– An Introduction to Business Analysis
What is Business Analysis?
Okay – so you have heard the term “business analysis” thrown around quite a lot and you were wondering what it means exactly. You popped it into Google and were flooded with millions of results on the term.
This article will give you a very high-level introduction to the basics of what Business Analysis means in the context of how it is described in the following two definitions:
- “… the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. “
- The BABOK defines Business Analysis as “Business analysis is 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.”
So we are talking about business analysis as a field where analysis of an organisation’s problems and needs are done in order to solve these problems by recommending solutions. These solutions might be of a business process, operational of financial nature, or it might be in the form of an automation (technological) solution.
Business analysis is today widely used in the software development arena. Business and IT have recognised the need for proper analysis to be performed, in order to ensure that business truly understand what they want to have developed. The clearer the solution is “in the mind” prior to the commencement of the building of the solution, the less costly the solution will be and the sooner it will be delivered. This is not a foreign concept – in the civil engineering world, no building will commence, until the architectural designs have been completely finalised and signed-off.
Just as in the construction industry, where there are specialist architects who facilitate the designs of buildings, people have acknowledged the need for specialist business analysts to facilitate the identification and specification of business needs and resulting solutions.
There are a multitude of other ways to describe Business Analysis and specifically the role of the Business Analyst (BA), so let me give you one more, but by way of analogy:
- A Business Analyst is a Bridge…
A bridge is something you build to help you cross a divide, a gap, a crevice, a river, or any other obstacle that you want to go over or around, in order to make it easier and faster and less painful to reach. A bridge saves you time, effort and money.
In the world of business, there are numerous “gaps, obstacles and crevices” that prevent business goals from being achieved easily. Businesses primarily exist to address needs or by providing solutions (products or services). The better they do this, the more money they make. This is where business analysts come into play.
- They bridge gaps between the problem and the solution…
- They bridge gaps between technical and non-technical people…
- They bridge gaps between the past and the future…
- They bridge gaps between people, technology and process…
In essence the role of bridge speaks to the ability to be or become a master communicator. Most misunderstandings in everyday business (and possibly even in life…) can in some way be traced back to poor or dysfunctional communication. By having a skilled communicator eliminate misunderstandings, clarify confusion and simplify understanding a huge amount of pain can be prevented.
- A Business Analyst is a Salesman
“Nothing happens until a sale is made” is a famous quote supposedly by Thomas Watson of IBM. Whoever said this, was very accurate. Think about this. Even when wooing a pretty girl, you have to “sell” your personality, your humour, your hairstyle… J Similarly, in business, the business analyst needs to sell the fact that he/she understands the landscape, the business, the problem, the requirements, the solution, etc.
Without confidence in the solution that they bring back from the solutioning team, the business will not continue. The solution might be an excellent one, but without the ability to explain this in a clear way that demonstrates the meeting of needs (i.e. the benefits), the business will not “buy” into the solution. This process is in a way a sales process.
- A Business analyst is a Peacemaker
The world of the analyst is a world where change happens. Change is an unsettling thing. People typically fear change and the unknown elements that it introduces. Even when the change is intended for good, it still unsettles people. Often people will fight when they feel threatened by the fear of imminent change .
The business analyst (as part of a bigger team) has a responsibility to lesson the fear, minimise the conflict and therefore fight for “peace” to return to the environment. They do this mostly by ensuring that risks are mitigated and illustrating this clearly to those who raise the risks. When people know that there is a plan in place to address their fears,
- A Business analyst is the Glue
Many might not realise it, but due to the fact that the business analyst is involved from virtually the start to (typically) the very end of a project, the BA in a sense is the “glue” that holds it all together.
If understanding is lost from the Executive leadership to the operational management, intention is lost. The BA must ensure that vision and goals are kept in mind throughout.
If understanding is lost the defined requirements from operational management to the solutions team, a solution will be created that does not speak to the actual business needs. The BA must ensure that this does not happen.
If quality of the solution is impaired, resulting in the solution not addressing the requirement fully, the value of the exercise is lost. The BA must define the quality of the desired solution and ensure this is translated properly.
The BA must trace all delivered solution components back to requirements, goals and eventually business intent and vision. Without such an end-to-end traceability, you might end up in a very different place to where you intended to go.
Ok – enough about metaphors !
What does a Business Analyst do on a typical day?
Please visit my article called What does a Business Analyst do? (Coming soon…)
“ A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) is the written guide to the collection of business analysis knowledge reflecting current best practice, providing a framework that describes the areas of knowledge, with associated activities and tasks and techniques required.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Guide_to_the_Business_Analysis_Body_of_Knowledge