Starting, mid-range, and Senior Business Analysts

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?


This entry was posted in Tips for Business Analysts, Tips for Business Analysts and tagged , on by .

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.

2 thoughts on “Starting, mid-range, and Senior Business Analysts

  1. Andrew Midkiff

    I agree with your characterization of the beginning Analyst. I would add empathy and the ability to be comfortable in strange situations to the qualifications I would look for. I like to find people who have traveled overseas, or who seek new kinds of people and can survive in strange situations.

    I might add another level between mid-range and senior. These are the skilled analysts who can take on larger and more complex projects. This ability to take a larger view and absorb more complexity and complicatedness is not something everyone can do well.

    At a senior level, I feel an analyst can go several ways. They can takes this skill at taking a larger view and expand it to look beyond the project and across the enterprise. This kind of senior analyst, to me, is one who embraces a broader view. This approaches, if not reaches, the level of business architect.

    They could also become deep dive experts in one kind of business, one kind of process even, or move more towards a specific solution space, such as web apps, or ERP suites. Is this where you were going with the comment on developing more technical skills, or were you talking more along the lines of modeling and architectural-tyoe skill sets that are more common in technical areas?

    This brings up the question of where do you go from senior analyst? I guess it depends on which path you’ve taken. This question is near and dear to my heart at the moment because I’m asking myself this very question. But perhaps that’s the topic of another post. “Where to from Business Analysis?”


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