Home > My Views > Are you a Generalist Business Analyst

Are you a Generalist Business Analyst

A Generalist Business Analyst or a Domain Specific – Choice is yours

I restate what I just mentioned in excerpt, that this content is purely my opinion and does not reflect a viewpoint of any organization or group I am associated with. This post is a result of my observation within the IT Industry and tales of my Business Analyst friends in various organizations working in a specific domain and non-domain (generalist)  projects. Being a Business Analyst in financial sector (and also having worked in multiple domains like Oil and Gas, Automobile, US Taxation, Credit Risk etc), I am always attracted to understand the shortcomings and benefits of working as a domain or non-domain specific business analyst. I am not advocating than one is better and the other is bad, but today I will try to pen down the pitfalls that a generalist Business Analyst may be required to take a heed of  and later talk on same lines for domain specific business analyst in another post:

1. If a Business Analyst is not carrying a domain knowledge, then while having requirement discussions with business, he would merely act as postman without contributing much to the analysis of the requirements given by business (as he does not have the required business understanding). A good business analyst is considered to be bridge who stands between the technical and business communities, but in this scenario the bridge may get converted into a communication barrier.

2. If you are a generalist Business Analyst, business people will never accept you as you cannot talk to them in their language while gathering requirements. If you do not know that particular domain, you can never ask desired questions to carryout a constructive requirement gathering.

3. I have seen a few instances when a generalist Business Analyst is shun off by the technical team and being a generalist Business Analyst is considered to be a demotion. What causes this problem to roar for a generalist Business Analyst is that he can neither take the technical queries raised by business nor the business/domain related queries raised by technical team.

4. In words of a close friend of mine, the biggest hurdle for him being a generalist Business Analyst is that every time he starts a new project, he starts as a fresher in terms of domain. None of his previous project’s domain knowledge is carried forward to help him in the next assignment which forces him to burn midnight oil each time during a project change to get used to the new domain.

5. Many people have complaints that they find themselves difficult to sell without being affiliated to a domain and they are not saying anything wrong. Take a case, if a part of your body is ailing, you prefer to go to a specialist doctor and specialist doctor’s career always (or mostly) flies better than a general physician. Likewise, it is true in all professions and Business Analysts are no exception to it.

6. Again from the experiences of a friend, the task of a generalist Business Analyst is very vague. Most of the time he does not understand what deliverables are expected out of him because of unfamiliarity with the domain and this problem also causes inaccurate effort estimation that is required to carryout the complete task.

7. Being a generalist Business Analyst, always gives a sense of acting as a facilitator (struggled hard to find this respectable word). You can never move up to the ladder of strategy builders or core consultants.

8. During hard times, like one of the 85 financial crisis we just passed through, when you do not have much options but to work on whatever comes your way, a domain specific Business Analyst can easily get into the shoes of a generalist Busines Analyst (and can sell himself as a generalist as well if requried), but the reverse is not so easy.

Your suggestions are most welcome if my understanding needs to be improved on any of the above mentioned points.



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  1. anoop
    June 15, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    well written bro !
    I cant say more than this. it seems words are mine written by you.
    deja vu……

  2. June 16, 2010 at 4:13 am

    All righty matey… I’ll bite. 🙂

    Counterpoint/ rebuttal posted on my blog: http://maroonimations.blogspot.com/2010/06/on-being-generalist-ba.html

  3. Manas
    June 16, 2010 at 4:23 am


    Its really informatics, and good to listing from a real time experts …. though lots of information available in net most with generalist approach…if you could write ( or could give link if some where you already contributed ) on BA’s works , types of BA etc it could be more useful for mass …

  4. June 16, 2010 at 4:46 am

    A generalist BA is like a grocery shop where a domain specific BA is like a showroom. Both have their own pros and cons and if the debate starts, it will go miles.

  5. June 16, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Dude, It’s just job … why so serious ? Make money, get monthly salary slip and chill !

  6. Ravindra
    June 16, 2010 at 5:29 am

    This blog seems to me very informative, especially for people like me who are new to this field of BA.

  7. lov jain
    June 16, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I feel it depends on the environment we are working in…
    For example in a particular work environment a generalist might be shunned with a rationale that he is not having any expertise but the same person will be respected and appreciated for his exposure in varied domains.So I agree with Anupam if he says it is difficult for a generalist BA to sell himself in the market but would also like to add at the same time that it depends in which market he is trying to sell his skills..

  8. Arvind
    June 17, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I have seen people having 10-15 years of domain knowledge building products which are not selling currently, whereas young professionals with an attitude to learn a domain and no ego hassles have done a much better job.

    I believe having a right attitude and willingness to learn any domain will go a long way in making a generalist BA a successful BA.

  9. Anupam
    June 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I am really happy that I made you (Hrishi) to come out of your blogging sabbatical 🙂 and you have really countered every point I mentioned in a logical fashion. Still I feel that this is an endless debate.

    I have also worked on multiple domains like Oil and Gas to US Taxation to Credit Risk and Basel 2 and as I earlier said in the post, that I am not advocating for either of generalist or domain specific BA.

    My point is for a Business Analyst, his wisdom towards analysis, willingness to explore new things and zeal to go in depth to postmortem the cause of a problem should be the core competency, without these you cannot call yourself a true Business Analyst, else if we only talk about documentation skills, then there would be a little difference between a technical writer and a BA. And when I speak about a domain specific BA, I expect he should possess the above mentioned qualities (because those would make him a true BA) along with the deep knowledge of domain. When we take intersection of both, generalist and domain specific BA, the skills of a generalist BA would be a part of a domain specific BA. So when an odd period calls for a take it or leave it kinda situation, the later can play a role of generalist one too. But if generalist gets hopping from domain to another domain every other time, he would have to spend hard time to understand that domain and can hardly (not saying never) be at par with some good BA working in that domain all through his career.

    huff huff huff…. got tired.. it is really very debatable .. 😉

  10. Kishore
    June 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I believe Pawan and Arvind (in the same order of importance) have summarised it perfectly. 😉

    My personal experience – do not be worried about being tagged – be it a generalist or domain expert. If you can learn from your work and improve your expertise you will definitely relish your success.

    Cheers and best wishes

  11. Nishant
    May 17, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I am an IT Professional looking forward to move into Business Analysis Roles.
    I personally get a feeling and understanding that if someone starts with a Generalist Business Analyst Role and then over the period of time, tries to get into a Specific Domain to move up the ladder as in terms of Consulting and all, that would be a feasible and a good option.
    Would appreciate if some light is thrown on the same.


  12. Sandeep Kumar
    August 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Hi guys, Anupam and Hrishi (in particular),very well written arguments and counter-arguments :-). These arguments are very thought provoking and surely shed light on the two plausible BA market realms.

    I am a BA aspirant with 6 plus years of exp. To put my two cents in, based on the research I have done, and considering the BA job trend in the Asian market (as far as I know), there is a very strong emphasis on technical knowledge (which is one side of the ‘BA bridge’), on the stream of the BA Job role, which actually highlights the popularity of the ‘specialist BA realm’. However, this could be purely due to the fact that, BA realm is relatively new, and more often than not, the domain or system (analyst) SMEs have evolved into this role. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore this reality. So much for facts.

    In my perspective, since BAs are effectively a bridge between tech and business, their effectiveness increase with their rate of knowledge on both the ends. After all, the ‘bridge’ would collapse if the end-points are not bolstered. How many of us would justify that its good to be – Jack of all trades and master of none 🙂

    My two cent!

  13. Neelabh
    July 2, 2013 at 8:07 am

    BA ko domain wala hona chahiye, General to store bhi hota hai.

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