Unlocking the value of business analysis

Posted by Katie Hannah, Business Analyst on 22 November 2016

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business analysis webWhat does it mean to be a Business Analyst (BA) and how does business analysis add value to projects and business initiatives?  Although business analysis has been around for some time, it still seems to be considered by some to be rather loosely defined. While the majority of people agree on the importance of the BA role within an organisation, few truly grasp what it is a BA actually does. Perhaps this is because when a BA is good at their job, the benefits they bring are often masked. Nobody sees the time, effort and cost that has been avoided.

Business analysis: between art and science

There are of course many definitions that can be applied to business analysis: ‘bridging the gap between the business and IT’; ‘enabling business change’; or simply ‘solving problems’. However, business analysis skills probably sit somewhere between art and science. The art of good communication in order to draw out requirements and the science associated with making sense of, or assimilating the information that has been acquired.  In other words, the BA’s role is to uncover the gap or need that a company or project is trying to fill (even if the customer can’t fully articulate what that gap is) and then to provide a robust framework and/or a roadmap to achieve the desired outcome.

You may be forgiven, therefore, in thinking that the BA plays a starring role early on in the project initiation processes.  You’d be mistaken!  It is not unusual for a BA to be called upon late in the process, often once a solution or plan has been agreed. All too often, at this stage expectations have been set and challenging these would upset the proverbial apple cart on many levels. 

The earlier the better to engage a BA

So, is there a right time to engage a BA’s services?  We believe so… as early as possible!

By thinking ahead and spending a little energy and forethought up front, the BA can bring much more to the table than a standard methodology or pricing estimate. As an impartial contributor not tied to a particular technology, tool or practice, the BA is able to step outside the box and look back with a clear head and in doing so contribute in a balanced and unbiased way.

It’s common for organisations to jump to the conclusion that the only way forward is to throw money at a shiny new system of some sort.  Given the opportunity, a skilful BA can validate - or otherwise - a perceived business need by exposing the possibilities and limitations of the current state. They can then suggest ways in which to improve and transform existing processes and systems prior to an organisation making any new investment decisions.

Crossing business functions and processes

As projects increasingly require a multi-disciplined team with an awareness of many business functions and processes, engaging a BA as early as possible makes more and more sense. When the BA is included early on in a project they are in a position to ensure that proposed solutions meet the business requirements, are measured and align with the business needs and expectations.  The BA can then continue to add value throughout the solution lifecycle by reducing risk and complexity and ensuring that standards, procedures and governance are all adhered to.

Add value through collaboration

However, it is clear that the real value a BA brings lies in the synergy that is created when working collaboratively with others. The BA sees the bigger picture and can be invaluable when it comes to dealing with conflict, building robust internal relationships and encouraging creative problem solving.

When a BA is engaged early as an integral part of the project team, whether it be system-based, process-based or both, the potential for project failure and any expensive over run or rework is significantly reduced. At the same time, the likelihood of the project being successful and business objectives being met is markedly increased. A win all round!

If you want to know more about how Optimation's expert business analysts can help you reduce risk and deliver more business value from your projects, please contact us for a chat.