What is a_business_analyst


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What is a_business_analyst

  1. 1. What is aBusiness Analyst? ...and why do I need one?pragnalysis 1 Joseph da Silva
  2. 2. Also available to buy in paperbackfrom pragnalysis.com or Amazon.com 2
  3. 3. © 2011 Joseph da SilvaOriginally published on pragnalysis.comWhat is a Business Analyst? by Joseph da Silva islicensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported LicenseThis means that you are free:to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the workto Remix — to adapt the workUnder the following conditions:Attribution — You must attribute the work in the mannerspecified by the author or licensor (but not in any waythat suggests that they endorse you or your use of thework).Noncommercial — You may not use this work forcommercial purposes.Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon thiswork, you may distribute the resulting work only underthe same or similar license to this one.http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ 3
  4. 4. Worldwide, there are between fivehundred thousand and one millionpeople working as Business Analysts.During just one week in February 2011,there were an average of 800 openvacancies for Business Analysts acrossthe UK.So why are all types of businesses,from charities to investment banks,hiring so many of them?The simple answer is because allbusinesses need to change – regularly– and business analysts enable thatchange to happen.But what does thatactually entail?What do they actuallydo? 4
  5. 5. To answer that satisfactorily needsa little bit more discussion aboutthe complexities of modernbusinesses, and in particular aboutthe systems that support them.Systems in this context can beorganisational, process-driven or ITbased – and the business analystneeds to understand all three.The complications of modernbusiness are diverse – somecompanies have grown throughmergers and acquisitions, inheritingmultiple systems from organisationsthat no longer exist. Othercompanies have grown explosivelyfrom small, two man operations toglobal powerhouses in as little as 10years. 5
  6. 6. This growth comes at a price;business does not always have timeto do things “properly”. Customers,markets and investors wont waitfor you to migrate all your dataonto one computer system, to scaleup your accounting systems orconsolidate your office locations.They want you to keep going, andkeep growing – so you end uprunning multiple systems, andworry about combining things later. 6
  7. 7. The problem with this is that thelonger you wait, the more complexthe problem becomes. Staff doublekey information into multiplesystems, and as you grow you needtwice as many of them. Eventuallythis becomes unsustainable so youdecide you have to combine thesystems to cut costs.But where do you start? You cantjust turn one of them off – they bothcontain information that is criticalto the running of the business, andthey need to be used everyday. Andits not as easy as moving theinformation from one system to theother as they use different formatsand support slightly differentprocesses.This is where a Business Analystwould come in. 7
  8. 8. Business Analysts have aspecialist skill in being able tounderstand, abstract andcommunicate any businessproblem, in a way that differentaudiences can clearlyunderstand.They are experts inunderstanding the true needs ofa business and the impactsarising from a particularproblem; they are also experts inexpressing this to people whocan do something about them.They help businesses deliver alltypes of change, not just ITprojects. 8
  9. 9. BAs arent experts on the detail ofyour business. They probably dontknow the complexities of your salesorder processing.Theyre not technical experts either –they wouldnt know how to developcode for your payroll system.But they do know a lot about theentire breadth of business – andabout the breadth of systems thatsupport them. And more importantly,they understand enough about boththe business and technical aspects ofchange to act as a bridge betweenthem.This unique combination ofviewpoints couple with analytical andcommunication skills makes the BAinvaluable to any business changeteam. 9
  10. 10. In the earlier example of combiningmultiple systems, the BA would use theirinvestigative and analytical skills in orderto answer the following questions:- what business processes dothese systems support?- what business decisions rely onthese systems?- what different types of peopleuse these systems, and how dothey use them?- what business information dothese systems contain?- what other systems rely onthese ones?- What value do these systemsand processes add to the business,and to the end customer?These questions are critical for thedifferent roles that will be involved inreplacing the system, and each of themcan be answered in different levels ofdetail. One of the skills of a BA isunderstanding who needs to know theseanswers and how much detail they needin order to do their job. 10
