Business analysis is based around the idea of delivering value to stakeholders by empowering change in an organisation. This is achieved by defining the business needs and recommending suitable solutions.
The aim of a business analyst is to effectively find opportunities to help the business to reduce costs and increase benefits
The tasks of a business analyst are forever defined and I will attempt to group them into 5 points:
- Identify the problem and opportunity
- Understand the requirements
- Outline the solution that best fits the requirement
- Implement the solution
- Post implementation verification and validity of the solution
There are slight variations of the different types of business analyst ranging from the more business process and system driven, to the more end user and data analyst. The key and common ground for all is the importance of requirement gathering.
There is a wise saying which goes ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ which couldn’t be a truer statement when it comes to planning. It is imperative that a business analyst plans the change effectively. There is various system development life cycle (SDLC) methodologies used for planning, and we will mention them briefly below.
- The waterfall model
- this is the oldest and most structured method. You cannot move into the next phase until you fully complete the previous one, and where there is no going back to the previous phase as each phase is reliant on its previous one. This of it like as the human life cycle, you cannot go back to being a child once you have reached adulthood.
- The V-shaped model
- This is common known as the verification and validation model. This is similar to the waterfall model but adds a testing element to it before moving on to the next phase.
- Iterative model
- Based on giving you a working model as early as possible. Think of it as a temporary solution to start off, and a permanent one once it has testing and validated it over several cycles. Think of it as an empty house; firstly you start to install the essentials such as the heating and lighting, then you may wish to add the flooring, then the furniture, then you may want to change the lighting to suit the furniture… you get the point.
- Spiral model
- Based on flexibility and very similar to the iterative model. It is a spiral method that has four stages to it, where the focus is to allow multiple rounds of refinement. Trouble is, you can get yourself in a never-ending cycle.
- Big bang model
- Used for small projects or non-essential projects. Think if it as a nice-to-have project that has a small budget and limited resources. With limited planning and more of a ‘let us see what happens’ attitude it can prove to be a very successful project or a money poorly spent project.
- Agile model
- Based on breaking the project into cycles to achieve the required goals for the project via iterations. It is essential for the stakeholders to know what they want if they go ahead and decide to use this model for planning. The agile model depends heavily on the interaction of the customer, developer and testers during the period of the project.
From all the work a business analyst does the focus should remain with understand the business objective. What is the purpose of the project? What are the goals of the project? What is a success and how is it measured?
This comes nicely to one of the important tasks needed from a business analyst: the business case. The business case is usually done to determine the effects a specific decision will have on profitability and efficiency. The creation of a business case involves 5 phases: the analysis underlining the importance of the change; defining the possible solutions including the costs and benefits as well as the timeline of the change; writing the business case and ensuring that you document every important detail; reviewing the business case and ensuring that the problem statement validates the call to action the change; and finally presenting the business case to investment committee.
An important point to note is the significance of assigning responsibility to stakeholders. To avoid blame and confrontation, assigning responsibility to stakeholders is key, and the use of tools such as a RACI matrix can mitigate that.
Businesses will always need business analysts to facilitate the opportunities and help solve the problems of the business. They key for a business analyst is to ensure all the rules and guidance are followed in order to produce a positive end result.
To end, I’d like to emphasise the importance for a business analyst to be proactive when being involved in any project. As JF Kennedy stated during the state of the union address: ‘the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.’