What is Business Analysis?
According to version 3 of the IIBA BABOK® Guide, “Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.”
I would add that business analysis is also the channel that drives communication between business and technology partners – you cannot be successful at enabling change if all parties do not have the same understanding and agreement on what those changes should be.
Who is a Business Analyst?
The BABOK® states “a business analyst is any person who performs business analysis tasks described in the BABOK® Guide, no matter their job title or organizational role. Business analysts are responsible for discovering, synthesizing, and analyzing information from a variety of sources. The business analyst is responsible for eliciting the actual needs of stakeholders—which frequently involves investigating and clarifying their expressed desires—in order to determine underlying issues and causes.”
I would change the statement of “which frequently involves investigating and clarifying their expressed desires” to “which requires understanding, investigating, and clarifying their expressed desires”.
Take the word frequently out of there. In my experience, there is always investigation and clarification that MUST happen. I also believe the addition of the word understanding is needed here. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what the business drivers for change are – and what specifically they want to change – you can’t expect anyone else on the project team to gain that understanding.
How Critical is the BA role?
I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the business analyst and stakeholders are mapping out the course for the rest of the project team – they’ll end up at a finish line (most likely) but if it’s the wrong finish line, the time, energy, and money spent on prepping the runners and the course has been wasted. The runners are out of breath and exhausted and now they have to go back and start all over. Imagine finishing a 10k and being told you were running on the wrong track and it didn’t count. You feel defeated and completely exhausted at the thought of starting over – and aren’t sure you even want to start over.
Business analysis, no matter who is doing it or what title they have, is the most critical role on the project. Yes, you could argue other roles are just as critical; you can’t have a finished product without developers, you can’t have a solid working product without testers to eliminate defects, you can’t have a design that properly integrates with other systems without the architect…but I would argue that all of that work will be for nothing and a waste of time and money if what we are architecting, building, and testing does not actually meet the needs and expectations of our business partners.
Now imagine the stakeholders saying “this team did a phenomenal job. We’re excited to roll this out to our customers!” Everyone may be just as tired at the end of this 10k, but they’ll leave the finish line feeling like accomplished winners and excited to tackle the next challenge.