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Job: E-commerce business analyst

The role: E-commerce business analysts (BAs) are tasked with solving complex problems related to the selling of goods and services online, using a wide range of technologies. They typically work either in-house for a company that sells the majority of its products or services through online platforms, assisting with their technology integrations, or for third-party service providers.

Those that work for third-party providers focus on fulfilling their clients’ needs, while those that work in-house are often focused on using the same tools to better serve their customers directly.

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“A lot of e-commerce problems are solved in data tools or data software; they’re solved in order-management systems,” explains James Urbati, the senior vice-president and general manager of commerce for Toronto-based Pivotree, an e-commerce and data-management services provider. “The BA would be responsible for gathering and documenting and analyzing business systems and needs requirements, and what the outcome would ultimately be.”

Mr. Urbati explains that external e-commerce BAs spend a lot of their time working directly with clients, conducting interviews and analyzing their processes and software capabilities in order to recommend specific solutions.

Typical tasks for an e-commerce BA would include defining and documenting process workflows, interface designs, and developing mock-ups and project plans, he said. “A lot of stuff that a project manager would then take and incorporate into a set of milestones that need to be achieved.”

During the implementation process they act as an intermediary between service providers and their clients, and toward the end of the project they are typically tasked with ensuring solutions achieve intended outcomes. Those who work in-house, however, are more focused on working with customers to better define and solve their needs.

“At the core these are analytical people,” adds Mr. Urbati. “People who can take a look at a problem and do the math to solve them the best way.”

Salary: According to the Economic Research Institute, e-commerce BAs in Canada earn an average annual salary of $105,325 per year. According to Mr. Urbati, salaries are typically based on relevant experience, and can range from approximately $50,000 to $70,000 at the entry level to between $120,000 and $130,000 for senior level roles.

“What we’d be looking for at the higher end is somebody that has experience with the technologies that we care about that also has experience in a business analyst role,” he says.

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Education: There are no strict educational requirements for e-commerce BAs, however Mr. Urbati says most applicants have a university degree and certification from an industry association, such as the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

“Somebody that has a degree in computer science and business administration would be the perfect college graduate, but this is a role that you could come to later in life, after you graduated with a degree in something different, and get certified,” he says. “We would take experience over degree 100 out of 100 times.”

Job prospects: E-commerce BA roles are in high demand as more companies take the leap into digital storefronts and e-commerce solutions, and as the underlying technologies continue to advance. “The technology projects we’re seeing are becoming more and more complicated, and this role is becoming more and more in demand,” Mr. Urbati says.

Challenges: The biggest challenge e-commerce BAs need to contend with is the rapid pace of innovation, which requires a high degree of continuing education and skills development.

“The number of things you have to know to be a good BA in the e-commerce space right now – it seems almost exponential in terms of the list of things you have to have at least a cursory knowledge of,” Mr. Urbati says. “It really is the business analysts’ responsibility to stay current on technology, and that’s really difficult if you’re on a project.”

Why they do it: E-commerce BAs are motivated by the opportunity to solve complex business problems using advanced technology solutions. According to Mr. Urbati, seeing those solutions come to life can also be very rewarding.

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“These are problem solvers at heart, people that like to finish their crossword puzzle, people that like to finish their Rubik’s Cube,” he says. “It’s incredibly fulfilling to see the end result, in this case the launching of products.”

Misconceptions: Mr. Urbati says that those with little familiarity of the role are often unaware of just how complex it is, and just how vital it is to the success of the business.

“I don’t think they see the importance of this person, but I haven’t seen very many, if any, complicated projects that succeeded without a BA,” he says.

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