While pitching in with the daily office work, I always ask myself “What does a Business Analyst actually do”. This seems to be a million dollar question, especially when you are an entry level business analyst and are trying to review your job profile against your daily activities. As a Business Analyst we are asked to do many things: requirements gathering, documentation, feasibility studies, test case management and act as a bridge between the functional and technical groups. One may look at the mix of activities and think “Is this a real job”. The rest of the article will try and find the “Real Job” of a Business Analyst.
If we take a look at various International Business Analyst organizations and forums to understand what they have to say about the role of a BA in an organization, one can see that business analysts provide a strong link between the business community and IT. Sometimes the business does not know what it needs which is a major reason as to why a project fails and hence portrays the value of a Business Analyst. Often BA’s are termed as ‘Information Workers’ because we “think for our living”. The more knowledge and experience we gain, the more our perceptions evolve. Perceptions are important as they determine the decisions we make and generate effective ideas. Business Analysts have the opportunity every day to impact the final quality of the products they are involved with; by understanding the options and the tools available for developing quality systems, they make a major contribution to the organization.
As BAs gain more experience by the virtue of their daily activities and become more aware by interacting with other BAs, they begin to realise that regardless of the Business Analyst’s skills, experience, domain knowledge or certifications, there are inherent traits that will more often than not help a person succeed in accomplishing business analysis tasks. The first and foremost quality that a business analyst should posses is the ability to think strategically. BAs should have the ability to foresee how the future could look and envisage the path to get there. A good BA should always be a few steps ahead of the project’s current status. BAs should be able to balance between a tactical approach towards a customer’s project and their strategic thinking on the project. Tactical approach would answer the question ‘How will a business achieve its goals?’ while strategic thinking focuses on the question ‘What does the customer want from the project?’ and ‘Why did the customer ask for the project?’
However the most important trait which a Business Analyst should have is the ability to convince customers that their needs and requirements are being met at every step of the process. I fondly remember a quote by Charles Kettering from half a century ago but is still relevant in today’s IT world: “A problem well stated is a problem half solved”. Helping customers understand what and why they need the project is the first and most crucial step. I think that the real job of a BA is to help the customer accurately and succinctly define problems (or issues, the preferred term by business-side people).
We need to look within and understand, as individuals, where we can provide the most value using our unique backgrounds. We need to have a ‘naked’ approach for each situation and need to actively participate in the creation of new and exciting, cutting edge solutions. The joys and sorrows of business analysis lie within the discovery of problems, opportunities, and constraints. Being in the IT world, one has to be very careful of the product development formula, “build it and they will come”, as the solution would have very little business value. On the other hand, even an average solution solving a small problem would be appreciated and used. Make sure that you work with the customer to understand and define the problem correctly, and you’ll be well on your way to doing your “Real Job”.