A business analyst, or BA, is one of the members of a project management team. The purpose of a project management team is to improve a business process or solve a problem within an organization. The stakeholders in a project are those individuals or groups who will benefit from its outcome. A BA’s job is to work with stakeholders to fully understand what they need the project to achieve. The BA then communicates stakeholder needs to the project team and ensures that at the conclusion of the project those needs have been met.
So, What Is It That A Business Analyst Does?
A business analyst acts as the bridge between end users who have a business problem and the project management team, which provides the solution. For example, suppose a company has separate computer systems for Human Resources, accounting and sales. This causes a duplication of efforts, costing the company time and money. The BA consults with representatives from each department to understand how they work and what they need from a computer system. The BA then communicates this information to the project team, including a technology representative, and helps determine how to improve the process.
The business analyst’s first order of business is to learn and understand an organization’s structure, including who reports to whom, and the functions and interactions of departments within the organization. This is known as enterprise analysis. The BA then determines what the organization needs from the project and works with the project team to define a solution that is beneficial and cost-effective.
Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring
Next, the BA determines which methods, activities and techniques will work best in analyzing the organization’s needs. These activities include the identification of project stakeholders, how stakeholder requirements will be traced and controlled, and how the progress of the work will be tracked.
The purpose of requirements elicitation is to ensure that the BA understands a stakeholder’s needs. In the example above, the BA determines through interviews, brainstorming sessions, surveys and other methods exactly what the HR, accounting, and sales departments need their computer systems to do.
After gathering requirements from all the stakeholders, the BA prioritizes and elaborates upon those requirements, producing a detailed account of what the computer system must provide (e.g., the ability to limit access to sensitive HR data, a database of tax laws, the ability to generate monthly reports of sales to males under the age of 20, etc.). The BA then works with the project team to find a solution — in this case a computer system — that will meet the needs of the stakeholders. The BA diagrams the current business processes to identify gaps between what is happening now and what should happen. Finally, the BA verifies the quality of the requirements and confirms that they will be able to meet the stakeholder needs. For example, the BA might want to know if the new computer system actually calculates and reports the necessary sales statistics.
Requirements Management and Communication
Throughout the project, the BA communicates with stakeholders and manages requests for changes to the requirements. These steps ensure that the project team solves the initial problem without getting sidetracked along the way. If at any time the project team is unclear about a requirement, the BA goes back to the stakeholder to resolve the question.
Solution Assessment and Validation
The final step is for the BA to assess the solution that is implemented by the project team and validate that it meets the original stakeholder requirements. Though all these project steps, the BA should work to improve the overall quality of every project.
Mary K. Hogan currently holds a Certified Business Analysis Professional certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis and has held the designation of certified trust and financial analyst. Hogan has been a contributing writer online since 2009 and is currently working on her third children’s book.