Business analysts look at how a company operates – conducting research and analysing data to develop their knowledge – and suggest methods for the company to improve their practices and processes. This is usually done with the aim of helping the company to make more money, solve existing business problems and/or better achieve their goals.
The work of a business analyst is very closely related to the IT sector, and in some companies business analysts may be considered a technical job role and sit within an IT department. Nowadays, business analysts’ solutions for their clients will usually involve the implementation of new, or improved, computer systems, and the analyst’s role may extend to familiarising the wider business with the benefits of this new technology and instructing colleagues on how it is to be used.
Analysts can either work ‘in-house’ for a company, where they will solely work on projects for their employer, or be employed by an analyst or consulting firm and will usually travel to a client’s office and be based there for the duration of a project. The length of business analysts’ involvement in projects can vary, as they may only be present in the short-term, coming up with solutions to a problem, or on a long-term basis, where they will assist in the implementation of the solution.
Alternate job titles include: business systems analyst, process analyst, enterprise analyst, business architect and functional analyst.
Typically a business analyst will:
- analyse the structure of a business, how it uses technology and what its goals are
- identify problems within a business, including through using data modelling techniques
- communicate with senior people in organisations to find out what they hope to achieve
- formulate ways for businesses to improve, based on previous research
- persuade internal and external stakeholders of the benefits of new technology or strategies
- oversee the implementation of new technology and systems
- run workshops and training sessions
Typical employers of business analysts
- Specialist business analysis firms
- Consulting and professional service firms (including technology consulting companies)
- Public sector organisations (such as county councils)
- Technology companies
- Research firms
- Larger organisations that require in-house analysts (such as banks, utilities companies and multinational retailers)
Experienced business analysts may be able to work for themselves in a freelance capacity.
Graduate roles in business analysis usually offer a starting salary between £20,000 and £30,000. More experienced professionals can typically expect to earn between £35,000 and £70,000. However, salary is also dependent on the size of the employer, the complexity of the project and the sector you work in – salaries for business analysts in investment banks have reached up to £95,000.
Qualifications and training required
Business analyst roles typically require a bachelors degree in any discipline, though employers may prefer a degree in a business-, computing-, economics-, or numeracy-related subject. You can get your degree through a full-time university study or through a business analyst degree apprenticeship.
You may also be able to gain a professional qualification with either the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) or the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS), either before you start your career or as part of your career development. For example, the BCS runs a foundation certificate in business analysis, which may be useful as an introduction to business analysis and can also lead to more advanced qualifications, such as an international diploma in business analysis (offered by the BCS) or the certificate of competency in business analysis (offered by the IIBA).
Key skills for business analysts
- Commercial awareness
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Time management and organisational skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Analytical skills
- Leadership and management skills
- An interest in, and understanding of, project management techniques and computing systems