Business Analyst

The Power of the Business Analyst

For anyone considering becoming a business analyst, it’s important for you to understand what the perceived definition of this role and expectations from the stakeholders. At the same time, you should consider the power and leverage the business analyst can have. Simply stated, the business analyst should know what the systems (for a given organization) do better than anyone. Obviously they won’t know the technical details of the engienering team, but they will have a comprehensive understanding of the systems and the relationships of these systems to other systems, and customer needs.

Have a look at these five very important aspects of the business analyst role.

1. The Role of the Business Analyst

What kind of impact is all of this having on the skills required of the business analyst? The business analyst acts as a bridge between the business and IT, translating the business’s requirements into a form that can be understood by the system developers, as well as explaining to the business how it can take advantage of the capabilities of IT.

The term ‘business analyst’ means different things in different organisations. To some, the business analyst’s job is specifically limited to defining information, usually in terms of IT system requirements. For an increasing number of organisations, however, the business analyst has a wider role that examines the environment in which the IT system operates, to ensure that the identified requirements are justified. In the terms used in this article, the business process defines the context for the requirements definition. I believe it is preferable to think in wider rather than narrower terms – it is more and more difficult to separate the definition of the to-be process from the underlying IT support. This approach is supported by the definition of the business analyst’s role in the latest version of the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), which includes ‘initiating and influencing enterprise-wide business process analysis’.

The increased breadth of the business analyst’s role also reflects the evolving nature of the projects with which they are involved. There are very few projects involving IT alone. IT is now regarded as an enabler of business change rather than a provider of business benefits directly. It is the business change that is enabled by IT that results in the business benefits. As a consequence, the IT development work is seen as part of a larger business change programme. The focus of the business case shifts, therefore, from the IT development to the business change.

This greater responsibility now facing the business analyst implies an upgrading of their skills. At the very least, business analysts will have to be proficient at producing process models. It is heartening that the ISEB Business System Development Diploma scheme (3) has recently introduced a Modelling Business Processes Certificate. These mechanical skills are, however, only the starting point. If business-IT alignment is to really take place, the business analyst will need to act as a consultant, advising the business on how they can improve their processes. Inevitably this will involve measurement of a number of elements, including the existing processes, the expected performance of new processes, a comparison of actual against planned, and benchmarking against external organisations. That leads further into benefits management and realisation. The business analyst needs a range of both business and technical competencies – communication skills, business knowledge and political savvy as well as an appreciation of IT capabilities and the discipline necessary to carry through change built around new technology.

2. “Know thy Requirements”

As stated above, the business analyst will act as a condoit between IT and the business. What this means is that the business analyst must successfully fully capture the requirements and make sure they are translated to understandable documentation for the full project team. The life-cycle documentation includes the following.

  • 1. Assisting with the Business case
  • 2. High level feasibility
  • 3. Gathering of the requirements
  • 4. Designing and/or reviewing test cases
  • 5. Processing change requests
  • 6. Tracing the requirements during implementation (traceability matrix)
  • 7. Manage scope
  • 8. Acceptance, Installation, deployment

Once the project is defined and feasibility established in sections 1 and 2, the business analyst ventures into the requirements gathering and requirements management phase. To adequately cover all areas of documentation could cover a full book, so the focus for this article will just be items 3 through 6 in the documentation steps above.

3. Key Deliverables of the Business Analyst

There is no one defined way to become a Business Analyst. Often the Business Analyst has a technical background, whether having worked as a programmer or engineer, or completing a Computer Science degree. Others may move into a BA role from a business role – their status as a Subject Matter Expert and their analytical skills make them suitable for the role. Business analysts often grow further into other roles as Project manager or consultant.

A Business Analyst does not always work in IT-related projects, as Business Analyst skills are often required in marketing and financial roles as well.

Business Analyst’s work in different industries such as Finance, Banking, Insurance, Telco, Utilities, Entertainment, Internet and others. It is common that BAs switch between industries. The Business Domain subject areas BAs may work in include workflow, billing, mediation, provisioning and customer relationship management. The Telco industry has mapped these functional areas in their eTOM (Telecommunications Operational Map) model.

4. Having the aptitude

There is no one defined way to become a Business Analyst. Often the Business Analyst has a technical background, whether having worked as a programmer or engineer, or completing a Computer Science degree. Others may move into a BA role from a business role – their status as a Subject Matter Expert and their analytical skills make them suitable for the role. Business analysts often grow further into other roles as Project manager or consultant.

A Business Analyst does not always work in IT-related projects, as Business Analyst skills are often required in marketing and financial roles as well.

Business Analyst’s work in different industries such as Finance, Banking, Insurance, Telco, Utilities, Entertainment, Internet and others. It is common that BAs switch between industries. The Business Domain subject areas BAs may work in include workflow, billing, mediation, provisioning and customer relationship management. The Telco industry has mapped these functional areas in their eTOM (Telecommunications Operational Map) model.

5. Title Scmitle, “Be the Product Owner”

When it comes to the differences between a Product Manager and a Business Analyst, the roles and definitions could get a bit murky. At a very simple level, the business analyst should own gathering and managing business requirements, but doesn’t necessarily “own” the product. Which  means they won’t have P&L responsibility nor do they make the Product calls on how things should work.

However, I have found that companies that hire business analysts won’t have a product manager if the company is more service oriented than product oriented. So what happens is that large organizations will have business analysts own requirements, but there is a gap where the internal systems lack the product direction.

Now this is where a crafty business analyst can start acting as a product manager by making product decisions about how a product should work. Even if they are being the liason for the stakeholder, once they start making the right calls, even without being formally a product manager, they have become the product manager. While they can’t just stroll into the HR manager and ask for a raise, at the point when they are looking for a career bump, they should easily be able to craft their resume by positioning themselves as a product manager.

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