- What is business analysis?
- Who is a business analyst?
- Why is business analysis important?
- Business analysis tools
- Assessing the black swan risk
- How to achieve business value in IT projects
Every major endeavor requires careful planning, whether it’s a long-anticipated voyage, the purchase of a place to live, or the establishment of a company. To help unlock the full potential of businesses, the professional discipline of Business Analysis has emerged, quickly becoming an important element in establishing a clear path for firms in a treacherous environment, often with intense competition. In the next few paragraphs, we provide an introduction to the topic of Business Analysis, with key definitions and concepts, the tools that are used in this profession, the role of a business analyst and more.
What is business analysis?
BA is the name of a professional discipline as well as the process of analyzing a business. At its core, Business Analysis focuses on identifying business needs and providing solutions to business problems. These solutions cover different forms, from process optimization, through software, to changes in company policy, strategy and general organization.
Who is a business analyst?
A business analyst role is multifaceted. The gap between stakeholders and the developer team can be vast, and a BA helps reduce this distance and fuel mutual understanding for more effective work with a better focus on business needs. BAs investigate companies at all levels. They focus on company strategy, as well as individual projects, their goals, requirements, expectations, assumptions and the available resources. They facilitate company processes and look for areas to improve. A business analyst is a person with substantial knowledge of different areas, allowing the person to have a bird’s eye view of how things work, as well as insight into specific areas of the company. This can greatly help in cost optimization and resource allocation, allowing the company to identify areas where money is used inefficiently. The role of a BA entails such tasks as business and project planning, creating documentation, business strategizing, budgeting, making forecasts, observing, pricing, reporting, recommending and defining requirements.
One key quality of a good business analyst is to question what is observed to ensure overall effectiveness, for example:
- How are the processes in the company organized, and why are they organized in such a way?
- Are the established rules working for the benefit of the company or is there a need for change?
- Is there a better way of conducting specific activities?
Why is business analysis important?
The answers to this question could already be drawn based on the paragraph above. Thanks to a Business Analysis, companies can greatly reduce costs and improve operational effectiveness, which is a precondition for effective growth. Thanks to extensive knowledge in a variety of areas, a business analyst can orient developer work toward stakeholder expectations, resulting in solutions that are effective for the end user as well as for the business itself. Their actions and assessments help prevent issues and unexpected costs before they occur. They are helpful in the testing and implementation phases as they monitor whether the developed product meets business expectations.
Business analysis tools
There are a number of important business analysis tools, and every business analyst can have different preferences as well as circumstances. There are different solutions for different aspects of an effective Business Analysis.
Speaking of the discovery phase for example, the following tools are commonly used:
- Interviews and Workshops: Face-to-face or virtual interviews and workshops are essential tools for gathering insights from stakeholders, subject matter experts, and end-users. They allow for interactive discussions and ensure active engagement in the analysis process.
- Surveys and Questionnaires: Online surveys and questionnaires help collect data from a broader audience, allowing business analysts to obtain feedback and insights from a larger pool of stakeholders and customers.
- Prototyping and Wireframing Tools: Prototyping and wireframing tools enable business analysts to create interactive mockups and visualize the proposed solutions. These tools help stakeholders better understand the user experience and provide feedback on the design.
- Data Analysis Tools: Business analysts use data analysis tools to process and analyze quantitative data obtained from market research, user behavior, and other sources. Tools like Microsoft Excel, Tableau, or Google Analytics aid in deriving meaningful insights from data.
- Mind Mapping Software: Mind mapping tools help business analysts visualize and organize ideas, requirements, and relationships between different elements. These visual representations enhance understanding and aid in identifying key connections.
- Use Case and User Story Modeling Tools: Use case and user story modeling tools help structure and document functional requirements from a user’s perspective. Tools like Jira or Trello facilitate agile development and collaboration with development teams.
- Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) Tools: BPMN tools assist in modeling and documenting business processes, workflows, and process improvements, enhancing process understanding and analysis.
