A business analyst can be described as a professional who evaluates a business to establish the workings of its systems, procedures and operations. A BA is typically involved in analyzing the structure of the business, its processes and determining areas in which technology or alternative solutions can add value. Business analysts often work together with system analysts, who also act as link between business challenges and technology solutions.
As part of proffering technology solutions, BAs may recommend the utilization of software applications and technology tools to improve business operations. Technology has advanced in recent years, and this has come in handy to help both system and business analysts to apply same to transform, evaluate and solve business challenges.
As part of executing software development projects, the business analyst participates in the following project-related activities:
Initial Information Gathering, Analysis & Project Initiation
Project initiation involves establishing the existing problem and visualizing the solution to determine whether or not the project should be funded. During this stage, all stakeholders should be involved to ensure analysts gain comprehensive information to enable them make critical decisions regarding what constitutes an improvement.
Business analysts should strive to understand the principles and terminologies they come across, especially when entering a new business domain. They should understand the business needs, evaluate alternatives and justify the recommended approach as part of preparing the business case.
One of the major roles of a business analyst is analysis. Here, the BA evaluates the business needs, makes sense of the available information and ensures that the project team understands all the details they require. Business analysts collaborate with numerous stakeholders within the company to ensure that their concerns, requirements, and contribution are included in the requirements specification document.
Preparing the project charter, which involves defining high-level project requirements, can help management make decisions on whether to fund or not fund the project.
After the project has been initiated, the requirements specification document then needs to be elaborated by the BA and approved by stakeholders before software development can begin.
Once the requirements specification document is passed on to developers for development, BAs may still be called upon to provide clarity to developers, negotiate with stakeholders on conflicting requirements, etc. This may include holding meetings to deliberate on solving specific problems, identify risks and manage technology-related restrictions.
The BA’s Role on Projects
Business analysts play various roles when it comes to the implementation of business projects. Today, markets are evolving exponentially, which means businesses should exploit opportunities quickly as they happen. Communication between stakeholders, developers and analysts is particularly critical to ensure that everyone is informed and geared towards achieving a common goal.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of the business analyst to collaborate with other players in the business to establish what the requirements are and to ensure everyone within the project understands them. Also, business analysts should facilitate communication and knowledge sharing to ensure clients’ needs are met effectively. They achieve this by:
Research & Requirements Elicitation
BAs may need to carry out comprehensive research in order to understand business needs. This may involve researching their competitors, deliberating with subject matter experts, carrying out document analysis, and developing prototypes. This enables them to understand and gather comprehensive information about business needs and stakeholders’ requirements.
This process requires the input of every person who is likely to be affected by the final product. Stakeholders, in this case, can be sponsors, customers, senior management team and end users.
Business analysts assess each stakeholder’s needs and expectations. Business analysts are the link between developers and stakeholders. The strong understanding BAs bring to the table enable project team members to understand the scope of work and deliver the project according to clients’ desires. BAs can also get first-hand information by communicating directly with customers, conducting surveys and carrying out interviews.
Preparing the Specification Document
Once business requirements have been elicited, business analysts organize them into a formal and written document which can be shared with all stakeholders. To execute this process effectively, business analysts should have the expertise to present the final results of the analysis in an accurate, clear and understandable manner.
Explaining Requirements to Developers
Developers will be presented with the specification document after the relevant stakeholders have approved it, though it’s always helpful to carry them along from the onset of the project. Developers should have the opportunity to ask questions for clarity.
Conducting User Acceptance Tests
Business analysts may or may not be involved in testing the final product, depending on whether software testers have been employed to carry out the tests or not. The outcome of the tests, will determine whether the product is ready to be put to live or not.
The involvement of business analysts in software development projects is not limited to what has been outlined in this article, and may even include related duties like user training, change management and user support, after the project is launched.