How Important Is Domain Knowledge For A Business Analyst?

The Domain Business Analyst Career Path
The Domain Business Analyst Career Path
Is a business analyst with domain knowledge more valuable than a business analyst without domain knowledge?

By looking at how business analyst job descriptions are written, you may be tempted to say yes!

Business Analyst job descriptions are written as if there is a distinction between IT oriented business analysts with skills in UML, Use Cases, Requirements Elicitation, Requirements Modeling and domain oriented business analysts with knowledge in specific domains like sales, marketing, customer relationship management, insurance, finance!

For some reasons, hiring managers, staffing agencies and employers behave as if there is a difference between domain oriented business analyst job descriptions and IT business analyst job descriptions.

So, the question is How important is domain knowledge for a Business Analyst? and Is a Domain Oriented Business Analyst worth more than an IT Business Analyst?

A Question About The Value Of Business Analyst Domain Knowledge

I am a bored corporate research professional working at a big services company and wish to move to a different domain.

The ones I have identified are pre-sales, business analysis or marketing communications …

I think BA could be a good step forward from where I stand. But doesn’t a BA require domain specific knowledge?

Most of the job ads I see prefer a BA in (say) the finance domain to be from that background …

How important is domain knowledge for a BA? Can it be built on-the-job or is it an absolute pre-requisite?

Why Do Business Analyst Job Ads Specify Domain Knowledge?

In the rest of this article, I will discuss why hiring managers, staffing agencies and employers specify domain specific knowledge in business analyst job descriptions.

I will answer this question by looking at “who is better positioned to increase productivity when hired”.

  1. Who Costs More To Train? Companies that hire business analysts without domain knowledge resort to training the new BA hires by enlisting the help of senior business analysts, subject matter experts or training vendors.

    Even when employers use internal resources for training new BA hires, they incur costs of lost revenue, reduced productivity and increased administrative expenses .

  2. Who Is Positioned To Help The Business Now? Business Analysts lacking industry insight or domain knowledge needs more time on the job to learn and understand their domains before tackling any business problems.

    This may be unacceptable to stakeholders or business managers who can’t wait to get results now!

    A business analyst with domain experience who can start troubleshooting business problems is seen as being worth more than another business analyst (lacking domain expertise) who may only observe, learn or ask questions!

  3. Who Can Lead The Business? Senior Managers, IT Directors, Business Owners and other high level executives place more value on business analysts who can be trusted to lead the business.

    Business analysts unlike their counterparts in computer programming are expected to provide leadership for business-line units and organizations for which they are hired!

    Because of how business is done , managers, directors or business executives place less value on the judgment of business analysts without domain knowledge or industry experience!

    The perception which may be unfounded is that; a business analyst with domain knowledge has more potential to lead than another who lacks domain experience!

So hiring managers or employers tend to write business analyst job descriptions as if there are two business analyst career paths:

  • The business analyst with IT business analyst training and specialized domain knowledge. This is the Specialist Business Analyst.

  • The business analyst with IT business analyst training only! This is the Generalist Business Analyst.

Are You A Specialist Or Generalist Business Analyst?

So, are specialist business analysts worth more than generalist business analysts?

The answer doesn’t depend on “how you feel about the fairness of business analyst job postings” but on plain common sense which is always hiding in plain sight 🙂

If you’re applying only to IT Business Analyst Jobs, then don’t worry about your lack of domain knowledge.

If you’re applying to domain specific business analyst job postings like those for healthcare, finance, insurance, marketing, sales, customer relationship management (CRM) domains, then you had better do something about your lack of domain knowledge!

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