How to Become a “Professional” BA

Reader’s Question:

Thanks a lot……I personally find your site and portal of very good help and purpose to serious business analysts. It is not only reiterating facts that we may know to ourselves but to read similar opinions just reinforces the business analysis practice that we might each follow or may have comfortably settled into an unique style.

Having said that, I’d love to hear more on the mid-level BA wanting to become just a little bit more professional with the practice and trying to suitably adapt a good balance between analysis, being a SME and to appropriately use the tools required to get the job done.

Well maybe this is what I intended but probably might not have worded it exactly right…..but really a little bit of help on modelling techniques and /or other tools that aid the data modelling or even maybe process modelling functions would be of particular interest to me. And as regards the ‘Professional side of BA’ I guess I wasn’t too sure about the “expertise” aspects of business analysis, because I thought I saw a lot of that in one of your write-ups and wasn’t again exactly sure what the author was alluding to, if it was just being the SME on a topic or may be much more than that. I guess I was a little confused, that’s all…..thanks again!

Laura’s Answer:

Thank you so much for your nice words about Bridging the Gap. It’s always great to hear that you are accomplishing your mission and helping other BAs take steps forward, in your case by reinforcing what you already know about BA. Thank you!

You are absolutely right that there is a tension within the profession between SME “expertise” and BA “expertise.” It sounds like you’ve come to business analysis from the business side and have subject matter expertise. Now, what is needed to be a truly professional BA?

You have probably read some articles here about the important of subject matter expertise in the context of becoming a BA or finding a new job. The reality is that domain expertise can be a factor to leverage in both situations.

In the context you describe, the employed, mid-level BA looking to advance within the BA profession, the story is different. In this situation, I often see subject matter expertise become somewhat of a limiting factor in one’s career, and you are right to acknowledge that the path up is about building stronger BA skills, not necessarily deepening your subject matter expertise.

The good news is that you don’t have to tackle all of your goals all at once. Data models, process models, functional requirements models, scope models are all valuable techniques to learn.

What we suggest in Professional Development for Business Analysts, is that BAs build a professional development strategy that focuses on a handful of competencies that are most important to their career development within their current role. These competencies might include specific techniques, as well as underlying soft skills such as written communication, leadership, or relationship building.

The idea is to pick a few (or even just one) and build a plan to improve your competency in those areas. Then reassess and start the process again. This way you build a habit of continuous individual improvement. It may seem small and insignificant at first, but over the course of a year or two (and then more), the momentum builds and all of a sudden you find yourself an expert in business analysis as well.

For some additional information on this strategy, check out our posts on the BA Career Path (specifically those in the third section called “Building Business Analyst Experiences”).

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  1. I work hard to be a ‘professional’ BA but historically my Company has valued subject matter expertise over Business Analysis expertise. The company has recently produced a BA Handbook which aligns well with the BABoK but PM’s and Developers that have been around the company for a few years are frustrated when I point out tasks that they have seen BA’s perform before do not fall in the remit of the BA.

    Also a lot of BA’s (at my company) are happy to be SME’s rather than professional BA’s, staying in the same domain for many years. In the past 3 years I have worked in 5 different areas and strive to improve my Analysis skills.

    • Hi David,
      This is definitely not always easy, especially if our environment does not directly support it. So I salute your efforts to transform your role in an organization that seems to provide some, but not full, support for BAs, especially your decision to find work in multiple domains.

      The challenge your bring up with your developers is an interesting one. When your company published the handbook, did they redefine the BA role? And, if so, did they look at what gaps that created and fill them by expanding other roles? I can see someone being frustrated if a BA has typically fulfilled a role and then decides not to do so simply because “it’s no longer my job” but no one else has been asked to step in and fill the gap. This kind of thing can leave the BAs with a bad internal reputation as they are not doing what’s necessary to make the project successful.

      • Laura, yes the Handbook as refined the BA role and a number of things have happened.

        Historically there was a career progression from BA to PM. Hence BA’s picked up some PM tasks as ‘development’. This career progression has now gone, but many PM’s continue to treat BA’s in the same way.

        Some other tasks that BA’s used to pick up are now defined in writing as Developer tasks. But there is resistance to this change.

        And yes some tasks appear to have fallen ‘between stools’ and are now nobody’s remit.

  2. Michelle Blas says

    Thanks for your awesome website. I hope to connect with you on LinkedIn some time in the near future. 🙂 You have been a great help to me in finding the right fit for myself as a true BSA since I had been laid off from a company which had company specific roles and responsibilities of a BSA. The transition from my former company to my current company has made a huge difference between being limited to a job without room for growth to finding a career that I can truly build on! Thank you for your continued support.



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