What is Business Analysis & What Does a Business Analyst Do?

There are varying definitions of Business Analysis with many professions involving elements of business analysis, even though their job titles do not carry the term “business analyst”. According to IIBA, 

Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization and to recommend solutions that enable the organization achieve its goals.

In my attempt to provide a comprehensive insight into what Business Analysis is, I’ll define it using this form:

Business Analysis involves doing X by Y to achieve Z.

What do Business Analysts do? - X

Business Analysts solve business problems. Solving business problems may sound easy but it isn't. Too many times, hydra-headed problems arise in the organization, with no clear indication of exactly what the main causes are, in what order they should be tackled, and what steps should be taken to solve them. Since it is all too easy to solve the wrong problem, business analysts are brought in to analyze the causes of problems and guide the business in achieving an improved future state. There's no worse thing than starting a project for the wrong reasons, only to realize that what you thought was the problem is not or worse still, lose track of the problem you set out to solve.

Business Analysts define problems, evaluate options, recommend solutions and work towards realizing those solutions.

Business Analysts identify unique opportunities for improvement and develop a strategy for exploiting these opportunities, which may not be directly obvious to the business.

How is Business Analysis Done? - Y

Performing Business Analysis work involves:

1. Learning how the business works. As the saying goes, “You cannot improve what you do not understand”. Business Analysts should have a deep knowledge of any domain they work in to be able to advise the business of what steps to take in which direction. They must have a deep understanding of regulations, market trends, solutions, processes and the peculiarities of the organization.

A business analyst must strive to understand stakeholders and their problems; trends in the environment; constraints (financial, technical, cultural, political, environmental and social) that may affect the implementation of any particular solution.

As part of understanding how the business works, the business analyst discusses with multiple stakeholders to define the real needs of the business. Business analysts also facilitate communication between stakeholders (including the technical team).

    2. Recommending customized solutions that will be socially, culturally and technically feasible. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to business problems. Every business or department is unique and it is the responsibility of the business analyst to identify the causes of each problem and recommend a tailored solution that will address the issues at hand through detailed analysis. The fact that a solution worked in one situation does not in any way, imply that it will work in another. It is the role of the business analyst to ensure that any recommended solution is acceptable to stakeholders and will work in the environment where it is implemented, regardless of the constraints.

    Business analysts should keep past mistakes in mind when making recommendations to prevent the business from repeating them in the future. A business analyst should also keep the business goals in mind when making decisions and recommendations. Solutions are generally more acceptable to the business when they are crafted in line with corporate goals and strategy.

    3. Identifying the gaps that need to be filled and actions that should be taken to arrive at the desired state. In defining where the business needs to be, the business analyst draws up a list of steps that should be taken to arrive at the desired state, guides the implementation until completion and continually monitors the effectiveness of the solution and the value delivered by the solution even after it has been implemented.

    4. Translating stakeholder needs into functional specifications that can be used by developers to build the software (for cases where the solution is a software system).

    What Does Business Analysis Achieve? - Z

    So, what exactly is the end game?

    Business Analysis, if done effectively, results in the desired outcome. The desired outcome describes the benefits obtained from the fulfilment of the business need that was identified at the onset of the project. There are many outputs of business analysis: deliverables, work products and actual working solutions. These deliverables on the long run, contribute to creating desired outcomes, which may be increased customer satisfaction, increased revenue and the like.

    What does Business Analysis mean to you? Share your thoughts.