The International Institute of Business Analysis (iiba.org) has defined business analysis as “the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders”. Business analysis is used to identify and articulate the need for change, especially in how organizations work and how they facilitate that change. It is an extremely interconnected and iterating process. As a BA you have to gather requirements, to communicate, to understand and pull information out of all relevant sources. But most of all you have to plan.
The following are the key tasks in a business analyst’s work:
Support project scope definition
A project is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service” (PMI), serving to a higher, strategic company purpose. As part of it, business analysts have to work close with project managers from the earliest project stages, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders have defined viewpoints, and that key high-level requirements are captured in the approved project scope.
Prepare business analysis plan
Once the project charter is approved, the BA should work closely with the PM to prepare their analysis plan, which should be fully integrated with the overall project planning. For complex projects, involving multiple entities and departments within various geographical areas, a thorough planning is needed.
This is probably the BA’s most critical task. Several particular analysis techniques to be used to collect all the requirements – interviews, polls, workshops, use cases, models, just to name a few. This process will continue to be carried out in successive iterations by filtering and categorizing all inputs collected. It is crucial for a professional BA not to have, at this stage, any technical solutions nor any other limitations in mind. Their objective is to provide the technical team with a complete and clear hierarchy of features to be included in future project deliverables. The output of this phase – Business Requirement Document – should be approved by project board.
Support technical development
Once the technical plan is set, the business analyst plays a key role as a liaison between business operations staff and the project technical team, ensuring that all processes are clear and all data structures and procedures are provided and understood.
Support Pilot testing and POC
The BA is the sole responsible person to set and organize the first testing session once a prototype is available – this includes preparing test scripts reflecting the current stage, engaging users, setting up premises, centralizing results and passing them onto the development team. Depending on the results, this process may be an iterative step.
Testing and training
There are various kinds of testing strategies, all depending on the project’s size and area addressed. The BA’s role here is to fully coordinate it as part of the project plan. Workwise, this consists of communication with relevant users, test cases preparations and test environment set-up. Part of this work may later be used for future training, depending on the project size and geography. It is highly recommended to obtain stakeholder’s sign-off once the testing session is completed successfully.
Support roll-out and go-live
Even if the rollouts are usually done by the technical team, the BA may add value here by interacting with the local infrastructure team and fill in any eventual communication gaps between the two parties. At go-live time it is crucial that the business analyst and key technical staff are present on-site so any unclarities or last-minute changes are quickly addressed, and clients adopt the new product smoothly.
Projects learnings and added value
This last task is often ignored by many people, even if the project has been a success. The truth is, that in this project stage, a lot of value can be generated for the organization (whilst still having a fresh perspective). Feedback sessions, key learning documented workshops and documentation final checks may ensure future successful projects and complete project archiving and closure stages.