What should a Project Business Analyst Really do?

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We all know that the Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organisational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. But there is confusion over this role right now, is the Business Analyst the new Product Owner, is the Business Analyst role being merged with that of a Project Manager? How do you see and more importantly how does you organisation (or those you work for) see it? Some of the key questions we are trying to understand for the role of a business analyst and their relationship with projects are the following:

  • Project Life cycle and the Business Analyst’s role within it
  • The level of ability required to analysis, understand and document a process, system or structure to evaluate its effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Solution management and understanding what is feasible given constraints (budgetary, system, resourcing, time, process)
  • Requirement management and the ability to identify, assessing and trace requirements through the project management cycle. This would involve all various categories of requirements.

So it is not simple by any stretch of the imagine and it is difficult to understand (at times) the role of the Business Analyst and where they fit and not to the full project life-cycle.

If is a simple dilemma really and here is how we would classify the roles

  • A business analyst focuses on a particular industry, function, technology, or line of business. They become fully immersed in the nuances of their niche. Often transition into the functional area and become responsible for the technical enablement of the department. The titles around here can vary with things like “technologist” or “consultant” or “enablement specialist”.  This person might get so involved in the policies and rules of a function, they may actually get to the point where they lead the functional department.
  • A project manager is similar because they essentially become knowledgeable in the nuances of their industries or functional areas. This means that they can better anticipate risks and estimate schedules. Meaning they will be better at delivering within their specialty. These folks can often also move into the business or functional area because many departments often have multiple projects going on at the same time and need a leadership type of position to be responsible for seeing that the departments initiatives are accomplished.
  • The product owner is the voice of the business or the client and they are accountable for ensuring that the agile development team delivers the maximum possible business value. The product owner manages the product backlog and prioritises what work will be done. This may be done in collaboration with other representatives from the business, but ultimately they are the one role responsible for this.

So what does this all really mean …. the business analyst drives deep into the solution, the project manager focus on the delivery of the function and the product owner focuses on the prioritising the vision.

Given this what are the skill set of the Business Analysts? We have blogged on this before, so this is familiar territory but here is what we consider the skill set for an effective Business Analyst:

  • Analytical skills,
  • Business and industry knowledge,
  • Communication skills, including strong business writing and verbal communication skills,
  • Conflict management,
  • Creative and critical thinking,
  • Cultural awareness,
  • Decision making,
  • Facilitation,
  • Familiarity with multiple project and development methodologies

Where the Project Manager and Requirements work diverge in with the initial Situation Statements at the Problem Decomposition stage. Once a problem has been identified, the business analyst will work with the client to decompose it into smaller distinct elements. These may be new dependent problems that are smaller but separate issues that cause the problems at higher levels; or the components of a problem such as who is involved in the process, the systems used, the business units or system with input to process or who take output from it, and other characteristics. This is the true value of a Business Analyst

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