What Is Business Analysis?

August 26, 2011 by  Filed under: Marketing 

Make room on your working hat rack.

Let’s not kid each other anymore; it’s just a fact of working life: you wear several hats at work–regardless of what your official title may imply.

Sure, you may have an official title that includes a position like ‘Engineer,’ ‘technician,’ ‘analyst,’ or ‘manager,’ but your list of responsibilities looks more like someone spilled the forward-slash on your resume. Are you a designer/programmer/financial analyst/tech support specialist/help desk technician/subject-matter expert/process manager/product manager/consultant/project planner/customer service/sales rep/inventory manager/communications manager/web designer/SharePoint administrator/accountant/or maybe even /project manager?

Business analysis is no different. Many organizations are still not very clear about what “business analysis” is. As such, it is included as a responsibility under various titles like ‘database architect,’ ‘systems analyst,’ ‘financial analyst,’ ‘consultant,’ ‘process engineer (or manager),’ business architect,’ and ‘data analyst,’ just to name a few. You may be playing the role of business analyst and (like many of us once) not even know it.

What is this ‘business analysis’ hat for, anyway?

Because so many people within an organization can perform it, let’s focus on the role of business analysis and not the job title.

Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used as a framework to interact with stakeholders in order to understand and communicate the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable that organization to achieve its goals.

Business analysis can involve the following processes (with corresponding Business Analysis Body of KnowledgeBABoK–areas are in parentheses):

1. Identifying business needs and opportunities (Enterprise Analysis)

2. Gathering, clarifying and validating requirements (Elicitation)

3. Writing and communicating requirements to stakeholders (Requirements Communication)

4. Developing a plan to gather requirements, clearly define scope, and manage changes to requirements (Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring)

5. Making sure that the requirements well-written, specific, and complete (Requirements Analysis)

6. Ensuring that the solution is the best solution according to the requirements, not the other way around (Solution Assessment and Validation)

It’s all about the requirements.

Generally, business analysts are instrumental in gathering and documenting business requirements prior to project planning and implementation. Business analysts mainly participate in enterprise analysis and work to clearly define the product scope (features and functions of the product, service, or the deliverable) which is all about the requirements.

In the Software/System Development Life Cycle (SDLC), business analysts are critical in the analysis phase. This phase is where most who perform business analysis spend their time with the ultimate goal being to get project requirements correct the first time.

In fact, the Microsoft Corporation has learned over time that for every incorrect, unclear, or incomplete requirement on a project, it costs them five to 200 times more to fix that project as it progresses through the SDLC.

How do business analysts fit into other organizations?

It’s important to note that business analysts may or may not work on projects, depending on how they are used in an organization.

Sometimes, business analysts are responsible mainly for identifying opportunities for improvement. At other times, this kind of enterprise analysis is done at higher levels in the company by senior management or by specific departments, and then a business analyst is brought in when there is a project already planned to gather, write, and manage specific requirements.

A business analyst is also engaged after a project is initiated, most often to assess and validate a solution against the business requirements.

Other companies often use a project manager to perform business analysis. Small to mid-size companies frequently don’t separate these positions; instead one person must do both. This is one reason why Ready2ACT has so many project managers attending its business analysis classes and business analysts attending its project management classes.

In our experience, project managers who learn business analysis report a higher level of success at defining project and product scope. As a result, this gives them more control over scope changes throughout the project and increases the probability of completing projects on time, at or under budget, and to the complete satisfaction of their stakeholders.

To some, it’s more than a hat: it’s a profession.

Business analysis is a profession designated and standardized by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Similar to Project Management International (PMI), the IIBA sets the global standard for business analysis practices and now offers a professional certification in Business Analysis: the Certified Business Analysis Professional, or CBAP. These generally-accepted practices are contained in the BABoK, which is organized by the six knowledge areas (vs. PMBOK’s nine).

Because IIBA was only established internationally in 2006, it does not yet have the same level of recognition that PMI has. However, it has 90 chapters worldwide and endeavors to follow in the footsteps of PMI’s success by elevating Business Analysis as a profession. Like the PMP, IIBA’s CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) certification is ISO-compliant, and is a rare certification so far with only 1,200 practitioners certified worldwide out of 12,000 IIBA members (PMI has 334,019 members and 412,503 PMPs).

According to a 2010 survey completed by the International Association of Business Analysis (IIBA), business analysts make an average of $82,493 per year, with a CBAP averaging about $89,667 per year.

Since a growing number of companies becoming more aware of this profession and its CBAP designation, you may find that it to be a condition of employment for some job openings. At the very least, having standardized training and earning a CBAP can set you apart from the pack when job applying for some positions.

By Tiffany Dahlberg

The Author has over 20 years of experience in helping organizations to manage their businesses more effectively by improving their processes and communications.The article on indicates author’s knowledge on the same. She has contributed to the success of several Fortune 500 companies
She also teaches management courses for both undergraduate business and MBA programs at University Level.

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