Friday, May 17, 2013

Just what is business analysis, and what does a BA do?

A question I often get is “What exactly is business analysis and just what does a business analyst do?"  The BABOK v2.0 (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, IIBA 2009) 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 that enable the organization to achieve its goals”. 

A business analyst (BA) then, also according to the BABOK is “any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organizational role may be.” Business analysts can (and often do) have a background in either IT or business and are typically found in one of three departments in most organizations:  IT, individual business units, or a centrally located business analysis group that is shared across many organizational departments (Carkenord, 2009).  

Regardless of where they come from or what their background is, business analysts are fundamentally business people.  According to a 2012 blog on Practical Analyst by Jonathan Babcock, a BA guru, “BAs don’t enable “IT” solutions, they implement business solutions with business value to meet business goals. Because of the ubiquity of technology in business, solutions typically include a technology component, but they are driven by a business problem and intended to produce a business benefit.” 

BA’s often wear many hats – in his book “Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success(2012), Stephen Blais identifies 8 primary roles a business analyst plays:

  • Intermediary: This is the most common role the business analyst plays, functioning as a go-between among the business, IT, and upper-level management.
  • Filter: The business analyst plays the filter role when receiving and evaluating change requests from the business whether for a prior bug fix or a completely new system.
  • Investigator: This is the role played when eliciting information to determine the problem and solution.
  • Facilitator: The business analyst is often a facilitator, helping the business, upper-level management, and the solutions team understands problems and work together to solve them.
  • Diplomat: In this role, the analyst assists in the resolution of conflict among the parties and negotiates collaborative solutions.
  • Business Process Improver: The business analyst looks for ways to improve business processes.
  • Quality Assurance: In the role of quality assurance, the business analyst makes sure the solution solves the problem completely and effectively.
  • Change Agent: The business analyst adopts the role of change agent to make sure the solution is accepted by stakeholders throughout the development process and then efficiently placed into production and used to generate value for the organization.

Ultimately, business analysts and any business analysis process should add value to the organization.  This premise is summed up nicely in an article published on titled, If You Think You Can Do Without a Business Analyst…Think Again!  by George Bridges and Maureen McVey (2011).  Mr. Bridges and Ms. McVey explain how critical the role of a business analyst is to overall strategic, project and organizational success.