When people ask me “What do you do for a living?” I respond by saying “I am a business analyst for a consulting company in Jefferson City”. The next question that always follows is “so what’s a business analyst?”.
According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) the role of a Business Analyst (BA) is defined 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”. To simplify this definition, the role of a BA is often seen as the bridge of communication between Information Technology (IT) staff and business stakeholders. The BA is responsible for facilitating discussions among the business users to understand their current business and their need for change and to accurately communicate this need to the IT staff to design a solution that will ensure all stakeholder expectations are met. There are many roles a BA can play between divisions and/or departments, but facilitator is the most common. The BA is also responsible for documenting business requirements, user specifications, use cases, test plans, executing test plans and supporting the development team, project manager and customer.
Now that you have an understanding of the definition and role of a Business Analyst, you may be asking yourself “Why does my project need a business analyst?”. An experienced BA can provide significant value to the customer, development team, project manager and the overall project.
The maximum amount of efficiency that a BA can add to a project team is often overlooked. While the development team defines the technical solution, the BA provides timely information, clarifies questions, eliminates obstacles and roadblocks and ensures the technical solution is progressing and moving towards meeting the stakeholder’s expectations.
For many customers, a software project can be very overwhelming. Often times, the customer is working to successfully complete the project on time and within budget, along with managing their everyday work obligations. Early in my career, I was always told “you are the voice of the business user”. A BA will serve as an advocate for the business users to limit the impact of their absence on the project. There are often multiple business users impacted by system changes and one may feel their business needs should take priority over the other. It is the role of the BA to successfully represent all business users and to ensure all opinions are heard, considered and represented when the users are not available to represent themselves. The BA is the main point of contact for the business users which enables the project manager and technical staff to focus on their task and the overall project goals.
Developers are grateful when their project team includes an experienced BA. Many developers or coders want to do just that…code. It is not productive to have developers participate in lengthy requirement discussions. Developers or individuals with a technical background sometimes speak in technical terms or want to design a solution before knowing the full scope of requirements. This often causes some confusion or disconnect with the business users. The BA understands the level of detail needed for developers to be able to bridge that gap between business requirements and technical requirements. The development team is fully capable of working with the business users to clarify requirements but this can cause inefficiencies, project delays, and rework. Projects are more successful when the development team can focus on architecting the technical solution and completing their development tasks.
The BA serves as the Project Manager’s “right hand”. The BA works closely with the project manager to help manage project scope, budget and timelines. The BA is involved at every level of the project. This involvement allows the BA the knowledge to adequately communicate when priorities need to shift, or if new/out of scope requirements are introduced. This results in a more effective project delivery and increases the project’s success rate.
The BA definitely serves an extremely important and vital role on a software development project team. If your current project team does not include a BA, you should definitely consider including a BA. You will be able to immediately identify the benefits and efficiencies.