Defining Business Analysis - Part 1
According to the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK) version 2, business analysis is the “set of tasks and techniques used to work 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.”
In simple words, your goal as a BA is to understand how companies work and to enable companies to reach their potential by helping them articulate and meet goals, recognise and take advantage of opportunities, or identify and overcome challenges. All of which is a pretty tall order. But the task becomes more manageable – and understandable – if you think of it as having two distinct parts: the goal and the process.
The Goal: The goal addresses why you’re analysing the first place – perhaps to improve a company’s revenue and services or to reduce its costs. Think of the goal as the purpose of the project. To determine what the real goal is, you often have to employ the most frequently asked question in the world of business analysis: “Why?”.
The Process: The process involves understanding the how – that is, understanding what the solution needs to do, what it should look like and the people or systems that interact with it. The process requires you to grasp where the company is today and where it needs to be in order to achieve the goal. During this part, you determine what the solution should look and feel like and how to make sure it’s used after developed. To develop the process, you break the goal down into manageable pieces that you and the company can execute. Those manageable pieces make up the solution.
Your Role in the Business Analysis Project Life Cycle
Business Analysis work is done at many levels within a company. From the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Vice-President to the line managers, individuals throughout the company use business analysis activities on a day-to-day basis.
People at all levels view things in terms of a project (a set of steps to accomplish something), explaining business analysis activities as part of a project life cycle (as shown in the image below) is easy. Although these tasks fall in a general order, they’re somewhat fluid. It’s at the crux of all things business analysis:
1. Plan the Project:
Planning includes creating a work plan or at least thinking through an approach for the analysis effort of a project, encompassing all the activities you do and the techniques you use. As the BA, your primary role during planning is determining the scope of the effort. If you’re more Senior BA, you may be involved in project estimation and resource planning.
2. Scope the Project:
Defining and documenting the project scope requires you to understand why the project has been initiated (the project statement of purpose) and the goals of the project (the project objectives). As the BA you hold the stakeholders to the project boundaries and analyse the business problem without jumping to a solution. This step includes identifying the opportunity or problem the company needs to address.
3. Elicit, Analyse and Communicate Requirements:
This step is the bulk of what business analysis professionals do at the project level. As the BA, you actively partake in understanding the real business needs and finding the root cause of business problems, as well as communicating requirements to the intended audience. This talk involves categorising the requirements and knowing how detailed they have to be to ensure your project is solving the right problem.
4. Design the Solution:
BAs aren’t typically responsible for this activity; rather they collaborate with the solution team to develop a solution. Because solution design isn’t a core business analysis activity, doesn’t mean you should walk away when designing starts. Having the Bas available to support the design and development team is important.
5. Build or Buy the Solution:
Based on the activities in Steps 1 through 4, the business and project team decide to build the solution internally or buy a packaged solution. During this time, your role is to ensure the solution still meets the business requirements. Besides, you may also start writing test cases and test scenarios for the next phase.
6. Test the Solution:
As the solution is being designed and built, you need to validate that the business needs elicited during the project are being met. You collaborate with the test team, either as an active tester or by working with the testing team to ensure the solution meets the stated requirements and other project documentation.
7. Implement the Solution:
After the solution is built, you need to help make sure the business uses the solution. You actively with project stakeholders as the solution rolls out, perhaps as a change agent (advocating the need for change) and/or to train new users on the system. Part of the implementation may be eliciting metrics surrounding usability, noting how quickly they are adapting on the new system and gauging customer satisfaction.
8. Conduct a Post-implementation Review:
After the solution has been implemented, you need to make sure the goals outlined in the project are being met. If they aren’t, another project may be necessary to address the gap.