Not every job in tech is technical. This concept does not get enough attention, writes Christina Lovelock MBCS, Business Analysis leader.

If we are going to seriously address the UK digital skills gap, the conversation needs to be about more than coding. Most of the tech workforce do not write code, and we need to highlight and celebrate the wide range of roles in tech which require creativity, collaboration and problem solving.

What does it mean to be technical?

Of course, writing code is not the only way to be technical. Most professional disciplines have a technical dimension. The technical side of business analysis may include:

  • Skills in modelling languages such as Unified Modelling Language (UML) and Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN)
  • The toolkit of business analysis techniques
  • Experience of different software tools used to create analysis outputs
  • Knowledge of specific systems and platforms
  • Sector and organisational knowledge
  • Expertise in software delivery cycles and methods
  • Strong digital literacy: different tools, channels, concepts and devices.

The term technical is often used as if it is a personality trait, rather than a set of skills and knowledge. People who do not consider themselves to be technical can still have an engaging and fulfilling career in the tech sector. IT has become increasingly rebranded as digital, which has added a further layer of mystique to those on the outside looking in.

Business analysis represents a great transition role, for those who are curious and analytically minded, but who do not see themselves as technical.

Past and future of business analysis

Most business analysts (BAs) used to do something else before they discovered business analysis. BAs come from a range of backgrounds, including development, support, data, business and a whole load more. But there is a new generation of BAs, who have only ever been business analysts. With increased opportunities to follow a business analysis career pathway, including entry level roles and the business analysis apprenticeship scheme, the BA profession is maturing and is now a role that younger workers are aware of and can aspire to.

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What does that mean for a role which has welcomed those from so many different backgrounds who bring different areas of expertise? It means we have to embrace the concept of T-shaped professionals, acknowledge that not everyone can be good at everything, and allow people to specialise depending on their skills and interests. While business analysis benefits from a common baseline, consistent terminology and underpinning qualifications, it is damaged by a narrow interpretation of the role.

Is business analysis a technical role?

Sometimes. It depends.

The professional discipline often first emerges within organisation as part of an IT team/project delivery function. The trajectory for this is often:

  • Starts in IT, as dispersed individuals on projects or products.
  • Collected up into a team/chapter/function.
  • Can offer value beyond IT projects, moved into central change or architecture function.

Many organisations go around this loop a few times, trialling different organisational structures, in the same way that insourcing and outsourcing become fashionable and unfashionable.

Whichever operating model is in place, business analysts can provide clarity for customers and stakeholders by taking a service approach – that looks at the services which BAs can provide. This might include:

  • Situation investigation
  • Feasibility assessment
  • Business process improvement
  • Requirements definition

And other services, depending on the needs of the organisation and the existence of other adjacent disciplines. This could include business architecture, testing and assurance, systems analysis, business change management, strategy development and product ownership.

Conclusion

Business analysts are often engaged in delivering IT-enabled change and digital transformation. But the application of business analysis brings in perspectives which go beyond technology. It is a holistic disciple which champions business users and the impacts of change on people, process and culture.

To attract the next generation of tech talent, and to make headway with the digital skills gap, we need to make the widest possible number of people re-evaluate their perceptions of what a career in tech might mean. We must showcase the range of roles available and the many advantages of a career in digital, data and tech.

About the author

Christina Lovelock is a digital leader, coach and author. She is active in the business analysis professional community and champions entry level roles. She is the co-author of the BCS book Delivering Business Analysis: The BA Service Handbook.