BA or BSA: What’s the Difference?

BARecently I’ve been asked several times about the differences between a business analyst (BA) and a business systems analyst (BSA). My first answer, of course, is “It depends.” It depends on how your organization has defined the roles. But I thought I would document my understanding of these two roles based on my experience, and I hope others will post their thoughts as well.

A business analyst by its very definition is someone who analyzes the business, looking for ways to improve it. Individuals with this title may be focusing on the business as a whole (strategic analysis) or on a particular business function or operating unit. A BA studies the business and looks for ways to increase success. A BA might suggest changes to processes, personnel, or product offerings, or may recommend increased technology support. BAs may have little technical background, instead being industry or business unit experts.

Adding the word “system” to the title of business analyst moves the role into a more technical realm. Even though the word “system” doesn’t mean technology, most businesses have used the phrase “information systems” to mean software applications. So a business systems analyst knows more about application systems and how they support the business needs. A BSA will be able to recommend changes to existing applications, identify impacted interfaces, and work with the technical team to implement and test the changes. BSAs almost always report to the IT department, whereas BAs may report to a business unit. BSAs spend most of their time on projects and support work. This title, by the way, evolved from the title of systems analyst, which is an IT role. A systems analyst (also known as an IT architect or programmer/analyst) designs software and hardware solutions based on requirements.

Here are my thoughts on some of the differences:

 
Business Analyst
Business Systems Analyst
Systems Analyst
Reporting StructureMay report to a business areaReports to an IT departmentReports to an IT department
ExpertiseIndustry or business knowledgeSoftware Application KnowledgeSoftware and architecture knowledge
ResponsibilitiesStudy the business and recommend changes to increase success.Analyze how software applications can better support the business needs.Analyze how software and other technology can better support business applications.

Titles mean nothing and everything. Each organization should strive to create meaningful and accurate titles for their employees, but with work as complex as business analysis, no title or job description is ever going to completely explain the varied and sophisticated work of an analyst.

Based on your experience, how do you define these roles?

Barbara Carkenord

Director, Business Analysis at RMC Learning Solutions
Throughout my career my passion has been to enable people and organizations to succeed through analysis. Analytical thinking allows organizations to increase their process efficiency and improve the quality of their products.

My passion for critical thinking and providing business value drove me to help define the business analysis profession. The business analysis profession is made up of individuals who excel at evaluating problems, identifying possible solutions, and assessing costs and benefits before recommending a change. As an early IIBA® member, I worked on the development of a worldwide standard for business analysis, the BABOK® Guide. I continue to volunteer with the IIBA mentoring, writing, presenting, and promoting the organization and its principles.

Latest posts by Barbara Carkenord (see all)

About Barbara Carkenord

Throughout my career my passion has been to enable people and organizations to succeed through analysis. Analytical thinking allows organizations to increase their process efficiency and improve the quality of their products. My passion for critical thinking and providing business value drove me to help define the business analysis profession. The business analysis profession is made up of individuals who excel at evaluating problems, identifying possible solutions, and assessing costs and benefits before recommending a change. As an early IIBA® member, I worked on the development of a worldwide standard for business analysis, the BABOK® Guide. I continue to volunteer with the IIBA mentoring, writing, presenting, and promoting the organization and its principles.
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5 Responses to BA or BSA: What’s the Difference?

  1. Rodolfo Figueira says:

    Hello,

    I absolutely agree with your understanding. At my company there is a lack in agreement with those titles. May I share this post with my peers throwing some good ideas to them?

    Thank you.

  2. Ali says:

    BA – e.g. company consultant – owner – manager.
    BSA – e.g. assigned by the company to build “system requirements” for the software suggested by BA.
    SA – Develop/configure a software to reflect all system requirement provided by BSA.

  3. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little
    homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this
    subject here on your site.

  4. Barbara Carkenord says:

    Glad you got a free dinner out of this! Just shows you never know how you might influence people. Barb

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