  11. 11. Just understanding the currentsituation isnt enough however. TheBA also needs to understand whatthe desired situation is, and this ismore important than you mightthink. “Just replace it exactly as it was - make it work the same”This statement makes a massiveassumption on behalf of all the usersthat the current system worksperfectly satisfactorily. Never mindthat it might take 10 minutes everytime someone wants to run a basicreport or that customer addressesare regularly keyed in incorrectly. 11
  12. 12. This is why understanding thebusiness processes that thesystem supports is a key first stepfor the business analyst. The BA isthere to challenge the currentstate in order to get to the root ofwhat the business really needs.The business doesnt actuallyneed to replace the system “likefor like”. The business reallyneeds to perform its processes asefficiently and as effectively aspossible. There is often a bigdifference between these two. 12
  13. 13. The next aspect of the BA role isequally as important;communication.Just understanding a businessproblem isnt enough – it needs tobe communicated to someonewho can do something about it.Business Analysts are experts inall forms of communication;verbal. visual and textual. BAs willuse a range of techniques toexpress a business need orproblem in a clear, unambiguousand verifiable way. 13
  14. 14. “But why do I need someone to do that? Cant I just talk to the solution guys myself?”Experience has shown that this israrely effective. If youve everstruggled to understand amechanic, mortgage advisor orheating engineer then you mayappreciate the problem.Specialists speak differentlanguages, and have differentpriorities. A programmer doesntunderstand why you gather salesleads in a particular way, and asales rep doesnt understand howFinance account for hiscommission. 14
  15. 15. The BA understands the perspectives on allsides and can explain them clearly andarticulately.Particularly where IT systems areconcerned there are many differentcomplexities relating to how that systemcan perform and what it can do. They canalso be very expensive to change, and tosupport. Changes require extensive testingto make sure that theyve been madecorrectly and that nothings been brokenwhilst making that change. So when abusiness makes a change, it needs to be surethat its changing the right thing, and its notalways easy to express. “I want to launch a new product called Product X. Add it to the list of options on our website.”Just giving this to an IT team will probablyresult in a new option being added..but willanything happen when a customer selectsit?. 15
  16. 16. “Well, obviously, I wanted an order to be automatically sent to the fulfillment team”Is that obvious? Not necessarily. Whatabout the rules around what types ofcustomer can select it (new customers,existing customers, high valuecustomers...) ? What about thepayment options? And how should theaccounting team deal with therevenue from this new product?Giving an IT team a one- or two-linestatement rarely provides enoughclarity for them to really understandwhat they need to do, and there israrely one team involved in makingthe change. As well as needing toanalyse the business need and theimplications arising from it, the BAwill use different techniques toexpress it in an unambiguous way. 16
  17. 17. For example, the steps that acustomer takes to log on to awebsite could be described as :1. customer inputs their emailaddress and password2. the system checks the validityof those details3. the system retrieves thatcustomers recent orders4. the customers orders arepresented to themAlternatively, this can berepresented as follows : 17
  18. 18. customer website system security system mgmt order Input details Send details Check credentials Request orders Get orders Present ordersThis is a simple way of reflecting a seriesof transactions and at the same timeabstracting out the elements that will beinvolved; when such a series oftransactions runs to 10 steps or more, adiagram such as this is a much moreeffective means of communication than anumbered list. 18
  19. 19. For teams of people often facedwith reams of text, visualrepresentations offer a muchclearer, unambiguousrepresentation of what thebusiness really wants.Another consideration is that thepeople working on your problemmay be geographically remotefrom you, and may not speak thesame day to day language, nevermind the same business language.Offshore development teams areincreasingly common across alltypes of business and are likely tocontinue to grow in use. This canintroduce additional barriers tocommunication, making it evenmore important that the businessneeds are unambiguouslyrepresented. 19
  20. 20. Its not justaboutyou think whatyou want ^ 20
  21. 21. “So you write down what I want and then draw some pictures? Anyone can do that.”There is a bit more to the BA role thanthat. A key aspect of the role is getting tothe root of what the business truly needs. “I want a monthly spreadsheet of sales by region”The real need here isnt for a spreadsheet.The real need is probably to manipulatethe sales data, or to generate graphs. Ormaybe its to add in data from othersources.This may seem pedantic but if it takesanother day for the user to manipulatethat information then understanding whyits needed may allow a different solutionto be produced that saves that time, andtherefore saves the business money. Forexample, a dedicated reporting tool mayalready exist within the business that willautomatically generate the graphsneeded. 21
