Business Analysis - An MBS Student's Experience

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A recent talk hosted by Rutgers helped me understand that my chosen career is not simply a job title, but a way of approaching life’s problems.

The International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA), a non-profit dedicated to promoting business analysis, visited Rutgers on March 9th. Peter Johnson, a founding member and current board member of the New Jersey IIBA chapter, gave a primer on the business analyst role.

I have more than a kickass IIBA mug as a result of Johnson’s talk – I now have a connection with my profession and deeper understanding of its ethos.

Business analysis may seem abstract and vague as a job description, but it consists of tools to do exciting work. While I may not have worked as a business analyst or even taken a class in business analysis, thanks to my peers and mentors, I was taught what business analysis is, outside of any work or classroom setting.

I came to business analysis through a patchwork of experience. Strangely enough, the closest true business analysis exercise I’ve had was in taking the MBS User Experience Design course. I was taught jargon that is also used in business analysis: user personas, journey maps, questionnaires, etc. and used them in a test drive Agile group project. Working with a group of only four people taught me that consensus during development with a team can be a challenge. However, business analysis is a force that cannot be stopped by mere difference of opinion. If the ethos of business analysis drives your approach to the problem at hand, you can work with most requirements and stakeholders.

This is why the perceived weakness of business analysis is its strength. Business analysis is the prioritization of stakeholders above all else. If your background research is good, and your value proposition addresses stakeholder needs, your solution can come in a wide range of forms adapted to any team or context. I may not have formally worked as a business analyst, but I have, and in any situation can, successfully apply its mindset to any task at hand.

In a recent job interview I conveyed this mindset, and corresponding work experience, to my interviewers. I also proved my understanding of business analysis by reacting to some hypothetical scenarios. I obtained a summer job as a business analyst with no formal business analyst experience.

I was incredibly thankful to be given the opportunity, and after Johnson’s talk realized that there was a reason for that. Business analysis is about consistent lucidity in achieving a single goal: defining requirements and delivering value to stakeholders. Context may change, but the mindset remains the same.

Business analysis is a difficult concept to communicate. How do you compact a strategy that can be applied to thousands of fields, into one lecture?

The tension between achieving the intended result and working with multiple people to achieve that result is what I love about business analysis. It may sound vague, like many business concepts. My friends certainly aren’t riveted when I tell them my job title. But that means business analysis is specific to the team and the task. The people and the puzzles are what make it a career path, not just a job.