What is Business Analysis?

Good business analysis has a big impact on the bottom line. It’s about making things go smoothly when building or changing products, technology, systems and processes. Great business analysis cares […]

Good business analysis has a big impact on the bottom line. It’s about making things go smoothly when building or changing products, technology, systems and processes. Great business analysis cares about the end results and delivers outcomes aligned with business needs.

Business analysis work can be high level and strategic, but it’s also is quite detailed when exploring the inner workings and logic of systems. These details impact the results, customer experience, and how successful the change ultimately is! When a team has a great business analyst, everything just goes smoothly. When business analysis isn’t happening, it shows with a lot of painful dynamics during the project and with a lack of results.

Common Things Business Analysis Professionals Do
Business analysis work consists of a wide range of activities and skills. Depending on the role and the size of the organization, business analysis professionals usually engage in one or more of the following functions.

Problem/Situation/Opportunity Analysis
BAs seek to understand the underlying problem or opportunity driving the request for change. They know that there is a deeper meaning behind the “why” and they seek it out. Teams that do not understand the underlying “why” often build the wrong thing, wasting precious time and resources. BAs are often in a position to facilitate decision making on technology investments. It’s easy to build software, but it’s hard to build software users love.

Product/Solution Analysis
BAs make sure that a product or system application meets the needs of those using it. This means the solution truly meets the needs, not necessarily giving users exactly what they asked for. Great BAs know that what a customer asks for is rarely what they need. They dig into the context and understand what isn’t being said. This makes a huge difference in the impact and the results!

Team Facilitation
BAs solve problems and create opportunities by helping others understand the user point of view and user needs. This alignment is critical to the team getting it right. BAs facilitate powerful dialog both formally and informally. They use facilitation techniques that get everyone completely aligned to have the right conversations—conversations that lead to effective decisions and valuable results.

BAs are at the center of prioritizing which changes and details are the right ones to work on, and in what order. They are not usually the decision makers but are the key role in helping others make decisions. They work to ensure that the right people have the right information to make good decisions about what projects, features, enhancements, and defects are worth investing in.

Strategic Linkage
BAs are the link from strategy to execution. They evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. They have a strong business acumen and can analyze and link the strategic plan to the changes needed to achieve it. They define and validate the measurements that show when and if the team’s work is aligned to the strategy.

Roles & Titles
Business analysis is a practice, much like other professional practices. And, like other professional practices, the people who practice business analysis go by various titles.

Some common titles of those who practice business analysis include:

  • Business analyst
  • Product owner
  • Product manager
  • Consultant
  • Business process analyst
  • Functional analyst
  • Agile analyst
  • Agile business analyst
  • Agile product owner
  • Business systems analyst
  • System analyst
  • Operations analyst
  • Requirements analyst
  • Project manager

Why Is Business Analysis Important To Organizations?
Without business analysis, teams build uninspiring solutions and waste the organization’s resources. When teams lose focus on value and customer needs, they work on the wrong things, or work on the right things, but in a way that does not meet the intended result.

Simply put, this impacts organization and team effectiveness!

When business analysis is practiced well, teams and organizations perform better, waste less, and customers love interacting with the organization.

One of the big challenges that teams can solve for with great business analysis is feature bloat. Many teams with little or no analysis will simply over-build solutions. They will make processes too complex and deliver systems that have expensive bells and whistles that are rarely or never used.

This happens for a lot of reasons:

  • Lack of clarity on the vision the definition of success
  • Lack of impact metrics to know if the solution works from a user point of view
  • Focus on speed and deadlines, rather than ensuring the team understands the user and the user’s needs
  • Building too much without getting user feedback
  • Pride in building the best possible feature or solution over focus on what is actually needed to get a result
  • Lack of analysis or lack of confidence which leads to building more to cover all possible scenarios, even though many scenarios are not realistic

Types Of Teams, Projects And Organizations That Use BAs

Business analysis and roles that use it can be found everywhere including IT teams, agile teams, business teams and product teams.

The work BAs are most commonly associated with are things like:

  • New software/process development
  • Package/vendor/cloud implementations
  • Maintenance: enhancements, defects, upgrades to systems & processes
  • Exploration, experimentation, innovation and discovery initiatives

These initiatives will achieve higher success rates with dedicated analysis resources! Team success depends on team members who have the skills to analyze, facilitate the right conversations, facilitate decisions and maintain customer/user focus.

Business Analysis Skills and Competencies
Business analysis is a complex domain of skills. It demands soft skills, analytical skills and leadership!

The best business analysts are curious and have a growth mindset that results in continuous learning. They are relationship driven while pragmatic and analytical.

The key skills and competencies BAs use to be successful include:

  • Facilitation
    • Designing collaborative & engaging meetings
    • Guiding decision-making processes
    • Creating shared understanding of complex problems and vision
  • Relationship building
  • Communication (verbal, non-verbal, written)
  • Influence without authority
  • Abstract thinking
  • Decomposition from big picture to smaller pieces
  • Working with ambiguous concepts
  • Visual modeling of complex concepts into simple pictures
  • Analyzing and visualizing the user and customer journey
  • Analyzing and visualizing the data flow, relationships and customer impact
  • Understanding user goals and communicating the goals and context to the team
  • Defining, modeling and analyzing rules logic
  • Defining, modeling and analyzing business, systems and user processes

What Leaders Care About
Leaders care about their strategies being executed and getting the results that matter! Leaders want relevancy, speed, happy customers, and their innovation and strategic agenda advanced. The business analyst role is a key role in making this happen!

BAs Are Successful When They Do These Things

  • Collaborating with others to understand and define the problem
  • Collaborating with others to understand and define the measurements of success
  • Facilitating decision making about where to spend money and what details in the technology matter
  • Creating a shared understanding of the problem, opportunity, options, alternatives and designs with the team
  • Being curious and inquisitive while keeping a pragmatic, results-driven focus on meeting user needs