Over the last 10 years, having a Business Analyst as part of any project team has become increasingly common, especially in agile environments, and I think I might know the reason… but first things first!
What is Business Analysis?
According to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®) and as a general definition we can say that “Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders”.
In other words, it helps translate business needs and new ideas into deliverables, into something manageable and tangible that provides value to someone.
Business Analysis can be performed on a variety of areas and levels within any type of company, be it strategic, tactical or operational. The outcomes of Business Analysis can be used across different areas; new applications, new processes or technologies, recommendations to improve business operations, etc.
To give an example, in technology projects, a business analyst ensures that the solutions being created by the development team meet not just the current business requirements, but can also accommodate future changes.
In this article I’d like to focus on this precise role that Business Analysis can play. Of course Business Analysis is not the holy grail. To achieve alignment between business and technology, we will probably need effective technical project management and close collaboration with different stakeholders in order to design and implement a strong solution. As I like to say, business analysts are a bridge between ideas and capabilities.
Who is a Business Analyst?
A business analyst should be able to balance between vision and reality. Communication and organization are two of the greatest skills any business analyst should have. Sometimes we need to work with senior executives and strong personalities, and our interpersonal skills might be strongly tested during those interactions.
Additionally, there are seven principles that should rule any agile business analyst’s work:
See the forest and the trees: as BA we need to be able to look at the big picture and manage the micro. We should be aware of the overarching goals, general needs and next steps, so we can make sure short term changes are aligned.
Think as a customer: any stakeholder that is going to interact with our solutions is a customer, and we need to consider their needs, both the ones they are aware of and the ones they don’t know yet that they have! We should normally start with high-level definitions and progressively decompose them into more detailed requirements until we have a clear specification.
Analyse to determine what is valuable: as one of our goals is to maximize the value being delivered, we should be able to identify and prioritize the work in line with business expectations.
Get real using examples: this is something really useful when trying to understand any requirement and it also helps with stakeholder engagement. In order to create these examples, we can work with the stakeholders in order to visualize in a low level example how the proposed solution will satisfy their needs. To do this we can use several tools such as diagrams, documentation, mock-ups, prototypes, etc. Additionally, those results can be used to define acceptance criteria, validate in the testing stage, etc.
Understand what is doable: we are continuously involved with the How. We help to identify any possible limitation the team might face, such as technology, team skills or just the time needed, in order to produce a deliverable in line with the business deadlines.
Stimulate collaboration and continuous improvement: we are always aiming to work together. Management, development, operations, and other stakeholders, we are all part of the same ecosystem and we should be aligned in order to succeed. Feedback is a key piece in terms of continuously improving not only current solutions but also processes, communication, solutions, policies, etc. To repeat the earlier point, as we are engaging with several collaborators within the organization, communication skills are needed alongside empathy, listening, negotiation, etc.
Avoid waste: we just need to dismiss what won´t provide any value at all. Don’t waste time on things that won’t be used or won’t solve any real need. Focus on what really matters. A business analyst will push to make things happen, will find the way to do it and raise the hand whenever it’s not possible at all.
Why Business Analysis?
Business Analysis is strictly related to change and, as business analysts, we are an agent of change. Any organization that is looking forward to improving their business might need someone performing business analysis work within their team.
- We can help to improve processes by reducing time and money.
- We are constantly working to achieve business goals.
- We can identify problems and help to find a solution.
- We keep asking ‘why’ when no one else does.
Agile companies will find in this role a key piece to rely on, in order to be responsive to change. We are focused on delivering value to all stakeholders faster, with high quality and rapidly adjusting to new business directions and changing needs. We are here to help.
Heraclitus said “The only constant in life is change”… analyse and adapt.
I think the answer to the big question now looks quite simple, isn’t it?