What is a Business Analyst?

01 Aug 2011 - 07:18 AM under Career, Definitions | Posted by PMStudent

Guest Post by Brad

People often ask me, “Brad, What is a Business Analyst?” Although I can’t see your face as you’re reading this, I’m sure you will have the same disappointed look on your face most people have when I give you the answer: It depends.

No I’m not trying to be difficult, but the answer is somewhat complex. Defining the Business Analyst role is not as easy as, say, defining a medical doctor. Although doctors have specialties (so do BAs, but we will get to that momentarily), most people can understand the concept of a doctor because they have direct experience with them. In addition, a doctor often provides tangible, sometimes immediate results. The Business Analyst is a much more abstract concept within a given organization or industry, and the results of the output are often intangible and difficult to measure.

There are volumes of information about the BA role, but I’m going to give you the definition I used which comes from the International Institute of Business Analysis, IIBA (equivalent to the PMI for Project Managers). The IIBA describes the BA as: “a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals”.

So, based on the IIBA definition, you may begin to see the complexity in describing the BA role across industries or even within organizations. For example, in the banking industry, a Business Analyst may be tasked on the operations side to design, develop and implement complex financial products and services. Within the same industry, a BA on the policy side may be tasked with analyzing federal regulations as they apply to the organizations banking policy, recommending changes to remain compliant.

In the software industry, where I’ve spent most of my career, the Business Analyst may be tasked, on the operations side, with helping define the Software Development LifeCycle (SDLC) as well as designing policy related to how the business creates software (A hybrid BA/PM is not uncommon). The BA may fulfill another role as a Subject Matter Expert that works closely with individual customers to design and document specific solutions to specific customer problems.

The IIBA publishes a Competency Model (also a BABOK, similar to the PMBOK) to help describe the knowledge, skills and abilities an indvidual needs to have in order to be successful in the BA role. The IIBA does not try to get into specific industry knowledge, rather, it attempts to provide a guide to provide skills the BA will need. In our banking example, the BA that works on policy may be referred to as a Business Rules Analyst. Like wise, in the software industry the BA that works with the SDLC may be referred to as a Business Process Analyst.

So if you are trolling the job boards or simply wondering what that Business Analyst in your company is doing all day, just remember the IIBA description and that one of the BAs stakeholders may be a Project Manager, like you.

Brad has been a BA for over 12 years. He produces a podcast for Business Analysts called Business Analyst Mastery, which you can find on iTunes or at http://businessanalystmastery.com.

He has worked as both an employee and contractor in 11 different industries. As a “big picture” guy, Brad enjoys Enterprise Analysis and finding the best solution solution for the problem at hand. He is currently a Product Manager for a publicly traded company.

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5 thoughts on “What is a Business Analyst?

  1. Toms Chaussures Homme

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