How do you arrive at a career in BA? Three different business analysts discuss their routes into the profession, their growth in the role and the myriad of skills involved in making BA a success in their organisations, in this webinar for BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

10 key questions (and answers) about a career in business analysis
Play video

The webinar guest panel includes:

  • Sumit Sethi, MBCS, CITP Business Architect and Analyst
  • Nichola Paterson, Senior IT Business Analyst for Hampshire County Council
  • Saif Ahmed, Junior Business Analyst at JLL
  • Chair: Brian Runciman, Head of Content & Insight at BCS.

When Nichola Paterson completed her degree in maths and became a trainee programmer working on Oracle databases and forms, she probably didn’t realise that a couple of decades later she’d be a BA apprentice.

Sumit Sethi wanted to be a project manager and ‘accidentally’ became a BA to enhance his chosen career - however his accidental BA discovery has, for him been the perfect career.

Saif Ahmed was looking for a technical IT career and his company suggested a BA apprenticeship that mixed both IT and BA. It was a winning combination.

In summary, business analysis is a profession with a great future. And if you have the right BA skills you stand a good chance of enjoying a rewarding career.

1. When does the BA get involved in a project?

Nichola: ‘The BAs get involved at the project gates. So we start off with very high level requirements, then get the more detailed requirements ready while the project's mobilising ready for the project to start. [We start at] business benefits at a high level then get into more detail... it's around getting from understanding the ‘as is’ and the ‘to be’ - where you’re trying to get to. Then in that, I’ve been doing large workshops and smaller meetings and getting all the process diagrams and the requirements validated with the relevant subject matter experts and stakeholders in the business.’

2. What are the starting points for a BA?

Sumit: ‘I tend to get parachuted in quite quickly and, in that moment of activity, a lot of people don't know what we're doing so I tend to step back and try to distil. [I use a] technique of Boscard or Oscar. You know, what's the background? What are the objectives? What are we fundamentally trying to do? And in the early days or when things are quite busy people tend to resist that... I tend to try to understand what we, as a collective [are] trying to change. Why are we trying to change it?’

3. Do the best BAs think in words or pictures?

Sumit: ‘Even in that complexity, I tend to get asked to do diagrams, use cases flows and I think because other people tend to go [to] lots of meetings and maybe not document or produce output, that's where I feel that I add value, by producing a page or a picture and then that really helps me understand what we're trying to achieve... My pride and joy... is my whiteboard.’

4. What are the essential soft skills for a BA?

Nichola: ‘In BA some of the core skills are good listening, questioning and understanding. So asking the right questions to get clarity [and] those sort of soft skills I think are really important [as is] a can-do attitude.’

5. What sort of people make good business analysts?