It’s easy to identify the business analysts in a software project team, but not everyone knows what his or her responsibilities are. In order to shed some light on this matter, we sat down with our BA staff and asked them to help us understand what’s their role and why they can make the difference between success and failure.
Simply put, the business analyst has the big picture in mind, while the functional analyst focuses on details. The business analyst is capable of analysing the client’s business from all points of view (processes, financial, organizational) and she identifies problems and opportunities while suggesting solutions to address them. The business analyst thinks in terms of business processes, and the solution is not always a software application. He discusses the solution with the client and makes sure that it is aligned with the client’s vision. If the solution is a software application, then the next phase is to analyse the technical, or rather functional requirements, which are defined by the client together with the business analyst. This is where the functional analyst’s role starts. The client has the vision, the business analyst translates it into business needs/goals, while the functional analyst makes sure that the requirements are in line with the general purpose of the system (FA defines the requirements in a correct manner).
The business analyst can also play the role of a functional analyst after the solution is defined and agreed upon with the client. At Qubiz, we combine the two roles depending on every project’s specifics.
The role of a business analyst is quite complex, entailing the following:
It is said that a business analyst enjoys starting projects more than finishing them, because the big effort goes into initiating the project.
Yes, the business analyst can be a Product Owner in a Scrum project. In fact, at Qubiz we had projects when the business analyst was in fact a proxy PO, who was on site and at the disposal of the developers 24/7. Is it the ideal setup? More often than not no, but it depends on the project.
The ideal candidates for a business analyst role are developers and testers who want to take a step back, and see the big picture. As such, BA’s can also have other roles within a company. It depends on the specifics of the project whether a full-time employee has to be allocated as a business analyst or not. However, good business analysts need to have specific skills to be able to perform their jobs:
Although business analysts don’t write a single line of code, their role requires a high degree of technical knowledge. They have to be able to discuss architectural approaches when they propose a software solution to the product owner and the client.
About the second question - the things are pretty clear: the more experience or knowledge business analysts have in the client’s industry, the better and more comprehensive solutions they will find. If they lack experience in a certain industry, a series of meetings with the stakeholders - business owner, client’s project managers, end users etc. - will help them start the project right.
Proactivity is more than welcome in a business analyst’s role! This trait helps him or her identify new needs - which often are not related to the project per se, or may imply adding new functionalities to the solution.
Companies should see the business analyst as a competitive advantage in three ways:
First, an agile team with a business analyst (and functional analyst) on board is capable of working faster and with a higher degree of independency. This translates into less “attention” needed from the Product Owner; the team is able to solve some issues internally without having to wait for the next meeting with the product owner. In these cases, the business analyst is practically a “proxy product owner”.
Second, with a business analyst on board, the product owner’s monolog transforms into a dialog with the team. The PO is not dictating the requirements, he is discussing them with the team. Together they are outlining the possible issues, and they can exercise entrepreneurship by proactively offering solutions.
Third, business analysts are the glue of their teams. At Qubiz, we assemble agile teams in which often the BA is also the Scrum Master. The BA understands the different levels of complexity of the whole system, making him the ideal team member to suggest the product owner in which direction should the project go and coordinate the team towards that direction.