BlogCareersWhat Does a Business Analyst Do?

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Have you ever wondered what exactly a Business Analyst does?

Whether this is the first time you’ve even heard of the career or are unsure as to what role they play, we have all the information you need.

Let’s jump in and discover what the role entails and why you should pursue it!

Meet William
What is a Business Analyst?
Steps to Becoming a Business Analyst
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring Business Analysts

Meet William

William is a Senior Business Analyst at Aurelia Metals. 

“I work for an ASX listed company called Aurelia Metals… the ASX code is AMI. We are essentially a gold/base metal mining company and we own three gold/metal mines in NSW.

How did you end up in this role? 

William went to the University of Queensland where he did a dual undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and Business Economics. His background was originally as an engineer, working in the mining industry for 5 years.

He then pursued a Master’s degree in Finance and Accounting at Deakin University, which allowed him to work as a corporate finance analyst in Toronto for a couple of years!

The combination of his industry experience, with the exposure he got in Canada, allowed him to get scouted and come back to Australia to work as an investment banking associate within the mining investment banking team at Nomura in Sydney. This career shift allowed him to go up the ranks and attain a Senior Business Analyst role at Aurelia Metals in Brisbane.

“It’s a different route versus just getting a Commerce degree and going straight into a particular industry you might not know much about,” William said.

Business Analyst - Interviewee Quote

What made you want to work within this field?

When asked about why he decided to pursue this particular career, William gave us some interesting insights into his mentality and decision to shift gears.

“Initially, in doing engineering, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll go down that road.’ I finally got into the industry and thought, ‘Ahh, it’s not really my cup of tea.’ I’m more interested in the financial side of the industry that I’ve been working in.

That’s what prompted me to do my Masters in Finance and Accounting because when I went with my engineering degree to try and get into finance, they were like, “We understand you have an engineering degree but we need something more than just you saying that you like finance.” Employers want to see that you’re committed to a particular field or into the analysis side of things, like completing your CFA,” William explained.

He pointed out that these things are highly regarded when employers look at your CV, as it shows that you’re willing to go beyond a Bachelor’s degree and acquire further qualifications. It’s essential to stand out from the rest of the crowd — so think of what you can do to distinguish yourself!

What is a Business Analyst?

A Business Analyst is basically the middle man between IT and the business itself. Their primary job is to analyse data to assess the businesses processes and systems and, from there, deliver recommendations and reports to the executives of the business and stakeholders based on their analysis. 

Roles and Responsibilities 

If a business finds themselves in a position where they need to solve a current or predicted problem, it is a business analyst’s role and responsibility to help facilitate a solution. To give you a more detailed picture, a business analyst will write requirements, design wireframes and create data models in order to explain the data and their potential solution in a clear and effective way to the decision-makers. 

But don’t just think that a business analyst is limited to this one task each day. On any given day, you could be involved in project management, project development, quality testing and even eliciting information from stakeholders.

You are the conduit of information; the go-to person. As a business analyst, your main priority is to paint a clear picture and help executives envision the future of their business. You shape and mould businesses into their full potential!

What does a typical day look like for you? What types of tasks do you do and what can you expect?

“A key focus for me involve tasks that are centred around business strategy, company evaluations and identifying other mines that we could potentially acquire. The primary goal is to constantly understand where we sit as a business and also evaluate the financial aspects of the business overall.”

Which industries can this career be found in?

The really unique aspect of this career is that it allows you to work in a broad range of industries! As a business analyst, you could find yourself working in finance, banking, insurance, telecoms, utilities, software services, government and, like William, mining. 

If you look around, businesses are everywhere. Pursuing a career as a business analyst means endless opportunities. First, you just have to figure out which industry, product or service it is that you are passionate about!

What jobs do people sometimes confuse this with? 

People often confuse business analysts with system analysts. However, the latter requires a deeper level of technical skills. Their job is to work with the business analyst in order to effectively execute technical solutions, such as coding and reviewing scripts.

Now, a lot of people also get confused with the difference between a business analyst and a financial analyst. I asked William to give me a basic breakdown: Financial Analysts commonly work in a financial institution, whilst business analysts work in a business sector.”

Characteristics and Qualities 

Business Analyst - Skills

According to JobOutlook, the top 5 knowledge, skills, abilities and activities relevant to the job are as follows.

CharacteristicsTypes Required
KnowledgeEducation and training, customer and personal service, administration and management, personnel and human resources, sales and marketing
SkillsActive listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision-making, reading comprehension, operations analysis
AbilitiesOral expression, oral comprehension, deductive reasoning, written comprehension, written expression
ActivitiesGiving expert advice, building good relationships, planning and prioritising work, communicating with a team, making decisions and solving problems

When asked about what skills you develop throughout this career, William focused on technical skills, critical thinking and self-confidence.

