The Business Analyst Career

Job Of A Business Analyst

A business analyst can prove to be a savior for the business, if it is heading towards troubled waters on account of faulty business strategies. Hiring a business analyst not only improves the working of the company, but also simplifies client interaction. Therefore, if you take a job as a business analyst, keep in mind that you are expected to help the company save money.

A business analyst interprets the project terms and simplifies the business requirements of the stakeholder and sponsor. They formulate an effective project communication system. It is the business analyst’s job to gather accurate data and analyze information on clientele, staff and users, in relation to the technology used. Business analysts are needed in all industries, whether banking, telecommunication, software or pharmaceutical. They are employed in consultancies to offer business related solutions to client firms.

A business analyst studies various business-related problems and works toward finding solution for them. The job also involves system and functional analysis. The business analyst is a common link between the department of information and the enterprise. They collate and document the necessary requirements for the business and make it available for the information technology department.

The Business analyst understands the specific needs of the organization and finds a sound technical solution for the same. They interpret the project terms and simplify relations between the IT department and the business as a whole. The business analyst gathers accurate data and information about the staff and users, in connection with the human resources department and the technology at hand. Thereafter, they develop an effective project communication system, keeping in mind the various business possibilities and predicted threats. In larger organizations, there are both Senior Business Analysts and Junior Business Analysts.

The Functions Of A Business Analyst Are:

Strategist – A company should always focus on a winning strategy. Business analysts provide various business strategies that enable the business to survive the constant competition.

Architect – After strategically analyzing the business needs, the business analyst designs a work strategy to run the business efficiently. Afterwards, the business analyst provides the company with a design to achieve the company goals and objectives.

System Analyst – System analysts work towards getting the best returns from expensive IT investments.

The business analyst has to make sure that the business does not face any threat in future. As a part of their job, a business analyst warns the company about the various profit and loss possibilities in the future. This helps management to be able to tackle any kind of situation efficiently.

Benefits Of A Business Analyst Career

A business analyst can prove to be a savior for the business, if it is heading towards troubled waters on account of faulty business strategies. Hiring a business analyst not only improves the working of the company, but also simplifies client interaction. Therefore, if you take a job as a business analyst, keep in mind that you are expected to help the company save money.

A business analyst interprets the project terms and simplifies the business requirements of the stakeholder and sponsor. They formulate an effective project communication system. It is the business analyst’s job to gather accurate data and analyze information on clientele, staff and users, in relation to the technology used. Business analysts are needed in all industries, whether banking, telecommunication, software or pharmaceutical. They are employed in consultancies to offer business related solutions to client firms.

Project Phases for Business Analysts

This article is focused on enabling better performance in business analysts and aspiring business analyst professionals. In this regard, I thought knowing the basics of project phases may be a useful read. Basically I’m hoping to touch upon the various aspects of a technology project that achieves a specific business outcome in which business analysts play a vital role.

Why choose technology projects for business analyst discussion?

Our world today is governed by technology. From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we hit the sack in the night we are in a way ruled by technology. A business analyst role in a way is better appreciated when there is technology involved. As mentioned earlier in my posts, anyplace in this world, that combines people, process and technology would result in a problem.

If there is a business analyst, who is working exclusively on process without any impact to technology or without any aspect of technology involved, I would like to meet him or her. So coming to our topic – let us try to understand from a business analyst and consulting stand point in a simple way the different phases of a functional business project that involves technology.

Note – Please note that I’m refraining from getting into Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) or Agile. I would like to keep the context of this post brief and not specific to a particular project management style though what I do state would align to most methodologies.

Is a business analyst actively involved in the project sub phases?
Business project that involves technology are often split into 2 large phases in the consulting world. The first phase is called Scoping and the second phase is called Delivery. Both these phases contain multiple sub phases in which a business analyst plays a vital role. We will look at them in detail.

The sub phases of a the Scoping phase of a consulting project are usually split into Scope Definition, Analysis and Functional Design.

The sub phases of a Delivery effort in a consulting assignment includes Technical Design, Construction / Build, Test phase that includes System Integration Testing (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing.

Scope definition – From my experience, I have noted than often the scope definition of the project is prior to a business analyst being assigned to the project. In some cases, the business analyst might get lucky and stand to be included in the scope definition of the project. But usually in this phase a project / functional manager, the program manager and subject matter experts play a major role. In some cases, this phase is also called blue printing.

In certain instances the scope phase include the requirements gathering process while in some cases, it gets pushed into the analysis phase of the project.

Analysis phase – Again while the term Analysis strictly refers to analyzing the business requirements gathered, more often the requirements gathering process start in this phase. The analysis phase of the project actively involves the business analyst interfacing with the stakeholder and gathering the business requirements and analyzing the requirements to better understand which requirements fit into the scope area defined and which doesn’t.

