A lot of interest has risen in the profession of Business Analysis in the last decade. It is especially popular as a launch pad for a non-technical person to venture into IT.
Let’s learn how the IIBA – the premier institute for Business Analyst Professionals classifies Business Analyst as a profession / role and then evaluate some practical areas where a BA might work at. We will enlist some core responsibilities and understand how the role itself can be somewhat different across organizations yet how a formal discipline of Business Analysis has evolved.
How the IIBA Classifies a Business Analyst
The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) defines Business analysis as:
…the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions to enable the organization to achieve its goals.
Plain English Definition of a Business Analyst
We could simplify the IIBA definition and say that the practice of Business Analysis is:
…the background and the know how needed to work as a bridge among people interested in the success of an initiative, by understanding the working principles of an organization, being able to solve organizational problems, helping it to achieve its goals.
Business Analyst as a professional role would be:
any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organizational role may be…
The IIBA recognizes that one is not an analyst based on the job title but based on performing the work of the analyst, deploying the essential skills required in performing the task.
IT Business Analysts work on Projects
From an IT perspective, Business Analysts are usually engaged in solving business problems in IT (Information Technology) projects.
A project entails a sequence of tasks, is planned from beginning to end and constrained (bound) by time, resources, and required results. It has a clearly defined outcome and “deliverables”. A project generally has a deadline, and a limited resources (people, supplies, and capital).
There are Business Analysts in a non-IT world as well, who formulate efficient business processes, improve organizational behavior, implement controls and regulatory practices, etc.
Core IT BA Responsibilities
- Eliciting the business objective – Unraveling the true business needs of undertaking a project. This usually requires a BA to investigate the ‘untold’ underlying business problem, without jumping into the solution. BAs partake in meetings with stakeholders (anyone with a vested interest in the project initiative) to discuss about project needs and business drivers behind those needs.
- Analyzing the information received – Stakeholders usually dump a lot of information on a BA. The BA must organize the information received, analyze the relationship among the documentation received and complete the picture, drawing clarification for any content that is ambiguous or conflicting.
- Specifying requirements – As a result of the analysis, clearly and unambiguously document the project needs – document the “what” part of the project without getting into the “how” so the solutions team (development team) can figure out the best way to implement a solution to the business problem. It’s like defining the problem statement, and the development team can use any method to solve the problem, as long as the needs are met.
- Validating / verifying requirements – Ensuring traceability, that is, map the requirements defined to the core business objectives, ensure completeness and seek approval of all relevant stakeholders, and meet the quality standards.
Here are some excerpts from actual job descriptions:
Conduct research and elicit business requirements from key stakeholders by using interviews, document analysis, requirements workshops, storyboards, surveys, site visits, business process descriptions, use cases, scenarios, event lists, business analysis, competitive product analysis, task and workflow analysis, and/or viewpoints.
The BA will use their extensive knowledge of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and business analysis best practices to facilitate requirements sessions and communicate clearly and effectively with end-users, applications developers, senior business managers and other team members.
Key Skills Needed of a Business Analyst
- Listening skills
- Communication skills
- Interviewing skills
- Negotiation skills
- Understanding of the business domain, processes and policies
- Problem solving skills
- Structured analysis skills
- Presentation skills
- Facilitation skills
- Project management skills
- Technical skills
As we can see the Business Analyst profession entails a package of skills and techniques that allow problem solving in real world projects. The key benefit is that you don’t have to start from the scratch. Any experience you have in the following areas will contribute to your BA profile, thereby allowing you to start at a deserving level of seniority.
Every day, as Business Analysts, we are tasked with
- understanding new business domains
- understanding best practices
- “speak the language” of subject matter experts
- analyzing competitors
Each of these tasks points to our daily challenge. How to find the relevant information that you are looking for from mounds of resources, and present it in clearly and concisely? How to avoid those frantic late night online research and truck loads of printed articles that seems to get you to nowhere?
Here is a sure-shot way to navigate through what you need, and find that needle in the haystack. All by investing 10 minutes to learn some Superfast Google Tips.
All the hyperlinks on this post are examples that you can click and see what google does. They open in new windows, go ahead and experiment, modifying search terms as needed.
1. Define key terms
Come across a term that’s not familiar to you? You don’t need a whole wikipedia page to get the crux of a subject matter. Just ask Google to define it for you. See what define: amortization brings up! This trick is very useful when you start a new project in a domain you are not familiar with.
2. Find “exactly this”
If you search for business analyst jobs, you may find search results relevant to the words “business”, “analyst” and “jobs”. If you use “business analyst” jobs instead, you will find results where the phrase “business analyst” appears together.
