Accounting or Finance… just my two cents

  2. sudarsan maddur says

    The BABOK definition is for a BA in any problem domain. It is the gita for all BA’s henceforth it doesn’t go into various details.
    I think BA specializes in IT solutions, so, the hat worn is “ITBA”. If the BA specializes in just process modeling, the “BA HAT” worn is the BPA hat. Getting into a project, the project scope, and the problem statement specifies, the problem domain, so hiring the right BA is critical to a project success or failure. The hat worn, can also be drilled down, to Healthcare BA, Pharma BA, Banking BA, Finance BA, according to their specialities. These can be mapped to the type of metadata tables used according to the type of industry. Henceforth, the JD’s specify, Healthcare experience, Pharma experience, Retail experience, Banking experience etc.

  3. Hi PB,

    Sorry, I have missed this thread. You could become a BA from what I can see in your background. Having good working knowledge of product and forecasting is a good starting point.

    Depending what your educational background , whether it is more IT or engineering slanted will depend on how you would approach being a BA not in the IT sphere. I would suggest you start looking at job boards at roles that interest you and see where your skill set fits in the role and where your skills are missing. Then start looking at where you could learn more about the skills you are missing.

    Hope this helps.

    Colleen.

  4. Thanks Laura again let me put my question this way:-
    i have a work experiance of 4 years in sales and i am not an IT person .can someone help me understand, if iam not IT person can i be BA if yes then what is the way?
    iam from india and please help me understand the job prospects of BA .

    warm regards

  5. Hi PB, To be honest, there is a lot of context missing and so your question is difficult to answer in a specific way. In general, I think the BA career path is open to anyone with a passion. Professionals work themselves into business analysis from all sorts of career paths. It’s more about wanting to make it happen than a specific background.

    I would start by checking out this post about the business analysis career choice: http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/the-first-5-signs-that-business-analysis-is-the-career-choice-for-you/

    You also might want to sign up for my newsletter and designate your career level as “I want to be a BA”. These will provide some overviews for you and help you get started along the path.

  6. Thanks Laura for the reply,
    when i say iam not an IT person it means i have worked for sales support of IT products so iam basicaly required to know how much sale is happened and not what the product is.
    hope this gives clarity to get my answer.
    Thanks

  7. Hi PB, I would expect that as an IT sales person, you’ve become fairly knowledgeable about IT. Can you be a bit more specific about what you are looking for when you say you are “not an IT person”. If you mean you are not a developer, yes, many BAs, even those that work on IT projects, do not have a deep expertise in development. I include myself in this mix. Even though I only recently started doing business analysis work on non-IT projects, I’ve always been able to use my general IT knowledge (i.e. what is a database vs. an application — the basic general architecture of IT systems) to be successful as a BA.

  8. i have a work experiance of 4 years in IT sales support and i am not IT person .can someone help me understand if iam not IT person can i be BA if yes then what is the way?

  9. Yes, thanks Colleen! This actually broadens my perspective of the BA role a bit. Thank you for sharing what you do and how it helps the business made better decisions.

    Laura

  10. Hi, Laura,

    There are projects that are in need for data analytics experts but I would categorise many of these projects into the IT environment rather than a business process. These roles are based on expertise in retrieving samples, extracting or building databases from very large data sets that require IT intervention/programming to achieve the goal.

    All BA roles in business processes require a CPA/CA or equivalent. This is because the CPA /CA are taught about profit & loss and business. Organisations do not want to run at a loss which means all processes and techniques are slanted the way the CPA/CA are taught to think. This is different to an engineer’s, a statistician’s, or anybody working in the IT sphere’s thought processes.

    There are certain business problems that are suited to certain BA’s. With a good working knowledge of the in any of the following areas, supply & demand, the P&L, CAPEX and marketing theories will solve business problems in those areas, or as a total which I have been luckily enough to have been able to work in all areas.

    The alternate approach is what I bring to the business with my expertise in data analytics. It is the tasks and techniques used in process, analysis and presentation of the data that allow stakeholders to think differently about the way to achieve their goals.

    Hope this answers your question.

    Colleen

  11. Great discussion here. Thanks to everyone for your contributions!

    I’m completely agreed that you don’t have to be an IT BA, but that you definitely can if you want to and still be a BA. All variations of solving business problems can fit within the BA-sphere. This raises another question for me: are certain types of business problems suited to certain “types” of BAs? Colleen, your expertise in data analytics is rare. I would imagine some projects really need that expertise and some would benefit from an alternate approach.

    Laura

  12. Ravi Pardesi says

    That’s exactly what I meant Colleen but it has been misunderstood somehow. You don’t have to be an IT BA to resolve any business problem. At the end by whatever way you’re doing, you are resolving business problems to ensure processes are continually refined. In your case it is presenting information to stake holders in timely manner so that decisions can be taken.

    I mentioned first that this doesn’t mean there has to be IT involved. So to summarize we both are on same page and are saying same point!!

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more, Ravi. I did not mean IT processes above, any process.

    My last role my title was Operations Analyst, my stakeholders were the C-levels, global supply team and the sales teams, no IT involved. My tasks were to ensure that information I received were timely and correct so decisions could be made, when and where required. My techniques were through my analysis and how the analysis is presented so solutions are obvious to the stakeholders.

    The tasks and techniques need processes that need to be continually refined as stakeholders see new ways in understanding the information received. This information does not have to be data related as long as there is a need for knowledge to achieve goals there is a need for a process for this information to be passed on.

