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Business Analysts -- Detectives of the Business World

Business analysts dig deep into a company's business operations. They uncover the company's issues and needs, and solve business problems.

"It's a job that combines investigation and detective-like work," says Darryl Karleen. He's a business analyst.

"Rather than solving a murder case like on CSI, I try to understand and solve business problems," he says. "Sometimes this involves changing the way some people do their jobs so that they can do it faster or more efficiently. Other times, our solution includes the installation and set-up of new computer programs to help the people do their jobs faster or better.

"A business analyst does something different every day."

Typically, business analysts first meet with their potential client. They discuss the problems that need solving and meet everyone involved. They may analyze the company's data and information before deciding how to go forward. They may also prepare visual aids to show their client what they've found.

To be successful, business analysts need good people skills. They often work as the middle person between different departments of an organization. For example, a business analyst may work as a translator of sorts between the computer department and other departments.

"Business analysts need to understand the computer department's requirements, as well as the business department's," says Karleen. "Business analysts work mainly with the people in a company, their databases and computer systems. You have to be a good detective and prepare to get into the details of understanding what a business needs and what the best solution will be to the problem."

Business analysts need patience, thoroughness and an analytical mind. They also need to be able to make sense of various graphs, charts and internal documents, so good comprehension skills are also important.

Dave Bieg is the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) in Atlanta, Georgia. He says a bachelor's degree is a start on the road to becoming a business analyst. But as with many careers, more education is generally a benefit.

While there are no specific educational requirements to become a business analyst, analysts do need certain skills, says Kathleen Barret. She is president of the IIBA.

"Business analysts should have a good understanding of how business works and [of information technology] concepts," she says. "Business analysts must be analytical and not intimidated by ambiguity. It is their job to clarify ambiguity."

For experienced analysts, the IIBA offers a Certified Business Analysis Professional certification. However, for those just getting started in the field, certification is not required.

Frank Bourree is principal of a firm which provides consulting services to businesses. He says that in order to be credible, business analysts need practical experience in business and/or government.

Demand for business analysts has grown a lot over the past few years, according to Barret. Changes in the economy, as well as government and government policy, can affect the demand for business analysts.

Job opportunities exist in both the public sector (government) and private sector (businesses). Barret says the public sector invests in business analysts because it's concerned about the public's perception of what it's doing. Private businesses, on the other hand, may hire consultants for short-term projects, and then make business decisions.

But mainly, it's businesses wanting to operate more efficiently that shapes the demand for business analysts. Chances are good that there will always be businesses looking to improve their productivity and profits.

So what can you expect to earn as a business analyst? According to Bourree, income varies a lot depending on the analyst's experience and the client's needs. "It can also be very inconsistent," he warns. "Some months -- very busy, others -- very slow."

"As any good business analyst would say, 'It depends' on the level of experience, years working, any particular subject-matter expertise," says Barret. "Salaries can range from $60 to $120,000. However, you can always find someone outside that range."

Besides the financial rewards, business analysts also find other rewarding aspects to the job.

"You get to help a person or a whole department of people to become more efficient and make their job or jobs easier to do," says Karleen. "It's rewarding to be able to make a difference in a company, and business analysts can all make a difference."

In the end, making a change and a difference are exactly what business analysts do.

"In this job, you get to ask, 'Why?'" says Barret. "Every piece of work a business analyst does will introduce change to an organization."


International Institute of Business Analysis
Learn more about this professional organization for business analysts

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