Author: Geri Schneider Winters
I have been thinking a lot recently about what I would expect if I were hiring a Business Analyst. My expectations are very different if the person is a starting Business Analyst, or someone with a few years experience, or someone very senior.
For a starting Business Analyst, I would expect the person to be able to elicit, organize, and verify information with the project stakeholders. Notice I do not say to elicit requirements, but rather to elicit information. I think it takes more experience to be able to determine what the actual requirements are, and this requires a person to be skilled in analysis techniques. The starting Business Analyst should have strong communication skills – listening, speaking, and writing – with people who have a wide variety of personalities and knowledge bases. I expect to spend more time with a starting Business Analyst, reviewing his or her work, guiding, and mentoring.
I expect my mid-range Business Analyst to have strong analysis skills. This person needs to be able to review a lot of information, determine the actual requirements and their priorities, write the requirements in the most appropriate form for the project, and manage the requirements throughout the project lifecycle. The mid-range Business Analyst will take on more leadership activities, and will be more self-directed. I expect to spend less time with the mid-range Business Analyst.
I think that a senior Business Analyst will be more of a specialist. This person might decide to become more of a project manager, or might focus on human/computer interaction, or develop more technical skills to work more closely with the development team. The senior Business Analyst will be completely self-directed.
Employers tend to focus heavily on subject matter expertise, which in practice I have found to be the least important part of my job. There are plenty of Subject Matter Experts (SME) at any company, and I work closely with them. As a Business Analyst, I am really a communication expert, and I have been extremely effective in that role in many companies. But it can be hard to sell yourself to an employer that way, especially at the beginning, so developing subject matter expertise in order to get your foot in the door is a good plan.
Keep in mind that the point of a Business Analyst job is not the subject matter expertise. Rather, work to develop good Business Analyst skills of elicitation, analysis, communication, and management of information and people. This will allow you to more easily transition jobs in the future, because your work is not dependent on a particular industry.
Think about the Business Analyst job. What do the best Business Analysts do? What is a good transition path from starting through senior level positions?