Sean Ryan

The job title ‘Business Analyst’ sounds vague, even nebulous, to those who don’t know what one is. It’s time to demystify the role by revealing what we actually do and why we are so vital to your future success.

Mention the words ‘Business’ and ‘Analyst’ to some clients and the questions can come thick and fast: “What is a business analyst?”; “What do they do?”; “Do we need one on our project?”; and that most frequent question: “Do we need one for the entire duration?”.

They’re all queries I’ve been asked regularly throughout my career. The prospective client often ponders about – and even procrastinates over – whether to bring a business analyst onboard. After all, other project roles, such as developer or tester, seem so much more clear-cut and ‘quantifiable’. A business analyst though? Not so much.


But first, a quick word about… zoology?

zoo entrance sign
To help shine a light on what a business analyst actually does, I should probably introduce myself first and explain how I ended up becoming one (almost accidentally). My route into business analysis actually began with a degree in zoology.

That might sound strange, but for anyone who knows me, it was clear from an early age I had personality traits that, on hindsight, meant I was destined to become a business analyst. The evidence? I was always:


As a child, I wanted to know how things worked. Give me a toy and I’d take it apart. Hand me a broken toy, even better as I’d fix it (well, most of the time). When I discovered the sciences as a student, I’d question every fact, test every hypothesis, and come up with my own answers (and inevitably, plenty of my own questions too).


While all that postulating and theorising got me places, I quickly learned to stay there, the facts must speak for themselves – and those facts come from details. After all, science is all about establishing details before assimilating them into a format that is understandable and helps with decision-making. Get that formatting wrong, and it can have a really corrosive effect.


Working solo in a laboratory suits some people – but not me. I realised early on that without sharing discoveries and collaborating with others, knowledge risks being lost. Those discoveries need to be distributed, validated, and built upon before they can become useful to wider society.


How I brought it all together

Such personality traits meant that while I didn’t set out to be a business analyst, the role was a natural fit. Wherever my career has taken me – from zoology via business intelligence to business analysis – my path has been driven by a desire to know more, to use data to prove a theory, and then to ensure that theory is beneficial to all.

‘Business analyst’ is more of a skill than a title too. It’s equal parts questioning, negotiating, documenting, presenting, and validating. Not every project will need all these skills, but having a business analyst onboard will ensure the project always hits its mark.


Now back to those questions…

So, bearing all that in mind, let’s return to the questions I posed earlier and answer them:

“What is a business analyst?”

In a nutshell, it’s someone who is tasked with questioning. Someone able to step back and gain a critical perspective on a business’s intended project. An experienced analyst will ask questions designed to validate the project’s purpose; the value it will bring to the enterprise; the impact (and potential disruption) it will have on the status quo; whether the objectives can be met, and if the project will deliver genuine, quantifiable benefits to the organisation.

“What do they do?”

A business analyst documents, discusses, analyses, checks, and presents the project’s needs. They collaborate with all the involved stakeholders. The analyst can ensure what is being delivered not only meets the goals of the project – but also delivers on the required value.

“Do we need one on our project?”

Definitely, as a project is only successful when it delivers that value. Without it, meeting timelines and budgets becomes futile if there is no genuine benefit. It’s best to see a business analyst as the conduit between you, the customer, and the delivery team, acting as a trusted expert who distils messaging, identifies weaknesses, and ensures positive outcomes.

“Do we need one for the entire duration?”

The analyst needs to be there from the get-go to ensure the project has that all-important quantifiable value. By being involved at every stage, they ensure quality is delivered, no matter how much the environment changes, and are able to guide projects smoothly to completion.

Projects that only use an analyst for part of the process may hit the targeted time and budget needs – but risk failing to deliver exactly what was expected. And that means the project could ultimately end up half-baked at best, or at worst, turn into a costly failure.


It’s your turn to analyse us

If you have your questions about what role of a business analyst would play within your own project, do let us know. As you may have figured out by now, at The Project Foundry, we’re all curious, meticulous and love collaboration. It means we are always happy to answer questions and provide you with the full facts.