Every successful organization has problem-solvers, people who see opportunity and find creative solutions to generate operational growth. Within a business setting, these people are known as business analysts. Business analysts change an organization “by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders,” according to the International Institute of Business Analysis. In an average day, analysts work hand in hand with project managers and other colleagues to complete project tasks.

While project managers focus on deadlines, business analysts focus on requirements, or the critical targets that must be met during the project, for both stakeholders and the business. These requirements can include how much a project should cost, the goals and who is tasked with completing different phases of the project. Fully understanding a business’ requirements and those of the stakeholders can lead to positive outcomes after implementing a solution.

As businesses invest more capital in technological upgrades every year, it’s becoming increasingly common to see business analysts involved with helping implement new pieces of technology. In the past, many organizations have struggled to install new technology across their company, and analysts can play a crucial role in this process. Studies have shown that businesses who make software upgrades often fail to meet deadlines and stay on-budget. Some of the set-backs can be traced to the complicated nature of information technology and communication issues between departments. These problems, however, could be solved with a business analyst. Business analysts evaluate problems, scrutinize the data and recommend a solution, helping all parts of the business better understand why or how a new solution works.

Business analysts conduct five main tasks within a generally standardized process in their line of work:

Assessment: In this phase, analysts asses the needs of the business or client. They work to determine what the business is asking for, or how a new piece of software should optimally work, depending on what a business is looking to fix. These queries can focus the analysis later to reach a much more specific conclusion. Once analysts make assessments and understand the requirements from the business and stakeholders, they can begin planning.

Planning: Analysts work with a project manager to design a timeline of the project. For this stage, the business analyst should have a detailed understanding of the business needs and the goals of the project, as well as a defined strategy for requirements traceability, the ability to follow the lifespan of a goal or requirement.

Analysis: Depending on the employer, some of the analysis could be completed by colleagues, such as data analysts. For this stage, business analysts use evaluation techniques, such as conducting business rules analysis to study how a solution could perform or is performing. A business rules analysis studies whether solutions would impede or fit in with existing business rules, and cost-benefit analysis to sift find the best results. This task can also take place once a solution is implemented, leading into the next task.

Monitoring: Analysts track requirements through computer software to study how a solution is performing. They communicate requirements changes over the lifecycle of the solution to both the project manager and all stakeholders in the project. This stage could take place alongside evaluating the solution.

Evaluation: Business analysts create a report on the solution and validate its results against the requirements to ensure it met all necessary criteria. Then, they’ll communicate this report to stakeholders and either get the green light to implement the solution or continue monitoring it as it was implemented earlier in the process.

Accomplishing these tasks requires a wide variety of skills from strong critical-thinking skills to an understanding of computer programming languages, such as SQL. Many companies hiring business analysts also prefer experience with CRMs and IT software, which enable analysts to seamlessly switch between analyzing a product and producing reports for superiors.

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Job Growth and Salary Potential in Analyst Sector

A career as a business analyst can be a lucrative role. A 2017 study found that the national average for entry-level salaries was around $45,000, but Payscale has reported that the median annual amount for a business analyst salary in 2018 is $59,334. After years of experience and the acquisition of a certificate, there are chances to make more than $100,000 per year. In addition to the business analyst salary base, many have also reported earning bonuses and commission for work completed every year.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services produced, is growing at more than 3 percent in 2018. As businesses grow, they’ll need business analysts to solve problems, which can lead to more growth, cutting costs and the survival of a business as a whole.

What Do You Need to Become a Business Analyst?

The foundation to you becoming a business analyst is set with a college degree. Most companies hiring these professionals require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, such as a B.A. in Business. For more senior positions, graduate-level degrees are required. In some instances, companies expect three to five years of experience working in a related field, such as IT, sales or finance.

Once you get your degree, you’re halfway to getting your business analyst certification, which is recommended at some firms and required at others. Certifications, which can boost your résumé or help you stand out can be acquired from many outlets, including the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA). In most cases, the prerequisites for these certifications include 4,500 hours of experience as a business analyst and 30 or more contact hours of business analyst education. These requirements can vary between organizations offering certificates.

The number of hours to receive certification will vary between organizations, but you need a bachelor’s degree to get into the field, so join the thousands of new analysts with an online bachelors in business from Notre Dame of Maryland University. Take advantage of our flexible, online format, allowing you to balance your education with your busy life. Plus, our engaging faculty and rigorous curriculum will prepare for you for a career in business, including one as a business analyst.