Working as a Business Analyst, I have had many Business Analyst aspirants – both fresh graduates and those with a non-IT background asking me this question. And I am not surprised why. Because I, too, had a similar question in my mind when I aspired to be one.
So, do you need an IT background to be a Business Analyst? An IT background or IT degree is not needed to become a business analyst. While having an IT background certainly helps in becoming a Business Analyst, it is not a requirement. That said, having a good understanding of Technology is useful in becoming a Business Analyst as it aids communication with technical teams.
Anybody can become a Business analyst if you have the necessary skill set, attitude, and approach.
There are other things to consider when becoming a Business Analyst beyond a background in IT.
I’ll discuss this further below. I’ll also discuss the advantage you might have if you have an IT background and how you can also get this advantage even if you don’t have an IT background.
The Software Development Team Structure
Before we discuss why you don’t need an IT background to be a Business Analyst, let’s first talk about the typical software development team structure.
This is good for understanding of the reasoning behind some of the points below.
Please beware that you will find software teams structured in different ways and bearing different titles.
But this is typically what makes up a software development team:
Project Manager (PM)
This is the person in charge of planning and execution. Ensuring the team is getting things done on time and within budget.
Business Analyst (BA)
This person is responsible for analysing, documenting, and facilitating stakeholders to achieve the goal of the project.
The Business Analyst role is in two folds:
- First, the Business Analyst is responsible for understanding, analysing and documenting the needs of the business.
- Once the needs of the business are understood, it is the job of the Business Analyst to clearly communicate those needs to the designers and developers to build the solution.
This is YOU!
This is the person who will design the look and feel of the product or solution. Their focus is on designing a product that adequately meets the needs of the business and its customers.
These are the people who do the actual coding. Their job is to translate the requirements and designs from the BA and Designer respectively, into actual usable and functional products.
Testers or Quality Assurance Engineer (QA)
This person ensures that the developers have built the product to the specification of the BA and to the best quality.
Now we understand the makeup of a typic software development team, lets talk about why you don’t necessarily need an IT background to become a Business Analyst.
Why you don’t need an IT Background to be a Business Analyst
You are not writing the codes
As a Business Analyst, your job is to clearly communicate what is to be built to the developers.
You are not required to actually write the codes to build the solution.
In fact, there are several tools to enable your communication with developers without requiring you to write code.
These tools are easy to learn.
You can write specifications and the system’s behavior using plain English-like language!
Some examples of these tools are – Jira, Modern Requirements, Cucumber, SpecFlow, etc. I discuss the best tools for Business Analyst here.
Moreover, as a Business Analyst, your main assignment is to describe what the system does rather than how it functions after discussing with the relevant stakeholders.
The how is determine by the developers who code the solution.
As illustrated above the BA collects and writes the requirements, the designer will design the look and feel of the solution, and the developer writes code.
You do need to understand technology to have productive communication with the delopers but it is not an aboslute requirement to have an IT background to become a Business Analyst
Note: Some projects will have a technical architect who is responsible for designing the solutions for that project.
You’re a facilitator
As a Business Analyst, you’re a facilitator.
And as a facilitator, you are ensuring that communication is clear among your team members.
You function like a ‘middle man/woman’ between the IT team and the business or customer.
Your role is to ensure that the business processes are simplified and requirements are clearly understood.
You’ll be doing lots of documentation, planning, clarification, conducting meetings, holding workshops and presentations
Most of these tasks require soft skills.
Thus, you are not required to have an IT background be an effective Business Analyst.
You don’t need to be the expert
As a Business Analyst, you are not expected to be the expert.
You do need to be knowledgeable about so many things in technology including tools and development methodologies.
But, you are not expected to be the expert.
Your focus should be on mastering the core skills that is required as a Business Analyst.
Some of those essential skills that you need to focus on include
- Ability to perform researching
- Communication effectively both written verbal
- Think logically
- Present findings in an engaging way
- Think analytically and applying the right technique to a problem
These are some of the fundamental skills you need to possess as a Business Analyst and they mostly don’t need you to have an IT background or degree.
