As a practicing business analyst, trainer, and consultant for the last 25 years, I have come across many business analysis tools. I was forced to use some of these tools because my clients and organization mandated some of them. I do read a lot of blogs and articles about which business analysis tool is used extensively by industry. Many of them appear to be simple marketing propaganda by the tool vendors (or copy-paste from someone else’s blogs) saying that the particular tool is the greatest tool for business analysis.
Fundamentally, we need the following types of business analysis tools:
To track requirements
Describe requirements in certain detail
Model requirements wherever feasible
One can get a toolset literally free for all these types of requirements. Here is a true list of the tools that I have used extensively. I have no intent to please or promote any specific tool or organization.
Top 10 Business Analysis Tools
I am going to start with the number 10 on my list and go down to number 1.
#10 Star UML
The tool I look forward to, for any UML diagram, is StarUML. I have a version on my system which is free, but which I believe is no longer free over the internet. StarUML is a pretty simple software to learn to draw use case diagrams such as the Class diagram, State diagrams etc. In case your company is still in the waterfall world, you will find the StarUMLto be a pretty useful tool to develop all kinds of UML diagrams.
Google voice typing is indeed a boon for me. I am a pretty bad typist and I used to have a terrible experience in trying to create documentation. With Google voice typing that pain is gone. In fact, this blog you are reading was created using Google voice typing. The same amount of documentation if I would have tried to do using MS word or any other tool, probably would have taken me 4 times more time and 10 times more effort.
#8 Google drive
Another neat software from Google allows us to share documents in a secured manner. It practically offers unlimited storage capability and for about $3 per month. You get humongous space to store and share your project artifacts.
Screencast-o-Matic is a very little-known tool, but I found it extremely helpful. As business analysts, we need to ensure that all the discussions that we have with our stakeholders are recorded and kept for future reference. Screencast-o-Matic does a fantastic job of recording our discussions and keeping them stored in a place like YouTube which we can access anytime later. One can make the YouTube videos private so that only your team members and stakeholders are able to access the videos. No more missing discussion points and no more worrisome fact that we missed noting down something during a discussion.
Skype is again a wonderful tool for remote working and collaboration with stakeholders. Today end users, developers could be in any part of the world. A tool like Skype allows us to coordinate and collaborate seamlessly irrespective of where we work.
BizAgi is another free tool that I really love. It’s very simple to use and is extremely powerful when you wish to draw business process models. The good part about BizAgi is that it also generates fantastic documentation in MS Word.
#4 MS PowerPoint
You will read that a lot of people are saying death to PowerPoint and all kinds of stuff, as to how evil PowerPoint is. The fact is MS Office is not going to go away from corporate life in the near future. Businesses need communication and presentation. Nothing beats PowerPoint at this time to share our ideas with our stakeholders.
#3 MS Word
Among the Microsoft tools, I possibly hate MS Word the most. I somehow find it extremely hard to work with. I cannot work as effectively with MS Word, as with MS Excel or MS PowerPoint. Still, MS Word is the most popular word processor that stakeholders continue to use and hence we must be familiar with creating documentation using MS Word. The amount of BA documentation that is done using MS Word has come down dramatically over the last 20 years, but still, when MS Word will be a good tool to capture ideas, notes, and discussions for a foreseeable future
#2 MS Excel
This is my favorite MS tool. I do my entire BA documentation using MS Excel. I create wireframes using MS Excel. I use an extended data matrix to understand UI requirements. If you learn to use Excel well, I bet you will definitely fall in love with it. It is quite a powerful tool for many things that any BA wishes to do including requirements management, user interface development, traceability matrix, etc.
Finally, nothing beats Google search. Anytime you get stuck as a BA, you need some help, you need a particular template, just do a Google search. Any BA who learns to leverage Google will be a Super BA.