I recently took a look at the popular queries coming in from my readers.
One of the most common questions is “How can I transition from testing to a Business Analyst role?”
If you’re asking the same question – well, I’ve got good news for you.
To me, Testers make very good Business Analysts.
In terms of skill sets, they actually have many parallels – analysis, communication and know-how of business systems implementation.
In this article, I’ll run through three reasons why I think testers make good BAs – see if you agree with my thoughts.
Before we begin, it’s useful to understand what testers do.
A good example is a tester running test scripts for, say, a core banking system implementation.
The tester usually writes down, step by step, how a business user logs into the system, clicks buttons and how the system responds to user actions.
Importantly, he or she also tests business scenarios (both from a modular and end-to-end fashion, plus error conditions (e.g. missing data entry, validation failures).
Essentially, a tester knows all the ways a system can respond to the business user who is interacting with it.
In the older days, testers used to write formal test scripts, all linked and traceable to use cases gathered by Business Analysts.
These days, agile methodologies have superseded use case approaches, but the testing process and principles remain the same (just that test documentation is crafted into “user stories” and test teams “self-organize”).
Now that we understand briefly what system testers do, let’s look at the reasons why they make good Business Analysts.
Reason 1: Testers Are Very Analytical
The first reason why testers make good BAs is the fact that they are very analytical.
Think about it.
If I were a tester, thinking about and executing a test case for a “Raise Payment Request” system function, I would need to go through a whole slew of analytical thoughts.
Here’s a sample (what testers call a “happy flow”):
- User selects “Raise Payment Request” from the system menu.
- System displays “Raise Payment Request” screen.
- User keys in Payment Request details (e.g. source account, target account, payment amount, payment reason, free text comments)
- System validates Payment Request. If ok, it displays “Payment routed for approval” …
- And so forth …
You can see that the above is just the “happy flow”.
What if the user doesn’t key in or select any of the data entry fields?
Or if the system validation fails for any number of business reasons (e.g. no suitable payment approver has been set up).
That’s the analytical mind of a Tester working.
And I’d say that in the same vein, the best Business Analysts are the ones who can appreciate this level of detail in system flows.
Reason 2: Testers Have Good Communication Skills
Now, the next reason why Testers make good BAs is this … they have good communication skills.
Perhaps your image of a tester is someone sitting at the laptop running test scripts again and again.
But the best testers don’t concentrate on just testing.
They focus on communication as well.
Communication about the defects they find.
Communication about testing environment issues and manual processes the business users have.
Some of the best Testers (whom I think naturally make very good BAs) engage with business users and suggest better ways of doing things.
They also make sure the test results are VERY well documented in testing tools so that anyone reading it understands what’s wrong with the system.
This means that good Testers can also write and write system documentation very well.
And they are usually very engaged during defect meetings and will help the team Project Managers, Business Analysts, Programmers, etc. resolve issues.
Again, the above re-iterates why good Testers make good BAs.
They have great communication skills, e.g. in stakeholder engagement, documentation and meetings – all of which are found in good BAs as well.
Reason 3: In-Depth System Knowledge
The final reason why Testers make good BAs?
Well, Testers know business IT systems very well indeed.
I’d say they know the systems even better than Business Analysts and certainly more so than Project Managers.
Testers, through their quality assurance work, understand why a script fails.
They know what to expect when a software module runs, or if some software parameter is configured in a certain way.
Whatever a BA knows in terms of business system processing, the Tester knows it five times better.
This makes a Tester a very good BA.
In a sense, if e.g. I have a ex-Tester who knows a core banking solution inside out, don’t you think he or she will be able to answer very detailed user questions on how a system will handle functionalities?
The Challenge: Industry knowledge
But here’s the thing (and you need to pay attention, because this is the secret sauce).
For Testers looking to become BAs, they’re actually all set.
They already have most of the skills they need.
But there’s something many BAs have that Testers need to beef up on.
If a Tester masters this “one thing”, you can bet he or she can successfully make the transition to Business Analyst (and have an extremely successful IT career too).
This “one thing”, this extra skill Testers need is called Industry Knowledge.
Many BAs have industry knowledge. They understand banking operating models, how banking processes work and how banks generate revenue, cut costs and improve margins.
In other words, they can THINK LIKE THE BUSINESS.
If you’re a Tester who wants to switch to a BA career, this should be one of the key things you need to focus on.
And the truth is this …
You already have the skills.
From your testing experience, you would already know about e.g. in banking – things like interest rates, deposits, loans or payments.
You just need to expand that know-how and aggregate it to a more holistic, end-to-end business level.
And that means you need to understand the industry.
Whether that’s banking, insurance, healthcare, etc. – industry domain knowledge is always helpful.
Note that I’m not saying all Business Analysts know their industry well either.
I’ve seen all manner of BAs who draw lots of process maps, are good in requirements elicitation, etc. but have very poor industry knowledge.
They tend to lose out to the great BAs who have the domain expertise.
I hope the above has helped you better understand why Testers make good Business Analysts.
They have the requisite analytical and communication skills, as well as in-depth system knowledge.
However, I think to fully become a great BA, both Testers and BAs alike should pick up industry domain knowledge.
Until next time, all the best to you in your Testing or BA career! If you’ve any questions or comments, please do drop me a note here.
P.S. Incidentally, if you work in banking and are keen to quickly pick up the essentials of the banking industry, I’ve written a guide book that will help you – do check it out.