What does a business analyst do?

Joanna Planning and Strategy

A Business Analyst (BA) helps a company to understand internal and/or external elements of their business, and suggests updates and improvements. BAs often work on specific projects identified by firm management, but may also perform day-to-day activities.

Key responsibilities

A Business Analyst may be responsible for one or more of the following:

Current State Analysis: How does it currently work?

  • This may include Processes, Systems and Infrastructure, People, Organisational Structure, Controls and Governance, External Influences (eg: Legal and Financial Regulations, Market Trends), or other relevant factors

Future State Design: How do we want it to work?

  • Requirements Gathering: What business problem or requirement are we trying to address?
  • Solutions Design: What do we need to develop/change in order to address this requirement?
  • Testing: How do we make sure the solution works as we intended?
  • Implementation and Training: How do we get everyone to use it properly (and buy into it)?
  • Controls and Governance: How do we make sure it continues to operate as we intended?

Business Analysis is often an iterative process – as you learn more about the business, further questions arise, so you need to be able to adapt, and change direction if necessary. The BA will work closely with the Project Manager to refine requirements, prioritise activities, and raise potential risks and issues.

Why use a BA?

Projects (or similar business initiatives) often require additional resource as business users are fully occupied with their “day jobs”. Additionally, a BA can take a holistic and objective view across a whole business, whereas functionally-aligned users may be tempted to prioritise the needs of their department over the business as a whole.

Assignments can be driven by a wide range of business objectives, including:

  • Regulatory Changes
  • Industry Best Practice
  • Innovation
  • Market Knowledge/Changes
  • Company Expansion (eg: new products/markets)
  • Cost-cutting/Efficiency
  • Reorganisation

What you need to succeed

The Business Analyst takes a central position between business users and technology/delivery teams, translating high-level business needs into a clear set of detailed instructions. Required skills include:

  • Analysis: willing to plough through data, with an inquiring mind
  • Problem Solver: able to think of solutions, and evaluate their feasibility/effectiveness
  • Quick Learner: comfortable at getting up to speed with new ideas, systems, processes, etc
  • Communication/People Skills: able to build relationships, ask the right questions, and clearly articulate instructions
  • Strategic and Detailed Thinker: able to understand the “big picture”, but also have attention to detail
  • Flexibility: able to adapt/change track when new information requires a different path

BAs do need to be able to adapt to any problem thrown at them. However, there are a number of Tools and Techniques which can be used as the basis for requirements-gathering and analysis, and companies will often have templates of how their want requirements to be presented.

Studying to become a BA

Becoming a BA requires an interest in how things work, and a good dose of common sense, but there are lots of things you can study to help you get started, or progress further in your career:

  • BA Tools and Techniques: eg: Process Mapping, Lean Six Sigma, SWOT Analysis, 5 Whys, PESTLE, Porter’s Five Forces, MOST, MoSCoW
  • Business Management: understanding the different areas of a business and how they interact is very useful
  • Project Management: most BA is project-based, so it helps to understand how a project is organised
  • IT Development: having a basic knowledge of IT development approaches/techniques (eg: Agile, DevOps, ITIL) can help the BA to communicate requirements more effectively to developers
  • Software: having a good command of business software tools will be extremely useful when writing documents, analysing data, mapping processes and presenting solutions, eg: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Visio, Sharepoint
  • Financial Modelling/Budgeting: understanding how to cost out a project can help when assessing the cost-benefit of different solutions
  • Soft Skills: Communication, Presentation, Time Management
  • Industry Knowledge/Training: specialist knowledge can be useful (especially when working in a complex industry) but is not always essential if you can ask questions and learn quickly

A BIG thank you to Hilary Fitzgerald for authoring this article for us. 

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