An Introduction to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK 2.0)

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Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK 2.0)The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK ® 2.0) is the definitive guide to the profession of business analysis. Every business analyst can profit from it, and few analysts can afford to be without it.

The guide describes itself as "a globally recognized standard for the practice of business analysis" written for the purpose of defining "the skills and knowledge that . . . a skilled practitioner [should] demonstrate," and it does just that. Remarkably thorough-yet flexible enough to apply to any industry or analyst's skill level-BABOK ® is for all organizations and regions of the globe.

A working knowledge of BABOK ® empowers business analysts in multiple ways:

  • Analysts will have an authoritative, concise encyclopedia of what they are expected to know in order to be considered knowledgeable and competent.

  • Analysts will stay on the cutting edge of their field, knowing that they are familiar with the most current practices of business analysis.

  • Analysts are exposed to an inclusive list of techniques and concepts, along with details regarding their successful implementation. Analysts who have a working familiarity with BABOK ® 2.0 can be confident that they have a broad knowledge of the methods and tools available to them to successfully complete their work.

  • Since the guide is global, it offers a comprehensive overview of the entire business analysis profession, regardless of region or industry. (This is especially helpful if you're isolated within one field or organization. Do analysts who are in banking in France, for example, know special techniques that analysts in the U.S. software industry do not know, but could benefit from?) Analysts who grasp BABOK ® will understand the techniques and skills that experienced analysts around the world are practicing.

  • It's essential preparation for the CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Practitioner) designation. BABOK ® 2.0 forms the basis for the CBAP exam, so if an analyst ever wants to be certified, no time spent reading BABOK ® is wasted.

BABOK ® also serves as a common denominator across the profession, setting a consistent standard of what business analysis encompasses. To that end, BABOK ® is broad-defining requirements, tasks, stakeholders, and competencies in such a way that they can be applied within any business.

Note that BABOK ® is no substitute for real-world experience or formal education courses. Just as a would-be doctor could not read the Physician's Desk Reference Guide and be equipped to practice medicine, a would-be analyst cannot read BABOK ® and start doing analyst work. For working analysts, BABOK is not a text book for how to practice business analysis, nor does it prescribe any specific methodology. But it is a remarkably comprehensive reference guide covering virtually every aspect of the profession (including all accepted methodologies) that working analysts are likely to turn to again and again in their work.

The guide's contents are structured much like a remarkably thorough requirements document. It devotes a chapter each to the "knowledge areas" of business analysis, including:

  • Business analysis planning and monitoring. This explains how to decide what you need to do to complete an "analyst effort" (in other words, how to plan your project). This chapter will help you intelligently decide which stakeholders, tools, tasks and techniques you will need to get the job done.

  • Requirements elicitation.This describes the interview and research process-how to best extract needs from stakeholders (and even how to recognize needs they don't know they have).Elements such as metrics (tracking the amount of time spent eliciting requirements) and elicitation techniques (prototyping and brainstorming are just a few) are among the topics covered.

  • Requirements management and communication.This describes how to identify business needs (the why of the project; whereas requirements are the how) and state the scope of their solutions. As the chapter notes, this is a crucial piece of the analyst's work. The authors cover the SMART criteria of measurement, along SWOT analysis and other measurement factors that make identifying this root cause data objective and tangible.

  • Enterprise analysis.This outlines the crucial (and sometimes political) process of keeping everyone in the loop and on the same page regarding your project's direction and progress.The chapter delves into such details as the requirements review and approval processes (including record-keeping).

  • Requirements analysis.This elaborates how to write/state requirements that will meet business needs. Key sections include methods for prioritizing and organizing your requirements, as well as the most beneficial techniques for requirements presentation (including state diagrams, prototyping, data flow diagrams, and process modeling, and more).

  • Solution assessment and validation.This details how to choose the best solutions for specific business needs (as well as assessing how well the chosen solution worked after its implementation).This chapter will help you understand risks, dependencies, and limitations that must be identified before proposing any solution.

Each of these subjects and others are thoroughly documented and examined, and best practices are defined. Stakeholders that are useful (or key) for each area are identified. BABOK ® covers everything from how office politics may affect your work ("Assess stakeholder attitudes toward and influence over the initiative. . . . Are personal agendas the norm?") to budgeting time to plausible ways to organize your requirements ("At a minimum, a high quality requirement exhibits the following characteristics . . ."). Virtually every relevant subject is covered.

Also, the examination of each subject is meticulously thorough. In the identification of stakeholders for example, BABOK ® defines no less than 9 other techniques through which stakeholders may also be identified, complete with stakeholder matrixes, diagrams, and maps. It includes processes and roles through which stakeholders may be identified, what you should look for in a stakeholder, the importance of the stakeholder role, a stakeholder's responsibilities, and more. This level of scrupulous detail is consistent throughout the document.

