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February 02, 2021
Anyone who has ever worked as a business analyst might think that writer William Arthur Ward was referring to their profession with the latter part of his quote, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
Described by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) as the practice of enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders, business analysts are routinely tasked with identifying the necessary modifications to help organizations stay on course – or chart more efficient routes – no matter how rough the wind gets.
“Organizations that have always done things the same way, and may have even have been very successful, have to think about doing things differently,” said Amanda (Mandy) Dietz, instructor for the University of Delaware’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (UD PCS) live-online Business Analysis Certificate program and vice president-business analysis and project management and customer experience practice leader for Orion Development Group. “A business analyst should be able to come in with that new set of eyes and help a business think about a problem differently, understand the root cause and think about the future state as opposed to ‘well let’s just keep doing what we’re doing.’ ”
Delivering business value
At a median base salary of $73,022 and an overall job satisfaction rating of 3.6 out of 5, business analyst is ranked No. 26 on Glassdoor’s list of 50 Best Jobs in America for 2020. LinkedIn listed business analysis as No. 6 on its list of top 10 in-demand hard skills by employers.
Working in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors, a business analyst may be involved in defining strategy, creating the enterprise architecture and taking a leadership role by identifying the goals and requirements for programs and projects or supporting continuous improvement in technology and processes.
“It is all about delivering business value,” said Dietz. “Whatever your strategic priorities are is how you define business value and make sure you are constantly working toward it in the most effective way possible. Delivering business value entails finding out what is important, figuring out how to get there and confirming that you actually deliver that value.”
Strategy and horizon-expanding lessons
Presented over four two-day modules via Zoom, the UD Business Analysis Certificate program is designed to provide students with the tools and skills to better understand, define and prioritize business needs and then deploy solutions that fulfill those needs. The series begins March 16-17 with Foundations of Business Analysis, a strategically oriented class that focuses on fundamental topics, including defining the needs of a business and putting a plan in place. Subsequent modules include Eliciting and Documenting Requirements (April 13-14), Requirements Analysis and Design Definition (May 11-12) and Solution Deployment and Evaluation (June 8-9).
In Eliciting and Documenting Requirements, participants learn about identifying stakeholders and what is needed from them, as well as the tools required to get the job done and record all the needs. Dietz describes the final two modules as “horizon expanders.” Requirements Analysis and Design Definition addresses the creative side of the solution, while Solution Deployment and Evaluation entails making sure everything is ready to go live and be successfully implemented, assessing if the expected value defined at the beginning was achieved, and what changes – if any – are need to optimize the solution.
Building bridges of trust
Dietz said business analysts are critical and analytical thinkers with curious minds who have sharp listening and writing skills, bring certainty to a world of uncertainty, and enjoy finding solutions to problems. In executing their tasks, they are trust builders serving as the bridge between the business and the solution provider. The remote work environment being practiced by many businesses has put that trust to the test during a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
“To be a really good bridge and help the business understand its needs requires strong relationships and trust,” said Dietz. “If you are working virtually, it is exponentially more difficult to understand the business and the business environment, get to know those folks, and really understand the needs as thoroughly as you could. You need to have those relationships and trust so people will come to you.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously caused major disruptions to how organizations function, for the skilled business analyst adept at dealing with changes of any kind, it is yet another in the ongoing list of challenges affecting businesses.
“If you step away from COVID for a second and think about the pace of change of technology, our global economy and our environment, they all mean more change for businesses,” said Dietz. “You have to have the skills and resources to anticipate, plan for, execute and validate all of the changes that are simultaneously happening.”
Not just for business analysts
The UD Business Analysis Certificate program is designed to help anyone tasked with driving change at a very high level. One does not need to have the official position of business analyst to function in this role. Job titles for business analysis practitioners can also include business systems analyst, systems analyst, requirements engineer, process analyst, product manager, product owner, enterprise analyst, business architect, management consultant, business intelligence analyst, data scientist and more. Many other fields, such as management, project management, product management, software development, quality assurance and interaction design rely heavily on business analysis skills for success.
Born to teach
A consultant and trainer since 1997, Dietz has over 35 years of experience as a strategic and tactical leader of transformational change. In her corporate leadership roles, she was recognized for her work in the turnaround of distressed operations through strategic alignment, process improvement and business-focused technology solutions.
Since building the Business Analysis Certificate program for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2004, Dietz has conducted the lessons for numerous institutions over the last 17 years. Though the first part of her career was spent in the business world, the daughter of two teachers had a teacher’s mindset even before she entered the classroom.
“When I was leading organizations, I believed in showing people how to do something rather than doing it for them,” said Dietz. “Wherever the teaching is occurring, I love watching the lightbulbs come on.”
Though the University of Delaware’s Business Analysis Certificate modules build on each other, participants can enroll in the series at any point and still benefit from the lessons. Students who register for all four modules in a single transaction will qualify for a bundled rate of $3,380, which equates to a $600 savings off the cost of paying $995 for each class individually, and be eligible to earn a University of Delaware Certificate of Completion.
Discounts and scholarships are available, and a payment plan is offered for those pursuing the Business Analysis Certificate. For more information, visit pcs.udel.edu/business-analysis, email [email protected] or call 302-831-7600.