Life in the shoes of a business analyst
March 10, 2008 6:29 AM   Subscribe

What is life as a Business Analyst in the IT industry like?

I would like to progress into more broader roles from programming and I understand BA is a natural stepping stone towards project management or something of similar scope. But I have only bits of vague knowledge from a variety of sources, such as job ads, study, and friends, and I am curious to know what I would actually be getting myself into.

What sort of work do BAs do, specifically? Is it generally an 'easy' role? In a large vs a small company? What are the pros and cons when compared to programming and project management or consulting? Etc...

Looking forward to your insight.
posted by gttommy to Work & Money (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Our BAs do the translation from user requirements or solution designs to coding specifications. Depending on the size of the project the BAs may document the actual user requirements and they may do some solutioning. On larger projects we'd have requirements analysts and solution architects, but on smaller projects the BAs tends to fill in the gaps.

The BAs break down into groups of technical BAs and soft skill BAs. If we have 5 BA's on a project, then 2 may focus on the most technical aspects, 2 on documents, presentations and business cases. The lead BA is focused on client contact, schedule, quality. That lead BA works as a sort of sub-PM for all the BA work.

One thing I've noticed, is that many PMs have a particular BA or Project Coordinator that they like with them on every project. That person gets a lot of exposure to clients and is generally the next in line when we promote someone to PM.

Is it an easy role? In my experience, there are no easy roles. It's a less accountable role than PM. As PM you are the one throat to choke when things go wrong. BAs don't have that type of pressure, but they are less compensated also. Having done both the BA job and the PM job, I would say the PM job was harder, more stressful and infinity more fun. When I look at my team, my PMs have a very high level of job satisfaction.

You mentioned consulting - that's a very different path. Consulting is a lifestyle choice. Like many former Big 4 consultants, I'm happy to have consulting on my resume but wouldn't consider doing it again. There are plenty of people who love consulting and couldn't imagine another job.
posted by 26.2 at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Half Sigmas related articles "Why a career in computer programming sucks" and "The Death of the Generalist Software Developer" are rather cynical - but are useful reading for anybody thinking of making the transition from programmer to BA.
posted by rongorongo at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2008

If we have 5 BA's on a project


If you have 5 BAs on a project, you are producing much more paperwork and powerpoint than actual useful code/other material.

PMs get the job done. They are busy, stressed, and held accountable for everyone's problems. They also have one of the biggest job satisfaction rates in the industry, and they've got a stronger sense of ownership than most people on big complicated projects.

Specialist BAs are as often as not a big part of the problems that the PM gets throttled for.
posted by toxic at 9:29 AM on March 10, 2008

If we have 5 BA's on a project


Depends on your project. If you've got a small project (maybe less than 2 million in budget), then 1 BA will be sufficient. If you've got a 30M project with multiple applications and several sets of competing federal and state regulations, then you're lucky to scrimp by with 5 BAs.

gttommy - that's actually something you probably want to think about. What types of projects do you want? At some companies a project is a fairly small thing. Other places, projects are a hugely important part of the business. If your company is heavily project focused, that defines your organizational structure. Not that project teams become organizational units - at that point they aren't projects any longer. In highly project focused companies, the ability to quickly form project teams is important. Consulting is like that. In highly project focused companies, the PM role is very important to getting promoted to management.
posted by 26.2 at 10:03 AM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: All useful answers, thank you very much!
posted by gttommy at 4:56 AM on March 11, 2008

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