Each of the above chapters is organized to include a stated Purpose (why you need this), Description (what it is), Input (what you need before you can start the task), Elements (the pieces that go into the work), Techniques (ways to accomplish it), Stakeholders (who may be involved in this portion), Output (what you should have when you're finished). Most chapters are replete with diagrams and charts to help the reader grasp each concept.

Other equally relevant chapters BABOK ® 2.0 covers are:

  • Underlying competencies. This chapter describes behaviors and competencies common to good analysts, including such details as innovative thinking, learning one's business and industry, practicing good organizational skills, and ethics. (Rather that the structure outlined above, sections in this chapter are Purpose, Definition, and Effectiveness Measures.)

  • Techniques. This covers the myriad techniques that analysts use to accomplish their work, including (but not limited to) benchmarking, brainstorming, data dictionaries and glossaries, data flow diagrams, data modeling, decision analysis, document analysis, estimation, focus groups, functional decomposition, interface analysis, interviews, lessons learned process, metrics and key performance indicators, observation, organization modeling, problem tracking, process modeling, prototyping, requirements workshops, risk analysis, root cause analysis, scenarios and use cases, scope modeling, sequence diagrams, state diagrams, structured walkthrough, survey/questionnaire, SWOT analysis, and vendor assessment. (This chapter is structured with sections entitled Purpose, Description, Elements, and Usage Consideration.)

 Without limiting itself to any specific development method, BABOK is applicable to iterative or agile processes and so is inclusive of these and other recent methods.

BABOK, its authors note, is not a "methodology for the performance of business analysis." You won't find any dictates of how to do your job. But you'll find a virtual encyclopedia of possibilities for how you could do your job, with examination of every universally accepted component of business analysis. From planning how you'll identify your business needs and requirements to evaluating how well the process worked, BABOK covers it all. A business analysis glossary is also included.

Whether you're looking to launch your career or ensure that you are doing your very best work, BABOK ® 2.0 is an indispensable resource. A BABOK 2.0 PDF is available free to IIBA members and to non-members for $29.95 US. Bulk discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Print versions of the BABOK ® guide are also available at Amazon.com.

Author: Morgan Masters is Business Analyst and Staff Writer at ModernAnalyst.com, the premier community and resource portal for business analysts. Business analysis resources such as articles, blogs, templates, forums, books, along with a thriving business analyst community can be found at http://www.ModernAnalyst.com


Notice: BABOK®, Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®, IIBA®, and the IIBA® logo are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. CBAP® and the CBAP logo are registered certification marks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. Certified Business Analysis ProfessionalTM, EEPTM and the EEP logo are trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis.

 

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COMMENTS

ajmarkos posted on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 3:07 PM
Hi:

Basically, the BABOK 2.0 is largely a functional spec on how a Business Analyst is to create a functional (and other) spec. The "system" under consideration in this case being the set of interrelated tasks that a BA should perform.

What makes the BABOK 2.0 so fascinating is that it offers the reader a real life example of how the pros – those who lay claim to establishing a certification standard for Business Analysts - would organize a functional specification. Actions speak louder than words! A BA who wants to know what "really" needs to be done in creating a functional would be wise to evaluate how the BABOK 2.0 is organized.

So, what functional spec documentation technique was used to organize the BABOK 2.0? Answer: Input/Process/Output diagrams. Input/Process/Output diagrams are essentially Data Flow Diagrams, except they are not as strongly integrated. The cross numbering scheme that the handbook employs to try to tie together sections is confusing. (When you convert the BABOK 2.0's diagrams into Data Flow Diagrams, this is very evident.)

But the authors of the BABOK were insightful in recognizing that the system of interrelated tasks that a BA should perform is, to use DFD terminology, very asynchronous. That is that the tasks can occur in any sequence and that they can also happen simultaneously. (Such is the nature of most, other than smallish, manual (or automated) systems.) And, as only Data Flow Diagrams focus on the asynchronous nature of systems, they wisely went as close to using Data Flow Diagrams as they felt they could.

Funny thing though. From reading the contents of the BABOK 2.0, one would never get the idea that Data Flow Diagrams should be used for documenting larger scale manual (business) systems. One would get the impression that Business Process Mapping - which is very poor at handling asynchronous systems - would be the way to go. But, again, actions speak louder than words!

Tony Markos
ajmarkos posted on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 5:24 PM
Correction to my previous post:

The BABOK 2.0 represents a system of interrelated tasks that a BA might (changed from should) perform.

Tony Markos
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