Today’s post is more of a question to get some discussion going around the question “Is it better to be a BA Generalist or Specialist?” Throughout my business analyst career I have seen BA’s of both varieties, and wanted to open up the discussion to hear what you think.
To help frame our discussion, here is a brief description of the two types of business analysts and some benefits and potential challenges that may be faced. This is just a starting point as I’m more interested in your thoughts on this topic than my own.
The BA Generalist
The business analyst generalist is the BA who doesn’t specialize or focus in a particular field or industry. They have business analyst skills that they can bring into any environment and learn the industry subject matter.
Some Benefits of a Strong BA Generalist
- A strong BA Generalist has the skills and techniques to quickly and easily learn the industry.
- “Natural” talents and abilities in relationship-building, facilitation, and analytical thinking are harder to train and therefore can be more valuable.
- Develop a background in a variety of industries that may have exposed them to new or different processes, technologies and experiences.
Potential Challenges for a BA Generalist
- Being able to quickly learn a business, its jargon, and its best practices can take more time that some projects will account for.
- Solution analysis may take more time due to a lack of experience in industry-standard systems or best practices.
- Does this make the BA a jack/jill-of-all-trades but a master of none?
The BA Specialist
The business analyst specialist focuses more within a particular industry or line of business. For example, this BA might focus in the manufacturing industry or even more specifically auto manufacturing.
Some Benefits of a Strong BA Specialist
- The BA Specialist brings depth in their industry-specific knowledge that often takes years to achieve.
- They already understand the lingo and landscape of the business, which often helps to quickly build trust.
Potential Challenges for a BA Specialist
- Need to balance out on-going professional development needs in the area of business analysis, while also keeping industry knowledge fresh.
- The BA Specialist may take for granted certain requirements based on prior experience rather than current client needs.
- Does this limit the BA’s ability to move into other industries? Will they get pigeon-holed?
What are other benefits or challenges of being a generalist vs. a specialist? If you were a hiring manager, which one would you look for? Does your opinion change if this is for an internal position vs. a consultant position?