Business Analysis: The Basics

business analysisBusiness analysis involves research to identify business needs and to create solutions to various problems. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development. The person who tackles this area is called a business analyst (BA).  Business analysts who work only on developing software systems are also referred to as IT business analysts, technical business analysts, online business analysts, business systems analysts, or systems analysts.

As a discipline, business analysis overlaps heavily with requirements analysis (which we will get into later) but business analysis focuses on change. For the business organization to achieve its strategic goals, it needs to identify and undergo certain changes to meet such goals.  These changes can be strategic or structural and changes to policies, processes and information systems. The business analyst will work to achieve such goals and will often create solutions through the implementation and integration of a multiple number of solutions.  Achieving your goals as a business organization requires a large amount of work and research.

Examples of business analysis include:

  • Creating and maintaining the business architecture
  • Conducting feasibility studies
  • Identifying new business opportunities
  • Scoping and defining new business opportunities
  • Preparing the business case
  • Conducting the initial risk assessment

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

Business analysis involves understanding how organizations function to accomplish their purposes, and defining the capabilities an organization requires to provide products and services to external stakeholders. It includes the definition of organizational goals, how those goals connect to specific objectives, determining the courses of action that an organization has to undertake to achieve those goals and objectives, and defining how the various organizational units and stakeholders within and outside of that organization interact.

Business analysis may be performed to understand the current state of an organization or to serve as a basis for the later identification of business needs. In most cases, however, business analysis is performed to define and validate solutions that meet business needs, goals, or objectives.

The Life of A BA

The role of a business analyst can be filled by any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organizational role may be. Business analysis practitioners include not only people with the job title of business analyst, but as mentioned above may also include business systems analysts, systems analysts, requirements engineers, process analysts, product managers, product owners, enterprise analysts, business architects, management consultants, or any other person who performs the tasks within business analysis, including those who also perform related disciplines such as project management, software development, quality assurance, and interaction design. Basically, the role of a BA incorporates many other roles and so long as you are doing the work needed as a BA, you’re welcomed.

Business analysts must analyze and synthesize information provided by a large number of people who interact with the business, such as customers, staff, IT professionals, and executives. The business analyst is responsible for eliciting the actual needs of stakeholders, not simply their expressed desires. In many cases, the business analyst will also work to facilitate communication between organizational units. In particular, business analysts often play a central role in aligning the needs of business units with the capabilities delivered by information technology, and may serve as a “translator” between those groups.

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Let’s Take a Deeper Understanding of the Business Analysis Big Picture

The area undergoing analysis is called a domain. It can include the area of the organization along with key stakeholders outside the organization and how the organization interacts with such stakeholders. A solution is a set of changes to the current state of an organization that are made in order to enable that organization to meet a business need, solve a problem, or take advantage of an opportunity. The scope of the solution is usually narrower than the scope of the domain within which it is implemented, and will serve as the basis for the scope of a project to implement that solution or its components.

A majority of business solutions are a composite of various solutions interacting with each other. Examples of solutions and solution components include software applications, web services, business processes, the business rules that govern that process, an information technology application, a revised organizational structure, outsourcing, insourcing, redefining job roles, or any other method of creating a capability needed by an organization (iiba.org).

Business analysis provides business organizations the ability to define the best solution for any given need.  Making changes to a business organization while maintaining a balance with other needs such as budget or regulations, is a valuable and necessary tool to enable a business to thrive.

Requirements Analysis and How it Relates

A requirement is a condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to solve a problem or achieve an objective. It must be met or possessed by a solution or solution component to satisfy a contract, standard, specification, or other formally imposed documents.  As implied by this definition, a requirement may be unstated, implied by or derived from other requirements, or directly stated and managed. One of the key objectives of business analysis is to ensure that requirements are visible to and understood by all stakeholders.

The term “requirement” is one that generates a lot of discussion within the business analysis community. Many of these debates focus on what should or should not be considered a requirement, and what are the necessary characteristics of a requirement. Requirements include, but are not limited to, past, present, and future conditions or capabilities in an enterprise and descriptions of organizational structures, roles, processes, policies, rules, and information systems. A requirement may describe the current or the future state of any aspect of the enterprise.

Much of the existing literature on business analysis is written with the assumption that requirements only describe an information technology system that is being considered for implementation. Other definitions may include future state business functions as well, or restrict the meaning of the term to define the ends stakeholders are seeking to achieve and not the means by which those ends are achieved (iib.org).

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In the context of a one example, the requirements may be a description of the business processes currently in use in an organization. On other projects, the business analyst may choose to develop requirements to describe the current state of the enterprise (which is in itself a solution to existing or past business needs) before investigating changes to that solution needed to meet changing business conditions.

Whatever your needs as a business organization may be, the study of business analysis and performance of the business analyst will be an integral one to achieving your business’ goals.  Become a business analyst today.