Author: Katie Cubitt

A provider of custom software development and application design solutions - BBD’s over 30 years of technical and developer expertise spans the banking, finance, insurance, telecommunications, education and public sectors.
BATimes_OCT13_2022

To BA or Not To BA: Why Every Team Needs Business Analysts

The importance of having a business analyst (BA) on your team can’t be overstated. Acting as the bridge between stakeholders and technical teams, the BA wears many different hats. On any given day, a BA can be expected to work on a number of different tasks, whether that’s defining business cases, validating solutions, or even working with data (See this article on the role of BAs in an increasingly data-driven landscape). Able to straddle both worlds and speak the language of businesspeople and techies alike, BAs really are one of the most versatile members of the team.

 

The Story of an Ask

Many businesses are concerned with their ideal state, while the nitty gritties of how to actually get there are very much back of mind. “Often, the client is not able to fully explain what business problem they wish to solve and how to translate their business requirement into language the technical teams can understand,” explains Lizande Botha, a BBD project manager for a major financial services client in Africa “which is why BAs are a vital part of the process”. Put simply, BAs are responsible for translating a business ask into detailed requirements that can be understood and actioned by technical teams.

But how do we get to this point, when the ask itself is unclear? “The first question I tell the BA to ask the client is: What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” explains Botha, adding that the cardinal role of the BA is to ensure that the client ask is clearly defined. “For clients who really are unsure of what it is they want, the BA needs to keep digging and asking questions to truly get to the core of the problem” she adds.

 

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Once this key piece of information has been gathered, the BA can start drilling down into the different possible solutions, what the budget is for the project, and other confines or expectations the client might have. Understanding the requirements and clearly defining the scope of any given project from the get-go can be make or break – so much so that CIO magazine reports that up to 71% of failed software projects can be attributed to poor requirements. Thus, consulting with a BA at the start of a project can avoid potential stumbling blocks.

While this early engagement is vital, the job of the BA doesn’t start and end there. Leveraging rapport built with business stakeholders, they must check in regularly to provide progress updates, while ensuring that on the engineering side things are running on course and to the requirements of the client’s business. They’re even able to partake in platform or application testing. Truly, the BA’s impact is felt throughout the project lifecycle!

 

BBD’s Drive to Help and Resolve

BBD’s teams are all complemented with BAs who are well equipped with experience and a thorough understanding of the industry they’re operating in. As each industry offers complexities unique to its environment, BBD strives to best match their analysts to sectors where they can bring their experience and real-life learnings to the table, explains Botha. This is a high priority for BBD, a software solutions company which delivers software solutions for clients across the industry spectrum, from financial, education, public sector, gaming, and beyond. Assigning BA’s that already understand the nuances, jargon and processes of a particular industry enable us to expedite the solution process” says Botha

But beyond managing teams to ensure the best hands are on board, BBD is ready to tackle any problems their clients have. And when it comes to understanding what those problems are, BBD has BAs on call to bridge the client-engineer gap and ensure the success of all of their solutions.

Looking for a software partner to help you on your next ask? Get in touch with BBD.

 

Top Tools for Successful Business Analysts

In order to be a great business analyst (BA):

Knowledge of the business, understanding the technical aspects and a capability in the tools of the trade are all key to ensuring high-quality software is delivered on time and as per spec.

A complicated role, BAs within the ICT sector decode the client’s business requirements into carefully considered technical specifications that software engineers use to develop what the client is asking for.  

Nosipho Rakoma of BBD, a BA at a leading software development firm, explains that “many of the clients I’ve worked with have their own preferred tools. The trick is to immerse yourself in the client’s operations and be flexible in your knowledge and approach of the tools BAs can use”. She adds that although BBD favours an Agile mindset, project teams are encouraged to work in a manner and with the tools that are most suited to each client environment.

Here is a list of the top five tools BBD BAs love to use:  

1. Jira and Confluence

Jira and Confluence form part of the Atlassian stack and are powerful collaboration software programs that allow for an open and shared work space that helps you manage the details within a project without losing sight of the big picture.  They also enable you to create a single source of truth for your software documentation, while helping ensure easy communication between BAs, test analysts and the software engineers.  

Although originally designed for Agile development teams, this update-as-you-go software is useful for BAs no matter their team’s methodologies or mindset. Rakoma believes that with the world looking to Agile, aspiring and experienced BAs need to be comfortable with these types of tools.


