Business Analysis: A Critical Skill for Any Project, Not Just IT

The practice of Business Analysis has been around for centuries, but the role was only officially recognised in the 1990s where it began to gain widespread acceptance in the working world.

Did you know that the first business analyst was a woman?

Her name was Grace Hopper, and she was a computer scientist who worked for the United States Navy. In the 1950s, she developed a method for analysing software requirements, which was the first formal approach to Business Analysis.

Hopper’s work was groundbreaking, and it helped to lay the foundation for the profession as we know it today. She is considered to be one of the pioneers of Business Analysis.

In the last 30 years, some common myths and misconceptions about the profession have been circulating.   As the field is relatively new, a lack of understanding exists about what Business Analysis actually entails. In our experience, the profession is often merged or confused with other roles, like Project Management or Systems Analysis. 

We’d like to set the record straight and share some insight into what Business Analysis IS and, more importantly what it is NOT.

Myth 1: Business Analysis is just about requirements gathering.

Business Analysis focuses on analysing and optimising the processes and functions that make up a business. Analytics professionals analyse what a business needs to improve and function optimally, while working to implement solutions. This may include processes re-engineering, updating policies or introducing new technology.

The discipline of Business Analysis includes activities such as:

  • Understanding the business context.
  • Identifying and documenting requirements.
  • Prioritising and negotiating requirements. 
  • Validating and verifying requirements.
  • Communicating requirements to stakeholders.

Myth 2: Business Analysts are technical experts.

Business Analysts do not need to be technical experts. However, they do need to have a good understanding of the business and the technology that is used to support the business. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical stakeholders.

Myth 3: Business Analysis is a repetitive job.

Business Analysis can be a challenging and rewarding job. This specialist area requires creativity, problem-solving skills, and interpersonal skills which isn’t synonymous with the mundane. Business Analysts are often involved in high-stakes projects that can have a significant impact on the projects and ultimately, the success of the business.

Myth 4: Business Analysts are only needed for IT projects.

Big data is currently governing the business landscape which has resulted in analytics professionals taking on the role of both developer and analyst. While this trend seems to be growing in prominence, Business Analysts are required for all types of projects, including IT projects, business process improvement projects, and organisational change projects.

Irrespective of industry or project, they ensure that the project is aligned to the needs of the business.

Read: Essential Digital Skills for Project Professionals – Afro Ant

Myth 5: Anyone can be a Business Analyst.

Business Analysis focuses on data, statistical analysis and reporting to help investigate and analyse business performance, provide insights, and drive recommendations to improve performance. While there are no formal tertiary requirements* required to become a Business Analyst, successful professionals possess a specialist skillset which, in our experience, is quite hard to come by. This includes:

  • Problem-solving & Analytical skills.
  • Curiosity and a Continuous Learning Mindset
  • Communication skills.
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Ability to translate and visualize data.
  • Detail Oriented as well as being able to think about the Big Picture.
  • Business knowledge.
  • IT and systems knowledge.

*The most common Business Analysis certification in South Africa is the Certified Business Analyst (CBA) certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). In the world of projects, this certification is highly regarded. While a BSc (CS) or BSc (IT) degree isn’t a formal requirement either, we have found Computer Science graduates to often pursue a Business Analysis path.

These are just some of the common myths about business analysis. If you are interested in a career in business analysis, it is important to understand these myths and the reality of the profession. By doing so, you can make an informed decision about whether or not business analysis is the right career for you.

Interested in exploring a career in Business Analysis? Get in touch with the Afro Ant Team.