It is a big challenge that in some instances business requirements often exceed the given project scope and may need to be identified by the business analyst and De-scoped. To the contrary in some cases, there is scope creeps and a lot of the business requirements are missed being documented. The analysis phase is definitely an area where a business analyst plays a critical role.

Functional Design – In the consulting world, the design phase is split into functional design and technical design. The function design is the phase where design elements with respect to data flows, requirements mapping to data flows, requirement functions that can be met through the design etc will be documented.

Technical Design – Technical design as the name suggests is the design document that provides the technology that defines the systems that will specifically be used to meet the functional business requirements documented by the business analyst. While the functional design document details the functions that would be met as a part of the design implementation, the technical design sticks on to the technology used, type of server to be used (Windows vs Linux), the type of database to used etc.

A lot of times in organizations these two documents are combined together to house a single design document. The usefulness of the comprehensive design document is completely contingent on the methodology followed by the organization. In some cases, where the business analyst is more functional some parts of the comprehensive design document becomes a challenge to understand.

A business analyst in the design phase plays the role of a solution expert. The business analyst is required to validate that the design document and the solution proposed meets the project objectives and the specific business requirements that have been captured.

Build / Construction – While in a strict sense a functional business analyst role would be restricted to requirements planning, requirements gathering and documentation until hand off to the IT teams, organizations today take a holistic view of the business analyst function. A business analyst might not play a very active role in the construction phase of the project. That certainly does not mean that a business analyst moves on to another project at this stage or has a relaxing time. While the IT team works on the construction phase of the project, a business analyst may be required to work on supporting the Testing preparation along with the project manager.

Apart from potentially supporting change management deliverables, a business analyst may be required to help drive reviewing the test strategy, test plans, test scenarios, cases and scripts.

The CBAP handbook specifically calls out that creating design documents, test strategy, test plans or executing test cases is not considered as relevant work experience for CBAP certification. I’m sure most of us would agree that irrespective of our likes and dislikes and what the handbook says, for all practical reasons, a business analyst usually ends up taking on these deliverables.

In my opinion getting our hands dirty on these deliverables is very good as you would no longer be restricting yourself to the role of a business analyst but scaling up to be a management consultant.

Test Phase – I hate to break it to you, but testing is further split into sub components.

A business analyst would know that the systems integration test is more often the key to solving most of the issues and problems in a technology project. While in the build phase, the IT team would ensure that they perform selected core testing on what they built, it more often becomes the role of a business analyst to support integration testing. The systems integration testing involves passing data through source and down stream systems to often test the interface / data flow between the systems through predefined test cases/ scenario having a specific test result.

The User Acceptance Test (UAT) succeeds the systems integration test. In this phase, the testing is performed from an end-user / customer perspective. It is expected that the testing from systems integration throws up a little of problems and bugs that will need to be solved prior to entering UAT. During UAT, the end-user or customer is given the flexibility to help choose the business scenarios they would like tested. The expected results (which should match to the expectation of the user) is often shared with the user to enable boost their confidence and sign off on the testing phase.

Testing is always done in a server environment outside of the real-time production environment. So, if you are in a meeting and hear people discussing about testing environments, don’t be baffled. It is merely a server environment that often replicates the production environment but allows you to make mistakes and correct them.

Implementation / Go Live – The implementation phase of the project is when the codes and solution tried and tested through the other phases of the project are moved into the production environment. Once the codes are moved into production and the systems are ready to Go Live, with the flip of a switch the changes are posted into production and are live to be reflected.

As you would have noted, the role of a business analyst is more than often exemplified in the initial stages of the project. During the initial stages of the project, there is a greater need for the business analyst to interact with the stake holders, gather requirements, document them, analyze requirements etc. Thus a BA becomes the bridge between the business stakeholders and the IT teams making the role extremely important. At the same time, it is also important for a BA’s to understand the impact of their role and their work on other areas of the project.

For all aspiring BA’s, I do hope this article though lengthy, provided you good insight into what happens beyond your role. Hope you liked it. Please do feel free to share your comments.

IIBA®, the IIBA® logo, BABOK®, Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®, Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™, CCBA™, Certified Business Analysis Professional™, and CBAP® are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis

Some Resources For Finding a Business Broker

Before we talk about resources for finding a business broker, let us first understand who is a business broker. Business broker resembles very much to the real estate agent. The job of the business broker is to bridge the gap between the buyer of the business and the seller of the business. If you wisely choose the right business broker, you can save a lot of money in the business transactions taking place through him. Here are some resources for finding a business broker for you.

Ask the People Whom You Already Know For Referrals:
Whenever we look for something that is new to us and we are not familiar with it, we try to gather information from the people we already know, and have faith in them that they would not misguide us. Same procedure we can apply when we look for the resources for finding a business broker. Take the advice of your business associates, accountants, lawyer and other associations of the industry to get the names of business brokers. If a reliable person gives the reference of any business broker then there is no harm in considering him for hiring his services.

