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Navigating the BA Hybrid Role

“Who is a Business Analyst? A business analyst is any person who performs business analysis tasks described in the BABOK Guide, no matter their job title or organizational role.”

This was one of the first things I noticed when looking at the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) for the first time.

Related Article: 5 Challenges To The Business Analyst On A Hybrid Project

I was immediately intrigued by this. For a business analyst with a job that clearly aligns to the business analysis tasks described in the BABOK Guide, this is pretty clear and probably not intriguing at all. But when I saw it, I was not in a role that completely aligned to this, yet there were clearly some aspects that directly related to these BA tasks. I was an associate business analyst in the Finance function of my organization. I was hired based on having systems knowledge and an accounting degree; not because I would be aware of the BABOK Guide and the business analysis tasks within it. I’d simply researched on my own and discovered the body of knowledge associated with the title of my role within the organization.

When is a business analyst role not a business analyst role?

Over the years, I’ve observed many people with unrelated job titles who stumble upon an awareness that what they are doing is defined as business analysis. I’ve also seen the reverse in those with a business analyst title who routinely do work that would be considered project management, validation or other non-BA tasks. These are the hybrid roles that many of us find ourselves in. This is one of the reasons it can be hard to understand what the term “business analyst” means across organizations. As a job seeker, this can also make it difficult to define the role best suited for your career interests, talents, and abilities and may leave some asking, “When is a business analyst role not a business analyst role?”

I’ve been involved in many conversations about what a business analyst does or doesn’t do. It can be frustrating for a BA certification candidate to hold a business analyst title for many years only to discover that only a fraction of the work they perform actually qualifies as business analysis experience. Let’s face it, in a hybrid role, only a portion of your activities meet the definition of a business analyst according to the BABOK guide. Another reality is that your BA role could be structured in a way that would not be suitable to your background and career aspirations.

How to Navigate the Hybrid Role?

So how can someone navigate this? If you are in a hybrid role that is ever-evolving or are considering a new role, you need to know the following about yourself in order to know what is negotiable and what is not:

  • Which non-BA activities am I comfortable performing? Which activities am I am not comfortable performing? For example, some business analysts may be well suited for a validation or project management oriented hybrid while others do not have any desire to work in those areas at all.
  • What percentage of non-BA activities am I comfortable performing in a role? What am I uncomfortable with? For some, non-BA activities may be fine up to a certain percentage range, i.e. up to 25% of the time. Some may be uncomfortable with having a job where over 50% of the work pertains to non-BA activities.
  • What kind of role do I want to have in the future? Is this hybrid role allowing me to gain more peripheral experience for that future role? Many people start out in a business analyst role but over the course of time migrate to other roles and titles. Business analysis is broad enough to be relevant in many roles. However, if you know what kind of role you want in the future, you can ensure that the hybrid role you take on aligns with where you want to go in the future. If you want to operate primarily within BABOK defined tasks, a hybrid role may not lead you to your desired outcome
  • Is BA certification important to me? If the answer is yes, you will have to determine how much of your hybrid role applies toward certification and how quickly you would be able to gain the experience needed to obtain the certification you are targeting. The International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA) recently launched a new certification program that would allow certification at the entry-level. This would allow a business analyst to be on the certification path prior to gaining the work experience required for higher certification levels. While this makes certification more accessible, a BA in a hybrid role would still need to understand how that role leads them toward other certification levels if it is important to them. The Project Management Institute’s PMI-PBA certification also requires a certain number of relevant hours to be submitted when applying for certification.

The nature of business analysis makes it relevant to many roles and job titles which can create exciting opportunities. Conversely, it can be challenging to navigate the various career paths and opportunities associated with business analysis activities. It is important for business analysts who are working in or evaluating potential hybrid roles to understand what works best for them, both now and in the future.