Who / What is a Business Analyst, Exactly?
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:
[dropcap style="flat" size="3"]C[/dropcap]onduct 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.
[dropcap style="flat" size="3"]T[/dropcap]he 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.
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