  22. 22. “If I say I want a spreadsheet,then I WANT A SPREADSHEET!”“Maybe you do. But apart from the fact that I wont be doing my jobproperly if I dont understand the true need behind this statement, you might miss out on a solution that saves you time and money”Building what the business trulyneeds can cost far less thanalways building what it thinks itwants. And understanding exactlywhat is needed makes realisingand tracking the associatedbenefit a lot easier. 22
  23. 23. Business Analysts dont simply askyou what you want. Thats part ofit, but the added value of the BAcomes when they challenge whatyou want and identify otherconsiderations that you might nothave thought of.For example, you might want tolaunch a new product. So youmight need to specify newproduct codes, performapplicability checks and define asales commission structure. Youmight think that would covereverything... 23
  24. 24. A BA in this situation would beasking questions about theaccounting structure of the newproduct. About the supportimpacts. About changes tocustomer correspondence. Aboutchanges to management reports.They would also be challengingwhether or not a brand newproduct was actually required, asopposed to configuring anexisting one – one answer couldbe to allow differences inaccounting.BAs approach business problemsfrom a holistic perspective – theysee the whole organisation andcan assess the impacts of aproposed change across all partsof that organisation. 24
  25. 25. Theyre on your sideThe Business Analyst is interested inunderstanding what your needs are andcommunicating them effectively so thatthey can be delivered..On any project, the Business Analyst and theProject Manager should be working as ateam, with a healthy, professional tensionbetween them. The PM is responsible fordelivering the change, whilst the BA isresponsible for that change achieving whatthe business really needs. BAs have a strongfocus on quality and business benefits; PMshave a strong focus on costs and timescales.BAs should also have a close relationshipwith their stakeholders in the business, aswell as the design, build and test teams. Allof these are effectively “customers” of theBA; the business need to be comfortable thatthe BA has understood and expressed theirneeds correctly, and the design, build andtest teams need to be confident in thecompleteness, accuracy and clarity of whattheyre being asked to deliver. 25
  26. 26. “But were Agile. We dont need a BA”Says who? Nowhere in the Agilemanifesto does it say “no businessanalysts”.What it does say is “[we value]working software overcomprehensive documentation” andin order to get working software,you need to understand andarticulate what it is that thesoftware needs to do. Thats whatBAs are trained to do.The ability of the BA to understandand express requirements isarguably more valuable in an Agileenvironment where documentationis kept to a minimum. 26
  27. 27. “But SCRUM says I can talk direct to the developer...”And in some situations this isabsolutely the best thing to do,and Agile techniques arent newin this regard. If youre in arelatively small company with nolegacy systems (or processes),building on a single platform withfew changes happening at oncethen you probably can talkstraight to the developers and getwhat you want 80-90% of thetime. It might be quicker, or ofhigher quality with a BA, but itsprobably good enough. 27
  28. 28. However, if you have multiplesystems, lots of legacy platforms,multiple developmentshappening at once, multipledepartments involved withconflicting needs, high marketvisibility, 3rd party involvement,offshore development teams –and you have your day job to doas well – then having someonewho can understand and expressyour problem in clear terms tothe people who will fix it for youwill significantly increase yourchances of success and reduce thebusiness risk associated with thischange, regardless of thedevelopment method beingfollowed. 28
  29. 29. Where BAs also add value is inassuring that you deliver to theoriginal intentions of the project. Byabstracting and expressing your needsin an unambiguous way they can belinked to and tracked against thebenefits youve set out to deliver inyour business case.Abstraction is not just about drawingpictures or helping someoneunfamiliar with a situation tounderstand it better.Its a valuable technique to helpeveryone involve step back form theday to day situation to removecomplications like technology, peopleand emotions to allow the truebusiness need to be assessed. Focusingon everything at once can cloud thetrue situation and prevent actualbusiness value from being realised. 29
  30. 30. “I havent got time for workshops and meetings. How about I write my own requirements down and give them to you?”Its not actually about just writingthings down. Although BAs canoften be negatively thought of asmere stenographers, there is bothan art and a skill to capturingrequirements effectively - andbad requirements can be verycostly due to the amount ofeventual rework involved. 30