3. Search any site
Your favorite website does not have a good search? No worries. Use the “site:” keyword to search only within a website you are specifically interested in. Example: site:requirementsinc.com business analysis will search for the term “business analysis” within requirementsinc.com. You can also use this to search a specific top level domain, such as gov. site:gov “business analyst” jobs searches for business analyst jobs within any government website. site:edu “requirements management” whitepaper will get you requirement management related whitepapers published by educational institutions or universities.
4. Find one | another
By default Google searches for web pages that contain all the words you put in the search box, but if you want results relevant to one term or another (or both), use the OR operator. Or just | instead. Try site:gov “business analyst” OR “systems analyst” jobs. Another example: site:edu “requirements management” whitepaper | “white paper” | casestudy | “case study”
5. Find Similar ~
Rather than thinking about all alternate terms yourself (whitepaper, case study, business case etc.), if you would like Google to do it for you, ~ can come in handy. Try site:edu “requirements management” ~whitepaper
6. Search Wildly
Can’t remember part of the search phrase? Or would you like to search across a group of related items? Try rational * software tutorial to search for tutorials on multiple rational products, such as Rational Rose, Rational ClearCase, Rational ClearQuest, etc.
7. Search for files
This is a very powerful, especially when you use all the above techniques together to narrow down exactly what you are looking for. White papers are generally published as PDF files. So site:edu filetype:pdf “requirements management” ~whitepaper will PDF whitepapers related to the search terms. This is also helpful you are looking for some requirement related templates. Try googling filetype:xls “requirements traceability matrix” | “RTM”
If you just want to search for .PDF files, or Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets, for example, use the “filetype:” operator. cats filetype:pdf
8. Never mind a search a result
To avoid a search term, use the “minus” or “hyphen”. site:gov “business analyst” OR “systems analyst” jobs. May be you want a BA/SA job anywhere but Illinois? site:gov “business analyst” OR “systems analyst” jobs -illinois OR IL. Perhaps you want to search for tutorials on all rational products except ClearCase. rational * software tutorial -ClearCase would do it.
9. Find your Client’s Competition
If you need to identify who your client’s competitors are, for purposes of product features comparison, or educate yourselved with the trends in the industry, try these two tips:
10. Got Books?
Have an appetite to boost your BA professional skills? Books by Karl Wiegers can help you search for books by a certain author. You can also try Book Search to find several useful books. Example, business analysis books. Several preview and full text books are available in several topics.
11. “Set Timer” to focus on your work
Getting too distracted with meetings, emails and walk-in questions that does not allow you to get anything done? Or just distracted by browsing through all that Google returns? Create some lone time – 10 mins, 30 mins or 1 hour, and block that time on your Outlook calendar that you can use to get things done.
12. Got time to kill before meetings?
Waiting for all participants of a webinar meeting and have an impatient crowd? That’s happened to you more than once, right? Rather than having everyone stare at a blank screen, show off your secret google tricks!
Search for do a barrel roll and see for yourself.
May be you are a zerg rush person? In gaming, a “zerg rush” happens when a player is attacked by a zillion weak opponents. Any one of the weaklings is easy to take out, but they will overpower you with their humungous numbers! In the google search results page, click an “o” thrice to defeat it, but you got to be fast!
If you cannot remember any operators such as ” ” or | or -, you can always use Google’s Advanced Search.
Put what you learned to work!
Lets find google tips and tricks in PDF format: google search tips and tricks filetype:pdf
Do you have a handy tip to share? Comment away!googlepdf
Haldun Cor, Business Architect/Analyst for Financial Industry
Srinivas Sundaragopal, Business Analyst, Requirements Inc.
Originally published in for the IIBA Connection Newsletter Publication.
As Information Technology is maturing within Enterprises and IT costs are soaring, a demand to produce an Enterprise Business Architecture to drive smart decisions about Technology Roadmaps is apparent.
Business Architecture is simply the formulation of business vision and strategy into an artifact that captures key capabilities and requirements at a high level. It is a forward looking, social and living artifact. However, once business architecture is laid out, there is a common and growing challenge in the industry about how to realize the full benefits out of business architecture. Business analysts can tremendously contribute execution of business architecture. We find the dynamics of business architecture and business analysis very interesting and take a closer look at the effective collaboration between Business Architecture and Business Analysis teams to positively affect the outcomes.
We investigate the dynamics of Business Architecture and Business Analysis in order to align Requirements Elicitation and Requirements Analysis areas with Enterprise Vision.
Where do we miss the big picture?
