Vague requirements can tank any viable product idea. How will the end product function well? Will it fulfill the user demands? What should the architecture of an app be?
The above questions are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more whys and hows you need to address before getting to the development phase. A business analyst is a key person to help you set staunch grounds for development.
Who is a Business Analyst?
Business analysts are professionals who drive positive change in product development by analyzing user needs, formalizing detailed project requirements, and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.
The role of business analysis is most crucial at the beginning of product development. In particular, business analysts help achieve a stronger alliance between your product vision and the market needs, plus help visualize the core business processes within the proposed solution. They also help determine which resources and capabilities you need to kick off the project. Using all the above information, business analysts help finalize the list of requirements for a future project and relay them to the development team.
The more detailed and defined the requirements are — the less open they are to interpretation. Respectively, the development team is on the same page with the stakeholders. In that sense, business analysts manage expectations by ensuring that developers understand what is expected from them and clients receive an end product that meets their specifications.
A business analyst is often a fluid role, though. Other team members may take over some of the BA responsibilities. The following roles can also perform some aspects of business analysis:
- Requirement engineer elicits, documents, validates and manages requirements.
- Process analyst outlines ways of improving business processes and automating them.
- Product owner communicates the product goals to the team, creates backlog items, and makes sure they are understandable to team members.
Business Analyst Responsibilities
The responsibilities of business analysts differ depending on the stage of the SDLC process. BA involvement is especially topical during the discovery phase or the planning stage of the SDLC process.
If either stage is skipped, the development process will likely get sidetracked. Why? The results of BAs’ groundwork — requirements gathering, solution analysis, backlog preparation — provide the whole team clarity on the project direction and improve further decision making. For example, how many people should work on the project or which tech stack is better.
During later stages of the SDLC, the BA role becomes more supporting, rather than directive. They oversee the team’s adherence to the predefined requirements and additionally clarifies them. However, rarely the team has all requirements right after the discovery phase, so BA keeps formalizing the extra ones for new Sprint plans.
Some of the tasks BA performs at the start and during the project:
- Communication with the client
- Eliciting requirements
- Business problem research and business case formalization
- Identification of main business processes
- Preparation of nonfunctional requirements
- Documentation of functional requirements
- Feasibility studies
- Risk assessments
- Competitor analysis
- Backlog management and prioritization
- Writing user stories
- Acceptance and evaluation criteria definition
- Facilitating estimation
- Roles and responsibilities matrix creation
- Detection of blockers and dependencies that interfere with task execution
- Change requests management
- Providing feedback on design definition
- Explaining business processes and requirements to new team members (mentoring)
After the final stages of project development, the business analyst:
- Measure solution performance: does it correspond to the company’s goals and objectives?
- Analyze performance metrics: what values does the product deliver to stakeholders?
- Assess solution limitations: what can prevent the app from meeting the business needs?
- Recommend actions to increase solution value.
Source: IIBA Business Analysis Survey
BA specialists use tools and techniques (or a mix of them) to perform the above-mentioned tasks more effectively. These techniques include:
- Interviewing, conducting surveys and questionnaire
- Backlog management
- Evaluating user cases and scenarios
- Benchmarking and market analysis
- Concept modeling
- Data mining and modeling
- Metrics and KPIs analysis
- Process analysis and modeling
These techniques enable business analysts to define requirements quicker, elicit comprehensive information from clients, and collaborate more effectively with the product development team.
Essential Business Analysis Skills
Despite business analysts being considered a supportive role in software development, their expertise and skills are crucial for establishing mature IT business processes across the board. BA specialists play the role of “translators” between the tech team and business stakeholders. They explain complex development notions to clients and then, vice versa, ensure that the development team is familiar with business processes and operations. Business analysts thus need to possess both strong soft and hard skills. Specifically, BA specialists require a deep technical background. It does not mean they have to be able to code on the same level as the developers. However, they should be familiar with development processes, programming fundamentals, and tools.
According to IIBA, to perform all business analysis tasks correctly, business analysts need to master the following skills:
- Analytical thinking and problem solving
- Systems thinking
- Conceptual thinking
- Communication skills
- Facilitation skills
- Negotiation skills
- High level of accuracy and detail
- Organizational skills
- Process modeling
Why the Role of a Business Analyst is So Important in IT Outsourcing Projects
In a nutshell, business analysts help ensure that the end product meets the set bar in terms of functional and market requirements. They add the most value during the initiation and planning stages of the project.
Did you know that 75% of organizations every one in three dollar spent on software development is wasted due to poor project requirements? Apart from financial loss, unclear requirements undermine the software development team’s performance, delay the release time, and affect product usability. Business analysts help prevent such scenarios by supplying all the involved parties with the data they need to effectively move forward.
Business analysis can add value at different stages of IT outsourcing engagement:
- Discovery: Formalize and document your product vision into a set of requirements and deliverables. Create a strong knowledge base for project estimation and kick-off.
- Planning: Ensure that your product vision and scope are viable. During this stage, a BA helps select the right tech stack and create an optimal system architecture.
- Launch: BA specialists write user stories, prioritize backlog items and help identify the Definition of Ready and Definition of Done.
- Work closure: Business analysts analyze if all the produced deliverables meet the initial requirements.
At Edvantis, we especially recommend having a business analyst on board for managed projects (end-to-end IT outsourcing engagements) and managed team model:
- Within the managed team, business analysts help our team to more effectively collaborate with you in terms of requirements specifications to ensure a higher pace and quality of work.
- Within the managed project, BAs are involved in the discovery phase and manage change requests. They elicit the initial requirements to create an approved scope of work that helps us provide accurate budget and timeline estimates. During the project, BAs also make sure the team’s work is compliant with the business requirements.
Business analysts are agents of change who, using data and BA techniques, seek to improve development processes, facilitate understanding of requirements, and simply help you release your product faster and with fewer reworks. They aim to bridge the gap between IT and business processes, keeping developers and stakeholders on the same page.
Ultimately, the BA team ensures that the end product is well-aligned with all the technical requirements and meets the set user needs. The above directly affects how successful the product will be on the market.
Planning a project? Contact us to receive more information on how our business analysis expertise can benefit your project!