Business analysts work to improve operational efficiency in private companies, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. This has the effect of boosting performance, reducing costs, and enhancing the business's competitive position. Companies hire business analysts for help in planning and executing important projects, such as moving into a foreign market or developing a viable e-commerce strategy.
Business analysts can also work as consultants, providing analysis and recommendations to companies on a short-term basis. Business analysts who are consultants typically specialize in a particular industry, such as healthcare or manufacturing.
They can also develop expertise in a specific business area such as supply chain or information systems management. If you need to hire one for your company, here are some questions you might want to ask during the interview:
What are the core competencies of a business analyst?
While these core competencies may vary somewhat depending on the needs of the enterprise, most of them are pretty much the same no matter where the business analyst works. Basically, business analysts should have an in-depth knowledge of the type of industry in which they're working. They should also have keen expertise in business process management. Most importantly, a business analyst needs to have exceptional decision-making and analytical skills.
Soft skills such as communication, team management, and attention to detail are also essential. They should have considerable experience working as a business analyst for a variety of enterprises.
Describe your SQL skills.
A business analyst uses data to report, analyze, and inform business decisions. To effectively retrieve this information, they need to use SQL, or "Structured Querying Language."
Business analysts use SQL to communicate with relational databases, which helps keep business operations running smoothly and efficiently. For smaller datasets and projects, Excel might be enough. However, analysts need more powerful tools like SQL when working with larger datasets.
SQL helps business analysts manipulate data, write queries, and navigate databases. Using SQL allows them to cultivate powerful business insights that can vastly improve corporate efficiency. Without getting too bogged down in technical details, see if the candidate has the SQL skills needed to effectively generate these insights.
Explain how you see yourself fitting into our organization.
This question can help gauge the candidate's understanding of the role and how well they stack up to your ideal candidate profile. The applicant should talk about how their education, skill set, and experience make them a good fit for the position.
They should also discuss their previous experience with similar companies and how they can leverage that expertise to benefit your enterprise. They might be able to elaborate on the measurable impact their analytical reporting had in previous roles, which can help you understand the value they can bring to your organization.
Why are recommendations such a crucial aspect of analytical reporting?
Recommendations are a crucial aspect of analytical reporting because companies use them to make decisions and formulate strategies. Recommendations are what set analytical reporting apart from mere informational reporting.
Describe a time when you had to advise a client that their present course of action wasn't in the company's best interests.
Business analysts are responsible for making recommendations that benefit the client organization. Because their advice is based on their interpretations of objective data, some stakeholders might not agree with their recommendations.
As a result, a stakeholder might want to pursue a course of action that the analyst doesn't feel will ultimately benefit the business. In that case, the analyst could present the data from a different perspective to try to convince the stakeholder of the inadvisability of what they want to pursue.
However, in the end, it's up to the company decision-maker to choose what to do.
Describe how you typically approach a project.
By understanding a candidate's workflow, you typically can gauge their teamwork, organizational, and project management skills. The applicant might begin by describing the various stages of a project, with the standard deliverables that could be the result. They might also list specific processes or tasks they go through to generate their recommendations.
For example, during the planning phase of a project, deliverables could be a communication plan, a work breakdown structure (WBS), and a requirements management plan. The candidate should also tell you if the approach was change- or plan-driven.
See if they have a customized approach to the needs of every project. A good business analyst listens to what a client needs, paying attention to what they articulate as the project objectives. They then take a deep dive into the data to ascertain how to guide them toward success.
By doing this, they always consider the needs of a specific situation instead of reflexively imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.
Explain what the best practices are when writing a use case.
All too often, new software releases don't include that one fantastic feature all users want. In business analysis, use cases help prevent this. They describe how an individual who uses a process or system will accomplish an objective. While it's most often used with software, it can be used with any process.
For example, let's say you're a chef who wants to make "Bacon Wrapped Vegan Scallops with Paprika Sauce." A use case would describe how to go about preparing it through a series of written steps. It would help you understand where errors could occur in the process and design features that are built in to resolve those problems.
These are the three elements all use cases must contain:
ACTOR: This is the user, which is a single individual or a group, interacting with a process.
SYSTEM: The process that's required to achieve the final outcome.
GOAL: the successful user outcome.
Additional elements might be:
STAKEHOLDERS: Everyone who has an interest in how the system turns out, even if they're not direct users.
PRECONDITIONS: Things that must be true before a use case is run.
TRIGGERS: Events that must occur for a use case to begin.
The use case models what the system will eventually do. A good use case will record what's going to happen from the trigger to the goal.
A business analyst might help to design new software and systems to meet your corporate objectives. To do this, they'll put together a use case that identifies what you need. An excellent answer to this question will include a version of what's stated above. Additionally, it will explain how use cases can bring value to an enterprise.
What is SRS, and what are some of its essential features?
When designing a software system to help make sense of business data, an analyst will typically create an SRS (Systems Requirements Specification). This is a set of documents that describe all the features of a system or software application. It includes multiple elements that define the intended functionality required by both customers and stakeholders.
An SRS provides a high-level overview of a system, its underlying assumptions, supporting business processes, and the essential performance parameters.
Here are some of the most critical elements of an SRS:
- Requirements (both functional and non-functional)
- Work scope
- Data model
What's scope creep, and how can you avoid it?
Scope creep is when a project increases beyond its original intention. It can happen when there's a lack of proper documentation of the project's requirements or inadequate communication between stakeholders.
An analyst can avoid scope creep by considering what's called the "project management triple constraint." This is the scope (the work the analyst can do), time (the amount of time they have to complete the job), and resources (the team members and money available to finish work). When a proposed change affects one factor, it will inevitably impact the other two.
While an analyst can say "yes" to out-of-scope requests, they need to understand what will happen if they do.
A business analyst should always refer to the project documentation anytime someone requests a change. That way, the analyst can see if they can implement the proposed alteration without unrealistically expanding the scope.
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