Is domain knowledge necessary for a BA

It’s always being a matter of discussion that a BA should possess domain expertise or the skills of a business analyst is enough to understand and work with any domain. It is widely accepted that experience in any domain, marks the BA out of the crowd and helps in easy recruitment by the recruiters but I have a different thought on it, I believe a BA with thorough understanding of knowledge areas can gain expertise in any domain.

DomainsDomain experience is hands-on business skills or domain knowledge acquired by working in a specialized industry such as automobile, banking, insurance, telecom and also IT. Some people believe that IT is not a specific domain for business analysts but I just want to mention here that most of the BAs under IIBA chapter are from the IT background and they qualify the knowledge areas mentioned in the BABOK. An IT business analyst thus should possess the IIBA qualified BA skills.

Domain knowledge develops with the time spend on the domain specific projects and its subjective to the type of project a BA is working with. So is it really important for a BA to stick to any specific domain for better career path or he can switch to different domains easily? I also believed like many others that switching to other domain is pretty much difficult and finding jobs in other domains is equal to impossible as mostly the recruiters are bound with the filter of domains and the resumes with domain experience percolates out only. But after doing some more study on the subject I came to know that this instead is not that much difficult and BAs can grow up in their endeavours even without having much domain experience.

It’s recommended to do some paper-work and list down the available domains in your current organization, then filter out the domains of your interest. It will certainly act as a deciding factor for the next step which would be interacting with the people of different domains. The interaction may be formal or casual, over coffee or during lunch hours but it should show the zeal of learning. Inviting self to the routine meetings also helps in knowing the current situation in the project, the regular meetings like Scrum, stand-up and others explain the routine activities and the hassles which come in completing any activity. This will certainly act as a positive catalyst in having domain knowledge.

Using the products always help in understanding the details of it. We can take an example of mobile phones. Just think of mobile phones which used to have 10 years back, hardly any feature, and now the smart phones, just name the application and you can download it in your phone. So have you attended any classes to learn the usage of those smart phones? The answer is pretty simple, a big NO, we all have learnt with the passing time and using the product, interacting with different people who knows about that product. In the same way, if any product be it in any domain is used by a BA as a business user, its usage can be understood easily. This is also called as reverse engineering.

Being inquisitive is an added skill in a business analyst and this skill indeed help in learning other domains. As they say, No question is dumb until it is answered. Thus there is no harm in asking more questions and gather more information, this can be clubbed with interviewing technique under knowledge area elicitation.

It’s always better to ponder than to observe the business logic. Digging deep and finding the exact reason behind the implementation of the product increases the knowledge in any domain. Above all, its recommended to enhance the learning in Knowledge areas of BA which in turn helps a BA to gain knowledge in other domains.

7 thoughts on “Is domain knowledge necessary for a BA”

  1. I really agree with you, knowledge can always be enhanced by experience, its the attitude which matters!!! Great write-up!!

  2. Thank you Aniket for building the confidence in me again :).

    I have already started connecting people through LinkedIn who are BA’s from different domains.. now the next step would be connecting with them and discuss about their domains.

    Also recently I went through a job opening for BA and I noticed that they require a BA who has strong skills in Data Modelling Techniques and able to prepare Data Element Specification or having knowledge in High level Data Design.
    I would be grateful if you could throw some light on this above requirements. Is it essential for a BA to have strong Database knowledge? Are there any online resources available to gain such knowledge?

    Thank you again :)

  3. Hi Nutan,
    Thanks for showing interest in ExpertBA.
    Regarding your query related to Database knowledge for a BA, I believe it’s not mandatory to have DB skills but if a BA possess those, its an added advantage as it will certainly help in pulling some reports used for analysis.
    As far as that requirement is concerned, I think not every organization look for such professionals, but if you find frequent requirements with DB skills, you can do some self-study for basics of DB as high level knowledge in data modelling can only come with experience.

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    1. Thank you.. Your inputs are much appreciated.. I will try to keep up the good work

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