Before understanding who a business analyst is and what he/she does let us first understand what business analysis is. As per the definition provided by the BABOK® Guide issued by IIBA® “Business Analysis is nothing but the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison amongst the stakeholders to understand the structure, policies and operations of an organisation and to recommend solutions that enable the organisation to achieve its goals”.
For this business analysis activity to be carried out, a thorough understanding as to how these organisations function to accomplish their purpose is to be understood and their capabilities defined so that they may provide the desired product or service to their external stakeholders. Business analysis may also be performed to understand the current state of an organisation that may lay the starting point to later identify the business needs and address them when a need, problem or opportunity arises.
So with the understanding of what business analysis is we shall proceed to get the know-how of defining what a business analyst is. Business analyst is a professional who analyses and synthesizes information from a large set of stakeholder groups like customers, staffs, executives and IT professionals by constantly interacting with them. In doing so the business analyst also becomes responsible to elicit the actual needs of the stakeholders. The business analyst also facilitates the communication amongst the organisational units.
So lets us understand this even better from a real life perspective: You are interested in owning a villa besides a sea-shore. You believe you have enough funds to realise this dream of owning this villa besides the sea-shore. At this stage it does make it sensible to first consult an architect who would ask you certain questions like your investment planned on this villa, the no. of rooms to be there, your parking space requirements, the no. of floors etc. related to capture your needs. Based these inputs a plan is drawn to ensure your dream villa has now been captured on a piece of paper called the building drawing plan. This is then presented to the builder who would then provide you with the details of its construction cost, the time line it will take to deliver this villa to you and the other points that will translate this dream to a reality! Every now and then the architect would make it a point to monitor the progress to check if what was designed to be built and what is actually being built are in similar lines. Occasionally we might encounter certain problems which are discussed with the builder, revised and reviewed for changes and modifications made.
Now from the above paragraph we can clearly conclude that the business analyst’s job is something very similar to what an architect does and the role played by the builder is something in close correlation with a project manager. It has to be understood that a business analyst is not simply producing plans to the stakeholders but produces them as “requirements” that positions the business need in alignment with the business process. This is then fed to the IT team or an external support team to either modify or build the desired system. During this course of system build the business analyst is responsible to handle the issues, clarify on points that need better insights and support the business teams to implement the changes relevant to the effective use and acceptance of the new system under development.
What does it take to become an effective business analyst?
As a business analyst is seen as a communication bridge between the business stakeholders and the IT team the role demands that the business analyst possess the following skill sets, personal traits and characteristics to better practise the profession more successfully over the long run. The common list that could act as a saviour to practise this profession includes:
• Analytical thinking and problem solving: Under this requirement business analysts shall be in position to effectively generative newer ideas to solve a problem and also generate alternative solutions, understand those conditions and criteria under which the decision making gets more effective and also in assisting others also to make better decisions, learn the business domain under which the business analysis will be carried out and try to bring out ways and means to translate this learning to benefit an organisation, understand how the people, process and technology work in harmony and how can an ecosystem with all these 3 things better co-exist within an organisation to efficiently function.
• Behavioural Characteristics: For this readiness the business analyst must be able to behave ethically in order to earn the true trust of the stakeholders, organise the documents and assets created by him/her and be able to retrieve them as and when required to assist him, manage the time better to accomplish tasks within the committed time frame.
• Business Knowledge: This involves an understanding of the basic business principles and the best practises to be able to adopt them into the planned solutions, understanding the industry into which the organisation is currently into and knowing the challenges present while existing, operating and proposing solutions that are effective, in addition to understanding the business architecture like the business model, the various relationship that this organisation shares with its vendors and business contacts and understanding those people holding responsible positions in these organisations shall also understood.
• Communication skills: This requires the business analyst to be able to express ideas effectively to the end audience, ensure the communicated information has been understood by them and be able to document the elicited requirements and other related information as records to fetch them whenever required.
• Interaction Skills: Here the business analyst must be in a position to resolve disagreements amongst the stakeholders regarding the requirements being prioritised, be able to guide and support the stakeholders whenever needed, closely work with the stakeholder teams to effectively work out a solution.
• Software Applications: Know-how of general office suite tools like Word processors, spread sheets, power point presentations, collaborative management tools and communication tools like instant messaging applications and e-mail to document and track the generated requirements. In addition to this specialised applications like the modelling tools are made use of by the business analyst to formal models, validate and implement them in the solution.
So to say a business analyst role has evolved as an important profession that integrates business with technology in addition to development of relationships with stakeholders at all levels to reach the business goals.