Career paths for Business Analysts
A lot of people who start their career as a Business Analyst are left wondering where to go from here a few years down the road. This is because (a) the industry doesn’t really have a good definition of business analyst role and it differs greatly organisation to organisation and (b) the role is extremely dynamic and has been ever-changing as the methods to develop software have and finally (c ) the BAs usually end up reporting to leaders with no experience in relevant domains. In these circumstances, the Business Analysts are left with very little internal coaching or a structured development framework.
I have worked as a Technical Business Analyst, Change/Process Business Analyst, as well as a Consultant Business Analyst in my career, so have been lucky to have experienced all flavours of the role in various industries. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the options available to junior to mid-level Business Analysts exploring their next steps.
1. Vertical growth in Business Analysis domain
In many organisations, the Business Analyst role comes with a good growth plan. If your organisation offers, you can explore moving up the chain from a BA to a Senior, then to a Lead and finally a Principal BA. Some organisations also have a role called Head of BA Practice which doesn’t expect you to be a hands-on BA but help develop the standards and best practices for the organisation for the BA practice.
Training and Certifications: British Computer Society, BABOK Body of Knowledge, International Institute of Business Analysys
2. Agile Coach
Agile Coach is a newish role. A lot of organisations want to move towards an Agile SDLC process and usually hire a consultant Agile Coach to come in and help them kickstart. However, they also hire a resident Agile Coach to ensure the Agile practices keep functioning and the team members receive the required training and coaching.
If you are a mid to senior-level Business Analyst and have been working as a hands-on Agile Business Analyst in various organisations of different sizes in different industries, this is an option to consider. To be eligible for this transition, you should not only have practised all flavours of Agile (Scrum, Kanban and the like) as a hands-on Agile BA, but should also have helped your organisation tweak and twist them to suit the process.
If this is the role you want to consider, pursue relevant opportunities in your current BA role so you can build up some evidence of being an Agile Coach.
Training & Certifications: Trainer/Coach certifications from Scrum Alliance.
3. The technical vertical
I have a strong bias for technical business analysts. If you are one — you have a few more opportunities open for you. The role System Analyst of the 90s is now usually called Technical Architect or Solutions Architect and both are open for you if you can evidence a strong hands-on technical knowledge. You should keep yourself up to date with trends in development including both front end and backend, databases, data structures, messaging streams, design models etc.
Once you’re in it, the next logical step is Enterprise Architecture discipline.
Training & Certifications: Consider Enterprise Architecture & Solution Design training and certification from British Computer Society if this interests you.
4. Project Management pathway
For many Business Analysts, their day job requires them to do some level of Project Management- it can be high-level planning, dependency management, tasks overview, release management etc. If you have been involved in this through your career as a BA, you can also explore Project Management opportunities.
Make sure to evidence any project management work you have done as part of your career and if you don’t, first pursue such opportunities in your current role to bridge that gap.
Training & Certifications: Also consider getting some of the project management certifications like PMP on your CV.
5. Product Management
A very natural step for many Business Analysts is to take up the Product Management role. Don’t be mistaken though — it is not the same role. This is quite a big shift from being very tactical and hands-on to being strategic and also focusing on medium to long term.
Training & Certifications: Consider getting some Product Management training; certifications always help to evidence that skill. Consider Product Focus, Product 360 and Roman Pichler.
6. ITIL Operations (Service Design & Delivery, InfoSec Mgr)
This is one area I have not touched much in my career and have very little advice to offer but I know some BAs who were able to switch from a BA role into Service Design, Service Delivery or even Information Security Manager role. These were usually the BAs who have not focused a lot on design and delivery of the software, but more on its maintenance and customer relationship management. Naturally, they were exposed a lot more to these process and roles and hence a good choice for them.
Training & Certifications: I do know that the best training and certification to kickstart a shift into this area is ITIL Foundation pathway.
7. Consultant BA
One career choice I can not recommend the Business Analysts enough is to work for a Consultancy. This is because a Consultancy offers you a fantastic opportunity to work with a huge variety of clients, industries, process and products in a short span of time. I worked with a consultancy for an 18 month period and was able to experience working in 4 completely different industries, 5 different products and a very different set of clients. This experience is irreplaceable and not something you can gain working with subject-matter based on area-focused organisations. That might make you an SME in that domain but especially in early to mid part of you career, you need to focus on the breadth and depth of your BA skillset and not domain knowledge.
Training & Certifications: No certifications or training required on this pathway, look for what software development or product consultancies you can find where you live and consider applying for a BA role there.
8. Management Analyst
Management analysts are also often known as management consultants. People in this role advise managers and business leaders on ways to improve company processes, reduce costs and increase revenue. They are very similar to IT business analysts, but they generally consult for other companies rather than working internally for one company.
Many management analysts pick one focus area, such as IT, finance or government, and act as a subject matter expert for clients in that arena. Most management analysts only need a bachelor’s degree, though having an MBA or equivalent training can improve your job hunt.
9. Pre Sales Consultant
As a Pre Sales Consultant, you would be expected to know your product and it’s capabilities. Your primary job is to support the sales team who are trying to sell your company’s product. This would be the case if you are a vendor side Pre-sales consultant. Likewise, you can also be the client-side Pre-sales BA. As a Client Side Pre-sales BA, you are supposed to create or respond to request for proposal/information and raise the right kind of queries related to the service you seek from the vendor whose product you intend to buy/use.
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