Your prior knowledge is relevant and transferable
The beauty about Business Analysis is that your previous knowledge and experience is relevant.
For instance, a Pharmacist who wants to become a Business Analyst will do much better taking up a Business Analyst role in a Pharmaceutical company.
Same goes for a Customer Rep who wants to become a Business Analyst. They’ll do much better as a CRM Business Analyst.
In both examples above, an IT degree is missing and that is fine because you can build a strong base on your prior experience.
Not only that, your past previous knowledge and experience could be an asset as you transition into becoming a Business Analyst.
Pro Tip: As you transition into a Business Analyst, find roles that can leverage your previous knowledge and experience.
IT is ever evolving
You and I can both agree that technology is constantly evolving.
There was a time when many IT professionals were experts in Windows XP. Many paid for certifications to get certified in Windows 2000 server technologies.
However, that’s now obsolete. Microsoft has moved on and so should you.
In many case, a 5 year old technology is now obsolete.
Remember dial up internet, gone!
Remember floppy disk, gone!
How about CDs, DVDs, and CD Plays, gone!
Blackberry qwerty keyboards, gone!
If you’re interested in learning about the evolution of technology, read this book.
But the point is relying on technology knowledge from 5 years ago when you got your IT degree is pointless because technology has moved on.
Knowledge of modern technology tools will serve as an additional important skill set in your resume.
It can set you apart front the other competing Business Analysts in the industry.
But these tools can be learned.
Which brings us to the next point
Learnability is more important
The ability to learn fast and quick is in itself a skill as a Business Analyst. An important skill!
Different organisations have their IT systems setup differently.
Different projects use different tools and techniques to approach their projects.
A Business Analyst job is to understand how these tools work and use them to facilitate their tasks.
Having a learning attitude is what will make you have a long lasting career in Business Analysts.
As I mentioned above, technology is ever evolving. And if you want have a successful Business Business Analysis career, be ready to continuously learn.
Some tips on how to learn fast
- Read a lot – Read books, articles and blogs on your industry. Read about technology and business and upcoming software development methodologies
- Attend free webinars, forums. Several experts are ready to share their knowledge on these platforms.
- Enrol for courses – Find professional courses on new technologies and learn. Use places like Udemy, Skillshare and Linkedin Learning to learn. There are several free and paid courses available for you to explore.
- Talk to your IT developers, and other more experienced Business Analysts – Trust me this is gold. When you hang around smart people, you’ll be smart too! Ask questions. People are generally willing to share knowledge.
- Listen to podcasts – Podcasts are very useful in assimilating information and getting up-to-date information on latest trends.
Things you need to become a Business Analyst
You don’t need an IT background to become Business Analysts, here is what you need:
Solid Verbal Communication
Good communication is key to bridging the gap between the IT teams and the business.
As a Business Analysts, you must be able to convey information clearly to your stakeholders.
A Business Analyst should know what to ask and how to ask questions.
For example, it is a good idea to start asking open-ended questions and then move on to close-ended questions in the clarification phase.
Know how to clarify any information when it is unclear – BAs should avoid assumptions.
Other reasons why you need a solid verbal communication skill is
- You’ll be facilitating meetings – you will be regularly facilitating meetings/workshops and ensuring that the team members participate.
Team members will be talking to you, understanding feedback, clarifying pain points, and more,
- You’ll be presenting in team meetings – Business Analysts must be able to clearly articulate themselves in meetings and while doing presentations.
To be a good speaker, you must be a good listener. So don’t forget to listen attentively before your speak.
Business Analysts are mostly responsible for documentation.
Learn to write simply and clearly. Avoid using big ambiguous grammer.
As a Business Analyst, I would strongly recommend Grammerly.
It’s a tool that checks and ensures your grammer is correct. Check it here. It’s free
When we say writing, it may be through –
- e-mails – as you communicate remotely through emails while performing the responsibilities, you will need to ensure that emails are planned, structured properly.
