Business Analysis Responsibilities:
Business Analyst (BA) is one of the most important roles in a software company. Some would even call it the most important role, which is more or less an extremist view because software is a team work exercise, it is practically impossible to come to a conclusion on the most important role.
Business Analysts of software firms act as the liaison between business users and development teams by serving as business problem solvers. They provide the process, questions, and techniques to efficiently extract the information needed from the Business Users for successful application development projects.
They can sort through the chaos and ambiguity of what is told to them by many people and go on to extract a concise description of the business. They are also capable of analyzing the business to identify problems and/or opportunities and to define solution characteristics. He should not be intoxicated by technology and should not jump to designing the solution. Being customer focused through out the life cycle of the project is expected from a BA.
The person who holds this responsibility should pose outstanding conceptual, analytical, communication, facilitation, and presentation skills with highly developed organization and management skills. Handling many priorities at the same time would be expected from him since a typical BA would work on several projects while facing the clients directly but diminishing effectiveness of any of those is not tolerable for this critical role. Being a good team player is essential as is the case for any position in a software company. Drawing prerequisite lines on paper is a difficult task but a sound academic background and a few years of experience in the field would really help. There is some theoretical stuff that you should learn through education while some practical situations are to be learnt only through experience. Anyway, as a general rule, academic performances and experience should not be barriers for a real performer, who only speaks through successful work achievements.
Most in the BA position today have come from the IT side with an IT education background while there is a smaller portion that comes from a business academic background but experienced working in the IT industry. There is a third group, which is smaller, that do not have an IT academic background or experience in the IT industry, but who are experts in their respective business domains.
Business analysis is distinct from financial analysis, project management, quality assurance, organizational development, testing, training, and documentation.
The Business Analyst is responsible for development and management requirements. Specifically, the Business Analyst elicits, analyzes, validates and documents business, organizational and/or operational requirements. Solutions are not predetermined by the Business Analyst, but are driven solely by the requirements of the business. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement or organizational change.
BAs therefore require a thorough understanding of the business domain in which they operate and should be able to communicate, in a clear and concise manner.
Since the BA finds out requirements and clarifies it to the development team, he/she has the responsibility of guarantying that the final product contains the solutions that he initially communicated to the client. Therefore, he obviously plays a role in the project from the very beginning to the end. Whatever the process adhered by the company, the BA will be involved throughout the process.
As mentioned before, technical expertise is not at all expected from a good BA. BAs are not good software designers in the modern software space. Good design is a highly technical skill, which needs to balance the technology constraints with what the user wants, while ensuring that the system remains flexible, agile and robust. BAs communicate and work with both the IT people and business people and their job lines are sometimes blurred. Because of this BAs may find themselves doing project management. But a good BA should definitely avoid this unless his company expects him to play the additional role of project manager, because he has a more serious duty to perform. He has the responsibility to deliver a product which solves the business problem of the user at the end of the day. As an example, if the BA is merely concerned in delivering the product on time, he is in fact working with a project management perspective rather than a business analysis perspective. The product might come out on time, but the business problem of the client would not be solved, which would ultimately result in both financial and time lost to both the provider and the client.
Documentation skills of a BA should be near perfection. He needs to document a lot during his project activities. Standards and formats for this have to be defined either by the company, client or the BA himself. Some of the information that needs clear documenting is given below.
•The objectives of the business units
•The information required to support those business units, and what decisions are made, based on that information
•A list of reports and interactive information displays required
•Data usage, security, availability and data access requirements
•Data analysis and data mining requirements
•Data quality requirements
•Required response times and performance criteria
•Success criteria for evaluating the success of the initiative
Change control is very important in the software industry. There is always a high possibility to change client requirements during the course of the project. This would have an effect on many aspects such as delivery date, cost/price of the product, working hours of the developers etc. BAs need to play an important and crucial role in here and control the change so that he creates a win-win situation for both his and his client’ companies.
To perform their tasks, BAs can use several tools available. Some companies use these while some do not. Anyway, it’s advisable to use tools to at least work with functional testing. Since handling data and information is prominent for this role, data analyzing tools would also be very helpful and productive. Some of the possible tools are listed below.
CaliberRM by Borland
CaliberRM is a collaborative requirements management tool. It is a web based system that supports collaborative development.
Ideascope by Orasi
Ideascope allows you to send surveys to stakeholders, capture their responses, rank and prioritize their ideas and turn them into requirements.
iServer by Orbus Software
iServer is a repository for Microsoft Visio shapes and Microsoft Office documents. The repository allows objects to be reused, shared, and provides an audit trail of changes. It also provides version control.
Rational Team Unifying Suite by IBM
IBM/Rational offers numerous software development tools that integrate to support the full project life cycle. The Team Unifying Suite supports requirements documentation and management, traceability to test cases, and issue tracking.
SmartDraw is a graphic diagramming tool that includes stencils for ANSI flowcharts, organizational charts, swim lane diagrams and, data flow diagrams.
The field has become very important. Special courses to train BAs have come in to existence while institutes have been formed to represent them. One such organization is the International Institute of Business Analysis (http://www.iiba.com). The purpose of the International Institute of Business Analysis is to be the leading world-wide professional association developing and maintaining standards for the practice of Business Analysis and for the certification of practitioners. IIBA will achieve that goal by:
•Creating and developing awareness and recognition of the value of the BA,
•Providing a forum for knowledge sharing,
•Identifying the required skills and competencies of a qualified Business Analyst,
•Defining training and professional development standards
•Publicly recognizing and certifying qualified Business Analysts.
Finally, after reading through, it should be clear as to how crucial and important a Business Analyst is for a software company. Last but not least, it is worthy mentioning that it is one of the most interesting jobs found in the industry giving immense experience and exposure assuring a great self satisfaction for the holder of the post.