8 Proven Steps to Transition from Software Developer to Business Analyst
For those more interested in the business side of software development, check out these eight steps to begin building a new career.
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This is a very frequent request that we come across.
“I have been a software developer for quite some time and would like to learn about a new role. I am excited about a business analysis career, but I have no idea as to how to transition into the new career."
Technology today offers tremendous opportunities to improve businesses. A business analyst is a role where one can contribute to organization’s strategy, its offerings, its revenue and its margin. It offers great opportunity to interact with many stakeholders, develop innovative solutions and improving existing solutions. Business analysts are the bridge between business stakeholders and technology architects. International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) defines business analysis as the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysts enable an enterprise to articulate its needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that deliver value.
However, a new role requires new skills to hone. Being a developer, one has the advantage of already knowing the technology side of the story; however, for some, they feel more inclined to the business side after spending some time in technology. So it's time to learn about business and become a successful business analyst. Here is the proven approach for someone to become a successful business analyst from a developer.
1. Learn the Basics of Business
The very first step to understand is how businesses run and what they do. A good starting point would be to go through the generic process classification framework provided by APQC. You can download the free personal version of APQC process classification framework from APQC website. The APQC PCF framework enumerates 1000+ tasks that organizations perform irrespective of their size, location, and domain. It also would be a good idea to read up foundational books on business strategy, marketing, finance, HR, and operations. That gives one a high-level view of business, its operations and the objectives of the various functions.
2. Develop Behavioral Skills
The second major aspect where the business analyst role differs significantly from a developer role is the amount of interaction expected from business analysts. Typically, developers work under the instruction of a project manager. The business analyst and the project manager seal the developer from interaction with stakeholders. As a business analyst, one must learn how to interact with sponsors, domain SMEs, end users, and all other business-side stakeholders, including suppliers. This requires honing one’s skills in behavioral aspects. Key skills for business analysis are communication, stakeholder interaction, active listening skills, facilitation, presentation skills, and problem-solving skills, to name a few.
How does one hone behavioral skills?
One way is to practice the skills any opportunity that one gets.
Be proactive to communicate, to speak out. You can record your own communication using a phone and then analyze that to see if you are communicating clearly, in the right language and manner.
Your organization may already be providing behavioral training on communication, negotiation skills, assertiveness, and facilitation skills. Take advantage of these behavioral training available within your organization and be better in the skill.
3. Learn Business Analysis Process
Like any other activity, business analysis also follows a process. Many guidebooks say that the business analysis process can't be standardized. But that's not true. In most of our project experiences, we have observed business analysis has a fairly well-defined approach.
The best part is you can get the Business Analysis Core Standard from IIBA. This is available without any cost and is a fairly short document of about 50 pages. This will give you a good idea of how business analysis is actually performed.
4. Learn the Requirements for Using Modeling and Management Tools
Like most other professions, business analysts also use many tools as part of their work. Some of the popular tools are for business process modeling, state modeling, and use case modeling. For example, you can get a trial version of Microsoft Visio, a tool very popular in many organizations. You can also learn other free tools such as Lucidchart or BizAgi business process modeler. You can learn to model some processes within your workplace.
5. Learn the Domain of Your Organization
The best place to start your business analysis journey is your current organization. You are part of the organization, and you know people, processes, and tools. But at the same time, your business stakeholders would expect you to understand the specific nuances of your organization’s domain.
There are good resources available on the internet almost on all domains and maybe within your own organization. Another piece of advice we suggest is to look for a handbook on your domain. So for example, if you are in the retail domain, to look for a book called The Retail Handbook. Go through the handbook, and you will get a fairly good idea about how retail domain functions. When you understand your domain and you understand your organization, your stakeholders’ acceptance for you as a business analyst will increase manifold.
6. Get Involved in the Requirements Gathering Activities
Now that you already have learned some basics of business analysis, the best place to learn and practice would be to get involved in the project requirements. Be a shadow business analysis for the current business analysis of your project. This would allow you to practice the concepts that you have learned. Make proactive efforts to get involved in the requirements gathering activities.
Practice makes perfect! Any skill can be learned if you are willing to put in the effort to learn!
7. Participate in Professional Groups and Conferences on Business Analysis
There are many professional groups, as well as virtual and physical conferences, on business analysis. Participate in these events to understand how business analysis in changing, what the trends in business analysis are, and how you can bring new business analysis concepts to your organization.
There are many professional special interest groups as well on LinkedIn and in forums on the web where you can discuss, participate, contribute, and learn the skills also.
8. Get Certified as a Business Analyst
Finally, to prove your own competence as a business analyst, the best way to do that is to get yourself certified in business analysis. Many organizations provide business analysis certification and the most prominent one among them is IIBA. A couple of years back, IIBA did not have any certification for new business analysis professionals; it only required business analysts have about two and half years’ experience to take the certification.
But in late 2016, IIBA came up with Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA), a new certification addressing the need of the hour and catering to the aspirations of many. ECBA caters to those professionals who would be making an entry or beginning their career in business analysis domain. It doesn’t require any experience in business analysis to take this certification. It focuses on those knowledge areas of business analysis domain which are going to be of use for the new business analysts, such as requirements analysis, requirements lifecycle management, elicitation, and collaboration.
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