Business Analysis Guidebook/The Business Analyst Role
What is a Business Analyst?
According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), a business analyst works as a liaison among stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate, and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies, and information systems. A variety of roles are covered by this definition and many titles are used to describe those roles which add to the confusion. Some examples of different types include:
- Business analysts with very strong business skills and understanding of the business domain whose key role is to analyze business processes, procedures, etc. in order to identify problems and determine solutions. These analysts are more involved in what the IIBA defines as enterprise analysis and are likely to be involved prior to the initiation of an information technology (IT) project.
- IT Business Analyst who is focused on requirements elicitation and analysis, and solving problems using information technology solutions. This analyst serves as a bridge between business and IT and generally begins work after a project has been initiated. This analyst specifies “what” the system must do.
- Systems Analyst is an IT business analyst who is more focused on system design and the technical aspects of the solution. This analyst takes the requirements and creates functional specifications regarding “how” a system will do the “what.”
- Many other titles are used including the Business Systems Analyst which has been described as a combination of the IT Business Analyst and the Systems Analyst.
The most important element is the business focus; ensuring business needs are understood and communicated so that the final solution meets the business needs. Solutions may be IT related, non-IT related, or could be process improvement. The business analyst is responsible for eliciting the actual needs of stakeholders, not simply their expressed desires and often play a central role in aligning the needs of business units with the capabilities delivered by information technology.
Project Manager Versus Business Analyst and When You Are Both
The best way to succeed on any type of project is to have a strong, experienced Project Manager (PM) and a strong, experienced Business Analyst (BA). Working together from the beginning, they set the stage for success by accurately planning and clearly defining the expected outcomes. Each role provides specialized capabilities and is responsible for a different set of tasks. The PM keeps an eye on the management of the project, ensuring the project delivers on time, on budget and with the full scope of the requirements met. The BA focuses on management of the business need, business requirements, and expected business benefits with an eye on the final product the project delivers. It is the project manager who owns the Business Solution Life Cycle, and the business analyst who owns the Systems Requirements Life Cycle, from understanding the business need to ensuring that the delivered solution meets the need and adds value to the bottom line. Excellent PMs and BAs will work together to make the most of each other’s strengths.
On some projects one person is required to act as both the PM and the BA. This is often the case on smaller projects. For the individual, the challenge is to be aware of the conflicting focus and to try to act in one role at a time. For larger projects playing both roles puts the project at risk for either rushing requirements elicitation and analysis tasks and missing important requirements or spending too much time working on requirements and jeopardizing the project schedule.