Business analysis is a relatively new profession that encompasses several roles and titles. “What is expected of today’s analyst varies so widely from organization to organization and from project to project that it is neither possible nor practical to come up with a one-size-fits-all comprehensive description of what a business analyst does and the roles (s)he’s expected to perform,” according to Modern Analyst Media, a publisher of resources for business analysts.

Some definitions and examples can help with understanding this field.

What Is a Business Analyst?

A business analyst identifies what a business needs and then uses techniques that will help organizations achieve their goals.


Business analysts enable change by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders


Business analysis is distinct from areas like financial analysis, project management, organizational development and quality testing, but a business analyst may perform some or all of these functions. The core of business analysis is “enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that delivers value to stakeholders,” according to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

Business Analyst Responsibilities

The tasks, techniques and knowledge that a business analyst needs to be successful will vary based on the role and the organization. The IIBA organizes business analysis jobs into three categories.

•  Generalist: Competent across all areas of business analysis. Generalists use a variety of techniques, and they may be found at various levels in an organization.

•  Specialist: Possess solid or advanced subject matter expertise in specific areas. Specialists apply a more focused set of techniques with greater levels of expertise to potentially resolve extremely complex business problems. They may have any level of experience.

•  Hybrid: Demonstrate some degree of competency across a more limited set of knowledge areas or tasks. This requires some degree of competency in business analysis and some other discipline. They perform multiple roles and can be a “jack of all trades.”

Project/IT Executes projects Transition/Functional Guides projects Enterprise/Strategic Creates projects
Generalist Business Analyst, Project Management Consultant Account Manager, Business Consultant, Customer Relationship Manager Account Manager, Business Architect, Management Consultant
Specialist Agile Business analyst, Business Intelligence Analyst Domain Expert (SME), Functional Business Analyst IT Strategist, Process Architect
Hybrid BA+PM QA, Development
Mid-to Senior Management, Product Manager CXO, Enterprise Architect

An example of job responsibilities for a specialist like a process analyst would include analyzing, designing and implementing processes that would help the organization run. The process analyst also manages changes to those processes. Competencies include identifying the current state of processes, documenting models of the processes and facilitating stakeholder groups to consensus regarding new business process designs. Approaches include using workshops, statistical analysis, process monitoring, time and motion studies, data analysis, root cause analysis and more to understand current processes.

Learn more about a business analyst career

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Another example of a job specialty in business analysis is the decision analyst role. This professional explores and investigates past business performance to gain insight and drive business planning. Data and statistical methods, including explanatory and predictive modeling, are used to help achieve business objectives faster with less risk and at a lower cost. The decision analyst improves how information is recognized and acted upon.

Business Analyst Salary

A 2013 salary survey from the IIBA found that business analysis professionals in the United States earn an average salary of $91,512.

Level of education correlates directly to average salary in the United States. Business analysts who have a master’s degree earn almost 10 percent more than those with some college credit or a bachelor’s degree.


A Future in Business Analysis

Notre Dame of Maryland University’s online bachelor’s degree in business prepares graduates with the latest business practices and theories. Using case studies, consulting assignments and a capstone course to give real-world knowledge, students learn the skills and knowledge needed for success in fields like business analysis, public relations and account management.

The online master’s degree in analytics prepares graduates for careers in big data. Students learn data mining techniques and principles for careers such as data analysis and data scientist, as well as specialty fields in business analysis like decision analyst.

Both programs take place in a fully online learning environment.