  31. 31. A Business Analyst will seek tounderstand both what you want andwhy you want it. This will enablethem both to express it clearly andalso to assess the impact that it mayhave on what other interestedparties may want.This is another skill of the BA; theyare trained facilitators and canensure that discussions are heldbetween multiple parties that havean interest in the change beingmade. Whilst you may have a clearidea of what you want and it may beundeniably useful to you, it mightactually cause problems forsomeone else – or might already bebeing built somewhere else in thebusiness. 31
  32. 32. “I havent got time to read loads of documentation”BAs arent precious about producingreams and reams of documentation. Oftensuch documents are stipulated by projectgovernance processes rather than BAsthemselves, but the Business Analystshould always consider their audienceand the purpose of the documentation.For example, a large collection ofrequirements can be split into several subdocuments, each tailored to the particularaudience if appropriate. On other projects,the only documentation needed may beone or two pages at a time.BAs may also spend time with you to walkthrough the key points of their output,rather than throw a document at you. Agood BA always includes plenty ofpictures too... 32
  33. 33. “Business Analysts are just about requirements, then they move on”If this is ever the case, its generallyagainst their will. BAs can add a lot ofvalue throughout the life of a project,from helping to evaluate the design tohelping the business users writeacceptance tests. They can also helpproduce benefit realisation plans.A BA can be particularly valuable atthe concept or idea stage, clearlydefining the problem and puttingboundaries around it. They can alsoperform feasibility studies to assessdelivery options upfront and savetime and cost further down the line.Basically anything that involvesunderstanding the needs and desiredbenefits of the business will benefitfrom having a BA involved. 33
  34. 34. “All that upfront analysis costs money. Lets just build something”Whilst there have been several studiesproving that upfront analysis savesmoney, its often hard to convince anyonethat they shouldnt just “get on with it”and start building something rather thanworry about thinking about what theyreally need. Sometimes this is the rightthing to do; the question is really one ofrisk.- are you likely to break anything?- do you need to hook into any existingsystems?- will negative publicity result if thingsdo go wrong?- beyond a business case, do you have aclear idea of the value that the proposedchange will deliver to the business?- can you justify the costs of puttingthings right if they do go wrong?- are you happy to throw away what youdo produce if it proves ineffective orunsupportable? 34
  35. 35. If jumping straight in is the rightanswer, then a useful middle groundcan be a prototyping stage. Thisinvolves working with a BA and sometechnical resource to quicklyunderstand your requirements anddevelop a model of what you need.This can be evolved and effectivelybecomes a working demonstration ofyour requirements which can then beused as the basis for a full scaledevelopment later on.The business gets some of what itneeds quickly, the requirements getunderstood quicker than throughdocumentation and business risk isminimised.This approach wont suit every projectbut its worth considering and isanother demonstration that theresmore to Business Analysis thanrequirements documents. 35
  36. 36. A bit moreaboutrequirements 36
  37. 37. Whilst theres a lot more to BusinessAnalysis than just producing requirements,its probably the most common situationwhere youll come into contact with a BA.But what are they and why do we need toworry about them?Put simply, requirements are the expressionof business needs in clear, unambiguousterms. Generally they will need to becommunicated via some sort ofdocumentation to anyone involved withproducing a solution for them. Verbalcommunication can work in some situationsas well but most of the time something willneed to be written down.They need to be clear and unambiguous sothat you get what you actually need ratherthan what someone has assumed you need.They also need to be prioritised relative toeach other so that the really critical oneshave the most attention given to them.They also need to be uniquely identified sothat they can be tracked – and the BA needsto know where the requirement came fromso that they can clarify any details in future. 37
  38. 38. Capturing a set of requirements is notnecessarily a one off exercise. Businessrequirements can be expressed at a number ofdifferent levels of detail ,which are ultimatelyused for different purposes.For example:level requirement purpose Capture data Express the business protection opt in need at a high level to 0 preferences for agree why a project is customers needed Change the Express what needs to be business process changed so the effort to 1 to accommodate change it can be capture of the data estimated protection opt in Automatically Express a particular check claim forms element of functionality so 2 for eligibility that a solution can be issues. designed Express a specific variable The tax rate must 3 or piece of functionality so be 20% that a solution can be builtThe capture, analysis and expression of theserequirement levels will vary across differentprojects. Not every project will require all levelsto be expressed – the project team shoulddetermine what is necessary at each stage. 38