- Competitive Analysis Tools: Tools like SWOT analysis templates, Porter’s Five Forces analysis, and market research databases aid in conducting competitive analysis to understand market positioning and identify opportunities and threats.
- Collaboration and Communication Platforms: Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or project management platforms enable effective communication and knowledge sharing among stakeholders and project teams.
- Documentation and Reporting Software: Business analysts use tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Confluence to create comprehensive documentation and reports summarizing the findings and recommendations from the discovery phase.
- Visualization and Diagramming Tools: Visualization tools like Lucidchart, Visio, or Draw.io help create visual representations of complex ideas, such as process flows, data models, and system architecture.
There are also other, more general tools that BAs may use according to their needs. These include MS Excel, Oracle NetSuite, Jira, Wrike, Tableau, HubSpot, Creatio, Fogbugz, Integrate.io, and Target Process.
Assessing the black swan risk
This is one of the most important analyses business analysts prepare. In a nutshell, a black swan is an event that can have a significant, unpredictable negative impact on the entire organization, even if it seems to concern a specific project only. The cost of black swans can be huge, leading to budget/cost overruns reaching as high as 200-400% percent of the anticipated numbers. It is estimated that about 17% of black swan IT project cases are so severe they can make an entire company go out of business. A BA can help avoid engaging in risky projects that may lead to such bad outcomes.
How to achieve business value in IT projects
There are several key aspects that help align IT development processes with business requirements. Business analysts are able to find this connection. Here are the important areas that need attention:
The Discovery Phase
This should be a top priority. It is important to allocate enough time and resources for the Discovery Phase. A carefully approached and well-executed Discovery Phase has a huge impact on the entirety of the project and serves as its foundation. Investing in a BA to perform this task requires additional resources, but in the long run, it mitigates the costs of unexpected events and reduces risk.
If stakeholders are involved in the discovery workshops and interviews, it is easier to make sure business goals are taken into account throughout the project. The more voices are present, the clearer the shape of the task, and it’s easier to avoid unpleasant surprises during later stages.
Collaboration with cross-functional teams
BA experts will find a way to bring specialists from different branches together during the Discovery Phase, creating a multi-disciplinary approach that yields thoroughly analyzed and multi-factor solutions. Having multiple perspectives helps prevent development issues and misunderstandings.
Clear goals have a number of advantages. First, both the stakeholders and the development team know exactly what outcome they are trying to reach with the project. It also makes it easier to monitor progress, evaluate successes and establish milestones.
Validating assumptions and hypotheses
The more data you have, the higher the chance of a successful project. It is imperative to conduct user surveys, interviews and make prototypes. Uprooting the cause is more important than treating a symptom. Validating assumptions and hypotheses will help mitigate risks and make sure the products meet customer needs.
A thorough market research gives you a better understanding of your business environment, client preferences, needs and requirements, and it also gives you an insight into what your competition is doing. All of these aspects help the team provide a more adequate product that customers will want to use.
Customer Experience analysis
UX has been an increasingly discussed topic in recent years, and no wonder – understanding the end-user’s journey helps define what the target audience is looking for and how they behave. This is key to creating intuitive designs focusing on user comfort.
Setting up priorities for features and requirements
It’s one thing to identify what is needed, it’s another to set up proper priorities for features and requirements based on business needs and user expectations.
Creating a solid foundation for implementation
Creating a business case document to serve as a basis for the implementation phase will facilitate the development process, minimize misunderstandings and reduce needless reworking. The goal is to make developers understand the reasoning behind the project as much as possible.
A Business Analysis is an indispensable process that helps align developer work with business requirements. It facilitates cooperation between different branches, making sure that both stakeholder and end-user expectations are fulfilled. The expertise of a business analyst helps with risk mitigation, cost reduction and ensures a smooth workflow, leading to improved products.
Here at createIT, several experienced business analysts are at your service. If you are looking for a specialist in this field, do not hesitate to contact us.