Business Analyst

After spending more than 20 years a Business Analyst in a few different companies, I am now working as Consultant. I am enjoying the new role, and it has reminded me that at times in the past as an employee, I would wonder if my employer was better off having me as an employee, or would it better to bring in contractors/consultants as needed to do BA work. Outsourcing was increasing, but everyone said that business analysis could be outsourced; I wasn’t so sure.

My perspective now could certainly be influenced by my switch from employee to consultant, but I think I should be able to consider this question from a dispassionate viewpoint.

There are a lot of opinions on just what a BA is, but I will start with the principle that the core skills and value-add of a BA is in the area of Requirements; working with subject matter experts to elicit, analyze and document requirements for systems development, or other efforts. Given that core, I know that this can be done by consultants on as-needed basis, because that is what I do now.  (My company also teaches employee BA’s as well.)

Given that principle, I would suggest that employees capable of doing this work are faced with a challenge; your employer may not have enough on-going projects to keep you busy doing requirements all the time, so your employer has determined that you can do other things in between opportunities to do requirements work. These other things could be one or more of the following:

– Testing
– Project Management
– Business Domain Expert
– Technical Writing
– Training Development and Delivery

This is a short and non-exhaustive list. In fact, I encourage you the reader to add a comment to this post with additional items you would add to this list. My intent is to look at each of the things on this list in turn to explore why we do them, in subsequent posts to this blog.

Two things I would like to point out right now:

1) There are people with the title of Business Analyst who really do analyze the on-going performance of their companies. These are at minimum reporting and data analysis jobs, which can also have a role in setting strategies based on their analysis. This is not an IT job, nothing to do with requirements, but I believe the title best fits this type of work: analyzing the business in many ways to aid decision making and strategic planning. In comparison, we IT BAs do what we do, and the Business Analyst title got appended to the job. I think another job title may have been better, except that (a) I don’t know what it would be, and (b) it’s too late to change it now.

2) Other than ‘Domain Expert’ , the items on my list are actually job titles in many companies; Project Manager is obvious, but companies often have Testers (QA Analyst), Technical Writers and dedicated Trainers… but you would be hard-pressed to find a job title with the word “Requirements” in it. If you think about, isn’t that odd?

Anyway, I will look at testing in my next post, and do suggest more things you have seen a BA do, or have done yourself as a BA.

Dave Wright

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