The A to Z of Business Analysis
“What is business analysis?” There is no snappy ‘definition’ of business analysis, but we know it when we see it.
It is hard to answer this question directly, so let’s consider some of the key the elements and areas of concern that constitute business analysis.
Let’s start with the basics. Analysis means to investigate or examine something carefully in a methodical way. So to do analysis you need to pick an area of focus, study it, see where it leads, find the right people, ask good questions, consider all aspects, apply logic and reasoning and use the full range of tools and techniques at your disposal. When we create an over simplification of analysis such as “write user stories” or “draw swim lane diagrams” we loose the essence of the of analysis.
The ‘business’ part of business analysis means the whole organisation or enterprise. From top to bottom, inside and out. Everything; including the market and context it operates within, its employees, customers, systems, structures, strategy and processes. The not-for-profit and public sector sometimes struggle with the idea of their organisation as a business, but business analysis is equally relevant in every organisation and every sector.
‘Good BA with poor communication skills’ is an oxymoron. It is not possible to be a truly effective business analyst without good written and verbal communication skills, which you can tailor to the situation and the audience. Business analysis cannot be conducted in isolation, it requires collaboration. Collaboration is underpinned by good communication
Visual communication is critical for project success. BAs need to be able to distil an hours’ conversation or a 20 page document down to a number of boxes and lines, to build understanding, alignment and agreement. This often takes bravery, and willing to risk being wrong.
Empathy is a core component of Emotional Intelligence, which all BAs need to strive to develop. Empathy allows us to see different perspectives, mediate between groups and understand the full impact of the changes we seek to introduce in our organisations.
We provide a set of skills, process and techniques which support and enhance group working. This includes clarifying objectives, encouraging participation, practicing active listening and building commitment and ownership. These skills are not limited to a role within workshops, but an ongoing contribution BAs make to the success of change initiatives.
The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA)  has more than 120 chapters all over the world. The profession is truly global, and exists in every industry and sector. Stand tall in the face of confusion and ignorance of our profession, you are part if something big.
We recognise that everything is interconnected and interrelated. We know process improvement will effect people, and system upgrades will impact data. BAs must always keep POPIT ™  in mind!
By practicing an holistic approach to problem solving, we help our organisations address the real problems in the right ways.
Business analysis is obtaining, interpreting and presenting information. Business Analysts sometimes shy away from business information, and align themselves to process modelling rather than data modelling. Data and process are two sides of the same coin. Processes generate and consume data. Data must have a lifecycle and inform organisational processes such as decision making.
J Just enough and just in time
This has been a tricky transition for BAs. We like detail, rigour, even perfection. The acceptance that sometimes good enough is good enough is hard, and the concept of delivering a minimum viable product has taken some getting used to. We must continually challenge ourselves to avoid gold-plating and recognise the right thing is not always the best thing.
BAs need to be able to build up knowledge of a new business area, domain or industry very quickly. BAs should be brining business analysis skills and knowledge to the table, but rely on others to be the authority on subject matter expertise.
Continue professional development is critical for BAs. We are naturally curious and want to know more about our organisations, our professional discipline and how learning from other disciplines can help us improve the practice of business analysis. (So yes, we ask a lot of questions!).
BAs must cultivate curiosity and have a continual service improvement approach. Business analysis is a broad discipline, with so much to learn – we must encourage a growth mindset for ourselves and our organisations.
We go to lengths to separate wants from needs, and problems from solutions. BAs must navigate the political minefield of prioritising business needs; know when to challenge and when to concede, and remain objective and neutral as far as humanly possible!
Finding purpose, asking why, recognising assumptions and understanding what we are trying to achieve. Setting goals and objectives is critical to business and IT enabled change, BAs have a big part to play identifying problems and opportunities and agreeing objectives.
Process modelling, analysis and management is a key aspect of business analysis, but it is not the sum total of business analysis. Process analysis is a means, not an end. BAs must understand the purpose of process analysis, the value it offers organisations in terms of consistency, improvement, efficiency, training, knowledge management and competitive advantage.
In the time-cost-quality triangle, BAs are typically more concerned with quality, and PMs and other roles are typically more concerned with time and cost. Ensuring quality means ensuring that what is delivered addresses valid business needs and is fit for purpose.
Requirements Engineering is a professional discipline. It covers elicitation, analysis, validation, documentation and management (no ‘gathering’ in sight). Yes, anyone can write requirements, just as anyone can paint a wall. When you want it done right, you call in a professional.
Structured and rigorous stakeholder analysis is often overlooked. BAs have techniques to identify and analyse stakeholders and involve the right people in the right way at the right time.
Digital Transformation and IT enabled change form a key part of many change initiatives. BAs must have sufficient technology knowledge to understand the landscape, ask the right questions and identify options and issues. BAs must not be intimidated by the technology, just because they are not ‘technical’.
User Journey | User Story | UAT. BAs must really know the users, and champion user needs and views when they are not in the room. The BA must act as the conscience for the project on all decisions made.
By collaborating with stakeholders, BAs can co-create value in our organisations . This involves identifying where value might be offered, developing a solution and ensuing the value is actually realised.
W Work Package
We can analyse anything, but without agreed scope, timeframe and deliverables, the outputs we produce are unlikely to meet the expectations of others. Creation of a simple work package enables discussion on the focus and purpose of the business analysis needed.
UX and CX. These specialisms don’t exist in every organisation, so BAs need to be prepared to support projects and products in this space. By ensuring that non-functional requirements are brough into the conversation, we can ensure that expectations are understood and experience is considered.
Y “Yes, and…”
Typical BA responses to any question are often: “It depends…”, “Yes, but…” and “No.”. This has given us a bit of reputation for being negative/blockers. By reframing our natural responses to build on the ideas of others, we can bring forward our concerns in a constructive way.
(…and Skype, GoTo Meetings, MS Teams and more!). BAs have placed much faith in face-to-face, and now need the confidence to adapt our methods to be virtual-by-default.
Many professions operate without a ‘definition’. What’s the definition of a painter and decorator? Someone who does painting and decorating. Yes its self-referential, but we can all imagine what this involves. Let’s help our customers and stakeholders understand what business analysis involves, by demonstrating the breadth of what we have to offer.
 IIBA Chapters: www.iiba.org/membership/chapters/
 POPIT™: www.assistkd.com/knowledge-hub/business-alchemists-blog/reimagining-popit-model
 Delivering Business Analysis, Paul and Lovelock, BCS 2019: www.amazon.com/Delivering-Business-Analysis-Service-handbook-ebook/dp/B07XTM9LT9