A business analyst is one of the fastest growing professions globally, with heightened demand in the IT industry.
Who Is a Business Analyst?
He is a person who liaisons among company stakeholders to analyze and assess the operations of an organization to determine whether the current business model is equipped to handle company goals and objectives.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) describes the role of business analyst as
"liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals."
Financial Analyst vs. Business Analyst
Sometimes both the terms are used to synonymously because its understanding depends on how the IT organization interprets both the roles and their contribution to the industry.
Actually, both roles are drastically different even if one can gain experience and training to do either of them eventually.
People with a financial background such as MBA in Finance or CA degree are given financial analyst roles and they deal with areas like financial forecasting and balance sheet.
After some years spent as a financial analyst, you can move on to a business analyst work profile using financial analyst experience as data handling, analysis and verification are required in business analyst role too.
How to Transition from Financial Analyst to Business Analyst Profile?
This is the moot focus of this article. We share actionable ideas for people with 2+ years of finance domain knowledge and want to shift to a business analyst profile role within the IT industry.
Remember that you’re a mid-level professional who wants to switch over to a related but new domain and as such, you need to follow a specific process to make the transition.
1) Analyse and Confirm Your Career Choice
Acquiring knowledge about the field you’re entering is essential because it will help to understand whether you’re ready to handle the business analyst profile and impact industry knowledge. There are various ways to acquire this knowledge.
Refer to A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) manifesto, a recommended read for those who have some ideas about business analyst option.
Gathering knowledge will show if you have the qualities and diligence to become a business analyst. Laura Brandenburg has also written about 42 Reasons to Start a Business Analyst Career which I would want you to read to make the final decision.
On a side note, do not spend all time and focus on this as the subsequent steps are important too.
2) Identify Transferable Skills
Remember that you are transitioning from being a financial analyst to a business analyst and as such, you need to:
- Identify transferable skills
- Leverage and position the skills
Since some commonalities exist between the working profile of a financial analyst and business analyst, you’re bypassing the first step of qualifying for subset jobs within business analyst profile. In short, you directly qualify for positions equivalent to the importance your financial analyst profile had previously. For this to happen, you need to identify transferable skills.
Transferable skills are those experience aspects which were drawn from the non-business analyst role. What had all you learned as a financial analyst which will prove to be beneficial to the business analyst profile? This could be financial application expertise, industry experience, particular experience in specific processes such as finance or HR and other broad functional areas.
Identify the transferable skills and leverage it for the new position. Moreover, if you’re applying for the business analyst position in the same company where you’re working as a financial analyst, the process simplifies as the organization is already aware of your transferable skills and of your knowledge about the organization and its business model.
All you have to focus is on identifying the skills and leveraging it for the business analyst profile. Changes in your resume need to be made accordingly. Follow this simple guide that teaches how to modify your resume especially when you haven’t worked in business analyst profile before.
3) Get Feedback
At this stage, you have identified transferable skills and the business analyst knowledge-base combined gives you the confidence to make the transition.
It’s good so far and the next step is to get feedback from like-minded professionals. Sadly, many professionals choose to ignore this step but it’s necessary for validating.
Real and tangible feedback from like-minded professionals helps in understanding the career path you’re about to take.
Share the idea with colleagues or ask the HR manager to give business analyst practicing techniques to strengthen hireability.
You can be inducted into the same organization as a business analyst and if not, practicing will help to display credibility in front of other employers.
Apply for some business analyst jobs and see the nature of responses. You may not be looking for job change immediately but responses from employers will show if the modified resume is bringing desired responses, feedback from potential employers and if there are some transferable skills preferred than others, and if you have it, you should focus on it for improved career marketing.
In short, getting feedback is important.
4) Working on Skill Gaps
Simple transferable skill identification isn't enough. You need to develop business analyst skills to improve chances of getting hired.
The transferable skill identification process also showed you what skills are lacking in you and is important to acquire. This step is all about working on skill gaps.
Begin with developing the business analyst mindset. You need to create a skill development plan, that is, enlist missing skills and ways to acquire them. It is a virtuous cycle as one skill will lead to the other. You can build these skills by:
- Signing up for business analyst skill development courses online
- Signing up for in-house courses offered by existing organization
- Talking to HR manager and taking a skill test
- Working on projects as a volunteer
- Taking up freelance business analyst work to develop skills
- Improving business processes in the organization
- Networking with other business analysts
These activities will help to acquire skills and build the mindset of a business analyst.
Opportunities don’t always come your way; you have to create one. Use the above strategies to build skills and attract opportunities. Check out this informative piece by Adrian Reed where he talks about cutting the vicious circle of no experience = no business analyst jobs.
5) Searching Jobs
If you've diligently worked on the above four steps, you’re ready to jump into business analyst job search. The following parameters will be helpful.
Look within the organisation.
If you’re still working as a financial analyst within the IT organisation, inquire about in-house recruitment opportunities in business analyst section. Obviously, your colleagues and senior managers will have noticed your hard work for making this switch and who knows, some opportunity might open up.
Look outside the organisation.
If you've already left the job or have decided to leave and join a new one as a business analyst, the effort doubles. Start with employment fulfillment sites like Indeed.com, Monster.com, SimplyHired.com, and LinkedIn.com.
Ensure that the new resume highlights the transferable and newly acquired business analyst skills.
Apply with employment fulfillment sites and wait for communication.
You can engage in cold calls or cold emailing with potential prospective.
You can also visit the websites of IT companies and contact the HR personally.
The essential factor here is networking. While you’re following the first four steps, take time out to network and communicate with other business analysts. You can find them in your organisation or on professional sites like LinkedIn.
The easiest thing is to strike up a conversation. Networking opens the doors of employment opportunities which are seldom publicly advertised and if you have built the ‘right’ connections, you will hear about them first than anyone else.
Remember that you’re transitioning to a new career option and as such, competition from those who are geared to be business analysts from the beginning will be present at every juncture.
Good and active networking is the only way to beat this competition and get some brownie points!
Networking or cold calling will get you interview offers and you have to clear them on your own merit.
Draw the focus of prospective employer towards your transferable skills, your experience as a financial analyst, your acquired business analyst skills, additional and relevant certifications and your knowledge.
Show the prospective employer that you will be an asset to the IT organisation and you’re through with the first business analyst job.
Transitioning from a financial analyst to a business analyst is within your grasp. You just take the right steps by following our guide.