Working with a customer
In an IT project (and that is what I wrote about in the text Business Analysis in IT project. Who does the business analyst work with?), there are two parties: the client, meaning business, and the project team. The business is represented by sponsors, stakeholders, and the project team includes (except for a BA) the architect, developers, testers, and the manager.
The BA’s place in such an undertaking is peculiar — analysts are a part of the team, though they represent the client, and additionally they work with all the participants. How to balance these conflicting, at first glance, interests? Let’s go through this.
At the beginning of a project, the BA firstly contacts all stakeholders and sponsors, that is, the business, who initiates the project, and who cares the most about its success. Thanks to that, the BA has the chance to work with very determined people interested in regular and effective communication.
In the first place, the BA helps to determine or specify business goals and their metrics. The BA might also help in preparing the business justification and business plan for the project. Then, the BA identifies and analyzes the requirements are, and confirms them with the decision-makers.
At this stage, it is already visible, that the most important group for the BA are stakeholders as the beneficiaries of the solution in preparation. The BA acquires requirements from them and systematically presents the results of work on the project. The BA is an important business partner for the stakeholders. During the conversations, learning the specifics of their work, determining their needs, and documenting them all, the BA becomes their greatest ally.
When the analysts examine the current processes carried out at a client, they recognize areas that require optimization, and they indicate ineffective elements of these processes, for example needless tasks or the redundant decisions. The analysts suggest specific functionalities that can increase work productivity. They also ensure that requirements reported by the stakeholders lead to improving work, and support achieving business goals instead of perpetuating already existing processes, procedures, and practices. We will discuss the subject of the optimization in the next article.
The result of the described work with the client is analytic documentation — high-quality specification of requirements, diagrams, and maps of business processes. Due to their qualifications, BAs can efficiently define the scope of the project in a precise structure and form, which is understandable for the business and complies with the standards known by the IT team.
Consultations with the project team
While documenting requirements and processes, the analyst confirms them with the client and consults them with architects and developers, always taking into account the fact that solutions should be consistent with the requirements of future users and the business goals of the project.
The BA also collects ideas about functionalities which are not included within the scope of the project, and negotiates their implementation so they fit in the budget. If it is not possible, the analyst tries to convince the sponsors to increase the scope of the project and ensures that the functionalities added later are written down and included in the roadmap of the system development.
BAs also support testers – they participate in the identification of the scope of tests and the approach to them. The analysts look through the test scenarios with respect to their completeness and consistency with the requirements specification. They also help in taking the stakeholders through UAT tests.
Sometimes, the project team asks questions related to the requirements or ways of meeting them. In this kind of situation, the BA goes back to the business and clarifies doubts, and then provides answers to the team. In the BA’s work, being a kind of connector is everyday life. When we become aware of that, it is easier to understand what does it mean to be in the center of a project at each stage of it. It is clear why the results of BAs work are so often defined as the bridge between business and IT.
At this moment, it must be emphasized that when a project is carried out in an Agile methodology, working with the customer, and consultations with the project team intertwine. In the traditional waterfall approach, they take place one after the other.
What benefits does the work of an analyst bring?
Despite the tangible benefits of the work of analysts, including them in the project is not always that obvious. I will put it that way: employing an analyst is not necessary, but it is hard to expect that a project carried out without BA’s involvement will be implemented smoothly and finished successfully, if it will ever happen.
And what are those tangible benefits? From the business point of view, it is foremostly caring for the business goals of the project so they are at the center of the reported requirements and are achieved. A BA not only supports reaching business goals, but also communicates and explains them. There is no exaggeration in saying that a BA is the promoter of a project and its vision among the stakeholders and members of the project team.
What does the project team gain? The analyst involvement increases the quality of work of the whole team. Primarily, its members can focus on their tasks and the technical aspect of a project. The analyst explains to them, clearly and concisely, the project assumptions and provides answers for any questions related to carried out tasks. The BA also supports the verification of the delivered solution consistency with business requirements and the project objectives.
It is worth noting that the involvement of an analyst is not strictly limited to substantive consultations that are a typical element of work in a project. The BA is often a contact person between the team and the client. Moreover, the analyst builds relations in the project team, between the stakeholders, within IT, as well as between the client and IT. Their good relationships with the parties of the undertaking help not only in project management, but also in everyday work.
To perform their work effectively, BAs have many tools that are helping them to connect the business with the team. We have written about one of these techniques “Active Listening – Techniques for Business Analyst.”
- Senior Business Analyst
An expert in the field of business analysis and quality assurance. She has been in the IT industry for 20 years, she has participated in projects for the Polish and international clients operating in telco, healthcare, retail, and insurance industries. For four years, she has been taking part in carrying out projects based on the Salesforce platform as a business and system analyst, CRM consultant, and project manager.