Business analyst in IT: how to enter the profession

I have compiled the most popular questions that aspiring business analysts ask me and my colleagues. I hope the answers will be useful to everyone who is just about to become a business analyst in IT, regardless of the current place of work and position. For those who needs a more detailed overview I strongly recommend The Business Analyst Handbook.

How to become a business analyst in IT: my story

Many people want to work in IT, but there is no desire to program. Then they begin to consider possible options: tester, project manager, analyst. On the contrary, I was first a developer and then became a business analyst. This is also a fairly common professional track.

At the beginning of the 2000s, while still at the institute, I got into a large project – we developed a system that automated the management of passenger traffic (booking and buying tickets, scheduling, establishing information about free seats, and so on). In the project, everyone was equal, everyone communicated a little with the client, wrote the code and tested. Where the tasks were relatively simple, the scheme worked, but it failed on one complex subsystem. The customer did not accept our first release, then the second.


The reason was that we did not understand deeply enough in the customer’s business processes, did not fully understand the current and desired state. Accordingly, the code could not be correct, no matter how many releases were released. So a request for a new position appeared in the company.

I began to devote most of my time in the project to communicating with the client, documenting his needs, thinking over solutions that would cover these needs. And I realized that I prefer not to develop, but to understand what the client needs and how best to do it.

Who is a business analyst?

This is the person who first determines where the client’s business is and where it should be (where are we going?). Then, together with the customer and the team, he prescribes the route in order to bring maximum business value with minimal costs. This is short.

A business analyst is needed at all three stages of a project.

1. Pre-design analysis. Typically takes 2-6 weeks. The analyst’s task is to identify the current state of the business, its needs and determine the boundaries of solutions: what we are doing and what we are not going to do. This is a high-level analysis. If, for example, a client implements ERP, the analyst determines what modules are needed, what we integrate with, what types of users will be.

The main difficulty at this stage is to form a common vision for the customer and the developer: where we are going, what we are doing and what we are not doing.

2. Analysis within the project. It can last six months, a year or more. A business analyst works with detailed requirements: identifies, describes, models and reconciles. Manages requests for changes, if in the process new business tasks appear, the law governing the client’s activities has changed, or the wishes of stakeholders have appeared or changed.

3. Post-project analysis. After the release, the analyst assesses how the solution is in line with the plans, what prevents it from delivering the declared value, what improvements can be made. Updates the knowledge base for the product, if further maintenance / development of the system is planned or it is provided for by the contract.

Who does the business analyst work with?

It is sometimes said that a business analyst is a translator between business and IT. I believe that this is the person who organizes the joint work. This is an equal participant in the round table, at which developers, testers, project managers, the customer, its suppliers and clients sit, the regulator represented by the quality control department, government and international organizations. In fact, one way or another, a business analyst works with them.

How does a business analyst in IT differ from other business analysts?

From a bird’s eye view, all business analysts do the same thing. They study the work of the customer’s organization and suggest ways to achieve business goals. This can be done in different ways, for example, by redistributing responsibilities in the team, changing business processes, outsourcing some work. That is, it is not necessary to develop new software.

The difference between a business analyst in IT is that his main tool for achieving goals is software. His project requires the development, revision or implementation of a boxed solution.

What does a business analyst’s working day look like?

The bulk of the working time is spent on communication with the team in order to convey the customer’s requirements, talk over implementation options, answer existing questions and collect new ones. Secondly, communication with the client: identifying requirements, fixing agreements, setting priorities. Thirdly, paperwork: preparation of specifications, analysis of documents that are sources of requirements.

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