The idea of a business analyst wearing multiple hats is certainly important in ensuring that requirement definitions identified at the beginning of a project do not get lost along the way. One of the key strengths a business analyst possesses which needs to trickle down to other sections of the business is their understanding of business requirements.
Requirements influence how processes are executed, the roles involved in these processes, the solution selected to meet these requirements and the features required in system solutions, when applicable. In organizations where the BA is required to wear different hats (go beyond the formal definition of what a BA is required to do), this key understanding of the business which a business analyst possesses, implies that BAs can act as (or support) the following key roles:
A System Designer
An understanding of software requirements certainly helps in interpreting how best the system should work. Business analysts should work closely with designers to pass on their understanding of what the business needs so that system designers can come up with effective and practical designs. Great designs are a product of empathy and a genuine understanding of the pains and expectations of business stakeholders.
While the analyst may not be solely responsible for design (System designers, UX designers and developers are part of the design team), the design is done FOR users and the analyst can support this process by conveying special interface requirements through prototypes or mockups.
Read more on The Role of BAs in User Interface Design.
Testers identify defects which may be genuine or otherwise. This distinction can only be achieved with minimal iterations, when there’s a genuine understanding of what is required.
While BAs attached to organizational units may be less involved in organizing and managing test sessions, they may be nominated to participate in User Acceptance Tests (UAT) along with system users or to represent a user group. Such BAs are also expected to be analytical, independent thinkers and knowledgeable enough about the business to support system users and test the system in place of stakeholders who are unavailable to do so themselves.
Read more on The Role of Business Analysts in UAT Sessions
A Subject Matter Expert
Business analysts can stand in for business users especially when an understanding of requirements is needed and stakeholders are not available. They can communicate with developers and other business users, interfacing between different units of the business to ensure that requirements are understood and can be evaluated in light of how they affect the business.
A Change Agent
Business analysts work on projects that in the end, result in one form of change or the other to how people work or how systems operate. Through effective communication, they can help business stakeholders directly or indirectly affected come to terms with impending changes and put measures in place to ease the transition. A business analyst understands requirements and their impact on the business and its processes. Who better to explain the impacts of process change and teach others how things are to be done? They can provide the story and rationale behind implemented changes and demonstrate how new processes have been designed to work.
Also, if you’re looking to switch to a different career, each hat can indeed serve as a starting point.
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