The Ideal Job Outline for Business Analysts

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In broadest strokes, a business analyst (or BA) acts as a liaison between businesspeople and a company’s Information Technology staff. It is generally the analyst’s responsibility to interpret and define the information requirements of the business, and devise a suitable system to solve those needs, be it packaged solutions or in-house development (or a hybrid of both).

Years ago, the BA’s role was spread across multiple jobs and titles, from System Analyst and Architect to even Programmer. For that reason, the consolidated BA role is still evolving within many companies, with no “standard” list of tasks or roles; defining an idealized job description becomes a unique challenge.

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For years, I have wondered if the industry really grasps the duties and responsibilities of the BA. While the industry talks about such people, does a “standardized” job description exist? Let’s make an attempt at one:

Business Analyst (“BA”) Job Description

Scope of Function

The purpose of this role is to help design and improve reliable information systems and software that satisfies the  requirements (needs) of the enterprise and are easy to modify and maintain in the most cost-effective means possible.

Specific Duties and Responsibilites

  • Reports Project Management on all project specific activities.
  • Maintains a line of communication with Development/Engineering resources onshore and offshore.
  • Reviews deliverables resulting from design methodologies with Project Management and the support functions (e.g., QA).
  • Prepares project scopes, subject to Project Management approval.
  • Documents existing information systems in the “as is” state and also the future “to be” state.
  • Interviews end-users to specify information requirements.
  • Analyzes and details information requirements.
  • Reviews formal and informal deliverables resulting from design methodologies with users for accuracy.
  • Prepares complete rough designs of systems, and evaluates purchased packages to ensure they meet requirements.
  • Participates in project planning activities with project management, including estimating and scheduling, and cost evaluation.
  • Performs system design; includes breaking systems into more granular sub-systems (aka “Business Processes”) and related workflows.
  • May train users in the operation of new or modified systems.
  • May develop system-test plans; may also perform the tests as needed.

Required Knowledge/Skills/Experience

  • A deep understanding of in-house methodologies, standards, tools, and techniques.
  • Excellent interpersonal relations/communications skills.
  • Effective writing and communication skills.
  • Must be results-oriented, with a “can do” attitude and approach.
  • Must prepare and conduct review meetings, and participate in those reviews in a professional manner.
  • Must assume responsibility for performing assigned tasks and meeting objectives within time and cost constraints.
  • Possesses a deep understanding of the user organization being served; this includes the information required by users to function properly.
  • Must be a perceptive listener, able to suggest areas and offer options where information and systems can provide additional benefits.
  • Sensitive to the needs of the user and understands the role of the new system in achieving the user’s objectives.
  • General understanding of the use of computers to meet system-processing requirements.

Evaluation of Performance

  • BA assumes responsibility for performing assigned tasks, and achieves them within time and cost constraints.
  • BA shall work closely with the various development support functions to assure that all standards are properly followed.
  • BA work is professionally prepared.
  • Information requirements accurately reflect business needs.
  • System designs are practical.
  • Writes and communicates effectively and clearly.

Bringing Uniformity

In general, the BA’s role is operationally subordinate to Project Management for project activities. The BA maintains a lateral working relationship with Program/Software Engineering, Data Engineering, Enterprise Engineering, User Management, and support functions (e.g., QA).

Also note that, in the above points, there is no mention of programming and DBMS skills: those have their place, but not with Business Analysis. If such skills are required, a BA probably isn’t suitable for the role.

Hopefully the above description is a good starting point for bringing uniformity to Business Analysis.

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