  39. 39. The elicitation, analysis andexpression of these requirementlevels will vary across differentprojects. Not every project willrequire all levels to be expressed –the project team should determinewhat is necessary at each stage.For example, at an early stage of aproject it is important to express thebroad scope of activity in order togain estimates, with the aim ofdeciding if the project is financiallyviable or in fact possible from adelivery perspective. This scope willtypically be expressed by level 1requirements. 39
  40. 40. However, when specifying exactlywhat needs to be built, more detail isrequired by the person whosactually doing the building work.This is when level 2 or level 3requirements would be needed.Typically, level 1 requirements gothrough analysis in order for themto be detailed at a lower level and tounderstand the impacts of theserequirements on other aspects of theproject. This could include furtherdiscussions with the providers of therequirements, or the use of differenttechniques to express them in aclear, unambiguous way. 40
  41. 41. If we consider a building analogy,the Business Analyst can be thoughtof as the Architect.*If you were to commission a house,an Architect will ask you what sortof house you want. What features itshould have. What you intend to useit for (for example, raising a familyor as a holiday home). How it shouldbe heated. How many people intendto live there.* Confusingly (for this analogy at least) there is oftenanother role involved called the IT Architect – this roleis responsible for the high level design and determiningwhich “materials” should be used 41
  42. 42. They will assess the impact of yourneeds on the surroundingenvironment and provide sketchesto make sure that theyveunderstood your needs correctly.These sketches will be elaboratedupon to provide technical detailsand be used to clearly communicateyour needs to a builder.Youd be unlikely to go straight tothe builder and tell them what youwant.In the world of business, a BusinessAnalyst will ask similar questions,and use similar techniques, tounderstand and communicate whatthe business needs to those who willbuild a solution for it. 42
  43. 43. Dealing with changeIts not just capturing anddocumenting them though.Requirements need to be managedthroughout their life. The main reasonfor this is change.People change their minds. Businesseschange. Markets change.When a project can run anywherefrom one month to three years plus,its inevitable that some things willchange that affect that project – andyour requirements will need tochange too.Business Analysts are responsible forassessing the impacts that any suchchanges have on the requirements tomake sure that everyone is workingto an accurate and common blueprint. 43
  44. 44. A bad requirement... “customers should be able to select products from a drop down menu”So whats wrong with this?Well, what is the actual requirement? Is itthat customers have the full range ofproducts to choose from? Or is it that theyshould only be able to select one productat a time? Both are features of a dropdown menu – but they have differentimplications. Specifying “drop downmenu” upfront makes it unclear what isactually needed, and constrains thedesign.If the requirement wasnt that customersshould only be able to select one productat a time, and in fact the business wantsthem to select multiple products, thenstating the solution in the requirementwill result in something being deliveredthats not fit for purpose. 44
  45. 45. “the device must be powered by a single aa battery”This is certainly specific – but is it agood requirement?Not really – the real requirement here ispossibly for a user replaceable batteryrather than it specifically needing to bean AA. More than this though, this typeof requirement introduces significantlimitations on the resulting design interms of physical size, type of circuitryand even safety – AA batteries caneasily leak.Again, the point of understanding thepure business requirement is not one ofpedantry – it can have seriousimplications for the resulting designthat not only inhibit creativity withinthat design but can have an impact onthe customer experience and ultimatelythe success of that product. 45
  46. 46. I want a 4 bedroom house. With a garden, and a garage OK, well get to work... ... Hows the house? Terrible! Its expensive to heat,all the bedrooms are downstairs and the gardens far too big! Didnt we build what you asked for...? 46
  47. 47. A brief note on testingTesting is something that not manybusiness users are aware of until theyreasked to sign off a project. However., itsworth becoming aware of the differenttypes of tests and how important theyare. As systems and businesses themselvesbecome more and more complex, testingbecomes one of the most importantthings you can do.Unit testing makes sure that the bit ofcode that has just been written does whatits supposed to.System testing checks whether or not thatbit of code works in the context of theoverall system.Integration testing checks that thefunctionality of that code works whencombined with other systems.Regression testing makes sure that thenew bit of code hasnt broken anyexisting functionality. 47