Organizations are tasked with addressing imminent business needs and the energy is focused on aggressively resolving the problem at hand. Delivery constraints force business analysts to dive into the solution space without much opportunity for enterprise planning with a focus on future reusability and extension. Organizations end up with redundant solutions without harvesting the benefits of extending an existing solution.
What can be done?
Business Architecture may provide a couple of benefits at this juncture. First, a quick validation against Business Architecture whether the same or similar capability has not been already addressed or offered elsewhere within the organization—this may eliminate any duplication of efforts. Business Architecture usually encompasses multiple domains at times (by ignoring any organizational view and sticking to a functional view) and covers the whole enterprise. Therefore, Business Architecture artifacts could support business analysis in exploring any functional duplicity.
Second, even if a similar existing solution did not exist elsewhere, there would be opportunity to leverage any overlapping functional areas with other business areas. These overlapping functional areas may be pertinent to enterprise-wide requirements (i.e. regulatory and control related requirements) or it may even be common functional requirements. For example, Regulatory and Control related requirements usually apply enterprise-wide and can be common to all business analysis. Business Architecture captures these common requirements into a reusable modular format and makes these available for use across the enterprise. Therefore, these patterns will be ready for business analysts to implement them into the detailed requirements.
Enterprise analysis, as an entry point to Business Analysis serves as the input business case, but does not strongly clarify organization-wide requirements such as audit, compliance, controls and metrics, nor does it embrace best practices that can be leveraged. The missing piece in the business architecture seems to be recognition of “extensible patterns” that comingle process and rules that are critical from an operational standpoint. The involvement of analysts in this quest for “patterns” instills the importance at an early stage and provides for traceability and opportunities for reuse in the detailed requirements. Analysts’ involvement in architecture “patterns” will allow organizations to proliferate and install the architectural rules across the varied systems. Architects can reap the benefit from the analysts’ insights from the eye to details while building enterprise systems.
Now or Never?
The question is “When do we invest the resources towards a future vision—now or later?” Usually organizations take the easy route and go with “Later”. This is perhaps due to the nature of the process. Future-proofing projects needs to be engrained in the formulation of strategy—we believe that an organizational change towards a stronger intersection between Architecture and Analysis disciplines can achieve this.
We will be taking a closer look at a key Financial Services domain where Business Analysts are predominant – Investment.
Investment Banking as a discipline encompasses several vertical markets:
- Contributes to customers raising funds in capital markets and provides strategic advice on mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Sales and trading
- Operated the buying and selling of financial products for profitability.
- Reviews companies and writes reports about their prospects, often with “buy” or “sell” ratings.
Global transaction banking
- Provides cash management, custody services, lending, and securities brokerage services to institutions.
Investment management / Portfolio management
- Manages various securities (shares, bonds, etc.) and other assets (e.g., real estate), to meet specified investment goals for the benefit of investors.
- Offers capital in exchange for share ownership rather than loans, and offer advice on management and strategy.
- Offers retail banking to consumers via secured loan, mortgage loan and unsecured loan.
- Involves analyzing the market and credit risk that traders are taking onto the balance sheet in conducting their daily trades, and setting limits on the amount of capital that they are able to trade in order to prevent “bad” trades having a detrimental effect on a desk overall.
- Responsible for an investment bank’s funding, capital structure management, and liquidity risk monitoring.
- tracks and analyzes the capital flows of the firm, the Finance division is the principal adviser to senior management on essential areas such as controlling the firm’s global risk exposure and the profitability and structure of the firm’s various businesses via dedicated trading desk product control teams.
- Responsible for an investment bank’s daily operations compliance with government regulations and internal regulations. Often also considered a back-office division.
If you have prior investment banking experience in front office / middle office / back office or operations, you may be a candidate to utilize your expertise and become a Business Analyst. The BA profession is not only Technology based, but also Business Domain centric. Based on your experience, you may even qualify for mid-level or senior-level Business Analyst positions.
Curious about what is out there? Check out the top 10 largest Investment Banking companies and check out who is hiring!
Useful resource about programming basics for aspiring business analysts who are new to IT.
A good resource for aspiring Business Analysts who are new to IT to learn the fundamentals of coding.
Credit: Adam Dachis
Rational Unified Process (RUP, commonly pronounced as in rupture) is a contemporary approach aimed at efficient software development. RUP is representative of the newer iterative and incremental methods, forming the basis of newer and rapid development approaches such as Agile Development. Waterfall is a conventional software engineering approach been in existence since 1970s and we will compare RUP with Waterfall and analyze if it is more efficient.
