The Roles of the Business Analyst

What is a Business Analyst?

While business analysts are playing a pivotal role in the life of any organization, the business analysis profession is in relative infancy. What is expected of today’s analyst varies so widely from organization to organization and from project to project that it is neither possible nor practical to come up with a one-size-fits-all comprehensive description of what a business analyst does and the roles (s)he's expected to perform.

BA Roles/Titles

* Business Analyst

* Business Process Analyst

* IT Business Analyst

* Requirements Engineer

* Business Systems Analyst

* Systems Analyst

* Data Analyst

* Functional Architect

* Usability/UX Analyst

So what is a Business Analyst?

Let's start first by taking a look at what business analysis is.  Here's the definition found in the IIBA's BABOK v2 draft:

“…Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and recommend solutions that enable organizations to achieve its goals…”

The first thing you should notice in the above definition is that the business analyst works in the context of an organization (not necessarily a business).  The term "business" implies the ultimate goal of making money.  But there are other types of organizations whose primary objective is not to make money.  Such organizations include:  not for profit organizations, government agencies, community groups, associations, etc.  All these groups, including businesses use business analysts in the quest to achieve their respective goals.

So a better term for the business analyst would be "Organizational Analyst" as analysts are involved in identifying problems, needs, and opportunities for improvement at all levels of an organization.  Now, we are not proposing to change the name by which business analysts are called but just wanted to provide you with more insight into how broad the role of the BA can be.

The second thing you should notice in the above definition is that the role of the business analyst is NOT confined to just business solutions or just IT solutions; the BA's task is to define the solution which helps the organization achieve its goals.  There is a widely spread misconception among many which believe that every business analyst is involved in the development of IT systems.  That is not the case!  There are many business analysts who help the business improve the operational procedures, or business processes, or financial structure.

This makes it obvious, once again that the role of the BA can encompass a wide variety of responsibilities.

The following is an oversimplified diagram which shows what the business analyst might be tasks to do:

(Click image to see larger version.)

As you can see, the business analyst, depending on the organization, is expected to perform a variety of activities at various different points in time.

The reality is that there are very few people who can do it all – from cradle to gave. Most analysts are specialized and their specialization (focus) depends on the type of project, organization, skills, tools, etc.

This will probably always be a murky subject but we are beginning to see some very distinct variations in the roles (and titles) commonly associated with business analysis.

Here they are:

* Business Analyst

* Business Process Analyst

* IT Business Analyst

* Systems Analyst

* Data Analyst

* Usability/UX Analyst

Here are a couple of more titles which are often used in the industry and how they relate to the above roles:

* Business Systems Analyst – This term is often used to refer to the analysis professional who’s responsibilities start with requirements gathering and end with functional/technical specs. For the most part “Business Systems Analyst” = “IT Business Analyst” + “Systems Analyst”.

* Requirements Engineer (Requirements Analyst) – This term is often used interchangeably with the IT Business Analyst though many people see this role as being limited to requirements gathering and documentation. The reality is that there are no industry standards for the scope of the requirements engineer.  From experience, this term refers to a role that sits somewhere in between the IT business analyst and systems analyst.

Here is a graphical view of these roles and titles:

(Click image to see larger version.)

Again – the reality is that most organizations just give the BA any title they can come up with in a jiffy while the actual expectations can indeed very from project to project and team to team.


We invite you to provide your comments and views on this specific content and on the roles and titles for the Business Analyst.  


We welcome your feedback! 

