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Business Analysis: Discipline, Role or Title?  

 By Justin Mohareb, Technical Writer, IIBA  
 
Many careers are familiar to people. Any child can tell you what a fireman or astronaut does. The duties of a lawyer or doctor are familiar to most people from direct exposure and popular culture. Some jobs like farmers or priests have been around since the beginning of civilization and are deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. 
 
Business Analysis, however, is still somewhat of a novelty among careers. As such it faces a challenge unique among occupations: defining itself both within the body of Business Analysis and to the world outside. This is a task which International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) seeks to make sure is completed as fast and easy as possible. 
 
The perception of Business Analysis has evolved over its existence. “There was a time,” said IIBA Head of Learning & Development Maureen McVey, “when the perception was, and frankly this still exists, that anyone could do the business analyst (BA) job. In IT where the BA position is most recognized it was viewed that the PM could do BA work or a Software Test professional could work with stakeholders to understand the business need.”
 
The BA role has begun to be more clearly understood. “A business analyst helps the business to identify the right problems to solve”, says McVey. “The BA utilizes techniques specific to the BA profession to understand the problem, analyze the problem and recommend solutions.”
 
The skills of a BA require specific training, according to IIBA Chief Business Analyst, Kevin Brennan. “Business analysis skills don't grow organically—at least, not all of them. The soft skills can be developed that way, but a really good BA needs to practice developing different kinds of requirements models, exposure to feedback on requirements, coaching, and other deliberate effort to become effective in the role.”
 
As Business Analysis becomes more developed there are a variety of options for educational programs to support new BAs as they prepare to enter the position. “There is a need for both undergraduate level programs which address foundational business analysis skills and knowledge, and for graduate programs that address specialities such as enterprise analysis and business intelligence,” said McVey. “The BA role spans all levels of an organization and as a BA navigates his or her career through to C level positions, will need an education that addresses those levels. “
 
A discipline is a very broad definition of knowledge; can Business Analysis be said to be a discipline? McVey certainly feels so. “Business analysis is a discipline that requires specific skills and knowledge such as analytical thinking, creativity, systems thinking and strong communications and relationship building. The BA also uses techniques such as interviews, requirements workshops, process, and data models to identify changes needed to meet business objectives. It is unique from management or software engineering disciplines in that the focus is not just on managing day-to-day operations or implementing software.”  
 
Business Analysts possess a diverse number of skills and can fulfill a number of different roles in addition to that of a dedicated Business Analyst. “The BA has a unique perspective when it comes to more strategic roles. Decision Analysis includes business intelligence and business analytics which focuses on business information (data, reports), trends to advise executives. An enterprise analyst is a very senior role that includes business architecting to address outside and internal drivers. All of these roles can lead a business analyst to executive positions such as Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Information Officer (CIO) and perhaps Chief Executive Officer (CEO).”
 
Brennan points out that one role is commonly merged with that of a BA. “(T)he most common combined role is one we rarely if ever think about because the people in that role don't think of themselves as BAs: the manager/BA. Any senior management role requires business analysis skills.”
 
In the end, Business Analysis and the job performed by the Business Analyst is a diverse position that can be easily considered a discipline, role or title. 
 
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