How to learn business analysis
As the demand for business analysts grows, many people are asking, 'How to learn business analysis?'
Business analysis is a very broad topic with many specialisms. To master it and gain the skills you need I recommend that you employ a combination of approaches. For example,
- Take a training course
- Read a book
- Watch a webinar
- Visit relevant websites
- Engage with social media
- Become a member of a business analysis online group
- Become a member of a business analysis society
No one way is necessarily better than the others for how to learn business analysis; business analysts may use all of them. The ones that BA chooses may depend on their current skills and experience.
We will consider some of them in a bit more detail.
Learning business analysis with a training course
What are you looking for?
When you are first learning how to be a business analyst, you are probably looking for two things:
- A general introduction to business analysis
- A recognised certificate to say you have taken a course and/or passed an exam
You might choose the first option to learn about business analysis. You might need option two to help you get a job. Certificates are becoming increasingly popular with employers. You should always bear in mind however, that training to improve your skills and training to obtain a certificate are two quite different things. Failure to recognise this can lead to disappointment with your training.
Popular certification schemes
There are a number of well known training schemes offering certificates and diplomas.
- BCS: British computer society
- IIBA: International institute of business analysis
- IREB: International requirements engineering board
- Business Architecture Guild
BCS business analysis certifications are well established in the UK. They are gaining increasing international popularity.
IIBA certification schemes, e.g. CBAP certification, are well known internationally.
Traditionally these courses were taught mainly in classrooms.
In these days of Covid 19, training companies have rushed to satisfy the demand for online training.
How to learn business analysis with online training courses
Online courses may be trainer led or self paced, e-learning style.
Online training has a number of advantages:
- It's likely to be cheaper than classroom training
- You can study from home - No travel or accommodation requirements
- Your approach to studying can be made to fit your lifestyle
- You can take the exam when you're ready, not when the timetable says so
- It's better for the environment
Trainer led online business analysis training courses
Trainer led courses tend to run the training company's standard courses, but do so remotely.
This approach to online learning obviously needs to be held on specific dates and at specific times.
You may be able to choose your preferred date and time to take exams.
Self paced online business analysis training courses
True e-learning, self paced, courses are likely to be the cheapest option and the most flexible.
There are also other advantages:
- Study where you like, when you like. Trainer led online courses have fixed start times for sessions.
- Relax while you study on your computer, tablet or smartphone
- Repeat lessons as often as you like
- Focus on specific parts of lessons
Technologies such as video and interactive, game style, learning can provide a very efficient and economic solution to people's training needs.
A concern that some people may have with this style of learning is that they feel they will have no one to go to if they do not understand the material. If that is a concern, look at 'Blended online learning', below. At Capiro, we ask our course members to contact us when they want to discuss anything. We then agree times for a phone call or a Zoom meeting.
Specialist training courses
Ambitious BAs should look out for courses on topics such as,
- Machine learning
- Big data
- Artificial intelligence
All of these will impact the role of a business analyst. I recommend looking for specialists in such topics.
Some accreditation schemes require you to retake their exams every so often. I've never understood this. You don't have to keep retaking your degree, assuming you passed. Once it's done its job of getting you your job, you move on. Rather than retake a business qualification that you already have, I recommend that get into specialist areas and really advance your careers, marketability and prospects. You can always explain at an interview why you decided not a retake a required qualification.
Blended online learning
Some companies provide a mix of trainer led and self paced training courses. Check to see if your chosen training company offers support via messaging, phone, Zoom or social media. This can be great for additional support for exam preparation or reviews. You can take advantage of this option with Capiro courses.
Reading a book
Books can go into a lot more detail than is usually possible on a training course.
The book will always be available to refer to, especially if it's an e-book.
Look for books written by people with established, perhaps international, reputations in business analysis or related areas such as business processes, data and rules. You can check the reviews for the publication before buying.
Although books may not be cheap, they do tend to be cheaper than training courses.
Some books may help you prepare for an exam by providing exam style exercises and quizzes. They may also have an associated website.
Whether or not you take a training course, books can be an effective way to really extend your knowledge.
TIP: Check out the background of the author to ensure that they can speak from real experience.
Personally recommended books
The following books have stood the test of time. If you are preparing for your first interview I would recommend reading at least one of them.
- Mastering the requirements process - Robertsons
- Software requirements - Weigers
- Requirements Styles and Techniques - Lauesen
- Succeeding with Agile - Cohn
- Workflow modeling - Sharpe and McDermott
- UML 2 and the Unified Process - Arlow and Neustadt
- Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning for Business - Finlay
Watch a webinar
There are many webinars although some are mainly broadcast to talk about the presenter's own company, training courses, books or toolsets.
You generally, if not always, have to provide some personal or company information to get invited to attend.
They are a quick and convenient way of gaining information and perhaps extending your knowledge about
- The range of business analysis activities
- The latest thinking or toolset
You can also learn about areas that are related to business analysis.
Websites, blogs and social media
Searches on the web will quickly take you to other sites that should give you at least some answers to your questions.
It is possible of course to become overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, with some people trying to game the system to bring their work to your attention. In the world of SEO, techniques intended to fool Google and get someone into the top three slots for the response to a search query are known as 'black hat', or possibly 'grey hat'.
Not all social media is useful of course, but there are some excellent videos to be found.
From the huge amount you can selectively subscribe to a few channels that give you exactly what you want.
Business analysts must be lifetime learners. The subject is evolving all the time. That said, radical changes are infrequent, as mentioned above. The techniques that became associated with agile approaches, for example, evolved over many years. You can use the same approaches as I have described above to support your practical experience and continually improve your capability.