It’s Not Personal, It’s Business (Analysts): What Exactly Is a BA and Why Do You Need One?
There are rarely any simple projects in the world of software and technical consulting. It’s vital, then, that you have a steady hand guiding the project from discovery to delivery. Often, that comes in the form of a Business Analyst.
A strong Business Analyst (BA) develops business solutions by eliciting and analyzing a client’s processes and requirements. They are often at the “top” of the requirements funnel and are highly proactive, detail-oriented, inquisitive, and resourceful.
They are the ones that know why a product is needed, what should be developed, and when it should be delivered. and when it should be developed by your team.
Great BAs can also voice their own ideas and bring additional value through competitive analysis, thus reducing costs in a variety of ways or identifying easier pathways to the project’s end goal.
What skills does a strong BA usually possess?
One of a BA’s most valuable skills is the ability to shift tone as needed and identify the pain points of stakeholders and the project management team, acting as a liaison when necessary. A BA’s communications flexibility can be a crucial part of smoothing out the wrinkles so that everyone’s clear on what’s being done and bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way of the work.
Facilitation and solicitation skills.
Great BAs know how to assuage or persuade depending on the situation. Identifying which battles are worth fighting and which to leave by the wayside will ensure the core focus of the project is accomplished while stepping on as few toes as possible.
Strong design, data modeling, and documentation capabilities.
BAs should be able to crunch the numbers, making sure everything’s on track and secure the most efficient path toward the finish line (or if things happen to go awry, devise an alternative solution). Of note here is being able to come to their own conclusion: what the stakeholders or project team thinks is obviously very important to consider, but it shouldn’t color the BA’s independent analysis too strongly.
Objective thinker with attention to detail and a systematic approach to problem-solving.
BAs have a lot of people and tasks clamoring for their attention at any given moment. You’ll want a cool-headed thinker that can navigate that multi-tasking and keep an even keel when the stress of the project might cloud other peoples’ judgment.
Technical toolset for issue identification, isolation, and solution-crafting.
Having the know-how to hop in on revisions, zero in on problem areas, and offer useful insights to project members is a big part of the job—BAs shouldn’t be shy about getting their hands dirty if they need to. In essence, it’s important that BAs have an arsenal of investigative and analysis tools at the ready and develops the savvy to know which is likely to be most useful and successful.
Interpret and document business processes through document analysis and stakeholder conversations.
This is a fancy way of saying top-notch BAs can deftly separate the signal from the noise. They’ll know how to parse jargon and be able to reduce overly complex processes to their essential components. This simplification operates on two fronts: making sure the project team isn’t expending extra effort but also sidestepping attempts to blur the reality of the situation in the case that things start going off the rails. Should issues arise, good BAs can determine who or what is causing hold-ups and resolve the situation amicably.
How is a Business Analyst different from a Project Manager?
- A Business Analyst is not a Project Manager (PM).key differences in roles are: A Project Manager is assigned to manage project cost, timeline, and task completion while resolving issues and managing resources of a particular project.
- A Business Analyst needs to ensure the delivered product meets the stakeholders’ requirements.
Can a Project Manager also be a BA?
With the proper skillset, a Senior Project Manager can function as BA for their team or project if it is small in scope. Larger, more complex projects warrant a separation of PM and BA duties and responsibilities.
Can a BA also be a Project Manager?
With the proper skillset and experience, it’s definitely possible for a BA to act as PM. If you try this approach, though, we’d recommend having a Senior PM or similar act as a mentor for them on the project if it’s the BA’s first time in a PM role.
Why You Should Have a BA on Your Next Project.
While the resource cost of a senior-level BA isn’t insignificant, the value benefits usually far outweigh the investment. Here are the top reasons you might consider bringing a BA on your next project.
How does a BA create value over the course of a project?
A BA can add value to a project by reducing project costs by building the right things the first time, for example.
The biggest waste on a project is often the development of incorrect or unnecessary features. As a direct conduit to the client stakeholders, the BA can continuously help to prioritize the right features and keep the scope laser-focused throughout the duration of the project. This often manifests itself as developing clear acceptance criteria so all are on the same page when a task or feature is complete and meeting requirements successfully.
A BA can help find more cost-effective solutions.
For prioritized features, a BA might find more cost-effective solutions by repurposing tools already available, as well as the integrating of current client processes. Often, a slight rework of an existing business resource can be a much more cost-effective solution than brand new development from the ground up.
A BA can add more accuracy to, or even reduce, cost estimates.
As features are developed, a BA can continue to trace the development back to requirements and provide clear test cases, data, and results verification. By benchmarking system KPIs simultaneously as requirements definition, a BA can evaluate the impacts a new feature could have on an existing system. Having clear benchmarks is also a great way to show tangible project success in areas like system performance or user satisfaction.
A BA can discover new business benefits and propose value improvements
By getting to the root of the business need, BAs can provide new ideas on how to improve the user experience while driving new monetization channels, all of which can result in ROI increase.
A BA can assist with change management.
Change management is the project management process dedicated to assessing how proposed changes to a project will impact everything else. BAs can chip in to figure out how changes will affect current functionality, project scope, timeline, and budget, then make a judgment call on a case-by-case basis.
How do I know when I need a BA?
All projects are unique and not necessarily deserving of a dedicated BA. In general, if you or your team have concerns about project size, scope creep, or the PM’s experience, considering a BA would make sense.
Evaluate the size of the project.
The more moving parts, team members, and expectations there are, the more opportunities there are for miscommunication and wasted effort. Consider the size of both the team and the scope of deliverables. The larger the project size, the more complex the interfaces and interactions with other client teams will be—and the more valuable a BA will become.
Examine the scope and detail level of project deliverables.
Project goals must be clearly defined at the outset of the project and thoroughly pruned and maintained over the duration lest they become inflated through scope creep. A combination of the original scope being hazy and/or poor requirements management during the project leads to scope creep, which can bloat the cost and schedule of a project over time. One of a BA’s core skills is to optimize requirements management and keep the score narrow, so if that’s a big concern on your mind, talk to a BA and see if they’re right for your project.
Check the experience level of the Project Manager/Product Owner on the project.
The less experienced the PM, the greater benefit a BA can bring to the team. For a freshly promoted PM, having a BA support them and offer an experienced viewpoint they can reference in real-time can be reassuring and help build confidence for future projects. That’s not to say that experienced PMs can’t benefit from a BA, of course, but in those cases, the BA will likely operate as an equal or in a more supplementary capacity as opposed to a mentor-esque role they’d have with a newer PM.
Regardless of your PM’s capability level, if you’re tackling a project of a size or scope that’s new for them, check-in and see how they feel about a BA. Even if the BA isn’t on board for the full duration of a project, having a BA’s help for, say, initial requirements definition or stakeholder meetings could be a very welcome addition.
Need a BA? We can help.
In the right scenarios, Business Analysts can be a fantastic asset to keep everything nice and orderly across a project’s lifecycle. The key is knowing when and how to leverage a BA’s skillset to maximum effect. To that end, we’ve covered what a BA is and does, differentiated between PM and BA skillsets, how BAs can offer value across the project lifecycle, and how to determine whether a BA is right for a given project. Now that you understand when and how to leverage a BA, you’ll know how to tackle your next project right from the start—and whether a BA will be in the room with you. Good luck!
Have a project that you think needs outside eyes? We’re experts in building digital experiences. Come talk with us about turning your idea into a reality or getting your project over the finish line.