While structuring email, BAs need to list the questions and convey information ordering them as per priority.
- Presentation decks – Learn to design engaging presentation decks. More on this below.
- Documentation – The documents built as a process of requirement gathering, business analysis, etc., will eventually serve as a future reference guide. Hence, the forms that.
While writing, keep your tone positive always and write in a way that is engaging.
If you are considering becoming a Business Analyst, then you must love solving probelms.
The nature of the Business Analyst job is that there will be always problem. Something going wrong.
A tool not available, a stakeholder not co-operating, a requirement missing key information etc
Be ready to always think up solutions on your feet.
If you’re the type who complains about problems without doing anything about it, reconsider a career in Business Analysis.
The ability to resolve a conflict when it arises can make you stand apart.
Business Analysts work in diverse teams with different cultural background and history.
Conflict is bound to arise somehow. Also, handling difficult team members can be challenging.
In such as these, you would need to be the one who gets into an individual agreement with them, understands their concern, and gets them in sync with the team.
A Business Analyst should know how to resolve conflicts without compromising on the goal of the project.
In the process of “wanting” to know what the customer’s requirements are while asking questions, assumptions are best avoided.
The pro-activeness of clarifying the doubts in mind will help you gather all the needs from the business/customer.
To avoid assumptions, Business Analysts should ask more questions.
Remember that an assumption can lead to building the product incorrectly, which would lead to customer dissatisfaction.
The art of asking open-ended questions and then subtly ending the clarification process with a close-ended question will help provide a 360-degree outlook into the requirement elicitation and clarification process.
Relationship building and management
Business Analysts work with many people. We call them stakeholders.
Stakeholders can be customers, top level management, testers, developers, users of the product, and just anybody who is required for the success of the project.
Business Analysts should be comfortbale working with just about anybody.
Be prepared to build genuine relationships to make your job easier.
Business Analysts are constantly presenting information.
Visual presentation are a great way to portray the information you would like to convey. Learn the different methods on how you can build them. Use
- Mind maps
- Graphs, etc
Using process mapping tools such as the Microsoft Visio, Lucidchart will help you as a BA structure and organize the business process’s flows.
It also enables it to help brainstorm for more questions and look for gaps in the process.
The objective should be understood and conveyed to the audience before any meeting. Accordingly, the panels are facilitated by the BA.
Once meetings are completed, BAs ought to know how to summarise what was discussed and confirm the points with the audience.
As discussed above, having a learning attitude is keep to haveing long term success as a Business Analyst.
We know that continuous learning is the key to any successful career. Similarly, if you want to start and pace up your Business Analyst career, upskilling is the key—a game-changer.
Get into the details and see the big picture
Business Analysts are able to get into the details to elicit for requirements as well as be able to see the bigger picture.
Thinking out of the box while seeing the bigger picture while performing the BA will edge up your career.
Are there any advantages of having an IT background?
Yes. Those with an IT background have a basic understanding of the process of software development.
They understand some of the concepts and tools involved in developing a software solution.
It might also be the case that someone with an IT background already is experienced in software testing or software development.
This makes the process of becoming a Business Analyst much faster than a complete novice who has no clue what software development is in the first place.
That said, though, it is easy to gain basic technical skills or knowledge in today’s world.
As a business analyst, you are not needed to be super technical; however, you need to know enough technology to hold a reasonable conversation with very technical colleagues.
With websites like Fiverr and skillshare, you can learn basic technical knowledge and skills to set you up for success.
Don’t be put off because you don’t have an IT background. It is not a requirement to become a business analyst, even though it gives you an advantage.
Even though you may not hold any IT experience or come from an IT bacjground, you can very well rely on your past non-IT expertise and soft skills. Identify those skills and leverage them.
You also would have understood that you can fill any skillset gaps by incorporating an ever-learning mindset, and then you can do more!
Focus on the skills you need to know to begin your Business Analyst career.