In this post, we will use a non-IT construction analogy to understand the basics of RUP. After all, software development borrowed concepts from constructing buildings to start with!
The Waterfall Enclave Apartments
Waterfall is a top-down, common-sense approach. It proposes that the key processes in a project must be performed sequentially.
The three key processes Structuring, Engineering and Landscaping. Waterfall recommends performing each task in one ‘big bang’. Do it once, do it right! Sounds ambitious? You’re right, not everything about a project is known clearly up front, so this is a risk in waterfall approach!
In Jan, we take on the Structuring work for all the three complexes, A1, A2 and A3. In Feb, we proceed with all the Engineering for all three complexes and in Mar, we finish the project by Landscaping for A1, A2 and A3.
This is how the project plan will look like:
Visually construction will progress as illustrated below:
The RUP Hill Apartments
RUP recommends that key sub-systems in the project be identified first. Take a sub-system, complete the all the key processes, then repeat for each of the sub-systems.
Let’s break the bigger project into three sub-systems: A1, A2 and A3. Take A1, perform the key tasks (Structuring, Engineering and Landscaping) then repeat for A2 and then A3.
In Jan we’ll take A1 and complete Structuring, Engineering and Landscaping. Then, A2’s Structuring, Engineering and Landscaping in Feb. Repeat for A3 in Mar.
The project plan will look like this:
And visually in three months we’ll see the apartments progress as shown here:
What are the advantages of RUP?
- Faster Return of Investment – End of Jan, the apartment complex A1 is complete and rentable, yielding usage much sooner
- Opportunity for improvement – If you do not like the way something turned out in A1, you can always make changes into A2 and A3
- Improved Efficiency – Building a repeatable process allows for increased efficiency in each cycle
- Better Resource Utilization – Since Structuring, Engineering and Landscaping resources are utilized in three stints over three months rather than being fatigued one of the months, resource utilization is optimal
- Greater Access to Materials – Over time, technology and materials availability increases, presenting wider options
- What are some other benefits? Use comments to add your thoughts..
Is RUP always better than Waterfall?
The answer to this question depends on several factors:
- project size
- problem domain area
- requirements stability up front
- resourcing availability
Here is a video snippet on this topic from a trial class of our Business Analyst Workshop.
RUP and Agile methods are widely adopted these days. What is the reason behind the focus shift? Does RUP and Agile provide for more Rapid Development? What do you use in your current project? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
The UML stands for Unified Modeling Language. It is christened a “language” since the representation involves predefined notations, semantics and rules – so all participants involved – stakeholders, analysts, developers, testers all interpret these diagrams the same way.
The UML is a representation method, providing for different views to detail the software system under design. Just like we have front elevation, floor plan, electrical plan, plumbing plan, in the construction industry, to document different aspects of the same building, UML offers a set of diagrams to represent varied views for a software system. Each of these diagrams have a specific perspective to deliver to the reader, and it makes sense to overlay multiple diagrams to get the complete picture. The UML was architected by the Object Management Group (OMG) and they continue to maintain the definition for the later releases. Visit OMG.org and UML.org for more information.
The UML is an analysis toolbox that allows authoring of specific details of the system, such as business processes, state changes of key objects in a system, etc.
Please ask your questions, using the comments. Thanks!
- Practical UML Use Case Modeling for Business Analysts [Free...March 16, 2015 - 1:11 pm
- Who / What is a Business Analyst, Exactly?June 24, 2014 - 5:17 pm
- 12 Powerful Google Tips Everyone, Especially Business Analysts...February 6, 2014 - 12:37 pm
- Organizational Benefits of Aligning Business Analysis with...December 23, 2013 - 4:55 pm
- What is the differenvce between RUP and PERT (Process Evaluation...October 28, 2014 - 10:33 am by Enam
- Helpful. especially the filetype one. Had no idea about...February 7, 2014 - 4:22 pm by Victor
- Can I find more info somewhere?January 21, 2014 - 9:57 pm by www.youtube.com
- Nice post. Cheers for making this.January 21, 2014 - 1:04 pm by http://youtu.be/
- Business Analyst WorkshopMay 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- BA Workshop Course BookMay 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- [Free] Crash Course on UML Use Case ModelingMarch 16, 2015 - 5:23 pm
- BA – Finance Domain SpecializationMay 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- BA – Health Care Domain SpecializationMay 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- Software Testing [QTP, Quality Center, LoadRunner]May 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- PMP / CAPM Certification (35 PDU)May 15, 2008 - 9:30 am
- Power Excel for Analysts & ManagersMay 15, 2008 - 9:30 am