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2. Microsoft Visio

As diagrams depicting project dependencies and schedules are an important element in a BA’s project manager or scrum master role, the Microsoft Visio diagramming tool is excellent for remaining on top of all of the moving parts within a project.

For everything from workflows to process maps and network diagrams, this powerful visualisation tool helps display and drill into the project elements. This is beneficial for BAs because it helps maintain a clear overall picture, and aids in easier execution and communication with both technical and non-technical team members.

As part of Microsoft Office, Visio shares functionality with Excel, Access and Word.

3. Enterprise Architect (EA)  

EA is a full cycle online modelling tool with built-in requirement management capabilities. Made for business and IT systems, it allows real-time, embedded development and the all-important version control. The beauty of this tool is that for distributed teams, where not every member sits in the same office, managing tasks, responsibilities and dependencies doesn’t become an issue.

4. HP QC

The HP Quality Center is quality management software boasting requirement and test management, and business process testing for IT environments. HP QC is a component of the HP application lifecycle management software solution set and is good for day-to-day tasks. Although face-to-face time is important in development teams, some BAs find this tool especially helpful because it can often help save time so that your meetings are only about what’s most necessary (you know, for all those times the meeting could have been an email).

5. Video conferencing

Because you don’t have to be in the same location to deliver, and often aren’t, video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Appear.In and Rocket.Chat can be exceptionally helpful for project delivery teams. Because BBD has a global footprint, with teams sitting in different countries, video conferencing makes daily stand-ups and team meetings that much easier. Additional tools worth a mention include Trello and Excel.

Rakoma concludes that change is hard, and changing your toolset is especially so. But there is truth to the adage that if you’re not changing then you’re not growing because growth in the ICT sector means more opportunities. 

Imagine a world without BAs

Imagine a client is looking for a bespoke software solution in a world without business analysts (BAs).

The developers believe they understand what the clients or business users are looking for, while the users have their own expectations of how the project will ultimately turn out.

“This is not really a winning recipe for successful delivery” states Patricia Draper, an executive at BBD, a leading software development company.  

The scenario above isn’t impossible to imagine, and it happens more often than you think. Why? Because BAs play the role of translator in the software development life cycle (SDLC), enabling the effective conversion of the business user’s needs into technical specifications that the developers use to build the most appropriate solution. Draper explains that without this ‘meat in the sandwich’, the business logic isn’t clearly defined. The more precise the requirements are, the less likely reworking is needed on the development side. Ultimately, knowing the business as well as the client means a smoother process for the whole team.  

The other important function BAs fulfil is project management or stepping into the role of scrum master. As logical, detail-orientated problem solvers, BAs not only outline the initial specifications, but co-ordinate all the moving parts and teams throughout the SDLC, thereby removing most impediments. This process involves numerous tools such as JIRA and Confluence, Microsoft Visio and Excel, Zoom, Enterprise Architect and Trello, to name but a few.


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Because BBD has adopted an Agile mindset, the focus for each project team is on working software and client interactions rather than exhaustive documentation. This way of thinking informs how our BAs are adaptive to working in a manner that is most beneficial to our clients. “BBD isn’t prescriptive. Having our BAs as a flexible fulcrum for the management of the task, people and project as a whole, helps ensure that the business logic and user requirements stay top of mind.”

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is the working relationship between developers, BAs and the client. Like any good relationship, it’s one built on trust. While the BA has to be technically aware, they are not expected nor presumed to be, a technology expert – that’s the developer’s realm. Draper adds that BBD BAs are so good at their job because they ‘speak developer’.

Despite this, a clear understanding of the solution will aid the BA in knowing what is possible; avoiding fanciful requirements and impossible expectations. Similarly, a developer need not be a whizz in the business domain and should rely on the BA to provide the necessary understanding or knowledge of the problem being solved. BAs also shouldn’t be afraid to run thoughts and ideas past the development team.

Remember, solutions are built as a team. Draper explains it as all coming down to the working relationship between the analyst and the developer; the better it is, the more timeous the delivery and better quality the solutions are.    

The software development world without BAs would be rife with unmet expectations, unhappy clients and frustrated developers. Draper concludes that any software development house would want to avoid this outcome, and for BBD, BAs are simply non-negotiable in their teams.