The definition of the business analyst position
A quick check on Wikipedia shows this high-level definition for a business analyst…
“A Business Analyst (BA) analyzes the organization and design of businesses, government departments, and non-profit organizations; they also assess business models and their integration with technology.”
Why I’ve valued the BA
I’ve been a project manager for 20+ years of my professional career. In all those years and on those dozens of projects of varying dollar amounts, duration, and importance, my experience with the business analyst has always been this… they are basically your technical bridge to the development team. They capture the business requirements and work with the development team or technical lead to translate the business needs of the customer into technical requirements that the developers can build the solution from.
Obviously, if this is not done well, you’ll have the same age old problem. Your development staff on the project will be building a solution that doesn’t match up well with the actual needs and requests of the customer. The customer end user will be unhappy, customer satisfaction will be low, your job will be in jeopardy, and so forth. You get the picture … and it’s not pretty.
The BA is the project glue
The business analyst – in my view and in my experience – is the glue that ties the non-technical and the technical together. As a former techie and an IT project manager, I can fill both roles if necessary on a smaller project and have on several occasions. But I’ve seen none technical project managers without any technical training try to do that and fail miserably. On my larger IT projects, I don’t know what I would have done without a very experienced business analyst who understood the business needs and was able to translate those needs well into meaningful requirements for the developers. It would have been a disaster.
I feel that it needs to be said that BAs are incredibly critical piece of the project management puzzle. They are the right hand personnel to the project manager and, depending on the project and ongoing issues, they may be the only thing keeping the project on track, the customer confidence high, and the developers up to date on what needs to happen with the solution. Their participation and their deliverables are critical to the success of the project and don’t forget that when you’re handing out kudos and acknowledging the hard work of your project professionals to their managers and to your executive management.
Summary / call for input
Readers and PM leaders – what are your best business analysts stories and experiences? Do you agree on how valuable talented business analysts can be to the project? Or do you prefer to handle the BA duties on your own? Let’s discuss…