“A key thing is being fairly proficient in Excel, particularly in financial modelling. As we move into a period of technology where there are a lot of systems that can automatically log their Excel process, it’s important to gain an understanding of other technology platforms that can help internal reporting — that’s the technology side.

“Other skills are problem solving, critical thinking and looking outside the box. Having a bit of confidence as well is important because people internally, particularly the senior managers, do rely on your ability to take a lot of data analysis and put that in an easy to read format,” he said.

William added, “With a lot of the analysis I do in terms of company evaluation, the managers don’t need to see the inner workings, all they care about is the output. It’s really about storytelling with data. So obviously, data analytics is the main skill that will be helpful for people going forward.”

Steps to Becoming a Business Analyst

An undergraduate Bachelor’s degree is usually required to work as a Business Analyst. If you want to give yourself that extra leg up in your career, industry certification is also desirable!

To become a business analyst, you can follow this 3-step guide!

Step #1: Get a degree

Apply and enrol in an undergraduate degree in either business, commerce, business administration, information technology or a related field. These are usually 3-year degrees.

Step #2: Make yourself stand out

So that you can stand out from all the other aspiring business analysts, open yourself up to post-grad studies, internships or exchange opportunities. These experiences will open more doors and offer you industry connections. Even better, join the Australian chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA). 

Step #3: Have a passion for it

Be passionate about what you do and forthright with your passions. You will not get anywhere if your mindset is not in the right place.

If you work hard whilst having your heart in it, you are bound to succeed. Do remember that by acquiring the desired skills, you will be able to propel yourself further.

Check out these undergraduate degrees which can be beneficial towards a career as a Business Analyst:

 

Although we have listed this step-by-step guide, you don’t need to necessarily follow it like a rule book — William completed an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering degree before making the decision to shift gears and do a Masters in Accounting and International Finance four years later. This change allowed him to fly off and work as an analyst in Toronto, Canada!

You can choose an unrelated degree in your undergrad years and transfer to a business analytics course further down the track.

How long does it take to become a Business Analyst?

If you decide to pursue a 3-year undergraduate degree relevant to the career field, such as commerce, business or information technology, many graduates find themselves scoring entry-level roles in related disciplines to develop their skills and knowledge. Their applied knowledge and experience in their junior role, will allow them to advance into more senior positions.

To give you that extra leg up, you should familiarise yourself with the International Institute of Business Analysis Guide, which will teach you the concepts and techniques applied to business analysis. Also, remember to join the Australian chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). 

Industry Knowledge

William explained to us that when it comes to industry knowledge, understanding softwares and emerging technologies is vital.

“Aside from Excel, you have other internal business reporting systems like Tridant and Pronto they serve as a database for actual financial and production data. You tend to use those systems as a way of moving forward and seeing what things may look like in the future.”

What will this career look like in the future?

How in-demand is this career?

Business analysts are in high demand and a career in this field is definitely a rewarding move. We all know that businesses don’t grow themselves; it’s the minds behind it that propel it forward!

The main reason why business analysts are in such high demand is that they can work in almost every industry: financial services, health, retail, banks, insurance and the list continues. These businesses would not grow if it weren’t for the analytical brains behind business operations.

According to the BA Guide, the business analyst job market is expected to grow at a rate of 19% over the next 10 years.

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise? 

William told us that understanding the numbers of the business is going to be the core skill you need in order to move up the rank to CFO/CEO level. 

“I find I’m lucky that I do understand all of that. If you’re a numbers guy and you understand the financials, how it all works and all the analysis, it’s going to put you well placed to move up the ranks to more senior positions.

“What you need to compliment that with is the social side. You need to know how to work with clients, stakeholders and be able to present well. Even though we are so consumed by the tech side and the computer side, I think it’s important to be personable,” William said.

He added, “The older guys I work with are much more personable because they didn’t grow up with smartphones and computers. They’re still old school when it comes to trusting people and engaging with people.”

Basically, it’s important to be able to communicate face-to-face, rather than just through back and forth emails. While the analysis side is important, the personal aspect should be prioritised too!

Salary

Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$107,000+Very strong over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

According to JobOutlook, Business Analysts have a ‘very high skill’ level rating and a ‘very strong’ prediction for future growth. The average weekly pay is $2,067. 

