Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. The set of tasks and techniques that are used to perform business analysis are defined in A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®Guide).
The person who carries out this task is called a business analyst or BA. Business analysts do not work solely on developing software systems. Those who attempt to do so run the risk of developing an incomplete solution. Although there are different role definitions, depending upon the organization, there does seem to be an area of common ground where most business analysts work. The responsibilities appear to be:
- To investigate business systems, taking a holistic view of the situation. This may include examining elements of the organisation structures and staff development issues as well as current processes and IT systems.
- To evaluate actions to improve the operation of a business system. Again, this may require an examination of organisational structure and staff development needs, to ensure that they are in line with any proposed process redesign and IT system development.
- To document the business requirements for the IT system support using appropriate documentation standards.
In line with this, the core business analyst role could be defined as an internal consultancy role that has the responsibility for investigating business situations, identifying and evaluating options for improving business systems, defining requirements and ensuring the effective use of information systems in meeting the needs of the business.
Business Analysis Process
- Step 1 – Get Oriented: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Clarifying your role as the business analyst so that you are sure to create deliverables that meet stakeholder needs. (To better understand the BA role, be sure to check out our free training – Quick Start to Success as a Business Analyst.)
- Determining the primary stakeholders to engage in defining the project’s business objectives and scope, as well as any subject matter experts, to be consulted early in the project.
- Understanding the project history so that you don’t inadvertently repeat work that’s already been done or rehash previously made decisions.
- Understanding the existing systems and business processes so you have a reasonably clear picture of the current state that needs to change.
This is where you learn how to learn what you don’t know you don’t know, so to speak. This step gets you the information you need to be successful and effective in the context of this particular project.
- Step 2 – Discover the Primary Business Objectives: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Discovering expectations from your primary stakeholders – essentially discovering the “why” behind the project. (Our BA Essentials Master Class covers 7 different business analysis techniques that can be used as part of this discovery.)
- Reconciling conflicting expectations so that the business community begins the project with a shared understanding of the business objectives and are not unique to one person’s perspective.
- Ensuring the business objectives are clear and actionable to provide the project team with momentum and context while defining scope and, later on, the detailed requirements.
Discovering the primary business objectives sets the stage for defining scope, ensuring that you don’t end up with a solution that solves the wrong problem or, even worse, with a solution that no one can even determine is successful or not.
- Step 3 – Define Scope: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Defining a solution approach to determine the nature and extent of technology and business process changes to be made as part of implementing the solution to the primary business objectives.
- Drafting a scope statement and reviewing it with your key business and technology stakeholders until they are prepared to sign-off or buy-in to the document.
- Confirming the business case to ensure that it still makes sense for your organization to invest in the project.
Scope is not an implementation plan, but it is a touchstone guiding all of the subsequent steps of the business analysis process and tasks by other project participants.
- Step 4 – Formulate Your Business Analysis Plan: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Choosing the most appropriate types of business analysis deliverables, given the project scope, project methodology, and other key aspects of the project context.
- Defining the specific list of business analysis deliverables that will completely cover the scope of the project and identifying the stakeholders who will be part of the creation and validation of each deliverable.
- Identifying the timelines for completing the business analysis deliverables.
In the absence of defining a credible and realistic plan, a set of expectations may be defined for you, and often those expectations are unrealistic as they do not fully appreciate everything that goes into defining detailed requirements.
- Step 5 – Define the Detailed Requirements: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Eliciting the information necessary to understand what the business community wants from a specific feature or process change.
- Analyzing the information you’ve discovered and using it to create a first draft of one or more business analysis deliverables containing the detailed requirements for the project.
- Reviewing and validating each deliverable with appropriate business and technology stakeholders and asking questions to fill in any gaps.
Effective business analysts consciously sequence your deliverables to be as effective as possible in driving the momentum of the project forward. Paying attention to the project’s critical path, reducing ambiguity and complexity, and generating quick wins are all factors to consider when sequencing your deliverables.
- Step 6 – Support the Technical Implementation: Your key responsibilities in this step include:
- Reviewing the solution design to ensure it fulfills all of the requirements and looking for opportunities to meet additional business needs without **increasing the technical scope of the project.
- Updating and/or repackaging requirements documentation to make it useful for the technology design and implementation process.
- Engaging with quality assurance professionals to ensure they understand the business context for the technical requirements. This responsibility may include reviewing test plans and/or test cases to ensure they represent a clear understanding of the functional requirements.
- Making yourself available to answer questions and help resolve any issues that surface during the technical design, technical implementation, or testing phases of the project.
- Managing requirements changes to ensure that everyone is working from up-to-date documentation and that appropriate stakeholders are involved in all decisions about change.
- When appropriate, leading user acceptance testing efforts completed by the business community to ensure that the software implementation meets the needs of business end users.
All of these efforts help the implementation team fulfill the intended benefits of the project and ensure the investment made realizes a positive return.
- Step 7 – Help the Business Implement the Solution: Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
- Analyzing and developing interim and future state business process documentation that articulates exactly what changes need to be made to the business process.
- Training end users to ensure they understand all process and procedural changes or collaborating with training staff so they can create appropriate training materials and deliver the training.
- Collaborating with business users to update other organizational assets impacted by the business process and technology changes.
This step is all about ensuring all members of the business community are prepared to embrace the changes that have been specified as part of the project.
- Step 8 – Assess Value Created by the Solution: Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
- Evaluating the actual progress made against the business objectives for the project to show the extent to which the original objectives have been fulfilled.
- Communicating the results to the project sponsor, and if appropriate, to the project team and all members of the organization.
- Suggesting follow-up projects and initiatives to fully realize the intended business objectives of the project or to solve new problems that are discovered while evaluating the impact of this project.
After completing this step, it’s likely you’ll uncover more opportunities to improve the business which will lead you to additional projects. And so the cycle begins again!
Business Analysis Techniques In order to devise a workable solution to the many challenges businesses may face, there are several important business analysis techniques that professionals employ. These include:
- MOST (Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics) – Identifying these elements allows business analysts to conduct a thorough internal analysis of what an organization is aiming to accomplish and how to address each issue.
- PESTLE (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental) – This model is used by business analysts to evaluate various external factors that may impact their company and determine how to address them.
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) – This business analysis technique is used to identify areas of both strength and weakness within a corporate structure and translate them into opportunities and threats, which can help in determining the proper allocation of resources.
- MoSCoW (Must or Should, Could or Would) – This process allows for the prioritization of requirements by presenting a framework in which each individual requirement can be evaluated relative to the others. Is it a must-have? Something the project should have? Something that could improve the deliverable? Or something that would be a good future addition?
- CATWOE (Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner and Environmental Constraints) – This business analysis technique identifies the main parties and processes that may be affected by any action the business undertakes. This makes it possible for business analysts to thoroughly evaluate the impact of any proposed action under consideration.
- The 5 Whys – A mainstay of both Six Sigma and business analysis techniques, this series of leading questions helps business analysts single out the root cause of a problem by asking why a situation exists, then subjecting the answer to another “why?”, and so on.
- Six Thinking Hats – This process is used to direct a group’s line of thinking during a brainstorming session by considering alternate perspectives and ideas. The 'six hats' in this technique are categorized as White (logical, data-driven thinking), Red (emotion-based reactions), Black (adverse thinking, focused on cons), Yellow (positive thinking, focused on pros), Green (creative thinking) and Blue (big-picture overview).
Each of these business analysis techniques are an important part of an analyst’s repertoire. Considering the complexity of most business models and the many different factors that can impact them, it is critical for companies to have trained professionals on staff that are highly skilled in the application of these and other business analysis techniques.