Top 5 skills that an IT business analyst should have

Most people think that their lack of technical skills can prevent them from starting their business analysis career.

While this is not be quite true, technical knowledge is useful if you want to become a successful IT business analyst.

I started my career as a programmer so I have a information technology background, but I have realised that many successful business analysts actually started their careers as end users.

While it is nice to have some technical knowledge especially when communicating with the technical team members, being able to understand the business side of things is also very valuable.

Having said that, it would be naive of a business analyst especially one who works in the information technology domain to believe that they can succeed without some technical knowledge.

So what are the top 5 skill set that an IT business analyst should have ?

  1. Structured Query Language (SQL) : SQL is a structured programming language that is used to the manage the data that is stored in a relational database management system.

The data is accessed and manipulated through queries, which include these examples:

  • SELECT – this command extracts data from a database
  • UPDATE – this command updates the data in a database
  • DELETE – this command deletes data from a database
  • INSERT INTO – this command inserts new data into a database
  • CREATE DATABASE – this command creates a new database
  • ALTER DATABASE – this command modifies a database
  • CREATE TABLE – this command creates a new table
  • ALTER TABLE – this command modifies a table
  • DROP TABLE – This command deletes a table

I consider SQL to be a vital skill set for an IT business analyst because most organizations use one type of SQL database or another, so it would be an invaluable skill set to have in your toolkit.

2. Business intelligence : every organization wants to harness the power of data analysis and use it to make informed decisions, so having this skill set would be invaluable to a business analyst.

Business intelligence knowledge includes analysing data with an excel spreadsheet. Though this is considered a basic knowledge, you would be surprised at the number of people who don’t know how to use basic excel formulas.

Excel is an invaluable tool which can be used in root cause analysis and troubleshooting so its usefulness should never be underrated.

So while it would be nice to learn Power BI, Tableau and even R programming. If you don’t have the time or resources to devote to getting these business intelligence trainings, invest some time in learning basic Microsoft Excel, you won’t regret your decision.

3. Project Management: Yes I know what you are thinking,

“But business analysts are not project managers!”

While in theory that might be true, in reality most business analysts are also project managers.

Most organizations have capital (CAPEX) and operational (OPEX) projects; the CAPEX projects are the big money projects that are also given more importance mainly because they are so expensive. But there are also those projects, the OPEX projects which are used to “keep the lights on” in the organization, so to speak.

These OPEX projects are also important because without them the organization cannot keep functioning properly, examples of these projects include software application upgrades and server migrations.

These OPEX projects are usually managed by business analysts. So it is always useful to have some project management knowledge which could help ensure that these projects are successful.

When I say project management knowledge, I don’t mean that the business analyst has to have to get a PMP or PRINCE2 certification.

You can just study the project management methodologies, so that they can would help guide you on the right way to approach a project.

4. Business Process Management (BPM) : I have previously written about the business process management perspective, so I do know how important this knowledge is.

As a business analyst, you have to be able to understand the business needs and find solutions to these needs.

These solution can be as simple as elimination a non-value adding step in a process or as complex as implementing a new enterprise resource application (ERP) in a company with more than ten thousand employees.

But the common theme in these two solutions is that you have to understand the business processes of the organization.

It would be difficult to recommend a solution to the users if you do not understand their problems and the only way you can understand their problem is if you understand their processes.

That is where the business process management perspective comes in, it gives you the knowledge and techniques that are essential to process management.

5. Business Writing : While this is not actually a technical skill, it is a skill that all business analysts should have so I am including it in this list.

In a perfect world, an organization would have a business need, the business analysts would be invited to go in, analyze their processes, provide a solution and the solution would be accepted by everyone in the organization.

But in reality, it is not quite that easy.

When there is a change, there would probably be some resistance to that change. The cause of this resistance can range from the fear of losing their jobs to their unwillingness to accept something new.

Regardless of the cause, the business analyst should expect some resistance to change. While soft skills such as negotiation, leadership and communication can go a long way in supporting the change, business writing is a way to prove with words the value to be gained with the change.

Documents that a business analyst would be expected to write include business cases, functional requirement specifications, stakeholder analysis, and business analysis plan. Being able to communicate information effectively is an invaluable skill set and that is why business writing is an invaluable skill set.