Business Analysis For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Business analysis is a profession, or a set of methods, tools, and techniques, or a role, or a combination of all of these. Your role as a business analyst is critical for successful delivery of value to your customers, whether those customers are external or internal to your organization.

You can use business analysis concepts, tools, and technique across your organization to help it to respond quickly and effectively to changes in your world, your environment, your markets, your customer base.

You can use business analysis at multiple levels: the strategic level, the initiative level, and the operational level.

Good questions: The heart of business analysis

A good business analyst will ask a lot of questions. Your goal with these questions is to get everyone involved in your project or initiative and to get them all on the same page.

Consider ways to get the answers to (at least) these questions:

  • What organizational needs are you trying to fulfill?
  • What do you need to change in your organization to be successful?
  • What external forces or changes do you need to respond to be successful?
  • Who will be impacted by the change?
  • Who needs to be involved in the solution?
  • What is the context and the scope of the change and the solution?
  • What value will the solution provide? Is it worth the effort?

Levels of business analysis

You can look at business analysis from the perspectives of these three levels:

  • At the strategic level, good business analysis can help your organization determine which initiatives should be pursued, based on the current environment. As the business analyst, you help the business evaluate those initiatives against the vision, mission, and goals of the organization. You also help the business respond quickly to change.
  • At the initiative level, you need good business analysis practices to help your organization understand which features should be delivered with an initiative. You help the stakeholders in the organization prioritize its needs so that the initiative will deliver the value expected.
  • At the operational level, you need good business analysis to help the business determine the best processes, policies, procedures, and maybe even the best tools to use to deliver value to the organization.

If it sounds like business analysis is all around, or should be all around, that’s true. If you are a business analyst, you potentially have many diverse skills, processes, and tasks to fulfill.

You can use business analysis techniques and methods to help your organization provide useful products or services to your customers, to reduce costs, to pursue innovations, and to tackle tough problems.

Basic skills for good business analysis

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of techniques out there to help you perform excellent business analysis. But there are some basic skills you need to hone to be successful with these techniques.

Effective communication

You must be able to communicate with many different levels and areas in your organization. And, you should be able to deal with diverse personalities. You need to elicit information from your stakeholders efficiently, so you are not wasting their time, and effectively, so you get the correct information. Also, you’ll need to facilitate meetings and workshops that will drive out decisions and requirements.

A great way to work on your communication skills is to practice and to get feedback from trusted coworkers. Ask them how your communication is going and what you need to improve to get better at your communication skills.


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but not being curious could kill your progress at work! Do your research around your project or initiative. Ask a lot of questions, especially about the “whys” and the “whats” of the project or initiative.

Time management and organization

You will deal with many people and with a lot of information that you will need to make sense of, organize, document, and communicate.

Big picture awareness

You must be able to help your team or project understand its mission, but also help everyone understand the impact, dependencies, and relationships between the people and projects.

The macro view is a particularly important skill because you as the BA might be the only person with this crucial perspective. You’re the one who can keep efforts relevant, synergistic, and efficient.

Focus on the customer

You help your team keep the end customer in mind at all times, whether that customer is internal or external to your organization. You have to make sure that whatever you produce provides value to the customer and to the project you’re working on.

Understanding of different approaches to projects

Business analysis is key to excellent solutions, whether your project team uses a traditional approach or a more agile approach to developing solutions. Learn to adapt your requirements to the selected approach. With an agile project, you typically build out requirements in very small pieces, and the documentation is less formal than with a traditional project.

But no matter how you slice it, you still help your project team understand what problem needs to be solved, the risks involved, the impacts to people and systems, and what details are needed to produce the optimal solution and deliver value to your customers.

Business analysis involvement in projects

You can use business analysis skills and techniques across the life of a project or an initiative to help drive value for your organization.

While you can certainly perform the following project activities in a waterfall fashion (performing them one stage at a time), you can also perform them in an iterative approach (performing them in smaller pieces until the solution has delivered the expected value).

No matter how you approach the project, the following activities are essential, and you can support them with good business analysis practices:

Scope and plan the project

Your main focus at this stage is to ensure that the entire project team understands the scope and objectives of the project from the organization’s perspective.

What is the organization trying to achieve? What should the solution deliver for the organization and the customer? The objectives should be clear and measurable.

Help the team brainstorm the business risks of the project: What could go wrong if you don’t deliver the expected value? Your scope should help everyone understand what the project will and will not do.

You may be assisting a project manager with the scope and plan at this point. Your support and good questions should help drive a successful startup of the project. Include the business processes that the project will either build out or improve as part of the scope. This will give you your high-level business requirements.

Support stakeholders’ needs

You need to be able to draw out (elicit) the stakeholders’ needs within the business processes you identified in the scoping stage. These are the processes you will want to help make better, faster, cheaper, or perhaps they are new processes.

Whatever the situation, elicit the detailed requirements within those processes. Sometimes the processes have existing documentation, but more often than not, documentation either doesn’t exist or isn’t current or coherent!

Ask good questions regarding any problems within the current process, the data used within the process, the business rules that drive decisions within the process, and the steps or tasks needed to complete the process.

Develop a ‘picture’ of the solution

This picture could be examples, models, drawing, textual documentation, or a combination of all of these. Using the stakeholders needs described above, you will want to facilitate good discussion around the design of the appropriate solution for the organization.

You will help the team develop the specifications for the solution and ensure that it will deliver the expected value. You will ensure that the specifications of the solution can be traced back to the project scope and objectives.

Ensure quality within the solution

While some business analysts do help out with testing the final solution, it’s not really the main focus. The best way for you to assist in delivering quality solutions is to ensure that the requirements against which the solution is designed and developed are excellent. This will save time and money, as the higher the quality of the requirements, typically the higher the quality of the solution.

Good requirements also reduce the amount of spin and rework that can happen in design and development.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Ali Cox has decades of experience in business analysis, agile, project methodology development and training, and systems development. As lead expert in business analysis and agile for Netmind, she provides training and mentoring for businesses ranging in size from a single team to Fortune 500 companies worldwide.

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