What is business analysis?

By Simon Buehring on 24 Sep 2018

in Qualifications resources

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Are you thinking about changing careers? Would you like to work in an exciting management role that involves investigation into an organisation's business needs, finding solutions and working with technical teams? Read our article about business analysis and find out what it takes for you to become a business analyst!

All of us at some point in our careers ask ourselves: “I have been in this position for 5 years now and would like to do something else. Isn’t it time for a career change?” You browse the internet and look for new exciting and challenging jobs. An advertisement for a “business analyst” shows in a list in front of you and you wonder what this job is all about. You read the job description and find out that this might be the job for you.

But before you decide on that, you need to know more about business analysis, the benefits of it in an organisation and your role as a business analyst.

What is business analysis?

what is business analysis

Business analysis involves investigating and analysing business solutions, identifying and evaluating options for improving business systems, elaborating and defining requirements, and ensuring the effective implementation and use of information systems in line with the needs of the business [1].

According to this definition, you may think business analysis is an IT function in an organisation, but it can also feature in finance, procurement, PMO or sales departments, and as a supporting role in a matrix organisational structure.

Typical tasks business analysis involves

Business analysis plays a vital role in large and medium companies, as some of its tasks involve:

  • Examining the reasons behind business problems
  • Demonstrating that IT systems are essential for business improvement
  • Finding better options according to business demands
  • Being a mediator between stakeholders and the solutions’ needs.

Techniques and tools used to carry out business analysis

Business analysis follows a process model, which is a framework for business analysis assignments incorporating the business context. It has six stages [2]:

  1. Investigating the situation
  2. Considering the perspectives
  3. Analysing the needs
  4. Evaluating the options
  5. Defining the requirements
  6. Delivering the changes

There are several techniques and tools needed to carry out each of the above stages. For example, the “investigating the situation” stage uses techniques such as interviewing, observation, workshops, mind maps, spaghetti maps and fishbone diagrams. “Analysing the needs” stage requires gap analysis, business processes modelling and activity analysis. “Evaluating the options” needs cost-benefit analysis, including quantification of costs and benefits, investment appraisal techniques, impact analysis and risk analysis [3].

What are the benefits of business analysis?

Due to the advancement of information technology, companies have recently focused on the development of information systems to improve their business operations. However, it’s very rare that these goals are achieved, even with the IT department’s support.

Business analysis makes sure that technical specialists will deliver the needed business solutions as required from the stakeholders. It also helps with the creation of the business vision and works to implement it. In addition, it creates the business case and manages Benefits Assessments with the project-level roles.

Projects depend on business analysis. This is because it helps keep projects on track by focusing the project team on delivering solutions that meet the most critical business needs. This increases the quality of solutions delivered, and the ability of the business to make good use of these solutions [4].

Without business analysis, stakeholders in organisations won’t be able to take the correct decisions in choosing the best information systems for their business needs. They will then inevitably fall into serious financial and business risks.

Who carries out business analysis?

what is business analysis

Depending on the size of the organisation, the responsibilities of a business analyst can be included within a senior’s job description or a role can be designated especially for it.

The four core responsibilities for business analysts (or anyone else performing business analysis) are:

  • Investigate business systems and take a holistic view of the situation; this may include examining elements of the organisation structures and staff development issues as well as current processes and IT systems
  • Evaluate actions to improve the operation of a business system. Again, this may require an examination of organisational structure and staff development needs, to ensure that they are in line with any proposed process redesign and IT system development
  • Document the business requirements for the IT system support using appropriate documentation standards
  • Elaborate requirements, in support of the business users, during evolutionary system development [5].

Business analysts view solutions and projects through a business lens, acting as representatives of the vision and mission of the business while focusing on the customer. They also have the skills, perspective and inclination to see the whole picture, understand the relationships between all the parts, and communicate these to specialists in many areas [6].

They can act as change agents as well, in addition to liaising with HR and Finance representatives, technical architectures and project managers.

Qualifications and experience you need to get into business analysis

On an individual level, there are competencies a business analyst should have to perform his or her job effectively. These competencies are:

  • Personal qualities such as leadership, problem solving, communication skills, team working and the ability to influence.
  • Business knowledge, which can be gained from experience working in a variety of organisations or studying a business qualification. Some examples are: principles of information technology, supplier management, business architecture and business finance.
  • Professional techniques like project management, agile thinking, portfolio management and strategy analysis [7].

The above competencies can be developed by either workplace experience, industry engagement, training or self-study.

Job titles for business analysis practitioners include not only business analyst, but also business systems analyst, systems analyst, requirements engineer, process analyst, product manager, product owner, enterprise analyst, business architect, management consultant, business intelligence analyst, data scientist, and more. Many other jobs, such as management, project management, product management, software development, quality assurance and interaction design rely heavily on business analysis skills for success [8].

Based on your location, you need to check an accredited and professional body that offers qualifications in business analysis. This could either be an academic institution, like a university, or a chartered institute. In the UK, BCS (The Charted Institute of IT) provides accredited business analysis certification, from foundation level to expert.

If you feel now that business analysis is the next career for you, or you want a broader idea about it, Knowledge Train® offers an online Business Analysis Foundation course accredited by BCS to help you gain the knowledge needed to secure a business analysis role. Feel free to contact our team for more information or ask for a demo!

List of references

[1] [2] Debra Paul, James Cadle and Donald Yeates (editors) (2014). Business Analysis. 3rd ed. Swindon, United Kingdom: BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. xviii (Glossary).

[3] Debra Paul, James Cadle and Donald Yeates (editors) (2014). Business Analysis. 3rd ed. Swindon, United Kingdom: BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. 61, 65, 67.

[4] Steve Erlank, President, IIBA South Africa Chapter. (2011). The Benefits of Business Analysis. Available: https://www.iiba.org/News-Events/Newsletters/Archived-Newletters/2011/IIBA_Newsletter_April_2011.aspx. Last accessed 06/08/2018.

[5] Debra Paul, James Cadle and Donald Yeates (editors) (2014). Business Analysis. 3rd ed. Swindon, United Kingdom: BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. 12.

[6] Steve Erlank, President, IIBA South Africa Chapter. (2011). The Benefits of Business Analysis. Available: https://www.iiba.org/News-Events/Newsletters/Archived-Newletters/2011/IIBA_Newsletter_April_2011.aspx. Last accessed 06/08/2018.

[7] Debra Paul, James Cadle and Donald Yeates (editors) (2014). Business Analysis. 3rd ed. Swindon, United Kingdom: BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. 20-29.

[8] IIBA. (unknown). What is Business Analysis?. Available: http://www.iiba.org/Careers/What-is-Business-Analysis.aspx. Last accessed 07/08/2018.

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Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.

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