Why a Business Analyst’s Role Is So Hard to Define

Multiple Responsibilities

It’s common to see many organizations using business analysts in different ways, which is one reason a BA’s skill set has to be so versatile. But why is it BAs don’t always drop neatly into a single, pre-defined role? The nature of business analysis itself has a lot to do with it.

Generally, business analysis comprises some parts of these three areas:

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Strategic Analysis

Because strategy is by its nature high-level, analysis is needed to break things down into more manageable pieces. Strategic areas that business analysis plays a role in include:

  • Enterprise/Business Architecture: Analysis, design, planning and implementation, using a holistic approach.
  • Enterprise Analysis: The analysis to identify a business need, problem or opportunity, and to define the solution. It includes producing a cost/benefit analysis or business case study to justify the investment necessary to deliver the solution.
  • Market Research: This is about looking outside the organization at the market in order to seek opportunities, identify threats and make recommendations.
  • Management/Organizational Consulting: The practice of helping organizations improve performance by analyzing organizational problems and developing plans to mitigate them. Six Sigma practices may play a role here.
  • Business Intelligence: The use of data to prescribe the course of action most likely to realize the best outcome for the enterprise.
  • Business Value Management: Involves measuring the holistic value of a business beyond economic profit.
  • Product Ownership: This is about the long-term vision of the firm’s product, and the roadmap to realize it. “Products” may be actual goods or services sold into the market, or they may be systems in use by the organization.

Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis is where the rubber meets the road. Often, it’s where the recommendations made during a strategic analysis are executed. Tactical areas in which business analysis play a role include:

  • Change Management: Measuring a company’s readiness for change and implementing that change.
  • IT Business Analysis: This is the BA role that everyone is most familiar with. It involves the BA working on IT projects to deliver business solutions that address specific business needs, problems or opportunities.
  • Business Intelligence: As in strategic analysis, this is the scientific process of transforming data into trends and insights for making better business decisions.
  • Agile Analysis: Involves delivering solutions for the business in a highly iterative way.
  • User Experience (UX): Involves how a person’s behaviors, attitudes and emotions come into play as they use a particular product, system or service. It also covers the range of interactions a user employs with a particular system or product.
  • Product Management: Best described as the process of moving a product from vision to reality.

Operational Analysis

Operational analysis is used to determine how well a business operation can run. It includes an examination of the company’s production methods, material costs, equipment utilization and workplace conditions. Areas in which business analysis plays a role include:

  • Process Analysis: Examines a business process or procedure to determine ways to eliminate waste and improve the overall approach. This area might employ Six Sigma analysis techniques.
  • Production Support: Providing day-to-day end-user support for IT systems and applications in use by the business.

As a practice, business analysts often perform root cause analysis and problem tracking until an issue is resolved. This involves finding the base cause of a problem and determining gaps and possible solutions. But remember: If you’re simply logging an issue and sending it on to the help desk or someone else to solve, you’re not practicing business analysis.

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