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The Big BA Picture; A Landscape Without Limits

Over the last thirty years the role of the business analyst has become more and more important. While the Project Manager ensures progress, it is the analyst that has been hired to assist with the necessary thinking on behalf of management. Managers have plenty to think about regarding all the projects and goals that affect the business bottom line and their customers. The primary focus of the analyst is to know the business processes and identify possible improvements.

The fact is that while the PMI (Project Management Institute) was founded in 1969 and has more than half a million members worldwide, spanning 185 countries, the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) was established in 2003 and has about 22,000 members worldwide, with chapters in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Canada, Europe/Middle East, Latin American, Caribbean, and the United States. The comparison is telling as the role of the analyst has evolved out of the overwhelming amount of work the Project Manager saw as critical to project success. For the role of the Project Manager is centralized around managing time, budget, and scope. The role of the Business Analyst fills the organization’s need to know and identify goals, objectives, value-adds and measurements for the success of their projects.

The Business Analyst landscape is populated with every kind of business analyst you can imagine. There are:

  • Business Systems Analysts
  • Financial Analysts
  • Enterprise Analysts
  • IT Coordinator Analysts
  • Security Analysts
  • Technical Analysts
  • Research Analysts
  • And more

Each industry has its own flavor of analyst. Plus, every company has its own culture with variations of the usual artifacts that their analysts are hired to produce. The uniqueness does not stop there, as every civilization in the world has its own language. As some of us have observed, the non-verbal communication of shaking the head to indicate “Yes” or “No” means one thing in the United States and something else in India.

The entire landscape of analysts is very board. It stretches the breadth of the list of worldwide industries. There is Accidental & Health Insurance, Advertising Agencies, Aerospace/Defense, Agricultural, Air Delivery and Freight Services, Asset Management, Auto Manufacturing and Parts, and that is just the As. Other industries include Biotechology, Broadcasting (TV and Radio), Construction, Computers, Electronics, Energy, Fashion, Finance, Government, Hotel, Internet, Investment, Law Enforcement, Legal, Marketing, Medical, Music, Natural Metals & Materials, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceuticals, Publishing, Research, Retail (Food, Clothes, Toys, Furniture, Appliances), Services, Software, Sports, Wholesale, Wireless, and more. Of all of these industries the three highest profits earners are Money Centers and Banks, Drug Manufacturers, and Oil and Gas industries.

For financial management companies, like Amerprise, there are analysts on both the business side and on the technology side. Like all analysts, these thinkers leverage the organization’s methodologies and frameworks to determine what to utilize in creating the necessary deliverables. It is through thoughtful communication with the project stakeholders that an approach is formed to set the groundwork for accomplishing the results. Alignment with business processes, policies, and procedures is the analyst’s primary concern in the beginning stages of any project.

The next step requires that the analyst talk to all the subject matter experts about goals and objectives. If there is an IT aspect, there would be an analyst from the IT side to discuss automation opportunities based on their knowledge of the software and the technical experts who maintain the systems. The functional solution requirements then begin to take shape as these conversations occur and more information is evoked from the business-side stakeholders. The BA works to identify these IT capabilities and software/web functionality aspects to ensure a common understanding and set expectations.

Independent of organization or culture there is the expectation that the analyst knows the best ways to evoke the value-adds and basic benefits a project will create. Whether that analyst is strictly on the business side and has no interaction with technology, or whether they are a hybrid and have ideas related to technology, these competency distinctions are important to recognize. As many times the problems an analyst often walks into is the result of a business owner purchasing a software package for millions of users without first of all talking to the technology leaders who know their systems.

Recognizing these competencies are key to project success and that is why every team goes through a discussion about roles. On large projects a clear division of who is a business resource analyst and who is the technology resource analyst can help to clarify who has that expert knowledge. These roles are very important to ensure project progress and management when it comes to making decisions.

In this day and age, every company is on the Internet. Internet companies are largely about supply and demand, whether it is “Business to Business”, or “Business to Consumer” these companies employ analysts. Some are Inventory Analysts, others are E-Commerce Analysts, and then there are the Web Analysts that track the Internet activity based on “hits” from endless marketing and advertising efforts. In the Sports industry there is even a new job description known as a Player Analyst; an analyst that looks at athletic statistics of many talented athletes and creates teams based on the players strengths.

Regardless of which side the Business Analyst resides on, both sides are in a continual dialogue about process improvements and new ideas for creating value for their customers. These new ideas then have to be analyzed as part of a business case and then further defined to determine the size of the investment and the risks involved.

Sometimes analysts are instrumental in creating the business case. But, sometimes the analyst is engaged midway on a project or even after the first attempt has failed. If the idea is deemed feasible and the proof-of-concept portrays how the concept will satisfy more customers, which in turn shows the value that will grow the business, then the team is half way there.