Business Analysis Career Options
I don’t know if you are like me, but I am always looking for new opportunities. What is next on the horizon and what else can I learn and do? This is particularly true in January, a time when most of us do our annual New Year’s resolutions. A time of year when we often reflect on where we are, what we have done, and what is next. This could mean working on new habits, perhaps a new diet or exercise regime, or reviewing where we are in our current career compared to our career goals and aspirations.
As a Watermark Learning instructor, I often get asked what career options are open to business analysts after they have been in the profession for a time. (They wisely don’t ask me for dieting or exercise advice. ?) They not only want advice on how they can learn new skills, improve existing skill sets, or options for continuing credit hours for certification, but what the next step might be in their career.
In the past, business analysts in more traditional waterfall environments would often move into a project management position. Some were very successful, but others were disappointed with the role and didn’t like being away from the skill sets they used as a business analyst. For those in an Agile environment, perhaps it meant moving to a ScrumMaster or Product Owner role. All those roles are very worthy, but they often don’t let us leverage the analysis skills as much as we would like.
If you are like many BAs who find themselves needing new challenges, want to keep learning new things, and find new ways of applying their brain power, here are a number of career options that you may want to investigate for the new year. Note: various organizations may call these positions by different titles.
1. Senior or Lead Business Analyst
A senior or lead business analyst has a number of years of experience as a business analyst and has mastered many of the core competencies and corresponding skill sets. They have a deep understanding of business processes and are often more proficient in using various models and techniques. They may provide coaching and mentoring to other business analysts and may direct the work of other business analysts. A senior or lead BA is a role model for others, and they are often acknowledged as the “go to” person in the group who shares their experience and knowledge to help other BAs improve their skill sets.
2. Enterprise Analyst
An enterprise level BA works on defining business problems, presents solutions, and looks for new business opportunities. Enterprise BAs may assist senior level and executive stakeholders in making informed decisions. Their goal is to understand the business from an enterprise and strategic perspective. They provide internal consulting to the business on new projects, business process improvements, and new business domains.
3. Business Relationship Manager (BRM)
A Business Relationship Manager (BRM) acts as a liaison between the business (the customer) and the service provider (internal departments providing the business a service; for example, IT, HR, or accounting) to facilitate and improve the communication between both parties. They help the service provider (often IT) demonstrate their value and relevance to the business and help the business prioritize projects, ensure projects align with the technology that maximizes return on investment, and ensure that the IT strategy supports the business strategy. To meet these needs, BRMs must have substantial knowledge both about the business and the technology to provide maximum benefit.
4. Business Architect
Business architects provide a blueprint of the organization that serves as a bridge between the enterprise business models and strategy and actual business functionality. Business architects continually look at the current and future environmental states in which the organization operates to help business executives think of multiple alternatives and the direction in which business needs to be 2, 5, or 10 years from now.
A business architect may develop a business architecture strategy; capture key views of the organization; map metrics to tactical and strategic enterprise goals to provide ongoing governance; describe the primary business functions; define strategic, core, and support processes that transcend functional and organizational boundaries; identify and describe external entities that interact with the business (e.g. customers, suppliers, external systems); and describe which people, resources, and controls are involved in the various processes.
5. BA Coach or Mentor (Internal or external)
A formal BA coach and mentor is often attached to a Project Management Office or Center of Excellence. These BAs have numerous years of experience and have often developed and honed their skills in both structured and agile environments. Their primary focus is on developing the skills and knowledge base of other business analysts.
These coaching/mentoring BAs will sit side by side other business analysts to help build their business analysis capabilities. They may also formally train other business analysts. They are considered subject matter experts and bring a high level of expertise, ideas, and acquired skills to improve both the business analysis processes and business analysts’ performances.
Now that I peaked your interest, here are a few suggestions on how to start moving toward your next opportunity:
- Research the role to see if it might be right for you. Watermark has additional articles and blogs on many of these topics to add to your internet search.
- Network and talk to someone who is already in the role to find out what they do on a daily basis, why they like that role, etc.
- Investigate skill development courses that will help you develop the skill sets you need to be successful. Watermark offers many skill development courses and are continually adding additional courses, so check in with us on a regular basis.
- Attend chapter meetings and conferences that cover your area of interests, such as the Twin Cities Business Architecture Forum, IIBA chapter meetings, IIBA conferences, BA & PM conferences, etc.
- Look into various certification and certificate programs. Check out Watermark’s certification classes for further development.
Dr. Susan Heidorn, PMP, CBAP, HSDP, CSM, BRMP is the Director of Business Solutions for Watermark Learning in Minneapolis. Susan is an experienced consultant, facilitator, speaker, and trainer, with over 25 years of business experience. Susan directs programs in business analysis, business relationship management, and leadership, including developing and delivering courses and providing consulting. She has been a speaker at a number of IIBA® and PMI® conferences as well as local and regional organizations, boards, and private clients. She is a lifelong learner whose passion it is to guide people into achieving excellence in their personal and professional lives and works on creating positive impacts to the organization.