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Business analysts typically report to information technology department managers but work closely with users in business communities. These professionals define business user needs to help match them up with IT capabilities in a cost-effective manner. This means that business analysts must know both business and technology. If you're interested in becoming a business analyst and you're already in IT, devote time to learning about your company's business and industry. If you're currently working in the business world, get to know how IT is supporting that business. In either case, a bachelor's degree is an important starting point.
Get a Bachelor's Degree
Business analysts often have bachelor's degrees in either computer science or business administration, in addition to training in the alternative field. A computer science major could get a minor in business or vice versa. Those who already have degrees might instead opt for continuing education credits or certifications in the alternative. The goal is to show employers a knowledge of business basics and a good understanding of how IT can help a company to operate its business more effectively.
Starting Out in IT
Someone who's already working in an IT department can get involved with clients in the business community. Volunteer for projects that link IT and the business, such as those associated with bringing in new software or developing improvements to resolve problems business users experience. Working as a test analyst or quality assurance engineer provides for a good starting point en route to a business analyst role. Test analysts use business cases to test new or revised software before implementation. Quality assurance engineers develop those test cases by working directly with the business users who rely on the data being entered and tested.
Starting Out in Business
Someone who's already working in the business world can volunteer for projects involving IT. Database development projects require subject matter experts to provide input about data needs. IT team members must know what data SMEs enter, access and edit, in addition to how data moves across the organization. A potential candidate for a business analyst position should learn about the company's data needs. Provide value in the short-run as an SME until finally landing a position as a business analyst.
Communication Skills Development
IT staff members tend to talk tech while their user community clients talk business. These two groups might as well be talking two different languages. Business analysts should be conversant in both. Learn to listen attentively and to ask questions that can drive toward greater clarity. How to document the answers to all those questions is another key skill. Business analysts create flow charts to illustrate data use and data flow. Business users rely on the analyst to define their needs. Technology design engineers rely on the analyst to provide clear specifications based on those users' needs.
Whether looking for a job as a business analyst with a current or new employer, the key is to provide evidence of technical and business training and "multi-lingual" capabilities in both tech-talk and business-speak. Build out a resume that showcases skills in work flow or data flow documentation and highlights process improvement success stories, such as those that have reduced data entry redundancies.
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