What is Business Analysis?

See the YouTube video: What is Business Analysis? 

So when I started to work for a major consultancy in the UK, in central London, in major banks, insurance companies and tech giants – I expected precision. One of my first thoughts were – what value will I add? What can I do? I have so much to learn.

While I was right about the learn part, I was surprised with the rest and I’ll tell you why. Big organisations are well.. Big. There are hundreds to thousands of people working across many departments in an age when technology is constantly changing. We are in the digital age and it is relatively new.

While businesses were quick to reap the rewards of automation, they were not equipped with the right people to connect the IT part of the organisation with the Business part. You either had IT guys who worked on both sides or pure business guys working on both sides. The result was poor communication. Projects went on for too long or cost too much.  Then there were perception issues in which IT has no benefit; IT wasn’t doing what the business wanted. This was worse when IT was outsourced to another country.

Enter the need for Business Analysis. These guys are like peacekeepers, negotiators, sales reps, IT guys, and process experts all rolled into one. Their mandate:

  • Uncover “root causes” of problems
  • Identify the key issues
  • Ensure money is spent wisely
  • Ensure the project aligns with
    business needs
  • Deliver business benefits as predicted in business cases and plans

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 18.23.56

In a nutshell 

To facilitate change in an organisation so that the business reaps the benefits in the business case.

This isn’t always easy. To make matters more challenging, the scope of a Business Analyst (BA) can vary. It all depends on the way the business prefers to do things, the people involved, and how well job roles are defined.  On one extreme you have strategy guys who are focussed on business vision, goals, and objectives; thinking about the bottom line and transforming the business for a competitive edge. On the other extreme, you have the IT system guys who are building an eco system that enables everyone to access and use the IT from software, logins, ease of use, and speed.

BA’s sit somewhere in the middle.

But If biased towards the strategy guys, BA’s might support with business objectives, analysing costs and market share. Key skills include domain and financial expertise, workshop and communication techniques, and problem solving. Think of this as a ‘business’ business BA.

If biased more towards IT, BA’s might be data modelling and diagramming processes for a specific IT solution. Maybe even presenting ‘IT’ options.  But solutions that are limited to IT without considering the big picture is not an ideal place for a BA (these skills are typical of a system analyst role).

Then you have  unbiased BA’s – centred in the middle – who consider all options to maximise business benefit in the most efficient way. It might include hiring some temps or improving communication between departments opposed to implementing a whole new IT system which can be expensive and take to long to do.

This is where a BA is intended to be.

A BA avoids the extremes and aims for the middle aka takes a holistic approach.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 18.21.48

Ok so now we get to the crux of it. Business Analysis grew from the concept of maximising business benefit through analysing root causes, focussing on business improvement (and not IT change), presenting “options” – not all for one solutions – while while being aware of the pulse of the business:

  • how much money and time the business has to play with
  • bridging what stakeholders are trying to do with what the business is trying to achieve

This isn’t easy.  And before business analysis as a discipline was established, businesses were not really doing it. But as more and more projects began to fail, business analysis as an independent job function grew roots; it took what was currently there such as  POPIT*, CMMI*, BAMM*, RACI*,  PRINCE2*, investigation techniques, requirement engineering and strategy analysis, and expanded on it to get the job done.

I’ve been in the field for many years and moved on to project management and product development amongst other roles, but frequently find myself relying on my BA side to avoid tunnel vision, work better with colleagues, and inspire innovation.

Glossary

POPIT: A model which supports with business change activities, considering the ‘P’eople, ‘O’rganisation, ‘P’rocesses, and ‘I’nformation ‘T’echnology factors in an organisation.

CMMI: Capability Maturity Model Integration. It is a model that intends to guide process improvement during software projects, product development, and organisational operating model design.

BAMM: Business Analysis Maturity Model. This  is an extension of the CMMI specific to the area of Business Analysis and building a Business Analysis practice.

RACI: Commonly known as the ‘RACI matrix’, it is a technique that helps with categorising stakeholders by level of influence and impact on a particular project or product. The acronym refers to those stakeholders which are ‘Responsible’ ‘Accountable’ ‘Consulted’ or ‘Informed’ regarding any given project task, deliverable or activity.

Further Reading

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Business Analysis third edition, link to book on (Amazon)
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