What Do these "Business Analysts" actually Do?
Have you ever wondered what your colleagues in Business Analysis actually do all day long? Outsiders often fail to appreciate the added value that business analysts bring to a project. Admittedly, the job title "Business Analyst" doesn't really say a lot about the work of this role.
The BA role is complex and encompasses various tasks and skills that, from the outside, are not at all obvious at first sight. It is therefore high time that we, as business analysts, speak openly about our role and the activities associated with it.
Insight in brief
- Business analysts at Zühlke are points of contact both in business (e.g. as product owners) and in IT (e.g. as agile coaches) and see themselves as bridge builders between these two areas.
- With their holistic view and with their ability to focus, business analysts are an important component in agile projects, and especially in large and complex ones.
- Business analysts are all-rounders who have a high flexibly, but always make a decisive contribution to the success of the business.
What is business analysis anyway?
If you ask five business analysts for an appropriate definition of business analysis, you will certainly get five different and yet plausible answers. One could almost call this the "crunch question" of our profession. This is due to the fact that business analysis as a discipline is very broad and extensive.
At Zühlke, business analysts typically act as a bridge between business and IT and secure value creation through their versatile skills profile. They have professional as well as technical know-how, so that they find points of contact not only with the business (e.g. as Project Manager or Product Owner), but also with IT (e.g. as Agile Coach or in Solution Design).
BAs at Zühlke ask the right questions at the right time in order to really understand the customer's needs. In this way, everyone can reach a common understanding and vision. Building on this basis, business and customer benefits are created so that the product can compete successfully on the market.
Where are business analysts deployed?
Business analysts are needed at every stage of the project life cycle.
In the pre-project phases, Zühlke's business analysts are deployed in market research, for example, and in impact mapping, ideation workshops or stakeholder identification.
In the next phase of the project, some typical deployment areas are investigating the MVP scope and breaking the vision down into features and stories.
Finally, BAs deal with business value and the prioritisation of items in the backlog, take care of stakeholder management and also keep an eye on non-functional requirements. In the agile environment they optimise agile processes and eliminate impediments.
After the go-live, business analysts provide targeted support for the further development and improvement of the existing product. Towards the end of the product life cycle, BAs ultimately look at alternative options.
What skills do business analysts have?
At Zühlke there is a "core profile" for BAs, i.e. a skill set that they should bring with them, or learn. This set includes, for example, agile requirements engineering, business process engineering, process innovation as well as communication and facilitation skills. Agile methods such as Kanban, Scrum and SAFe also play an important role.
In addition to this core profile, Zühlke BAs should develop their own personal profile. In this way we acquire the largest possible pool of skills. Some business analysts have delved into usability engineering, for example, while others are more likely to be found in consulting or in data analysis and modelling.
Some business analysts tend to be more business oriented, while others have more technical know-how.
But what do business analysts really do all day long?
Actually, this question can hardly be answered in one sentence. Due to our multi-faceted area of operation, there is no typical daily routine that all business analysts follow every day. Nevertheless, many of our projects show a definite pattern.
In a new project, we have to understand the company fully before we, as business analysts, can even begin to grasp a requirement. How is it structured organisationally? What are the basic processes and activities? How can we support our customers in the digitalisation of their processes?
Familiarising ourselves with the domain is carried out in close cooperation with those stakeholders who have an interest in the matter. In addition to analysing the current situation within the company itself, business analysts also follow current developments, trends and innovations in the company's business environment. On the basis of this analysis, possible solutions for the targeted changes can be developed in a next step.
Unfortunately, reality shows us that in many companies those in charge tend to be in a hurry and choose the first solution that just happens to come along. Or have you never experienced a situation in which a new tool was introduced without first having understood the exact needs and benefits?
Instead of rushing off aimlessly, it makes sense to involve business analysts in projects as early as possible and to have them define and evaluate differing solutions.
This includes the creation of one (or more) business cases that show what the solution is, what benefits it brings to the company, but also what risks it involves.
Business analysts then accompany their projects during the implementation of the chosen solution and provide support during any possible organisational change. In this phase, the classical Requirements Engineering activities take place. The planned solution is broken down to the various parts of the company that are affected. This means that specific requirements are recorded, consolidated and implemented for the individual areas or departments. Here, too, we might see the emergence of different variants, which must be evaluated. In this case it is absolutely central that requirements are clearly described and results are clear and comprehensible for all parties involved.
In agile projects, and especially in large and complex ones, business analysts prove to be valuable bridge builders. Helped by their holistic view and their focus on the essentials, they can be a valuable complement to the individual departments. This ensures that the customer's roadmap and strategy are never lost sight of.