The Role of a Business Analyst

Requirements Management | By James L. Adams | Read time minutes

A young businessman is sitting at a polished table attentively reading a document

The word "Analyst" takes the place of specialist in many professions, originating from the tech-boom of the 1990s. Since then the term has been used for those who disseminate data into intelligible information for reports and recommendations. Today the term "Business Analyst" (BA) does that for many corporations in respect to operational functions and processes to promote efficiency in service delivery, production, and even supply-chain management. The impact of globalisation in the past decade causes many organisations to rethink strategies for both the long and short-term. These strategies are undertaken by a BA and Financial Analyst (FA) to discover and design the best approaches to resolving problems with solutions that yield long-term benefits.

The role of the Business Analyst may vary between industries and organisations, but one major factor that links this profession is the appreciation of enterprise changes as a project that involves many of the resources for efforts toward maximising the benefits of the organisational goal. A good Business Analyst should develop a means to foster confidence and respect from both the information technology and business sides of the organisation. This means a well rounded skill set which includes an understanding of the organisation's goal and the role a particular project to fulfil that goal. In order to accomplish this, the Business Analyst must understand that the stakeholders, employees, and management are the Internal Customers (IC) that must be served. The IC's must be therefore consulted and interviewed in respect to the impact a particular project may have on various departments. There are various methodologies that can be applied such as Six Sigma that have a more comprehensive and structured approach to approaching problem solving. The premise is to undertake the BA position as one of a problem solver more so than just a fact finder.

The common role that many BA's find themselves today is dealing with software development or enhancement issues to resolve various problems with processes and functions within an organisation. Software development is one field that continues to grow despite the economic slowdown and the BA may find his or her profession in demand as firms consolidate various functions to utilise technology to cut cost. Some common tasks for BA's include, but are not limited to technical requirements, communications requirements, software evaluation, quality assurance, feasibility studies, system design, system implementation, documentation, and training of staff and personnel. In some cases System Development Life-Cycle (SDLC) may be required. The role of the BA is vital and therefore User Acceptance Testing (UAT) methodologies are an indispensable tool on the road to project completion.

The gross misconception has been that this field had more to do with just creating charts, graphs, and statistics. The old Business Process Re-engineering Model (BPRM) has been replaced by the Business Engineering Model (BEM). The differences are that BA's used to use BPRM for projects that took the current business model and re-engineered it to suit a certain industry or need within that organisation. Some would argue, "Using the same framework with a different process". The modern BEM approach is to develop new processes and functions either within the same framework with enhancements, or to convert a portion or all of the organisational framework either incrementally or totally. BEM offers more flexibility and fewer resources that will not impact other segments of the organisation in respect to network downtime or conversion time. By developing an appreciation and knowledge of both strategies, the BA has a strength that enhances the organisation's ability to work more efficiently.

The key for the success of the BA is the ability to treat internal departments, vendors, and stakeholders as equity partners in a team with the sole focus to ensure that the project is completed. He or she must have a vision of both the current situation that the project is designed to resolve and the expected outcomes that the stakeholders need. The challenge for the BA is to resolve the problem between the status quo and the expected outcome. This is the area in which the BA is required to do the bulk of his or her work. Here are some comprehensive measures to assist in this endeavour.

Business Analyst System Development Life-Cycle Template:

  1. Meet with stakeholders (managers, executives, vendors, and end-users) to discover the preliminary issues pertaining to the problem. The goal is to get various views on the macro and micro status of the problem.
  2. Develop a definitive description of the core problem that is agreed upon by the stakeholders. In this way all parties will understand the nature of the problem in a brief sentence or two.
  3. Create a project name. Establish defined means of communications either by phone, documents folders, through email or discussion boards on LAN.
  4. Select certain stakeholders as Beta testers of new software.
  5. Meet with the IT Development Team (ITDT) to describe the macro problem in detail with an agreed meeting date to pass on more information. A good BA would also, establish that he or she may be contacted at anytime throughout the project for details or information regarding it.
  6. The BA should begin the feasibility study that includes interviews with managers, end-users, and department heads for system, technical, communications, process, and functional requirements. The interview questions should examine the essential elements of the project only in order to avoid gathering non-essential information.
  7. The information gathered should be analysed for budget and cost and presented to stakeholders for approval. In some organisations FA's may be required to verify the budgetary request.
  8. Upon approval, the BA should have a comprehensive outline for the ITDT in respect to the project. This means that a comprehensive flowchart using UML, SAP or Visio should show the expected outcome. The BA must convey to the ITDT what is needed on the business side in detail, fielding any questions or concerns.
  9. The BA must begin documenting the proposed changes to the existing system in comprehensive detail to create a manual for both training and end-user support by the end of the project. To save resources and time the most efficient way may be to develop a website on the company's LAN designed for help and training using the ITIL Foundation model. Also develop a discussion board for feedback on enhancements.
  10. Remain available for stakeholders and ITDT to pass on modification requests and other details that may impact the project.
  11. Meet with stakeholders to measure preliminary results on the first version of the software. Convey pros and cons and recommendations from Beta Testers to ITDT for changes.
  12. Follow-up with enhancements made for user approval. Also, ensure that all errors and problems are documented for future references.
  13. Upon approval of final version of software, condense the information provided in the documentation into a brief comprehensive Word or PDF document for a how-to.
  14. Monitor the new system after full implementation for errors, conflicts, or glitches. And measure improvements from system modifications.
  15. Begin the new cycle of enhancements when warranted in number 1.

The goal of this short template is to provide a thumbnail sketch of the process involving a BA. These steps and procedures may vary from company-to-company or industry-to-industry, but the one thing to keep in mind is that the BA position is one that never ends.

James L. Adams Jr. is an FCC licensed broadcasting professional with graduate studies for the MBA in International Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. He has worked as Information Technology (ECM) Project Manager, IT Specialist, IT Senior Business Analyst, Change Management Specialist & Trainer, Java 2 Programmer/Analyst, and Business Development Analyst. James is also a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMTPE) and currently works as a Hedgefund Developer for Weiberfach International GmbH.


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