  48. 48. All of these types of test rely on havingsome frame of reference that describeswhat you actually want so that you youcan check that what has been built doesthe job.If this frame of reference is flawed, thenyou cant really have any confidence inthe testing, or have any confidence inthe finished product. Worse still, youllspend more money fixing the productafter the build is complete.Unambiguous, testable requirements aretherefore key to successful (and cost-effective) business change. BAs knowthis, and are experienced in expressingrequirements in a testable way.For example:Untestable The new home page shouldload as quickly as the old home pageTestable The new home page shouldload within 20ms 48
  49. 49. “Theyre all must-haves!”A brief note on prioritisationYour Business Analyst will at somestage need to discuss prioritisationwith you. Whilst they appreciate thateverything youve asked for isimportant (otherwise why would youask for it...) but its critical that thedevelopment teams understand therelative priority of your requirements.Which requirements absolutely,positively have to be delivered inorder for the system to be viable andyour business case benefits to berealised? Which requirements willresult in unwelcome regulatoryattention if not delivered, or impactmarket perception of your brand?These are the true “must-haves” - theones that can not get missed, nomatter what. 49
  50. 50. There are many different ways ofprioritising requirements, from simple 1-4scales to more complex assessments ofbusiness value. The BA is there to help withthis process and to constructively challengeyour thinking – so dont be surprised oroffended if your verdict of “must-have” isoccasionally met with a response of“really?”.Prioritisation doesnt necessarily mean thatyou wont get something delivered, but itdoes mean that the genuinely critical onesget the most attention. In reality, projectsoften are time pressured and whether its inthe design, build or test stages, you want tomake sure that the really important onesget the full attention they deserve.To make prioritisation easier, it helps tostart with the requirements that will resultin your business case being unachievable iftheyre not met and those that will result ina financial impact if theyre not met(regulatory fines for example). These areyour real “must-haves”. Then compare allyour other requirements against these tocome up with their relative importance. 50
  51. 51. Its notjust IT 51
  52. 52. Business Analysts arent justrestricted to technology relatedchange. They can also expressbusiness problems relating toprocesses or organisationalstructures.For example, a company may have3 different contact centres andwant to reduce costs. A BA wouldidentify the similarities anddifferences between the 3 centresin terms of processes, staffing, costsand locations (as well as systems) inorder to fairly evaluate each oneagainst the desired target state.BAs understand the impacts of achange across an organisation andcan express business needs relatingto processes, operating models orsystems. 52
  53. 53. For example, in the situation where amerger or acquisition results in twoteams that need to be combined.As with an IT change, the BA willabstract the problem:- what processes are supported by theteam now?- what processes will need to besupported in the future?- how many people perform eachrole?- what is the ratio of “managers” to“workers”?- how are they measured?- how do teams interface with otherteams within the organisation?These questions will help the BA toproduce abstract models of the as-isand to-be organisation and therebydrive out specific requirements thatthe new organisation needs to fulfil. 53
  54. 54. So what doesa BusinessAnalyst doagain? 54
  55. 55. They investigate business problems.They analyse and abstract thoseproblems.They link problems to benefits.They communicate those problemsto those who can resolve them.They make sure that the business isdoing the right thing .They facilitate business change – thatis, they make business changeeasier.Without them, there is increased cost,increased business risk, lower quality anddissatisfied customers.BAs help businesses get what they reallyneed. 55
  56. 56. Many thanks to the following who took the time to proof-read and review this book: Simon da Silva Phil Bailey Adrian Reed Sarah Sparey Thomas Hewitt Sam Butterworth 56
  57. 57. pragnalysis.com is a community websitededicated to free business analysisresources – from templates, articles andblogs to a free requirements managementtool.It is entirely produced by Business Analysts,for Business Analysts.All comments and feedback on this bookgratefully received via joe@pragnalysis.com© 2011 Joseph da SilvaWhat is a Business Analyst? by Joseph da Silva islicensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 UnportedLicensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ 57
  58. 58. This ebook distributed with the help of ModernAnalyst.com - the premier online community for business analysts. 58