Traversing The Business Analyst Career Path

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Martin Pienaar is traversing the business analyst career path with Joe Newbert, defining industry change through a growing business analysis profession.

Martin Pienaar’s chief passions – business, cutting-edge technology, education and community service – are evident in the company he co-owns, Mindworx: one of SA’s most successful human capital resource and consulting providers.

As an IIBA-SA Non-Executive, Martin contributes valuable insight as an innovation champion committed to advancing the local business analysis profession.

What is the demand for business analysis skills at the moment? Does it appear to be a profession on the rise or decline, or is it static?

The world is digitising and business analysts are – and will – continue to play an important role in this move from analogue to digital. Also, there is massive pressure on organisations to speed up innovation to remain competitive. With the rate of change at the levels, we are seeing,

… the business analyst profession is growing steadily and will continue to do so.

Currently, which particular requirements within the business analysis skill-set are most called for?

Business analysts with specific domain knowledge and experience are being mostly called for, and this is usually quite targeted, so, for example, credit in retail banking, or electronic banking in a corporate bank. Then, in almost all cases, a degree or postgraduate qualification, with a business analyst qualification or use of specific tools and methodologies in addition. Lately, more and more, an agile qualification or experience thereof is being requested.

Are you seeing fundamental business analysis skills being called for as part of other roles too?

Many organisations are merging their centres of excellence for business analysis and process engineering into a single requirements unit. So, it may be less about business analysis skills being needed for other roles and more about the business analysts’ skills having to grow to allow companies to include new technologies into their product suites. Examples are: building out skills in big data, machine learning, blockchain. There are many other exponential technologies changing the competitive landscape, and business analysts can be at the forefront of their company by becoming proficient and making changes to adapt to these new ways of working.

Is the market embracing industry recognition, through professional certification, as a key requirement?

There is definitely a growing need for professional certification as a requirement, but it is still somewhat behind the need for a university degree. This is strange to me, but I feel that companies are probably using a degree as a proxy for the ability to work under pressure, cognitive ability and numeracy. Perhaps by improving the upfront assessment of people, the industry can depend less on degrees and focus more on business analysis certifications instead.

Which patterns stand out in terms of recent career paths and decisions that people are making?

The trends I am seeing are a greater requirement for subject matter experts in addition to business analysis skills. As a result, many business analysts end up in product roles as their careers progress. Other paths are project managers, managers of BA teams and solutions roles which include process engineering skills.

What foresight can you provide with regard to how business project roles may evolve over the next few years?

Like many roles, going forward much of what a business analyst will do in future has yet to be determined. As a result, business analysts will need to

… focus on the important 21st-century skills of creativity, managing conflict, ability to work with ambiguity and under pressure, and all with curiosity.

Certainly there will be pressure to innovate at speed, and business analysts will need to master the tools and methodologies needed for rapid cycle change.

What must companies do to innovate their working environment, to attract and retain key business analysis skills?

Employers will need to be more creative in ensuring that their environments are attractive in order to retain scarce business analysis skills. Some options available to companies are allowing unstructured time for non-specific innovation (Google allows one day a week for this), flexible work where some time can be remote, best of breed training and training on emerging opportunities, as well as systems to recognise great performance.

Generally, how consciously do people seemingly manage their careers? What can people do to better manage their futures?

It doesn’t matter if you are in a contract or a permanent role; you need to ensure that each change of role has been thought through and is part of a longer-term plan.

So often I see people jumping from one industry to another and from one company to the next with no obvious career strategy in place. Staying too long in one organisation is the other side of the coin and can lead to stagnation or a flat learning curve.

Seek out innovative industries and companies that are prepared to invest in you as a business analysis professional. Always be on the leading edge of changes taking place and new tools and methodologies. Standing still is going backwards!

Do people invest in their careers sufficiently? Which self-improvement actions should we be taking?

People seem to start out investing in their careers only to lose interest later on. Industries are being disrupted, and business analysts can be catalysts for change. Think Kodak and Nokia: once dominant in their industries and great employers that were overtaken or are now completely out of business.

We simply don’t have the luxury of not continuing to invest in our skills.

Read articles and books on the industry you are in. Take whatever training opportunities are offered to you. Don’t only focus on technical skills, but ensure that you are building the so-called “soft skills” that will differentiate you as your career progresses.

How engaged do you find the business analysis profession to be? What could the community do to locate and leverage the opportunity?

There is a lot more happening now, and the role of a business analyst is certainly now – more than ever before – being perceived as a  lifelong profession. The IIBA is doing a great job in cementing this. Given how much we all have on our plates, there is definitely an opportunity to increase collaboration, both online and offline. If Linux can evolve to the dominant operating system it has become through collaboration, there is clearly so much more that we can do to solve industry problems together.

‘Traversing The Business Analyst Career Path with Martin Pienaar‘ was first published in the 2016 Inter-View Report. You can tweet about traversing the business analyst career path with @MartinPienaar and @Newbert over on Twitter.

About Joe Newbert

Joe is a consultant, a writer, a speaker and above all a teacher, who spends most of his time at the Business Change Academy helping people to grow their skills, bring meaningful change and see their career soar.

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