IBBA:
Another very good resource for finding a business broker is the International Business Brokers Association or IBBA. This is an institute of business brokers working on non-profit basis. There are approximately one thousand three hundred members of this association.

Go Through the Advertisements in Newspapers:
One very good resource for finding a business broker is newspaper. Look for the advertisements under the business opportunities. You should check local, regional and national all types of newspapers for this purpose. You will observe several businesses for sell in these advertisements. Although, these advertisements are intended to attract prospective buyers yet you can check them to find out the names of the people who are managing these deals.

Yellow Pages:
Another resource for finding a business broker is to look in the yellow pages. However, do not get confused with the real estate agents and look specifically for the brokers who have experience in the selling of businesses. Any broker who just lists the name of your business on the multiple listing services is of no use to you. These kinds of brokers do not give required time to make such business deals.

Sign an Agreement After You Have Selected the Business Broker:
After your search for finding a business broker ends and you succeed in finding the right business broker, sign an agreement with him. State clearly in the agreement that what type of marketing strategy the business broker will adopt to sell your business. Do not forget to mention that any such advertisement must not carry the name of your business.

Business Analyst Success Tips: 12 Qualities to Develop

Various qualities distinguish business analysts even amongst themselves. To be a successful business analyst, you need to pay attention towards developing certain qualities and skills, and they include:

1. Knowledge: Business analysts need to have vast knowledge to be able to carry out certain projects. If required knowledge is lacking, it will hinder their ability to perform any high level project satisfactorily. To be successful as a business analyst needs a broader and deeper skillset.

2. Specialist knowledge: As a business analyst, you need to have specialist knowledge and experience in an area. While an analyst may not be required to know all there is to know about solving a problem, his/her efforts can complement the knowledge of others towards finding the solution to a problem.

3. Experience on various projects: To be successful as a business analyst, you need to acquire experience working on different or multiple project types. With such experience you will have developed various skills and techniques, which will enable you to be effective on various projects that you may be involved with later in your career. When involved in different projects in the same company, it gives you experience in strategic thinking, knowledge of certain overlapping functions, and interdisciplinary dependencies, offering the opportunity to begin to create solutions to problems affecting the whole organization, rather than a section or the area you are involved in.

4. Effective planning: Having an intelligent work plan is also a characteristic of successful business analysts. This helps answer the question about how long a project will last. You need to think about the people you will be working with, identify the stake holders, and understand them and the important characteristics that will work for them. You also need to think through the size of the project, risks involved, the guidelines that need to be paid attention to and followed, the methodologies being used, and the importance of the project. This gives you an idea of the tasks involved in the project, as well as the time needed to get it done with.

5. The big picture view: You need to understand where a project fits into the organizational goals. Having the big picture in view is an important trait of successful business analysts. It helps understand how certain projects of the organization relate to each other and the impact of those projects on other areas of the organization.

6. Proffering solution: As a business analyst, you need to begin to see yourself as a solution giver to organizations. You need to understand what is most important about any upcoming project, and be able to mediate in business affairs when there is a conflicting situation. You need to understand the pains of staff in any project and their value systems.

7. Understanding each project: To be a successful business analyst, you need to make extra efforts to know about new projects you are involved in. When working on a new project, you should take the time to find out and read up all you can about the project. A number of ways can help you gain new knowledge; Google the subject matter and go through the information, and ask members of your network. It is not mandatory that you must have all the knowledge, asking those you socialize with officially about the project can help gain some knowledge about it. Continue to increase your network. Experience can also help in understanding or gaining new knowledge. Even if you may not have been involved in the project before, observation or putting a few things together may create an idea about what the project is all about.

8. Negotiation skill: The business analyst needs to be a good negotiator; since he/she is working directly with the project customer, he/she should be able to make important decisions and negotiate certain requirements.

9. Confidence: The business analyst must be confident in taking decisions. The complexity of working with a number of different component members to achieve a project may require quick and accurate decision making skills, especially when the entire team may not be required to make important decisions all the time.

10. Technical skills: A business analyst who brings technical skills to the table when handling a project usually receives a favorable rating. This is because he/she shortens the amount of time required to plan, and helps ensure that important requirements are captured.

11. Thinking: A successful business analyst thinks on the go. This is because for a project to successfully remain on track, he/she has to continue to understand the implication of every phase, and how it affects the project, especially when issues and challenges that need critical decision arise.

12. People skills: As a business analyst, you need to be engaging to be successful. You need to have the ability to make people commit their time and effort towards achieving a project. Analysts often learn to convince, beg, or cajole stakeholders to make available all that is needed to complete a task.

Conclusion

Having a successful career as a business analyst may not be easy, however, developing certain qualities and skills as presented in this post will definitely help you achieve the goal.