Fundamental Tools and Techniques Every BA Should Know
Business analysis is often described as the translation of business requirements into solution requirements. It sounds easy, but there are many steps and techniques used to get the final solution requirements.
To keep things simple let us categorize the work into three main categories:
- Understanding the business goals,
- Understanding the current state and
- Defining the required changes.
Understanding business goals is critical to being a good business analyst, as part of our job is to keep our team, both the business and IT, on the road to success. At this point, we’re trying to define why everyone is doing what they are doing.
The techniques we are likely to use are workshops and interviews to gather the information. The output will likely be a business case, an epic, or some sort of charter that indicates the goal state of what should be done. This is likely to happen when we start creating a stakeholder list to understand who is affected and who we need to contact, reference, or keep up to date. As the initiative continues at this point, we will prefer to keep it simple and the tools could be very text-based, like Word, PowerPoint, or maybe Excel.
We then need to understand the current state of affairs and the techniques or tools we use are very dependent on the type of changes that are to be made here.
We could start with big-pictures, mind-maps, or contextual models that basically represent the landscape. We get an idea of the different parts of the organization that are affected by the area to be changed. The tools here can include various general-purpose modeling tools like Visio, Lucidchart or Draw.IO, PowerPoint can also be used if the model does not become too heavy.
Now interviews, document analysis workshops, and other activities can be carried out, with which essentially the required information can be collected. Collecting and documenting this information must ensure that everyone involved understands how things are currently working and that they ultimately serve to point out the areas that need to be changed. Here we’ll see the big challenges for business analysts like process models, decision models, business rules, data models, data flow diagrams and so on. Again, we can use the general-purpose modeling tools like Visio, Lucidchart or Draw.IO. and many more. For almost all models, we can also use specific business process modeling tools, such as Bizagi.
The real value of all this work comes when we get to the next step, which defines what needs to be changed. We need to work with stakeholders again. Have workshops, interviews, focus groups, and other collaborative activities to understand what should change and who will be affected by the changes. The business process may need to be changed, and then all applications that support the business process may need to make some changes as well. We may also need to make changes to the data, or how the data is collected or moved. Any applications that interact with this data or business processes that we use may also need to make adjustments. Here we analyze the models that we have created and create future states of these models, which we can use to identify the areas in which changes are needed. In addition to modeling, other techniques can be impact analysis, root cause analysis, and business process simulation, using BPMN tools like Bizagi for example.
These changes are to be documented as business requirements, functional requirements, use cases, user stories, wireframes, prototypes, acceptance criteria and much more. Here, too, we do not need to overcomplicate and use tools such as Word PowerPoint or Excel.
In the market there are a number of tools for business analysis and one will find a lot of opportunities to further improve in traceability, change management, visualization, collaboration, etc. These tools can help a lot through the entire development life cycle. Looking at the variety of choices, one might get confused. Let us not forget that clear communication is crucial for the Business Analysts’ success – using the tools the other stakeholders are also familiar with is supportive in this respect.
Always remember, when in doubt – keep it simple.
– Peter Kalinov
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