What Does a Business Analyst Actually Do?
Of all the people in my life, my dad is probably the one most interested in the nitty-gritty details of my career. He never gets bored of hearing even the most mundane details of my workday, and funnily enough, I don’t think he quite understands what it is that I do. He knows that I work in software, go to many meetings, work with engineers, and design something.
He knows what I don’t do:
- I’m not an engineer. I didn’t study computer science. I don’t write code.
- I’m not a manager. I don’t lead a team. I do my own thing.
- I’m not a project manager. This one is easy. He is a project manager for civic construction projects himself, so he understands that I’m not.
- I’m not a designer. I’ve never had any formal training. And my title is “business analyst,” which honestly does not evoke an image of anything remotely artsy or creative.
I seem to do a little bit of everything. But I’m none of the things he knows and understands, which is not surprising at all. Very few people actually understand what a business analyst does.
I think there are two main reasons for this confusion:
Business analysis is a toolbox of analytical and interpersonal skills
Skills that apply to a wide range of projects and industries. Business analysis is a fluid occupation. BAs fill the knowledge and skills gap between discovering a business problem in an organization and delivering the solution to that problem. This is often achieved via a software or business process change. The BABoK, aka the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge, states that any person who performs the following activities is considered a business analyst:
- Understands organization problems and goals
- Analyzes needs and solutions
- Designs strategies
- Drives change
- Facilitates stakeholder collaboration
Business analysts go by many different titles
This adds to the confusion. Common titles for people that perform business analysis tasks are business architect, business systems analyst, data analyst, enterprise analyst, management consultant, process analyst, product manager, product owner, requirements engineer, and systems analyst.
So, what does a BA do?
Businesses must continually change to stay competitive in the marketplace. Sometimes, the change is in response to a threat from a competitor. Sometimes, it’s in response to an opportunity presented by consumer behavior.
Business analysis is the art and science of:
- Eliciting, that is, drawing out information from stakeholders to define a business problem, and eventually, the solution to that problem.
- Analyzing gathered information or data and converting them into requirements, that is, features that the solution must have to address the business problem. This solution could be a software or a process change.
- Communicating the requirements to the implementation team like IT/technology using storyboards, wireframes, prototypes, user stories, requirements, and functional specification documents.
- Validating the stated requirements against the built solution to ensure that the business problem, as expressed by the stakeholders, has been fully resolved.
But regardless of the business domain, a business analyst’s role is to act as a bridge between the business stakeholders and IT/technology teams to help drive the change forward.
Put simply, as one of the instructors in my business analysis certification course always liked to remind our class: the role of a BA is to ensure that if the business customer is asking for a horse, the IT/technology team delivers a 🐎, and not a camel 🐪.
[Side note: I legit use this explanation in job interviews when I’m asked to explain what I think a BA does. 9/10 times, the interviewer laughs and quits this line of questioning.]
This is indeed the heart and soul of what we do as business analysts.