Business analysis is the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development. The person who carries out this task is called a business analyst or BA.
Those BAs who work solely on developing software systems may be called IT Business Analysts, Technical Business Analysts, Online Business Analysts or Systems Analysts.
As the scope of business analysis is very wide, there has been a tendency for business analysts to specialize in one of the three sets of activities which constitute the scope of business analysis.
- Organizations need to focus on strategic matters on a more or less continuous basis in the modern business world. Business analysts, serving this need, are well-versed in analyzing the strategic profile of the organization and its environment, advising senior management on suitable policies, and the effects of policy decisions.
- Organizations may need to introduce change to solve business problems which may have been identified by the strategic analysis, referred to above. Business analysts contribute by analyzing objectives, processes and resources, and suggesting ways by which re-design (BPR), or improvements (BPI) could be made. Particular skills of this type of analyst are “soft skills”, such as knowledge of the business, requirements engineering, stakeholder analysis, and some “hard skills”, such as business process modeling. Although the role requires an awareness of technology and its uses, it is not an IT-focused role.
- Three elements are essential to this aspect of the business analysis effort: the redesign of core business processes; the application of enabling technologies to support the new core processes; and the management of organizational change. This aspect of business analysis is also called “business process improvement” (BPI), or “reengineering”.
- Systems analyst
- There is the need to align IT Development with the systems actually running in production for the Business. A long-standing problem in business is how to get the best return from IT investments, which are generally very expensive and of critical, often strategic, importance. IT departments, aware of the problem, often create a business analyst role to better understand, and define the requirements for their IT systems. Although there may be some overlap with the developer and testing roles, the focus is always on the IT part of the change process, and generally, this type of business analyst gets involved, only when a case for change has already been made and decided upon.
In any case, the term “analyst” is lately considered somewhat misleading, insofar as analysts (i.e. problem investigators) also do design work (solution definers).
Ultimately, business analysis want to achieve the following outcomes:
- Reduce waste
- Create solutions
- Complete projects on time
- Improve efficiency
- Document the right requirements
One way to assess these goals is to measure the return on investment (ROI) for all projects. Keeping score is part of human nature as we are always comparing ourselves or our performance to others, no matter what we are doing. According to Forrester Research, more than $100 billion is spent annually in the U.S. on custom and internally developed software projects. For all of these software development projects, keeping score is also important and business leaders are constantly asking for the return or ROI on a proposed project or at the conclusion of an active project. However, asking for the ROI without really understanding the underpinnings of where value is created or destroyed is putting the cart before the horse.
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