Interview Questions for Business Analysts and Systems Analysts

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How do you ensure all business processes have been accurately identified and captured?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 6197 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Domain Modeling, Data Analysis & Modeling


This is a common challenge faced by business analysts. To that end, how can a business analyst ensure that ANY discovery process yields complete results?  The short answer is to use multiple complementary techniques to approach a problem from different angles where each validates the other and fills any gaps in the discovery process.

There are software tools that can automate the discovery and documentation of business processes. This is usually referred to as process mining. However, until these tools become more accessible to smaller companies (lower cost) many business analysts will need to rely on a manual discovery process.

To ensure the complete discovery of all business processes a business analyst should focus on not just processes, but also business entities and data flows.

Processes take inputs, do something to add value, and produce outputs. These inputs and outputs can be data, information, products, or work deliverables. There is a well known diagram, called a SIPOC diagram, that reinforces this concept. 

SIPOC stands for Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Consumer. The supplier provides the process inputs. The supplier might be a database or business worker and it can be internal or external to the organization. The process takes the inputs and does stuff to add value. Then it generates outputs which are consumed by the consumer (another person, process, or database) for later use.

Some processes will be easily identified on their own, but by switching our focus to the information that is important to the organization we can discover other processes that may have been missed.  Business information and data are almost always an input or output of a process.  Otherwise, why does the data exist in the first place?

A Business Entity Model (also known as a Concept Model or Logical Data Model) can help us document and understand the important information or "things" of our business.  For a mortgage business, this might be things like Borrower, Loan Application, Credit Report, Credit Decision, Underwriting Decision. Each of these business entities have attributes which describe them. For instance, the Borrower entity may have attributes of First Name, Last Name, Phone Number, Date of Birth, etc. For most of the discovery process, understanding the business entities is enough.  Though it may be necessary to document some of the key attributes as well. A great place to discover the business entities and attributes of the business is to review APIs and database tables. Of course, this will reveal the physical data structures.  These need to be translated into logical data structures that more closely reflect the way the business thinks about things.  Still, APIs and databases are a great way of discovering relevant business entities. Next, we can use the business entities and attributes to discover new business processes that we may have missed.

Data Flow Diagrams can be used to show how business entities and their attributes flow into and out of processes as inputs and outputs.  The Data Flow Diagrams connect it all together.

By using an iterative process, we can document business entities which, by virtue of being an input or output to one or more processes, help us discover other processes we may have missed.  And similarly, we can use the processes, along with the inputs and outputs of these processes, to discover new business entities we have missed.  With each iteration we fill any remaining gaps in our discovery process.

Chris Adams
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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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