Am I Still in a Business Analyst Role?

A reader asks:

Recently I switched my job from product organization to IT company. My domain is insurance which remained the same. My profile in the previous company was to gather business requirement, analyze it, create a functional spec, do impact analysis and feasibility study, test scenarios and own the piece till UAT sign off is received. My perception was that the above explained is BA profile everywhere.

My new organization, which is an IT firm, assigned me a project where BAs are consultants and domain experts. Here I talk to underwriters for requirement gathering, analyze at some extent and send the requirement to another IT firm who customizes the legacy system based on our requirements. Functional specs and feasibility doc are created by them. There is a Testing BA team who test the version and give the sign off. We take UAT sign-off from underwriters. We don’t write any functional spec or test scenarios.

Here are my questions:
  • Is my current role BA?
  • Are there different types of BA roles?
  • What are the deliverables or responsibilities of consultant?
  • What are core competencies of BA?
  • I don’t want to be a domain expert but a BA. How current role can help me to grow as BA?
Laura’s answer:
I think you are experiencing what many BAs experience — moving from one role to the next can be a career broadening experience. Yes, I would say that both of the roles you describe are business analysis roles, while they are both obviously very different in terms of scope and accountability.  We must keep in mind the definition of a business analyst – one who does business analysis activities.
In general, the specific responsibilities of the professional in any specific business analyst role depends highly on a variety of factors. Some factors include:
  • How is work assigned and what BA work has been done before the BA is asked to start work?
  • What is the desired output of the BA process and who are the recipients of your work?
  • What level of formality does your organization use?
  • What project lifecycle or software development lifecycle does your organization use?
  • What is the scope of the project, both in terms of the problem to be solved and the solution approach?

As far as how can your current role help you grow as a BA, I see a few possibilities:

  • Since you are working with an outsourced IT firm, you’ll build experience growing relationships virtual with members of a team outside your company. This can be much more challenging than building relationships with someone inside your company.
  • Since your hand-off is relatively early in the typical end-to-end BA process, you’ll build experience clarifying business and solution requirements and ensuring your end users’ needs are met through your work, albeit without your direct involvement. This will help you build skills that are valuable for more senior BAs.
  • In general, because of your two different BA experiences, you’ll be better prepared for your third, which may be any combination of these two or something different entirely. This flexibility in approach makes you more marketable as a BA.
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Comments

  1. Michelle and Caroline, Thanks to you both for sharing your experience. Mine are similar — each role is a bit different and it’s necessary to learn and expand as you go. However, I think many BAs struggle with this idea and look for the right “box” to put themselves into.

    Caroline, what a great set of suggestions to succeed in a new role. Thanks for sharing! I just finished interviewing for a data-analysis focused BA role, which is not necessarily something I am looking for in my career, but I left thinking that I’d definitely learn something from the challenge and be better off for the experience. Then I tried to think of a BA role that I wouldn’t learn something or find some aspect interesting and was hard-pressed to do so, at least for the type of short-term contracts I’m able to accept.

  2. I would echo Michelle and Mike’s responses. I’ve had various roles with a myriad of duties both working for firms and as an independent contractor. Most of the time I have worked on “BA Work” as defined in the BABOK, but I’ve had many different titles – Business Systems Manager, Data Manager, Business Project Leader (and I didn’t lead a project!), Mgr, Operations Consulting, Consultant, Mgr, Business Analysis, Requirements Analyst etc. Each new project was always a new opportunity and a challenge because its rarely the same as the ones before.

    It can be unnerving when you are starting into a new area, so I agree with Mike’s suggestion of taking it a piece at a time. Its ok not to know all the answers in the beginning of a new role but its not good to hope that someone will come and provide them on a plate 🙂 Many times I’ve had to figure out what I am supposed to be doing as part of my job. I do a lot of research online with articles and seminars. I buy books and or look up trade/industry groups around the area I need to learn about and contact them for publications. Sometimes I have friends and colleagues in my network with an experience in an area, and they have ideas of who to go to when I am stumped on something. This is a great site for those sort of questions.

    Good luck with your new role – hopefully in 6 months you will look back and say you have learnt something new that was worth while!

  3. Michelle Swoboda says

    In my experience, every company defines what a business analyst does differently. Not different from BABOK, but different in terms of roles. In my first I was BA, FA, QA, Trainer and tester and warranty. In the last role trainer and warranty support was removed. My current role is even less where QA is separated out.
    I prefer to do the whole job, but I understand that everyone structures their business differently and it is all exciting!

  4. mike Lachapelle says

    Dear reader:

    Rest assured, you are most definitely involved in a business analyst role. I would take it as read the expectations around your job are now to understand the business and to help the business people to express their needs in a way that can be transferred to the solutions people (in this case the outsourced IT providers). Let’s look at your questions:

    Is my current role a BA?
    As I stated above, I firmly believe it is. The work you are being asked to do seems to be more in the area of Enterprise Analysis than solution specification and testing.

    Are there different types of BA roles?
    Most definitely. Right now the IIBA is working on an extension to the BA Book of Knowledge to help clarify the role of Enterprise Business Analysts. I believe there are two domains of work as a BA – tactical and strategic. In each of there there are areas of specialization for BAs
    In the tactical on may do requirements specification, testing, functional specifications, solution feasibility, business process improvement etc. In the strategic there are areas such as business feasibility (a.k.a. business case), process management, policy analysis, business impact analysis. At the highest levels of the strategic area you have business design, business modelling, architecture, strategic planning…

    What are the deliverables or responsibilities of a consultant?
    That’s a pretty broad question. For me, the summation of a consultant’s responsibilities is to help the client understand their need, problem, opportunity, innovation… To do this you bring a set of tools and techniques to the table the client doesn’t have within themselves. That is the true value of consultants. IMHO, poor consultants are those that feel they have the solution in hand, patronize the client about their business, and ‘drop’ a solution on the client. I have worked as an internal ‘consultant’ with departments of the business. When challenged, my response is that I bring a set of tools and knowledge to help business clarify, understand and derive a solution to the issues. They are the business experts, my job is to understand their business in a structured way, so I can communicate their needs to solution providers.

    [sorry this is getting rather long]

    The core competencies of a BA in this domain?
    Like any other role of BAs, good communication skills, analytical ability, modelling skills, and engagement, and problem solving. The analysis and modelling skills will change as you move into the strategic domain as you are trying to understand the business in a structured, repeatable way, rather than describing the solution to a particular problem. One needs to model processes from a business perspective, do high level data models to test reporting functions, and so on. See the work form the business view, and communicate their needs to solution providers.

    At a recent IIBA Chapter meeting in Ottawa, one of the most popular questions in the open debate was “how do I grow and improve my opportunities as a BA within an organization?” I would say you have been given a great opportunity to learn Enterprise Business Analysis a bit at a time. This is a great stepping stone to being a senior business analyst who advises executive management on strategic matters.

    • Wonderful reply Mike. I missed the connection to enterprise analysis…very good insight. This is why it is so great to leverage the BTG community to address these questions and flesh out full answers…we each see something different.

    • Dave Schrenk says

      I was going to provide an answer but Mike said it all!

      I will add that defining requirements that get handed off to an outsourced firm for design and implementation adds a great deal of risk. You need to be very sure that your requirements are clear, concise, complete, accurate, unambiguous, etc. Otherwise, the delivered solution may not fully meet the needs of the business.

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