Business analysts are making up a larger percentage of the IT staff for the fourth year in a row, indicating an evolution in the mix of skills in the typical IT organization. Cloud computing, software as a service, and virtualization are reducing the need for infrastructure-support staff while increasing the need for IT staff with business skills.
This shift, which we are calling a move from “blue-collar IT” to “white-collar IT,” is likely to continue. We expect roles such business analyst to continue to make up larger parts of the typical IT staff at the expense of traditional data center support roles.
As shown in Figure 1 from our full report, Business Analyst Staffing Ratios, the use of these analysts has steadily increased, reaching 8.1% of the typical IT staff in 2017, up from 7.3% in 2016 and 6.3% in 2013.
However, finding qualified candidates can be difficult. The requisite combination of qualifications—technical knowledge, business perspective, and interpersonal skills—is difficult to find in a single individual. Add industry-specific experience and the job specification becomes even more demanding. Moreover, the question of how many such analysts an organization needs is also a difficult one, as the practice of using business analysts varies widely.
“Another factor increasing the ratio of business analysts is the fact that they are difficult to outsource,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Computer Economics, based in Irvine, Calif. “Business analysts need a close relationship with both IT and the end user base. This is difficult for outsiders to achieve. As a result, smart IT leaders will try to cultivate these skills from within the IT department, and smart infrastructure-support IT professionals will look to increase the ‘soft skills’ that are increasingly in demand.”
In our report, we use a broad definition of business analysts. Typical roles include:
- Business analysts, who gather user requirements, define business processes, and help design, document, and deploy solutions using information systems.
- Any staff member who, regardless of title, serves as a primary liaison between users and IT, represents the user community to the IT group, and ensures that IT systems are used effectively by the organization.
Job titles within companies may vary, but we would include any of the following, or similar, job titles, in the business analyst category: business systems analyst, business process analyst, enterprise system analyst, or MIS analyst. The most important attribute is that these professionals are business-oriented first, and technology-focused second.
In the full report , we assess typical staffing levels using four metrics: business analysts as a percentage of the IT staff, business analysts as a percentage of the Application Group, applications per business analyst, and users per business analyst. We also assess differences by organization size and sector.
This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Business Analyst Staffing Ratios. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).
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