The Value of a Business Analyst
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
It is very common for large organisations to hire Business Analysts (BA) when they plan to develop new technology, implement process change, overhaul a system or embark on a transformational project. This is possibly due to the positive impacts BAs have on projects and most importantly the value a good BA brings to a project.
However, it isn't uncommon to find senior stakeholders asking why a BA is needed in the first place. They usually say things like “why do we need a BA, it is a technology-driven project, let the techies document all the requirements”. Sometimes, you hear stakeholders or non-project employees suggesting that “all BAs do is to sit down and write a requirement document all day long". They wonder why the techies or Product Owners or even Project Managers are not the ones documenting the requirements.
Usually, these questions arise because BAs don't develop systems or tools, what they do is related to ensuring everyone else touching or building something relating to the project, are doing so with the right information. If the information is wrong pre-production stage and it is spotted, it is easier to fix and it cost less. However, if the error is only spotted post-production, then it becomes too costly to rectify and it could mean starting all over again. Being able to avoid this error in the first place, is where the role of a BA is deemed invaluable.
In other scenarios, people ask questions about the value a BA brings to the project team; this happens when the project team gets a Business Requirement Document as the only output from BAs work. They completely miss the art and science of being a BA, the complexity of managing stakeholders and the detailed analysis that goes into any artefacts delivered by the BA. You hear statements like "all I get is a requirement document, the “tech guys” actually build something tangible and the real value for stakeholder, comes from the end product, not a simple document; not entirely true!
Real value can be directly attributed to every detail that goes into designing, documenting, creating and implementing something that the end-user will be able to consume in an easy, manageable and sustainable way. The end-user is the one who truly decides whether a deliverable is valuable or not and honestly that is where a BA’s actual value is derived.
BAs are usually the internal consultants who carry a critical part of the project's load by ensuring that a project delivers a tangible result that solves a problem. To be able to proffer a solution to a problem, the BA goes into an investigative mode. They strip the identified problems into the granular elements to understand the root cause. They perform an in-depth current state analysis and help shape the future state which is usually given a foggy description by the stakeholders; at the end of this exercise, they draw up a comprehensive GAP analysis data, which helps to identify what's required to assist the business with getting to the future state.
Also, the Business Analysts help identify the processes to see where an improvement, design or consolidation is required. They perform detailed end to end analysis to help uncover how the problems should be approached. The end result is a comprehensive process document, which is usually supported with a documented work instruction (or keystroke level instruction). At the end of all these complex activities, the requirements elicited from stakeholders are decomposed into its functional and non-functional level. The associated business rules (or policies) are defined, the requirements are prioritised, and criteria for accepting the individual requirements are identified. These requirement documents then go through their life cycle to ensure they are of Gold Standard, and they meet the business expectations.
The job of a BA does not end there; they play a support role during the technical design phase, helping to close any gaps that exist between the technical designers and the business owners. Then, the BAs support the testers to ensure the products are fit for purpose before it “goes live”.
At this point, those untrained in the art and science of Business Analysis will say “job done, give ‘the BAs a standing ovation”. Sorry can do, but our jobs do not end there. As BAs, we continue to provide support during the early deployment of the project, in some cases, acting as the Product Subject Matter Expert (SME).
In many cases, the Business Analyst helps the business to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) by which the end product will be judged. After that The BA helps with firming up new processes identified along with the work instructions (a level five process); being so close to the new product or process, the BA is called upon to train the end-users. Finally, the BA supports the Project Manager with performing a post-implementation or benefits realisation review.
After all, is said and done, we either remain as a “Subject Matter Expert (SME)” or move on to perform the same Art and Science of Business Analysis on other projects.
Having defined some of the value BAs bring to a project team, it makes me wonder, do BAs, like Super Man, need to wear a cape and glide around the company to be recognised for the values we add to an organisation’s project? Or do they just remain as the quiet unknown “Clark Kent” who is seen as just another cog in the organisational wheel? That is one for employers, Project Owners, Department Heads, and Project Managers to answer.
In many project-based organisations, Business Analysts are the unsung heroes, whose contributions go a long way to making a project successful and they do a darn fine job. They, along with other hard-working project teams who bring a project to a successful conclusion need to be recognised
If you want to hone your business analysis skills or become a more confident Business Analyst, you can check out “The Business Analyst’s Playbook”. This online course aims to help you hit the ground running on any project as a Business Analyst. The course contains a proven process that hundreds of Business Analysts have used to successfully complete projects, become more confident and gained the respect of their peers and employers.