In a very general sense, a business analyst is someone who analyzes the operations and design of an organization, in order to come up with solutions to the organization's problems.
In the world of information technology, the business analyst will analyze the organization's business model to determine how it integrates with technology. The idea is to determine the organization's business needs or objectives, and then improve the effectiveness of IT in meeting those needs/objectives.
If you look at the business analyst job postings out there, you'll notice that there are really no clear-cut requirements for becoming a business analyst. Some business analysts come from a strong business background, and their industry and analytical experience make them the right candidate. Other organizations prefer to hire business analysts with more of a technical background, or an education in Computer Science.
Here are some of the required skills you may see listed in a business analyst job posting (you'll notice that a lot of them are actually considered "soft" skills, but these are very important for a liaison role such as that of the business analyst):
- Experience preparing business requirements, working with use cases, business process modeling or data modeling, or preparing use-case or sequence diagrams.
- Project management skills and/or certification.
- Knowledge and experience in a particular industry.
- Analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Technical understanding of system being analyzed and how it affects the various business units.
- Good at handling and meeting deadlines.
- Multi-tasking skills and the ability to balance multiple priorities and keep up with project scope changes.
- Able to work well with both internal and external clients.
- Good presentation skills, and ability to communicate with various audiences, including end users, managers, and members of the IT team.
- Self-starter with leadership skills in order to take charge of or facilitate requirement-gathering sessions.
- Strong attention to detail organizational skills.
- Quick learner who is easily able to learn new products, systems, applications and technologies.