Influential Trends

There are 5 influential trends in the Business Analytics industry:

Influential TrendsDescription
New-age technologiesIn this job, you need to know, understand and be well-versed with the latest innovations in process and analytics. Be open to change!
Incorporating data analyticsAs a business analyst, you will need to adapt your expertise to data tools that improve business solutions, such as Tableau, which is a data analytics and visualisation software that shows you insights. 
The 'Agile' wayAgile is a type of project management which focuses on flexibility, evaluation, increments and collaboration. This leadership style helps business analysts facilitate change, communication and engagement.
Digital changeCloud computing has emerged as a sound solution for organisational agility. Business analysts can decide which department and operation it should be applied to, as a BA’s primary goal is to restructure business processes by aligning them with new technologies.
User designBusiness analysts must also measure the impact of the business on its engagement with customers, users or clients. User Experience (UX) adds to an analyst's understanding of the businesses digital presence and customer satisfaction. 

The Future of this Industry

The future of the industry is bright as there will always be a need for business analysts! This multifaceted career is both critical and secure, and the role is present at every level of an organisation.

Depending on the project or business, a BA could play the role of a facilitator, a communicator and a change-maker all at once. 

William said, “Technology is going to become more and more prevalent and a part of our organisation. From a business analyst perspective, you’re going to have a lot more real-time data and tracking that you are going to have to analyse, dissect and make decisions on.”

“We need to understand that this technology wave is coming and there will be different ways to analyse data, not just from financial reports but from platforms. Technology is going to continue to be part of my industry and it’s also going to become part of our skillset,” he added.

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job?

William told us that the best part of his job was the people.

“I think that the people you work with is a key part. You feel like a team and you’ve got a well-supporting environment to flourish and be challenged,” he said.

It’s a critical thing to challenge yourself and try to adopt mentors as quickly as you can, both within the organisation and out. It’s always good to get other people’s perspectives,” William added.

What do you feel is the worst part of this job?

When it came to the worst part of the job, William gave us an insight into the potential pressures of the role and the need to have self-confidence.

“I think the worst thing is ensuring that you have self-confidence. You need confidence when presenting your analysis to senior management. They are relying on you and the analysis you’ve done to make huge business decisions.”

Sometimes you can question yourself and feel a lot of self-doubt. It can be like, ‘We’ve got to buy this gold mine for 200 million dollars based on the analysis I’ve done.’ If something goes wrong, everyone is going to look to you. It’s a lot to have on your shoulders but if you’ve done the work and are passionate about what you’re doing, you should have confidence in that,” William noted.

Advice for Aspiring Business Analysts

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers when you leave school and which career that you want to go into. I think young people can be too bogged down in having to make these life-changing decisions as soon as they leave school and jump into university,” William said.

He also pointed out that it’s easy to switch courses and pick up additional electives, so you can pursue whatever you’re interested in should your passions change.

“For me, when I finished engineering I thought, ‘That’s me. That’s what I have to do for the rest of my life.’ As it turns out, while working at the mines I decided to just do my Masters in Finance and Accounting. Deakin offered an online correspondence platform to do that.

“Now I’m working with the client side of things in Brisbane. Don’t feel like you have to make the life-changing decisions early on. Just be open to the idea that your passions can change over time,” he added.

What is the workplace culture like?

“It’s a very open and fluid work dynamic we have in our office. Obviously being a mining company, it’s a bit different to a start-up or another organisation.

You have people from all walks of life, people who grew up outback in rural areas and people from different countries and regions around the world. It’s very open and hilarious at times. It’s like another family really,” William exclaimed.

Job Flexibility

“In my role, it’s pretty much an 8.30-5.30 routine for me. But it’s also very easy for me to take a laptop home and do some extra bits and pieces at home.

“My situation is that I have three kids as well so that’s the other dynamic to my life that my company is very accommodating for. So basically I go into the office, work 8.30 to 5.30, go home, do the family stuff and then if I need to do more work I can just jump on my laptop. So it’s really flexible,” William shared.

Why should people consider taking on this career?

“In being a business analyst, the skill sets that come with it are not specific to a particular industry as such. You are still utilising the same software and medium for which you present all your findings, so really it allows you to be fairly flexible and be able to go into any industry.

“As an example, I did engineering, then investment banking but the skills I am learning now I could apply to any industry. Whether it’s a software company or a start-up, you still need to be able to project future cash flows, do a DCF and perform evaluations across all industries,” William said.

If a Business Analyst career sounds like the job for you, apply for an undergraduate course here and begin your journey!


Thomasin McCuaig is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an Arts graduate with majors in English and Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Thomasin is a passionate writer, singer and drama teacher, who has had her work published in Holidays with Kids, Signature Luxury Travel and Style and Offspring Magazine. Thomasin also writes junior plays for her students and aims to publish a novel someday. During the COVID isolation period, Thomasin put her passion into practise and launched her own writing and editing business, ‘Re:Write Editing.’ In her spare time you will find her either napping, talking to her cats or looking up real estate for absolutely no reason at all. Fun fact: Thomasin appeared on Japanese morning breakfast show ‘ZIP!’ as a travel reporter, where she presented a six day exposé of Sydney!

 

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