Business analyst jobs are always a topic of conversation as a business analyst training company. And one effect of the global financial crisis was to put a lot of contract business analysts onto the job market. Many companies cancelled or deferred projects as part of their cost cutting measures. Contractors were among the first to be let go.
With so many experienced business analyst looking for work, those employers who were hiring had the pick of a very experienced talent pool. Colin Penn, a business analyst with over 20 years experience, was one of the people looking for work and has given this personal analysis of how he saw the business analyst jobs market in the second half of 2009. It took Colin a few weeks of scouring the job ads to find his next contract but during those weeks he identified several profiles which came up repeatedly.
- Technical BAs with facilitation skills. These analysts were required to have a working knowledge of IT architecture, applications and systems so that they could guide and advise participants during facilitated requirements gathering sessions. The ability to facilitate sessions was as important as a working knowledge of current technology.
- Technical BAs with a development background and specific knowledge of .NET, JAVA, XML, SQL or similar. Whilst the jobs were advertised as a business analyst, the analyst would predominantly be working with specifications and dealing with development teams.
- Business BAs with expertise in a specific industry. Many of these BAs were originally seconded to projects as the subject matter expert and from there made the transition into business analysis. Specialities in demand included banking, superannuation, utilities, supply chain logistics and telecommunications. Also in high demand was expertise in ecommerce, web based services (B2B and B2C) and specific software applications such as ERP (e.g. SAP, Oracle) and CRM (e.g. Siebel). Business BAs also operate at the strategic level although it’s rare these days. Current strategic thinking has evolved past the “aligning IT with the business” approach to now viewing IT as an integral part of the business strategy. More and more executives are becoming both IT savvy and business analysis aware, lessening the need for traditional, high-level business BAs.
- Maintenance BAs are used by many organisations where there is an ongoing need to provide enhancements and changes to production systems. This includes both commercial and government organisations and is work carried out either by IT staff performing a BA role or business people who have been transferred into the role. There were not many positions advertised for these roles as the work can usually be performed by lower paid staff (higher paid contractors were the ones being laid off). Many graduates also start their careers as maintenance BAs and as the economy improves expect to see more business analyst jobs for this type of position.
- The BA/Project manager was a common job description. Often advertised for medium sized projects, it can be OK in small dedicated teams, but the two roles can be contradictory on a larger project. The BA wants to find every important requirement whilst the project manager wants only the essentials in order to meet the deadline and the budget.
Previous project experience was also sought and popular areas included data warehousing, data migration, enterprise architecture integration and process automation. UML modelling skills were also in demand and to a lesser extent BPMN. There was also a distinction between data and process BA’s.
For a number of positions a testing background was also well regarded. This may emerge as a separate BA speciality with its own skills – testing tools experience and programming skills (such as SQL) for querying test results.
While not rigidly discrete, these classes of business analyst jobs show the diversity of the role and the fragmentation in the market. As in many professions, employers are becoming more demanding in the number and diversity of skills they want – especially in difficult economic times. Expect this to decrease as the economy improves and the pool of available talent shrinks.
A final word – all the job ads emphasised good communications skills. This has been, and continues to be the common factor for virtually every job that is advertised.
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