Feedback => Roles of the Business Analyst
Average rating:  (3.9)
 Tech Analyst, 9/9/2013 
Reviewer: rp (Mississauga, Canada)
he is been very practical and this is what happens real-time.
 Student IT and PM, 7/20/2013 
Reviewer: Monique (Augusta, United States)
This article was an excellent break down of the roles of a BA's my concept was much more narrow. Now I can proceed with writing my assignment knowing which direction to take my paper.
Thank you
 Useful, 6/14/2013 
Reviewer: Donald (HCM, Viet Nam)
Thanks, this article is very useful
 Amazing Article, 2/4/2013 
Reviewer: Tejashwini B V (Bangalore, India)
Wonderful TRESSURE inform of Info.
Nice Article and very useful.
 An excellent article. , 1/15/2013 
Reviewer: Aman (Bham, United Kingdom)
A very good explanation of what the role of a Business Analyst is. Worth reading!
 Business Analyst, 9/27/2012 
Reviewer: Andy (London, United Kingdom)
I think this concerns its self with the IT aspect of business analysis when business are requiring BA's to be more aware of the strategic side of business!
 VmdNfNfj, 9/2/2012 
Reviewer: Nounou (dlQYvEMQO, Spain)
Just because you're a small buisness doesn't mean you don't need to track like the big boys do, and trust me it isn't that hard.#1 Write a mission statement so you and your whole team (even if it's just your spouse) can keep your eye on the mission AND tout that elevator speech when you get the chance.#2 Determine what your primary goals are for this year, and three years out. Make sure they are S*M*A*R*T goals. That means they need to be simple, measurable, attainable, results oriented, and time-framed.So for example, I want to make money. That's not a good smart goal. How about a better angle on that one. I want to make $45,000 gross receipts in twelve calendar months beginning 9/09 through 08/10.#3 Make a plan to reach those goals. It's true that what gets watched usually improves, but you are going to have to take action (that's the results part of the S*M*A*R*T goal). So, plan what you'll do, then do what you planned.#4 Measure progress. Decide how often you'll measure and measure against your goals. Usually monthly is good but for some small shops quarterly makes much better sense. Do what's right sized for your situation. A good way to not forget is to time this measurement with the timing of your sales tax returns or some other activity.#5 Enjoy the little wins. Celebrate sales, new customers, milestones . . . it's even more important to celebrate the little things in a little shop because you're all wearing a lot of hats. Don't forget to say Thank you Wishing you big success in your small buisness.
  Good reference , 7/2/2012 
Reviewer: Gowthaman Karunanidhi (new york, United States)
worth reading !!
 Great Synopsis, 6/14/2012 
Reviewer: Lawanda-Six Sigma Green Belt (Memphis, United States)
A great detailed high level overview. I like that it was simple, to the point, but informative at the same time.
I agree with a readers comment that the IIBA program is the key to a standard for BAs today.
 Issue in the article as per my perception, 4/3/2012 
Reviewer: Siba (hyderabad, India)
it is been mentioened that "the business analyst is NOT confined to just business solutions or just IT solutions" (in bold letters) but in the diagram/flow you have mentioned the implementation of New IT System, could you please support your statements
 Good Start, 3/15/2012 
Reviewer: Santhosh (Coimbatore, India)
i search every where to know about role of BA.great explanation.thank you modern analyst
 fundoo, 10/11/2011 
Reviewer: SK (Mumbai, India)
Simplicity is best policy
Proved Here
 12swa, 10/3/2011 
Reviewer: awerry (ks, United States)
blunt article
 Mr, 9/2/2011 
Reviewer: Krishnan (Chennai, India)
Very Good Information
 SleQfNgWgGAfcb, 2/15/2011 
Reviewer: canadian pharmacy (New York, Saint Kitts and Nevis)
Very nice post, good luck! ;-)
 A good reference, 1/27/2011 
Reviewer: Bob Sintzel (Ottawa , British Virgin Islands)
Just my opinion, but I believe you will find the IIBA BABOK v1 and v2 to be a respectable place to better understand the role of a BA

I've seen an astounding number of job postings for BA's that include everything from project management to C++ programming. That tells me there's a very long way to go before employers (or even project managers) agree on what 'exactly' a BA is and does. Until then, I'm staying with the IIBA as it has an structured approach to defining what a BA is and is gathering momentum as a credible and 'potential' standard-setting body via their BABOK.
 Good basic outline for those interested in the fie, 7/27/2010 
Reviewer: Sara Richards (San Francisco, United States)
This is an excellent, concise piece which is useful for people interested in the field or just getting started.

With job titles varying from company to company and no strict rule about the job spec that accompanies a set title, it's good to have these base-line parameters so individuals considering starting a BA career get an idea of where their interests and talents fall and then look for job descriptions to match that.
 left out architecture-related roles, 6/30/2010 
Reviewer: Anish-Babu Pillai (CAnberra, Australia)
Really good article. It might help if BAs understood the levels of knowledge associated with various levels of BA work.

RqM BAs are usually working at the entry level of the BA career-path.

BPAs and those who reengineer Business Processes are a couple of rungs up the ladder.

Strategic Analysis is probably the top-most in the hierarchy of BA task classifications.

And of course, as organisations, operations research and the management sciences evolve, there may appear several in-between levels too.
'understand what the business does and how it does it' as in the diagram above pretty much describes an aspect of Business Architecture known as Enterprise Architecture. BAs in this space usually do things like develop Capability Models (if in the Application or Technical Architecture area), or draft SDLCs for the Enterprise if in the ICT Governance Architecture area.

Such tasks require senior analyst-type experience and a good understanding of TOGAF, the Zachmann Framework and similar concepts.

There're also BAs who work in the Quality Assurance area - and they're not Testers.

They deal with Governance, Policy etc.

Such BAs are considered Senior BAs and such roles are found in large organizations - especially where the needs of the organization are constantly evolving.

Just my two cents' worth.

 Missing some tasks from top and bottom end., 7/20/2008 
Reviewer: Harris Lloyd-Levy (Sydney, Australia)
Great piece, it will be very useful for me as a strating point for conversations with sales staff on what different types of BAs do.

There's probably an item missing from the left-most end of what the BA does and it's related to developing the Business Architechture and working on long-term strategies.

I'd phrase it as "Understanding why the business does what it does, and how it should do it." This task really supports deciding which projects to initiate, building business cases, roadmaps, and the more "strategic" level.

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