Making Business Requirements a Reality
What is a business analyst? That question has stymied both business and IT managers for years. When it was the subject of a Forrester Research report back in 2008, the answer was: “Business analysts… blend the temperament and communications savvy of a diplomat with the analytical skills of an intelligence officer.” Interesting, but not incredibly illuminating, is it? So what is a business analyst and why do you need one? To help you successfully manage change.
Let’s face it: change is necessary to adapt and thrive in today’s business world. In order to successfully manage change, particularly in the face of increasingly-complex technical solutions and heighted customer expectations, the disciplines of project management and business analysis have been elevated in virtually every organization.
Business Analysts and Project Managers—What’s the Difference?
Business analysts focus on the business requirements of a project. Project managers focus on the project deliverables, tasks, deadlines and resources. The business analyst defines and communicates the key deliverables, and the project manager ensures the work is done on time and according to specifications.
What is Business Analysis?
According to the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge, vol 3 (IIBA 2015):
Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.
This means that while the business analyst’s job is to understand project goals and stakeholder expectations, he or she must also recognize the context and drivers behind the project. When the business analyst has a clear picture of the current landscape, in terms of both how and where a project fits into the political and technical environment, the requirements generated will provide the most effective and detailed roadmap to meet the business’s needs.
Where a Business Analyst Can Make the Biggest Impact: Avoidance of Rework and Additional Expenses
One of the biggest challenges to project execution is getting clear and accurate requirements. Without them, the result is typically rework, with the associated cost increasing exponentially after each successive phase of project development.
A defect corrected during early requirements documentation could cost $200, but the same defect could cost $50,000 (or much more!) if it is not detected until after the project is in production. This is why the role of a business analyst to gather clear and complete requirements is critical to avoid added costs.
What Exactly Does a Business Analyst Do?
Business analysts have a broad skillset, which enables them to document processes, requirements and the environments in which an organization operates. Every project is different, so the activities and deliverables of a business analysis vary from project to project. For instance, re-engineering a mobile application in an Agile SDM will require a different set of activities performed by the BA compared to a database migration or other infrastructure efforts. According to the BABOK, the list of activities may include:
- Contacting Stakeholders
- Creating Business Requirements Documents
- Creating Process Flows
- Creating Functional Specifications
- Assessing Capability Gaps
- Defining the Business Case
- Performing Traceability of Requirements Back to their Source
- Defining Assumptions and Constraints
- Verifying Requirements
- Validating Solutions
- Evaluating Performance
- Assessing Environment or Landscape
- Modelling Data
- Producing Data Dictionaries
What Should You Look for in a Business Analyst?
A qualified business analyst should have proven capabilities in the following areas:
- Analytical Thinking
- Understanding Business Goals
- Problem Solving
- Communication and Listening Skills
In addition, a qualified business analyst should be able to use a myriad of tools and techniques in order to gain an understanding of each project’s business requirements. Among these tools are:
- Analysis of Business Rules
- Data Flow Diagrams
- Data Models
- Document Analysis
- Focus Groups
- Interface Analysis
- Joint Application Development Sessions
At the Start of your Next Project, Remember:
Great results start with thorough, clear and detailed business requirements documentation. Involve your business analyst from the start, along with your project manager to ensure your project is completed on time, on task and on budget!
Source: Galmont Software Quality Assurance