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22 September 2022

The why, how, and now of untapped value with Business Analysis

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Sallie Holt

Business Analysis can feel like a much-maligned profession. As a BA, I can’t tell you how many times my friends and family will look at me blankly and say, “yeah, but what do you actually do” never mind the colleagues I’ve worked with, even those in tech, who will say “yeah, but I don’t even know what a business analyst does”.

The profession has been around since the invention of the computer but became more widely spread as technology advanced. Technology has pervaded our lives and as such, Business Analysis is now spread into every aspect of modern business.

In this article, I’ll provide clarity on what a Business Analyst does, provide some tips on how Business Analysts can be more successful in their role, explain how collaborators can get the most value from a Business Analyst, and list some suggestions for how to best utilise Business Analysis practices in a hybrid-working world.

How to be successful in your Business Analyst role

Business Analysis roles span a wide variety of areas within modern businesses and as a result, can vary greatly in terms of what a typical day might look like. As exciting as this is, it can also make it difficult for a business analyst to be effective and conversely, for you to get effective business analysis output from your BA’s. So, what can be done about it?

Get clear expectations on your tasks and duties

As a BA when arriving on a new project, seek an understanding of the main tasks and duties you are expected to perform. Be flexible and open. This can sometimes be a “hearts and minds” exercise at first until you are able to really prove your value to the team.

Consider challenging your expected duties to provide as much value as possible

But also, be prepared to challenge (appropriately) if the tasks and duties you’re asked to perform are essentially the admin tasks that nobody wants to do. Highlight that the team is employing a person with a set of professional skills that when utilised effectively can provide much more value to the successful project delivery.

For example, having a record of how client requirements evolved with client sign-off at each change is far more valuable than a set of neatly written up minutes.

How to get the most value from a Business Analyst

For other tech professionals, when a Business Analyst arrives in your team, think about how you can best utilise them on your project. As above, BAs are not minute takers.

Create a Stakeholder wheel or a Power Interest Grid before a big client meeting

Have an important client meeting coming up? Business Analysts can add value by creating a Stakeholder Wheel or a Power Interest Grid (P.I.G.) beforehand so that you and the rest of the team can understand what matters most to your client and how to keep them happy. These efforts can significantly improve the chances of your meeting ending as positive as possible.

Use visual representations to explain project details to your Engineering team

If you’re working with a team of Engineers, it can be very useful to enlist a Business Analyst to create a visual representation of how a new set of tooling works to help engineers grasp how to build something and show where sticking points might exist.

In the same vein, an Entity Relationship Diagram is a valuable tool that Business Analysts use to illustrate how entities such as people, objects, or concepts relate to each other within a system and what their attributes are.

Using a Business Analyst to create visualisations for your team of Engineers can help ensure that your client’s needs are prioritised, all involved are on the same page, and can also prevent mistakes from miscommunications.

In a world of choice, clarity of expectations is at the heart of a successful, mutually productive relationship.

Both Business Analysts and collaborators are responsible for extracting value

If a Business Analyst is constantly booking meetings, taking minutes, and chasing up actions, then they are being massively underutilised. It’s like using a laptop as a typewriter. Yes it can perform that task well, but it can do so much more. This is the same for Business Analysis.

Business Analysts must know their value and how their skill set can be used.

It’s essential that Business Analysts understand how their skills can be used to benefit a project and help bring a greater understanding of this to their project collaborators. Without this, you’re surely leaving untapped value on the table.

Business Analysts need access to understand how to add value to a project.

A thorough evaluation at the start of a project is important so that Business Analysts can successfully use their professional judgement to add value. They’ll need to speak with Stakeholders and Project & Delivery managers to really understand what is being delivered and what challenges exist.

Collaborators should think seriously about what they need from their Business Analysts.

Rather than absentmindedly tasking your Business Analyst with something, it’s useful to spend time thinking honestly about the value you want from them and how they can best support the project.

For example, here are some questions you might consider:

  • Are your requirements clear?
  • Stories well written?
  • Do you know who your key stakeholders are?
  • Are they advocates or detractors of your new service or project?
  • Does anybody know how the widget gets from the factory to a customer’s office?
  • Where are there breaks in the chain?
  • Are there any opportunities to make this easier, or faster?
  • Is the journey mapped?

These are the things a Business Analyst can give you to bring you the most value.

How to best utilise Business Analysis practices in a hybrid working world

Use BAaas when you need it, rather than full-time on a project.

BAaas aren’t just for sheep! Sorry. Business Analysis as a Service. Despite the common belief, you don’t need to have a Business Analyst work on a project full-time. Instead, you can utilise a solution from your Business Analysis As a Service offerings catalogue for whichever stage of the project you are at and only when you need it to keep your costs down and clients happy.

For example, Requirements Elicitation Workshops take a few hours pre and post, along with the workshop itself, making in total about a day’s time. The output of this workshop would generally give you some excellent project artefacts, documentation, and a clear set of requirements that you can start to work towards and get board sign-off for the next stage of your project. Once the workshop day has been spent, you can then continue to work on the project without incurring further BA costs and releasing the BA to go deliver something similar in another area of your company continuing to add value. Then perhaps once the development work starts you might have a 6-week block of time where you would like the BA to perform the requirements lead role for you and be involved in the day-to-day project ceremonies whilst the project delivers. So, you would once again employ their services on this basis.

Clearly define your set of Business Analysis services.

This type of approach requires a clearly defined set of Business Analysis Services and a mature BA Practice at your company. Business Analysts need to know how the aspects of the service are delivered and what the company standard is.

Crucially, the business also needs to understand what each Business Analysis service is and what they will get out of it. This includes the output and roughly how long things will take. It must be clear and standardised. Each Business Analyst should work within the agreed framework of the company’s BA practice to deliver the required service. This brings clarity and ensures expected value is delivered and measurable.

The future of Business Analysis must be based on value

To deliver value, we must understand:

  • What we are delivering
  • How long it will take
  • What will the expected outcomes look like
  • What is the cost in terms of time and money

In summary, it is transparency that will allow the true value of business analysis to be untapped – clarity about what is required and pre-defined deliverables that are produced. By working together to have a good understanding of what is needed Business Analysts can continue to deliver real value for businesses.