The Importance of the Job Description

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You have been thinking of becoming a Business Analyst, and are not sure how to go about it. Since few people leave college and start working as a Business Analyst, you are probably making a career change, or at least are looking for a way to move from a related role into a Business Analyst role.

Everything starts with a job description. You have to know what you are looking for in order to find it. I think the area of career development for Business Analysts is a bit difficult because the career path is not well defined. There are efforts to define the role – Prince 2 and CBAP – but I don’t think there is widespread agreement throughout the industry yet on really what is meant by Business Analysis. I do have specific suggestions on a Business Analyst career path, including how someone might become a Business Analyst directly after college.

I used to think that a person should work 3-5 years before becoming a Business Analyst. I realized that I was only thinking of a Senior Business Analyst. That is one of the problems currently facing Business Analysts, that we do not have defined levels. So I have defined a useful progression of Business Analyst roles.

I created these job descriptions based on my own experiences as a Business Analyst, Project Manager, and leader of a team of Business Analysts on very large and huge projects. I have asked other people with backgrounds as Business Analyst and various kinds of managers to review these descriptions. They all agree that this is a useful and reasonable approach to a Business Analyst career path.

In defining a series of Business Analyst roles, I had several goals to achieve. First, each position I described had to be useful to a company and project team. Second, there had to be a clear increase in responsibility from one role to the next. Finally, I wanted to be very precise in the descriptions so that you can take them to hiring managers, and the hiring managers can see the usefulness of the work for their teams.

While reviewing the work of very senior project Business Analysts, I determined three clear, useful roles for a Business Analyst to play on a project team. These roles are: Starter Project Business Analyst, Mid-range Project Business Analyst, and Senior Project Business Analyst. There are many other jobs that a person called a Business Analyst can do. In this and succeeding articles, I have outlined the project BA roles because I believe these are the most common roles for a BA.

If you do not have work experience, you will begin as a Starter (or Junior) Business Analyst. If you are making a career change, you will probably be able to start in a Mid-range or possibly even Senior Business Analyst role.

The first step in looking for a Business Analyst position is to look at descriptions of different levels of Business Analyst to see where you fit in terms of your skills and experience. Then you can take the appropriate description to a hiring manager and explain to them that this is the job you want to do. If you do not yet have the necessary skills and experience, then you can use the descriptions to determine where you need further education and experience.


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About Geri Schneider Winters

Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.