What is Business Analysis?
You are forewarned.
This question can get yourself into a fist with your fellow business analysts.
Walk into any organization and ask the question for most roles, say project manager and you ask the question, “What do project managers do?” You would get a fairly consistent answer. Project managers fundamentally take control of the project and make them successful. Now you ask the same question to business analysts across the organization, “What do business analysts do?” and you would get many answers.
In many organizations, business analysts develop software requirements. In some organizations, business analysts develop management information system reports for senior management. In some other organizations, business analysts may be working on analyzing information and developing insights for management. While in a few organizations, they may be implementing standard software solutions such as SalesForce, SAP or Oracle, any other such packaged product. In some organizations, they may actually be testing the solution which is developed in-house are procured from outside.
Why such terrible confusions exist on the definition of business analysis in the industry?
Let’s look at a few definitions available to us for business analysis.
As per Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK Guide) from IIBA:
“Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. It a disciplined approach for introducing and managing change to organizations, whether they are for-profit businesses, governments, or non-profits. Business analysis is used to identify and articulate the need for change in how organizations work, and to facilitate that change.”
As per Wikipedia,
“Business analysis is a research discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a software-systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development.”
For the IIBA definition, if we apply the definition to consulting role or even project management role, will it really make any difference? Doesn’t look like.
Project managers and consultants also help organizations to come up with solutions and get them implemented. So, what’s the catch?
The catch, in fact, lies in the missing word between business and analysis.
The missing middle word in business analysis can be, needs, data, process, strategy, information, and possibly many others.
The definition given by IIBA is for business needs analysis. It is just one of the flavors of business analysis, not necessarily the whole gamut.
This reminds me of the story of six blind men and the elephant. Each blind person touches part of the elephant and describes the elephant as having those properties which are partly true but not fully true.
That is where we think the entire confusion has arisen. As long as we specify what aspects of business, we are analyzing then possibly it makes a lot easier for us to work and develop appropriate approaches.
What we generally refer to as business analysis, mostly it is business needs analysis or business data analysis. Business requirements could be to have a solution to a problem or a solution to enhance existing businesses.
Once the business requirements are known, we need to look at various aspects that belonged to the solution. We could actually start with a very high level of people component, process component, technology component, and a partner component. Any solution would typically involve people, process, technology, and partners. For technology component, we can further divide it as hardware, software, and networking.
Most of the guidebooks available on business analysis typically deal with software requirements analysis. Business analysis can be for a broader topic but at this point in time those of you who are looking at either studying for CBAP, CCBA, ECBA, PMI-PBA, CPRE or BCS BA, we essentially are looking at software requirements analysis.
Software requirements analysis involves the understanding scope of the software, dividing the scope into for the modules and sub-modules, developing detailed requirements for each of these modules and sub-modules. It also includes maintaining these requirements over the life of the project and beyond the life of the project.
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