Posted by tac_admin, September 9, 2012

I'm a Business Analyst, I Don't Write Code

I’m a Business Analyst, I don’t write code, and I won’t apologize for it.

I saw a post on a LinkedIn group that said a BA “uttered” this in an interview “Sorry … I cannot code ..I am a Business Analyst..”. The person that posted the comment clearly thought he should not have said this.

I don’t think he should have either – he shouldn’t have said sorry.

The job of a business analyst is to elicit, analyze, and document requirements. Business analysts should focus on the “what”, not the “how”. The technical team is responsible for the “how” – the developers, database analysts, and system architects.

It requires a different skill set for writing code than it does to be a business analyst and you absolutely do not need the ability to write code in order to be a great BA. In fact, I think it can sometimes hinder your ability to be an effective BA if you have been a developer in the past because what you focus on when analyzing requirements may be different for people with a development background.

I have seen examples of this in my coaching practice. When talking to someone with a development background that wants to move into a BA position, the biggest problem they seem to have is staying away from the “how” in business requirements sessions.  I frequently see people with a coding background actually try to move the conversation to the “how” when in fact they should be avoiding the “how” in the requirements sessions.

I have 20 years of business analyst and software testing experience; I have never written code and have no desire to learn how to write code.

I’m very good at what I do – I have never been without a job, project managers fight to have me on their projects and when layoffs happen, I’m the one that gets kept. And I have no coding skills whatsoever. So no, you don’t have to know how to write code to be an excellent business analyst. If someone thinks you should, they don’t understand the true role of a business analyst and you may want to re-consider working for a company that has that expectation of a business analyst.



13 responses to “I'm a Business Analyst, I Don't Write Code”

  1. Elo says:

    Well stated!

  2. Sudhi says:

    Thanks for openings the eyes of all the other BA’s especially in India

  3. About fifteen years ago I taught myself enough ColdFusion to code a few data-driven UIs (and enough SQL to build the databases), and it didn’t take long to realize that I had neither the inclination nor the aptitude to be a first-class programmer. So I stopped (though I still write my own – very simple – SQL statements from time to time), and concentrated on being a BA. (One further advantage over and above the resulting satisfaction: it would seem the BA role is less likely to be off-shored than that of the developer.)

    The irony with this post – and I agree that BAs should generally not only not be expected to write code, they generally shouldn’t be *allowed* to write code – is that so many people seem to think that BAs shouldn’t even do *design*, let alone code.

    I do find it puzzling though that the question should even arise: was the role that poorly defined to begin with that at some point (whether on the job or in the job interview) someone suddenly expected a BA to write code? Speaking as someone who has a) been though a fair number of interviews for BA roles, and b) conducted a fair number of interviews for BA roles, I have never been required to code, nor have I required coding from any prospective (or hired and working) BA. Then again, I wouldn’t apply for a role that required coding skills, and wouldn’t be inclined to take a job that required them – certainly not if it wasn’t an advertised selection criterion. Obviously, one’s flexibility depends on one’s local market.

  4. Hi Terry, great post. I second most of the thoughts you’ve highlighted here. The “How” path is sometimes very carefully treaded by business analysts, but as long as they have their “what” defined clearly, it should not be a problem. When you say “How” it is not always coding, it could also mean high-level design, right?

    Coding is programmers job; agreed. However, what are your thoughts on design? Have you worked on projects where you had to sit through a high-level design meeting? or validate solution options (on the fringes of design)? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.


    • Teresa Bennett says:

      Hi Yamo – yes, I have been involved in design on a regular basis and I do believe the BA should be involved in that phase of the project – including creating screen mock-ups and creating report mock-ups. The BA knows what the business is truly looking for and can give valuable insight in design.

  5. Rachit Gandhi says:

    The BA Profile / Profession will still take some time in India to more understand in detail, the exact tasks to be performed and differentiate it with Data Analyst, System Analyst, Application Analyst, etc.

    But definitely at some point, it has to be in line with the IIBA framework.

  6. Romesh says:

    Such issues i am facing in interviews.i am not a coder i am a Business Analyst.

  7. Isiah says:

    I totally agree, although I have had coding classes during my undergrad training, i.e. c ++, java script, html, css etc. I already knew that my focus would be on Business Analysis. Thanks for posting this.

  8. Rezaul K Majumder says:

    Dear Teresa:

    Hi. Like to inform you that I the person who posted the discussion”Sorry… I cannot Code. I am a Business Analyst.” I like to say that the way you showed the role of a BA is really appreciable. But still we cannot deny those who are giving the Argument on the other side i.e. Technical knowledge(Programming Concept) can help a BA to logically thinking about the requirement. But it is obvious that those who are from Programming or System Analyst or IT back ground they rapidly jump to solution when they get piece of requirement. I found this problem within me in my early age of BA role. After a huge practice I am now able to melt(dimmed) the programmer within me. But it was not so easy. Any way thank you once again for wonderful clarification of my post and wish to get your wonderful mentoring in near future.

    Best wishes:

    rezaul karim majumder
    (Business Analyst)
    LEADS Soft
    cell : +8801833312351

    • Teresa Bennett says:

      Rezaul – while I agree that programming skills can certainly be useful, we don’t want to perpetuate the impression that programming skills should be considered part of the business analyst skill set. I appreciate your reply and thank you for including your point of view on the programmer perspective. I enjoyed the comment you made about “dimming” the programmer within you. I may use that statement with my coaching clients that are moving from a technical role to a BA role and having a hard time getting away from the “how”. 🙂

      • Rezaul K Majumder says:

        Dear Terasa

        Really It will be my pleasure….Please if you have any suggestion and any comment on my effort, deliver it for my ratification and improvement


  9. Sherell Stembridge says:

    Great response.

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