What is a Business Analyst?

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Today the term Business Analyst is synonymous with a career in the IT industry but the most successful and valuable analysts are those who understand the 'business' rather than those who understand IT. So what exactly is a Business Analyst? What is the Business Analyst’s role? What is the best background for this job? What skill set is required? What type of person is the best fit? What training is required and available?

Each organisation seems to have its own ideas about the role, skills, responsibilities and expectations of the Business Analyst. Given the importance of the job, a common definition would assist both practitioners and employers. We explore some of the issues here.

Written by Derrick Brown, IRM's Director and instructional designer, it shares first hand observations and experience gained from training thousands of Business Analysts since 1980, first in the UK and since 1984 in Australia.

Author: Derrick Brown

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COMMENTS

dlsmith posted on Friday, December 19, 2008 5:13 AM
Based on 4+ years in my current Company, Derrick has got the role of a BA pretty much spot-on. Here, Analysts tend to work on a project throughout the full lifecycle, so gather requirements, design, test (or manage testing), and then manage the implementation.

I was surprised how little workflow (process) modelling takes place. In my mind process modelling goes a long way towards identifying the real requirements, not just what the customer thinks they want, or how they think the end-users work.
stephen.gibbs@worldonline.co.za posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 7:56 AM
the article correctly identifies that BAs are often involved in justifying solutions. An important aspect of the busness case is the (business performance, financial, and technical) feasibility of the solution. However, the supplementary skills diagram does not specifically provide for these type of suplementary skills in the development of business cases. I would suggest that the diagram needs an additional block decision support modeling.
Use case modelling is very important in the context of helping to define business and functional boundaries and domains, but stops short of providing all that is needed for decision support. A separate level of modelling skills is needed to: develop a feasibility understanding of a solution, and translating this into financial impact.
I would also include risk assessment skills in this group of skills. Many projects go horribly wrong too late because risk management is not built into the project plan. A good BA will ensure that high risk projects have multiple go - no go decision points to ensure that stakeholders take decisions to proceed a project stage in with an understanding of the risk being taken.
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