Business Analysis is an essential skill that every successful organization must have, since it focuses on determining solutions to business problems using process and proven techniques.
Business analysis is the collection of activities that allow an organization to examine their goals and objectives, and the processes they must use to achieve those goals and objectives. It is the set of tasks and techniques that one person (a “business analyst ”) or a team uses to help a group of stakeholders understand their business requirements and develop solutions that meet those requirements under various conditions.
Business analysis is not concerned solely with developing software / information technology solutions. Most successful organizations use business analysis practices and techniques for a wide range of non-technology solutions.
Goals of Business Analysis
There are many goals that business analysis may have in an organization, but most can be identified by these major categories: improve efficiency, reduce waste, identify and implement solutions, support the need to meet project deadlines, and accurately document necessary requirements for organizational initiatives. Since modern organizations are complex entities, these goals share some points. However, all the goals can be reduced to the following statements: support the organization’s drive to continually improving its effectiveness and its return on investment in any project or process.
Components of Business Analysis
The discipline of business analysis includes requirements analysis, sometimes also called requirements engineering. It focuses on ensuring the changes made within an organization are aligned with its strategic goals. These changes include changes to strategies, structures, policies, business rules, processes, and information systems.
Stages of business analysis include:
Figure 1: Stages of Business Analysis
Enterprise analysis or company analysis
Enterprise analysis focuses on understanding the needs of the organization as a whole, its strategic direction, and identifying initiatives that will allow an enterprise to meet those strategic goals. It also includes:
- Creating and maintaining the business architecture (part of enterprise architecture)
- Conducting feasibility studies for new efforts or major changes to existing initiatives
- Identifying new business opportunities
- Scoping and defining new business opportunities
- Preparing the business case for a new effort of a major change to an existing program
- Conducting the initial risk assessment
Requirements planning and management
This stage involves planning the requirements development process, determining which requirements are the highest priority for implementation, and managing change. Many successful organizations have a business analysis program office that manages these activities. Determining the possible return on investment of suggested efforts / requirements and identifying organizational management goals for business analysis can allow a smoother path for project-level business analysis to occur.
Requirements elicitation employs techniques for collecting requirements from stakeholders in a project. Unfortunately, for many organizations, this is the starting point for business analysis. Successful organizations realize this stage must be preceded by the enterprise analysis and the planning / management stages.
Requirements analysis and documentation
This stage, the actual analysis and the recording of the requirements, allows the analysts to describe and specify requirements in sufficient detail for implementation, including identifying the risks that must be met and resolved. The requirements are recorded based on standard techniques and formats, and confirmed by all relevant stakeholders.
Requirements communication uses a variety of approaches that ensure stakeholders have a shared understanding of the requirements and their implementation methods. The styles of communication used by each organization should fit the culture, should be appropriate to the initiative, and should be evaluated for the effectiveness of its message delivery.
Solution assessment and validation
Every solution must be validated and verified by the business analysis team. This assessment includes developing and implementing plans for supporting the execution of a solution, and assessing any possible sub-optimal results in the performance. Proper business analysis always identifies improvement opportunities for the solutions and for the analysis process.
The Role of Business Analysts in Business Analysis
A Business Analyst is a generic term for an individual who is tasked with the responsibility to identify problems, needs, and opportunities for improvement at all levels of an organization. A business analyst is not confined to the documentation and support of information technology projects, at least not in successful organizations, since their skills as problem investigators and solutions definers should be deployed in every part of the enterprise (finance, operations, HR, etc.…).
Some business analysts serve in a strategic role, where they analyze the strategic profile of the organization and its environment, advise senior management on suitable organizational policies and changes to them, and determine the effects of policy decisions on the organization and its various structures.
Other business analysts operate as architects, and contribute by analyzing objectives, processes and resources, suggesting process re-design or process improvement efforts. Business Architects’ skills include “soft skills,” such as knowledge of the organization and its industry, and some “hard skills”, such as business process modeling, knowledge of enabling technologies, and requirements planning and management. Despite the use of the word “architect,” this is not an information technology focused role in successful organizations.
Still other business analysts perform as project analysts, eliciting requirements, analyzing them, documenting them, and validating the requirements with the project team and other stakeholders. Again, this type of BA is not specifically an information technology analyst, and the skills required are not IT-focused.
Every business analyst, in any role, contributes an essential component of a successful organization: the ability to identify a problem or situation, to offer a set of possible alternative solutions, to assess their feasibility, and to document the requirements for the opportunity clearly and completely as part of a team.
Business analysis, and the role it plays in organizations, continues to evolve. Successful enterprises will expand their use of the practices and techniques of business analysis for strategic as well as information technology purposes. Skilled business analysts will pursue continued education in all areas of business analysis, and earn certification as Business Analysis Professionals to advance their careers and the profession.