New To Business Analysis? Your Questions Answered...

A blog visitor contacted me last week and wanted answers to some questions relating to business analysis. Here's an excerpt of my response. If there's any question you would like answered, please leave a comment below and I'll try to get your response out as soon as I can!

Here we go...

1. Why would you recommend being a Business Analyst?

Business Analysis is an evolving profession that involves dealing with modern-day business challenges. Regardless of your background, you can train to become a business analyst — that’s how flexible the entry requirements are. The knowledge you can acquire is limitless and you can apply it to just about any business, including yours, someday. Also, since businesses will always have challenges to solve and opportunities to exploit, business analysts or professionals acting in the capacity of business analysts, are always going to be relevant.

2. What is a typical day at this job, or as being a Business Analyst?

The days are usually unpredictable, as you never can tell ahead what problems will crop up. These problems can be related to operational or project matters. To some extent however, the job description would define some “recurring” activities a BA can expect to dabble into. As a Business Process Manager cum Analyst, I am involved in handling and directly supervising the key activities described below:
  • I interview process participants to understand exactly how their processes work. It is possible to interview two people and get different descriptions of the same process. My job is to clear the confusion by eliciting information on how the processes actually work before documenting their definition and attributes.
  • I document process information using visual diagrams in the form of business process models (using the Business Process Management Notation or the Flowchart Notation).
  • I analyse process models as they are (As-is), compare them to the future and improved designs (To-be) and determine the necessary changes for arriving at the improved state.
  • I design business processes (To-be) and manage any subsequent changes to them.
  • I identify, document and analyse business rules that govern the implementation of business processes.
  • I write Business Process Management System (BPMS) specifications to be used by the developers for process automation
  • I test and execute processes using the BPMS to ensure that the right results are achieved
  • I examine processes holistically to understand the impact of changing them on people, strategy, existing software applications and general business operations.
  • I collate feedback on process performance. The collected data forms the basis of future process improvement projects
  • I monitor and measure the effectiveness of processes to ensure consistent value delivery.

3. How long does it take to complete a typical task such as analyzing a business, or coming up with solutions?

It varies. I’ll explain.
Analysing a business can take time, since several aspects of the business may face different challenges and require different solution approaches. A person’s career can be built on analysing and solving problems faced by a business. This is because as businesses evolve, new risks, opportunities, regulations and problems may crop up that require a business analyst to be on ground to respond to them, or at least, assist business stakeholders in addressing them.
Coming up with solutions can however, take from a couple of hours to several years. Coming up with solutions is a process - you need background information, you need to understand the complexities of the industry as well as the peculiarities of the job, you need stakeholder buy-in, etc. It can get quite complicated. Obviously, the quicker you can find your way through the maze, the quicker you will come up with solutions. In very few situations will you find solutions glaring at you and even when solutions seem obvious, there's always some benefit to be had by conducting extensive analysis, just to be sure there's nothing between the lines.

4.How would you approach a project?

I would use a combination of methodologies, depending on the context. At the moment, I adopt a hybrid of predictive and agile methodologies when implementing projects because there are benefits to both approaches.

5. What are some pros and cons of this job?

I enjoy business analysis because I’m passionate about problem-solving and analysis. That for me, has always been the fulfilling aspect of my job. Some projects are easier than others and how you feel about each and how successful the project is at the end of the day, depend largely on your ability to manage the people or stakeholders you work with. Here’s a summary of what I consider to be the cons of the job.

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