“Evolve or die” is a mantra by which many businesses operate, and the task of identifying opportunity and plotting the next evolution often falls to the business analyst. This role doesn’t require a crystal ball, but rather a profound understanding of your company, your people, and your industry, combined with the critical thinking skills needed to confidently chart a course for the future.
If you’re asking yourself, “What can I do with a business degree?” and you want to take a lead role in steering the direction of your organization, here’s what you need to know about what a business analyst does.
What Is a Business Analyst?
In its long-running “BABOK Guide,” a comprehensive business handbook for professionals, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) defines business analysis as, “The practice of enabling change in the context of an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.”
A business analyst, the guide explains, is “any person who performs business analysis, no matter their job title or organizational role.” This person is “an agent of change,” the IIBA explains, and will ultimately “help businesses do business better.”
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
Business analysts are found in nearly every industry, including for-profit and non-profit companies, as well as government agencies; and they are capable of working in tandem with executive-level leadership, department heads, and project managers. Duties and responsibilities will vary by specific job or company, but a business analyst’s primary responsibilities will include the following five areas:
- Analyze the overall purposes, procedures, and functions of a business, a department, or a project.
- Identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to determine the most effective path forward.
- Develop strategies, define goals, and obtain buy-in from key stakeholders.
- Take a leadership role in problem-solving and implementing organizational best practices.
- Use data-driven decision-making to create workflows and improve processes.
As business analysts are tasked with handling a lot of data, they can be valuable in nearly every industry. An IT company, for example, could employ a business analyst to work with developers and project managers on software solutions, while a financial organization could task a business analyst with financial modeling and risk analysis.
Further, business analysis is not a discipline that requires lengthy experience. Many companies hire entry-level business analysts, giving these professionals an opportunity to grow from within while applying their unique analytical and forward-thinking skillsets to their roles. An entry-level business analyst, for example, could start out working on individual projects within one department before ascending to a role with greater responsibilities and impact on the organization as a whole.
What Skills Should a Business Analyst Possess?
Business analysts are critical thinkers, first and foremost. Whether they are coming to the role as a fresh college graduate or a seasoned professional, a business analyst possesses a toolbox of soft skills that they combine with their knowledge of the company or industry in which they work.
If you’re pursuing a career as a business analyst, you’ll want to sharpen your ability to:
- Communicate with stakeholders at every level, and manage up or down depending on the circumstances.
- Develop professional relationships using your interpersonal skills, so that you can collaborate, delegate, and lead when necessary.
- Perfect your verbal and written communication skills so that your message is delivered effectively and without confusion.
- Manage multiple projects at a time and prioritize using your organizational skills.
- Work independently and effectively to manage your time, as your work may involve shifting deadlines.
- Perform a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of an organization, department, or project.
Additionally, you’ll need a strong set of hard skills — often gained through your education. These hard skills can involve using software such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat or more complex business analysis tools such as CASE spec, iRise, or Modern Requirements.
What’s the Career Outlook for Business Analysts?
If a business analyst career is in your future, you’re in luck, because business is booming. Despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that business and financial operations jobs will grow 5% through 2029 – faster than the average for all occupations.
Management analyst roles, which include business analysts, are growing at an even faster pace – 11%, according to the agency. Growth in the business sector is attributed to factors that include globalization and the increasing use of data and market research in organizational decision-making, as well as the continued desire to “seek ways to improve efficiency and control costs.”
Even during the 2020 recession, eCommerce and online delivery brands — think Amazon and DoorDash — and workplace solutions companies such as Zoom have experienced growth as consumer habits change. Others have been forced to reevaluate and evolve in order to survive in today’s economy, and that’s when having a skilled and perceptive business analyst comes in handy.
Which Degree Is Ideal for You as a Future Business Analyst?
As with any career, education is essential. Today’s online business school programs allow students to master the skills they need to pursue business analyst roles while also giving them a fundamental understanding of modern business practices. An education in business at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC) can help you achieve your goals. Among the degree paths at UAGC, you might consider the following:
This degree will immerse you in the leadership, planning, and analytical skills and tools needed to manage individual projects or wider organizational processes. Courses include BUS 308 Statistics for Managers, BUS 402 Strategic Management & Business Policy, and MGT 435 Organizational Change. These courses will help sharpen the soft skills you need in order to assess your company’s performance and determine a path to greater success.
With this degree, you’ll master the decision-making skills and organizational awareness needed to implement a strategic direction for your business. In the course MGT 330 Management for Organizations, for example, you will be introduced to management theory and practice, including the interrelatedness that the planning, organizing, leading, and controlling functions play in the multicultural, technology-driven, and global organizations of the 21st century. Further, you’ll apply the processes and tactics you’ve learned to actual business cases, giving you real-world insight that will prove valuable in a future role.
Any professional planning for a career as a business analyst will need a comprehensive understanding of economic theory and fiscal strategy. In addition to micro and macroeconomics courses, you’ll study ECO 406 Business Cycles and Growth, and learn how to analyze economic fluctuations and their impact on corporations and consumers.
An entrepreneurship degree is about much more than fueling your desire to work independently and be your own boss. A future business analyst will benefit from lessons in risk analysis and strategic planning. The program will also teach you how to develop a business plan that requires forethought and a growth strategy. An entrepreneurship degree will also broaden your skillset, with courses such as BUS 433 New Business Strategy and ACC 205 Principles of Accounting I, making you a more versatile and desirable candidate in the eyes of employers.
If you’re looking for a degree that will prepare you for a business analyst career, with a strong emphasis on critical thinking, evaluating processes, and data-driven decision-making, you should strongly consider a degree in business information systems. A convergence of business and technology courses, a Bachelor of Arts in Business Information Systems covers database management and business law, and includes courses such as INF 340 Business Systems Analysis and MGT 497 Strategic Technology Planning for Organizations.
Business analysts are needed in every industry, and your education can help you lead the next evolution for your organization. If you’re ready to pursue your degree and start your path toward a business analyst career, contact an advisor today.
Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.