Organizing Business Analysts: Should Business Analysts Be Attached to Business Units or the IT Unit?

One of the most desired characteristics of business analysts is their knowledge of business and industry. An analyst that has just been assigned to a new domain would find it difficult to add much value to the project unless he or she has had enough time to understand the domain. With most projects subject to time constraints, business analysts are faced with the challenge of assimilating masses of information within a limited period of time.

A BA in a new domain might struggle to catch up during discussions with stakeholders and might not be confident enough to make recommendations. Basically, the less BAs know about the business, the less value they are able to add. The importance of learning about the business is critical because technical team members often look to the analyst to offer clarification on how the business works.

One question that has been on my mind is whether analysts are better off attached to business units or the IT unit. While there are many benefits to working closely with the IT unit, it is pretty clear that business analysts who spend most of their time in IT would not have many opportunities to get a full grasp of how the business works.

The organization is indeed, a complex set of interrelated business areas. It is a lot of work for one analyst to understand every single aspect of the business. A lot of time will be required to do this, if at all possible. This challenge is, however, less of a concern for organizations with enough resources to have one analyst per business area.

It's no small challenge finding a balance between these expectations.

So, how can business analysts be organized effectively?

Business analysts could be placed on rotation and training programs that allow them to learn about the business and technology. Having sufficient knowledge of the changes that are likely to have an impact on the business (whether business or technology-related), in the near or distant future, will certainly guide recommendations and project decisions.

Business analysts attached to the IT unit should also devote time to learning best practice. Having an idea of how the best practice version of each business process works will ensure that they don't start from scratch every time a project is launched. With such a foundation, it becomes easier to understand common business terms and compare best practice scenarios with current realities to make effective recommendations for improvement.

If it is true that we can only improve what we understand, the BA can only be considered successful if backed by a sufficient understanding of the dynamics of Business and Technology.