Business analysts use a variety of tools to connect management needs with IT know-how

Just about every industry uses information technology in their business processes, and that technology is constantly changing. How does a business keep up with and take advantage of those changes?

Bob Prentiss portrait
Bob Prentiss

Enter the business analyst. The BA—aka computer systems analyst, product manager, solutions designer, managing analyst—keeps abreast of the latest technology while simultaneously addressing the process needs of the organization.

“The role of the business analyst is typically thought of as a liaison or translator—someone who takes business-speak and turns it into IT-speak,” says Certified Business Analysis Professional Bob Prentiss, who helps the University of Minnesota College of Continuing and Professional Studies deliver its business analysis courses. “We report on trends, analyze the current enterprise or product or function, and give the business options to stay current while improving efficiency. We enable change.

“Business Analysis has been around since the beginning of time when many of us were simply jacks-of-all-trades (doing development, project management, quality assurance, and business analysis). We were doing business analysis, we just did not know what it was yet,” says Prentiss, who has helped companies transform their IT processes for 20-plus years. As the role of technology in business became solidified and more complex, companies needed a fixer to help them understand it all. “IBM was the first to formalize the profession. Now education, health care, finance, food distribution—virtually every industry supports it. The US will need to fill another 100,000 such jobs in the next ten years*,” says Prentiss.

The US will need to fill another 100,000 business analyst jobs in the next ten years.
— Bureau of Labor Statistics

Al Bryl profile image

“It’s research and discovery,” says Albert Bryl about the function of business analysis. Bryl was working desktop support for the U of M Office of Information Technology when he became interested in business analysis. Completing the U’s Business Analysis Certificate helped him make the career change. “As the business systems analyst in the Academic Health Center, I gather information about what management needs, assess the process and products we’re currently using, and present them with options for optimizing the system.”

While it’s helpful for BAs to have an IT background, it isn’t a prerequisite. Bryl says his past IT experience helps him understand tech requirements, but the job is really more about listening. “I’m always in customer service,” he says. “IT has a tendency to grab a solution before understanding the problem. My job is to understand the problem and harness the skills of the IT staff to find the appropriate solution.”

Bryl says he has the U’s BA certificate program to thank for his new career. “Classes are taught by experts in the field, who share stories about how they worked through problems and which tools they used. They share their successes and failures. Without this college, I would not have been able to move on to my new career path as a business systems analyst and to continue helping solve U of M problems.”

*Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14.3 percent growth in management analyst jobs between 2016 (806.4M) and 2026 (921.6M).