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What Kind of Technology Business Analyst Are You?

Many organizations use the term business analyst to describe a variety of roles related to data, systems and business, and this can be confusing to job seekers. I have been a business analyst for more than 10 years and have also worked with business analysts as an end user, so I have experience from both sides. I recommend job candidates know what to look for in each role so you can target your job search to the positions that best suit your background, skills and interests. Here’s a look at three types of business analysts. Which one best describes you?

Data Analyst

As the title indicates, the primary focus of a data analyst is on the data itself. Data analysts don’t necessarily need to have full knowledge of the business concepts behind the information, but they must have a strong understanding of the data they’re reviewing. They examine reports and Excel macros or access databases and track the data back to the source system. They then analyze the data from an end-user perspective to ensure the integrity and the validity of the data itself. 

Someone in this position should be detail-oriented and have a solid background in math. The most successful data analysts are sometimes former end users of the type of data they’re now analyzing. 

Business Analyst

Business analysts go beyond the data and take a bigger picture view of the business itself. They focus on the processing, controls and reporting of data to help identify potential gaps and risks to the business. They review the overall process of working with data and creating new processes where necessary to minimize risks.

People in this position require a strong understanding of the business they represent, how the data should be processed from an end-user perspective, what kind of controls should be in place to ensure accurate processing and calculations from the data. The key is ensuring there are proper checks and balances in place so downstream processing is reliable.

To perform well in this position, you need to be logical and thorough, have a good understanding of the business and have a solid, general knowledge of a variety of business systems used to provide and process data. 

Business Systems Analyst

Like a business analyst, the systems analyst needs a firm grasp on the business, but he or she also requires a thorough understanding of which systems can be used to gather, process and present the necessary data. This person is responsible for helping to develop an overall system and documenting the system design documents. They share those with the business operations managers to confirm the finished system meets their end requirements. 

Individuals in this role have more of a technical, IT background to adequately map out the appropriate systems, mechanics and controls needed to meet the end user needs. They are involved in the testing of the system once it’s built and help migrate it from test to production once it’s been approved.

When you’re applying to or interviewing for these positions, do your research. Study the company and understand its needs. Depending on company size or industry type, these roles can be defined differently or perhaps even combined. 

Be a Savvy Interviewee

You may need to get some of this information during the interview so be prepared to ask relevant questions. For example, inquire about how the position fits in with the type of product life cycle the company follows or the project management strategy it employs. Product life cycles may vary depending on the size of the company, the number and types of systems or products the position interfaces with, the number of departments impacted by the projects and the size of the projects themselves. Project management could fall into the traditional waterfall or spiral strategies or they may follow the growing trend of agile development that focuses on expediting turn-around time to production roll-out. Asking these questions will show you have a firm grasp of what the role entails and will help you better discuss the position and your qualifications.

Taking the time to understand and learn about the real job behind the title “business analyst” will ensure you are applying for the roles that best suit your background, skills and interests while putting you in an ideal position to land the job