    In the end, if you don’t want to be an IT BA you don’t have to be. That’s why I love being a BA as I can take my skills anywhere where processes need to be improved. If processes are not continually improved then business would be at a standstill.

  14. Ravi Pardesi says

    Agree with you Colleen!! But this doesn’t mean there has to be IT involved. Things can be improved by taking decisions without usage of any IT product. This generally happens in SME’s where the amount of data is not huge and the solution some times lies in approach and the way customer see’s their problem. We are the ones who make them understand and also come up with a strategy that will improve processes, and hence productivity in business. I hope all agree to this!!

  15. The BABOK definition does hold true for any type of analysts as it holds true for a systems analyst and all the different variations in IT architecture.

    For any organisation there are a set of processes the business must follow to make the business viable. This all depends on an enormous amount of variables, depending on industry and size of the organisation.

    The business has product that consumers want to buy. When, how, what quantity to supply, what product, which market? All which need processes, yeah to Ravi. The BA must continually improve these processes and information gathered so stakeholders can achieve their goals faster, better and to be more creative about how to achieve their goals. Which in turn, leads the BA to continually be more creative in improving processes and analysis.

  16. Ravi Pardesi says

    Very Interesting Article. I read the ongoing discussion that there is an argument whether a BA is an IT person or not. In my opinion and in support of definition by BABOK, a BA is a liasion to bring stakeholders to a consensus about a solution to the particular business problems. There are set of techniques and tools that allows BA to achieve it successfully.

    However, IT is just an enabler that enables the solution BA has suggested. At times, you will come with a solution that needs organizational changes rather than incorporating any IT solution. A job of BA is to provide solution, let it be enabled by IT, or a business unit, or a single person, you name it!!

    If one is looking a BA role from IT perspective only then he/she is missing with other point of views that can solve business problems. Give it a thought, you’re a business people not an IT one!!

  17. Jenny Nunemacher says

    To throw things in another direction, the title can also mean a financial operations analyst, an analyst that is focused on business performance in support of strategic objectives or product lines (I think). Those positions did not seem to conform to the BABOK definition, because there didn’t seem to be any focus on stakeholders or solutions, in the way that I perceive my job. When I was looking for work, about 25% of the job board postings were for that type of analyst, which is not me at all.

    My suggestion to the reader would be to do some heavy-duty networking to find other non-IT BAs who do what you are interested in doing. Find out how they lable themselves, and how their companies target candidates for those positions and mold your brand accordingly.

  18. I tend to disagree. I have worked in the ICT industry since being a BA. I have done programming in my earlier years but it was always for the data analysis.

    To me, an IT-BA is a person who is working in any organisation who is bridging the gap between the business operatons/strategy and IT infrastruture to attain business goals. Maybe a little too broad but analysing data and producing reports in an IT environment does not mean you are an IT-BA.

  19. Sandi Spillner says

    The Business Analyst role can represent different things. For example, I am a Business Analyst in an IT organization working on IT projects/enhancements that support business needs therefore, I consider myself to be an IT Business Analyst. If I was working in a non IT organization, perhaps analyzing data, reports, etc., I would consider that to be a Business Analyst (non IT).

  20. I am a Business Analyst, Laura has interviewed me as a BA. I am not an IT BA, I am a BA in Data Analytics.

    The BABOK definitions is true. It does matter what the task is, the techniques used, or the procedures used to liaise with stakeholders so the business can achieve it goals.

    The techniques I use are through my analysis of data from different areas of the business, to consolidate and interpret the data so the stakeholders can understand the analysis. This allows stakeholders to question and solve to achieve their goals. The solution maybe already in the data, this allows stakeholders to imagine further scenarios to think out-of-the-box and achieve more than the goals wanted.

    I have been able to successfully market myself as a BA in data analytics. Since I have been social networking, I have seen the slant towards BA being IT and majority of BA’s I have connected to since are IT related. But there are also a lot of BA’s out there who are not IT-related and does reside with the individual. You don’t have to be an IT-BA if you don’t want to be.

    Good Luck!

    Colleen.

  21. Wilco:

    If I’m getting what you wrote accurately, you’re saying that IT “Business” analysts are not business analysts in reality, but rather analyst that call themselves business analysts that are actually IT analysts. Assuming that is correct, I’d have to say that there is an equal danger in making this statement as much as there is saying that all BAs work for IT. I do think that there is a division and/or boundary between the two, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the organization or the role title. It really resides with how the individual analyst performs in the role that he or she is in. A good analyst that resides on either side of the boundary also has keen insight in what the other side needs and the types of relationships that are necessary to collaborate.

    Doug

  22. This question is in my view also very common in The Netherlands. Business Analysts are, in “Dutch context” many times people working for one specific (it-)project and not for an enterprise. Someone seen as a business-analyst is in The Netherlands not someone working for the business but working for a project! And that is not what a BUSINESS Analyst is, ofcourse. I do not come forward as someone “working in IT”. I “help business with preparing, design and conversion to new processes”. Whether that leads to come with new IT, management-control/steering or whatever, is a secondary question. Helping businesses first with defining solutions on a logical level is my first concern. I learned: Business is not IT and a BA is not an IT-person. IT helps (sometimes) businesses. Second thing i learned: clients often already know what the solution is and the BA has to work towards that. Guard that you advise your client, not the other way.

    Wilco Charité
    Change Analysis and -design in Processes and (possibly…) ICT.
    http://www.char-it.nl

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