“What is a Business Analyst? What do they do? Do we really need one on our project? Do we need them for the entire duration?”
These are questions that I have heard many times in my career. To be honest – I have asked them myself in the past. Other project roles seem so much more clear-cut; no one questions the need for developers, testers, or project managers, but a Business Analyst? Really? For that long?…
My own path to being a Business Analyst was not a direct one. My CV is varied, my education did not lead me down this career path. A Zoology degree is hardly a pre-requisite for a BA!
Looking back, there were more than a few personality traits that indicated that I was destined to become a Business Analyst:
As a child, I had an inherent curiosity to know how things worked. I would take apart toys and fix them (mostly successfully). When I was exposed to Science, I loved the fact that facts were questioned, that hypotheses were tested, that the inquisitive mind discovered answers, or, more often than not, other questions.
While postulating and theorising got me places, I very quickly learned that to stay there, the facts must speak for themselves – and that those facts come from details. Science is all about establishing the details and assimilating them into a format that was universally understandable and could facilitate decision-making.
Working solo in a laboratory might suit some people (though not me), but without sharing discoveries, and collaborating with others, knowledge is lost. Discoveries need to be shared, validated, and built upon before they become useful to a wider population.
As I said – I did not set out to be a Business Analyst, but when I look at my innate traits, it’s a natural fit. My path from Zoology via Business Intelligence to Business Analysis is all based on a desire to know more, to use data to prove a theory, and making that theory useful for others.
Business Analysis is more of a skill than a title. It is equal parts questioning, negotiating, documenting, presenting, and validating. Not every project will need all these skills but having a BA with this skillset will ensure that the project hits its objectives.
So, let’s answer those questions I posed earlier:
“What is a Business Analyst?”
In my experience a Business Analyst is someone tasked with questioning. A jack-of-all-trades, for lack of a better term! An experienced BA will ask the questions that validate the purpose of the project, the value it will bring, the status quo, whether the objectives are met and if the project delivers a real reward.
“What do they do?”
The experienced BA will document, discuss, analyse, validate, and present the project’s needs. They will collaborate with all stakeholders in the project, they ensure that what is being delivered not only meets the goals of the project – but brings the required value to the customer.
“Do we really need one on our project?”
A project is only successful when it delivers value to the customer. Without that value, meeting timelines and budgets is futile. Not that time & budget are not crucial. A BA will act as the conduit between the customer and the delivery team. They are the trusted expert, they distil the messaging, they ensure success.
“Do we need them for the entire duration?”
The BA should be involved from the outset to ensure the project has quantifiable value. They ensure quality, despite a changing environment, guiding projects smoothly to completion. Projects that use a BA for a portion of the project may hit their time and budget needs, but often fail to deliver exactly what the customer needs.