Taking Business Analysis to the Next Level

Business Analysis can be an elusive term organizations and managers; most have a general understanding of the profession, but often do not fully understand what it means and what value it can offer to organizations. The perception of the role of the Business Analyst (BA) ranges widely, from note-takers all the way to high-end, highly sophisticated professionals.

The Business Analydescribe the imagesis profession has existed for decades, but began picking up steam in the early 2000’s as organizations began to realize that good Project Managers were not enough to bring success to projects. Communications failures between technical teams and the Business were considered the leading causes of project failure. The industry began to realize that it needed resources to act as the go-between for technical teams and the Business.

Since then, the Business Analysis profession has continued to grow every year. As its importance and popularity increased, the BA profession developed a myriad of books, templates, training and certification for BA’s to grow their career and their skills. While this material provided BA’s and organizations the benefit of a common vocabulary, it failed to provide what the industry truly needed – increased value for projects and operations.

Organizations today continue to post BA positions and bring in BA consultants without a clear expectation of the value that they are to bring. Managers need to seek out BA’s with the ability to provide real tangible value to their organizations overall.

It is time to look beyond the templates, and onto building a function in your organizations that takes Business Analysis to the Next Level. The following are a few core skills for moving in that direction:

1) Analysis

Analysis? Isn’t that what Business Analysts do anyways?  Not really!  There are many BA’s who know the templates, but there are few who truly understand analysis. First and foremost, analysis involves the ability to create structure from unstructured information. A good BA is able to sort through heaps of information coming at her from all directions and in many different formats. She must be able to weed out useless information and lead her team to focus on the information that is most relevant and valuable. Analysis means an ability to see the holes in the project solution that the Project Manager and the Project Sponsor cannot see. A good BA does not do analysis for analysis’ sake. The analysis must be efficient and directly tied to driving actions and decisions that accomplish the best possible final project outcome.

2) Momentum

Organizations often lean on the Project Manager to drive the project forward and the BA to focus on the solution. This textbook approach, in the real world, does not work. The project and the solution are tightly linked and the Project Manager and the Business Analyst are dependent on each other to get the job done well. Your organization needs BA’s who understand and have the motivation to drive momentum into your projects. This cannot be taught in a textbook. Momentum comes when a BA knows how to capture and document ideas, decisions, and action points in order to take the project to completion. A good BA is not a wall-flower. She has to pull information and ask hard questions, even if it is not convenient for IT staff. Your organization must seek BA’s who have the confidence and personality to analyze efficiently, decide which artefacts are needed, and then drive forward with getting the work done.

3) Documentation

Organizations must seek BA’s who have the aptitude and attitude for producing excellent documentation. Strong documentation, whether for requirements gathering, solution design, or for meeting minutes, is also essential for achieving momentum and clarity for projects. Organizations must ensure that their documentation is harnessing the Intellectual Property that their departments spend so much money to develop. Through an effective documentation practice, your BA’s will capture your department’s Intellectual Property to be used for a variety of valuable functions including; training, operations manuals, project implementation, future upgrades, and process improvements.

4) Visualization

Visualization helps stakeholders see the “as-is” state today and move to the” future” state tomorrow. Visualization includes the ability to create process diagrams and other graphs and charts that are often expected of most BA’s. Beyond these more common uses, visualization at the Next Level involves an ability for BA’s to engage their audience. A strong BA must create documentation that communicates messages visually, as well as through text. Through the use of visualization in meetings, your BA will use visualization techniques to create meetings and sessions that are highly engaging for her audience.

Your organization should look for Business Analysts with the ability to go beyond the textbooks. They must understand the problem and visualize the route to solving it. BA’s are not meant for analysis paralysis. They must be able to efficiently structure and communicate information that leads stakeholders to decisions and to action. A BA at the Next Level has her eye on the money; leading the solution to success and ultimately, value and profitability for her department and her company.

5) Common Sense

While it may not sound like a skill to take your business analysis to the “next level”, common sense trumps all technical skills. Common sense is required in a good BA who must be able to make reasonable decisions based on the information presented. She must also understand how to use her time reasonably, leading her team members to the most effective and efficient courses of action.