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Business Analyst: Job Description, Role and Skills

What is a business analyst and what do they do exactly? Let's explore the role of BAs in Australia.

Analytics presentation in office meeting room

What Is a Business Analyst?

A business analyst is a professional technician and communicator who studies how to improve business processes. Business analysts present solutions to problems or project initiatives based on careful analysis.

The role is to use data and other evidence to pinpoint what a business needs and suggest clear steps to meet those needs. While they often work on IT projects, they can also assist in many other areas of a business, ensuring changes are effective and align with company goals.

Business analysts typically hold a university degree in a field such as business analysis, information technology, finance, or management. The skills required include the ability to identify and address business challenges, manipulate data to gain statistical insights, communicate findings to diverse audiences, and work collaboratively in team settings.

What Exactly Does a BA Do?

To understand exactly what a business analyst (BA) does, you can think of what business owners or managers need when implementing change. Andrew Lancaster, founder of Unicurve, observes that "Sometimes, you just need someone smart who is good with data to investigate problems in depth and recommend solutions. I consider a business analyst to be someone who does that for a living."

So, the role is essentially investigation and problem-solving to help business run more effectively. But we can be more precise than that.

The job of a business analyst is to use data and technical skills to offer solutions to business problems. They collaborate with stakeholders to understand, analyse, and document business requirements. BAs bridge the gap between the technical team and end-users, ensuring that systems or processes align with business needs.

Using analytical, modelling and other tools, statistical methods, and general expertise, business analysts deliver actionable insights. They guide the rollout of new strategies, technologies, and processes. Their role doesn't stop at the present; they also anticipate and prepare for future challenges, promoting ongoing improvements.

Related: How to Use Business Analytics for Decision Making

Skills Required

Man generating charts and statistical analysis on a laptop

To be a successful business analyst, you need a blend of both technical and soft skills. On the technical side, you need to be comfortable using data and presenting statistics, though the job is less technical than those of a data scientist or data analyst. On the non-technical side, BAs need to work effectively with others to understand requirements, gather information, and be influential.

Technical skills

1. Data analysis
Using tools and techniques, business analysts interpret data, discern patterns, and make predictions.

2. Process modelling
Detailed maps and flowcharts are created to represent business workflows, using tools like Microsoft Visio or Lucidchart.

3. Requirement gathering
Capturing, organising, and detailing business needs is crucial, with the goal to transform insights into functional requirements.

4. Solution assessment
The viability of proposed solutions needs to be evaluated to ensure alignment with business objectives.

5. Documentation
Clear documents like business requirement documents and use cases have to be drafted.

6. Technological aptitude
BAs should be familiar with software, databases, and IT environments relevant to the industry or project.

Non-technical skills

1. Stakeholder engagement
Building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders across all levels, understanding their perspectives and addressing their concerns.

2. Critical thinking
Analysing complex scenarios, identifying underlying issues, and comprehending the bigger picture.

3. Collaborative problem solving
Working in tandem with diverse teams to brainstorm, innovate, and address business challenges.

4. Decision making
Prioritising requirements, defining project scope, and making informed choices, even under pressure.

5. Communication
Being a keen listener and articulate communicator, ensuring clarity in interactions, whether it's asking the right questions or conveying information.

6. Presentation skills
Confidently showcasing findings, proposals, and solutions to audiences, from team members to top-tier executives.

Foundational skills in data analysis are essential. Without the ability to manipulate data, you may often be reliant on others. In addition, you may be uncompetitive for entry-level and mid-tier roles. According to business analyst Lillian Chiu, "In terms of what I do, I also analyse existing data to provide insights like data analysts do, but I will have to take it a step further to build business strategies based on the insights that I see."

Related: Business Analytics vs Data Science

What the Job Is Actually Like

Being a business analyst is more than just crunching numbers. As Lillian Chiu from Spotify puts it, it's about "storytelling with data." She brings numbers to life and turns them into compelling stories. These stories guide significant business decisions.

But the role has its demands. When working on reports, Lillian admits, "my brain is on fire." This speaks to the intense focus the job requires. She turns raw data into actionable insights, and that needs dedication.

However, it's not all about stress. Lillian has a strategy: stay calm and take breaks. She often steps back for a "10-minute break" before diving in again. It's a reminder that with the right approach, the job can be both rewarding and manageable.

Lillian Chiu, business analyst with Spotify

Is Studying Business Analytics Worthwhile?

The business analytics field is fast-growing, making skilled business analysts in demand with Australian employers. Entering this broad occupational field is a good move if you have technical aptitude and an interest in improving business performance. Learning business analysis is easier than learning data analytics.

The job outlook for professionals with business analyst skills is excellent. BAs command competitive salaries, generally upwards of $100k. We estimate the typical Master of Business Analytics salary is from $101k to $123k.

The range of careers in business analytics extend to roles such as business intelligence analyst, data analyst, marketing analyst, IT business analyst, and analytics manager. The diversity of positions highlights the increasing value and demand for analytical expertise.

These professionals bridge the gap between data insights and actionable business strategies. For example, in software development, a BA might work closely with developers and end-users to ensure a new application meets user needs and aligns with organisational goals. The skill set is increasingly sought after in sectors like IT, finance, digital marketing, healthcare, and HR.

Australia's continued push into the digital economy means big data is a big deal. As businesses increasingly rely on data for insights, the demand for those who can convert this data into actionable strategies continues to rise. The comprehensive training offered by a Master of Business Analytics program can definitely position you for a prosperous career in this domain.

Related: Is a Masters in Business Analytics Worth It?

How to Become a Business Analyst in Australia

Data analysts working together

In Australia, becoming a business analyst starts with your education. You really need a uni degree to establish a good career platform. Also, focus on developing industry-relevant skills and gaining initial work experience. Here are the key steps.

1. Study for a bachelor degree
A uni degree is usually expected in business analyst roles. Preferred study areas include business analytics, information technology, computer science, economics, and finance. If you have a degree in another domain like psychology or engineering, don't worry. Skills from diverse fields can be adapted to business analysis, particularly with additional postgraduate studies.

2. Get acquainted with the BABOK® Guide
This guide by the International Institute of Business Analysis™ is widely recognised globally and in Australia. It's an essential read for understanding the core skills and best practices in the field.

3. Gain relevant work experience
Hands-on experience with data in a business environment is key. Entry-level jobs to consider include junior data analyst, business analysis assistant, and graduate analyst. In these roles, you'll engage with data and analytics directly, drawing insights and observing their application in the business.

4. Study for postgraduate qualifications
To stand out, consider further studies such as a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, or masters degree in business analytics, or an MBA with a business analytics focus. If your undergrad educaction isn't closely related to analytics, postgraduate studies offer the skills you need.

5. Do an industry certification exam (optional)
Certifications can validate your expertise. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers the CCBA for those with 2-3 years of experience and the CBAP for those with over 5 years.

Related: Business Analytics Courses Online in Australia