Yesterday I wrote a post about three essential skills for business analysts, citing a post by Brad Wray on the Enterprise Architecture and Business Analysis blog and a story I wrote for which I interviewed several BAs and a Forrester Research analyst. One of the questions I tried to answer in my story was whether folks from a business background or a technical background make the best BAs.
One of my sources, Jay Michael, a business analyst at Colfax who studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate but switched to business and got an MBA, believes companies will find it easier to hire a business person and teach them the needed IT skills than to impart business knowledge to an IT person. He told me:
A business person will be able to figure out the technology needs along the way.
Though I didn't mention Michael's take on must-have skills in yesterday's post, he put "knowledge of how business works from a process perspective" and "ability to take a high-level view" of business issues at the top of his list.
Another of my sources, Forrester Research analyst Mary Gerush, told me that a job candidate's background isn't as important as him or her feeling comfortable with both business and technology. She said:
If you look at the business side of your organization and you've got folks who are into gadgets and go home and develop their own Web sites, that proficiency and interest in technology could make them a great candidate. If you have somebody in IT who maybe came from a different background and has an interest that goes beyond just development and technology, that person could also be a good candidate.
Wray also doesn't have a preference as to whether technical folks or folks from a business background will make the best BAs. Neither skill set is as important as the skill he considers most important for BAs: customer service. He wrote:
I don't think either is any better than the other. It really depends on type of person they are and if they possess exemplary customer services skills. Technology and business domain knowledge can be taught, where the desire to satisfy another person's needs is more of an inherent characteristic.
Why all the discussion about this role? As I noted yesterday, It's the most in-demand skill among global CIOs who participated in the Harvey Nash CIO Survey 2010. In reteweeting my post on Twitter, CTO/CIO Perspectives blogger Peter Kretzman called BAs "the straw that stirs the drink."