Today, the importance of a business analyst in a development team is hard to dispute. This person helps shape the project from the outset, facilitating communication between the development team and management. This effective communication is what in many ways makes teams work. It allows customers to save management resources while development teams are able to deliver on time and within budget.
Here are five functions the business analyst performs on every project:
Function #1: Gather Business Requirements
Each project begins with an idea that can come in one of many different forms. In any case, each idea is different in the sense of how it was formulated and how complete it is.
In order to express the ideas of an executive to the development team, who will then be able to turn them into a software solution, these ideas first have to be formalized by a person with a deep understanding of the business. This is where the business analyst comes into play.
There are three main characteristics of each functional analyst that distinguishes him or her from other player on the team:
- Technical knowledge. The Business Analyst must have the necessary technical knowledge to be able to communicate with the developers and testers and to understand the technical specifications and limitations of the project.
- Problem solving and analytical skills. The business analyst has a broad analytical capacity in order to correctly interpret and translate the client’s business needs into functional specifications. It has the ability to solve problems and make decisions to consult both stakeholders and developers and make quick judgments about certain problems and characteristics when the situation requires it.
- Communication skills. They must know how to effectively collect information from one person and how to present it to another. This is key. The business analyst works with a variety of different people in different positions in different organizations, including stakeholders, decision makers, developers, testers, and project leaders. They must be able to communicate effectively with these groups and ensure that their concerns reach each other. Extensive active listening, writing, and interpersonal skills are critical.
By combining these components, a business analyst must be able to effectively represent stakeholders, act as the owner of a product, and facilitate successful communication, helping the team deliver exactly what the client requested.
Function #2: Provide Empathy
Empathy is the ability to share and understand another person’s state of mind. It is the ability to define and communicate other people’s thoughts, views, concerns and feelings.
Empathy is one of the key traits any business analyst should have. It is the trait that brings out the interest and concern that is necessary for supporting the delivery of great solutions to the business.
Empathy helps the BA understand the pains and struggles of stakeholders. When you put yourself in the shoes of stakeholders, you are better positioned to manage the issues that arise; see the risks and opportunities; and come up with recommendations that are effective in solving challenges and exploiting opportunities.
Function #3: Define & Control Project Scope
A business analyst should define a final vision of what the project should take into account from the beginning, limiting, in conjunction with the Project Manager, the scope of the product to be developed. A precisely defined project scope will help the team prioritize the functions in order to deliver a minimum viable product as soon as possible, rather than spending time on secondary functions. It also allows for assessing the necessary resources and potential risks of the project and producing estimates.
Function #4: Translate Requirements to the Team
After a requirement specification is written and reviewed by stakeholders, it needs to be presented to the development team. The team needs to properly understand all requirements and get answers to all questions that they might have. The way the business analyst understands the team, their strong and weak points, and their level of understanding of business domain, largely depends how well he or she will be able to communicate the necessary information.
Agile projects often operate on a basis of user stories – small written representations of particular user needs or ways in which they should be able to use software, coupled with face-to-face discussions on a subject. User stories can be used on their own. However, in an outsourced project, it is more efficient to couple them with a more standard full-fledged functional specification.
This combined approach allows the team to get a better understanding of what is required with user stories describing core features, functional specification covering all the edge cases and outlining formal requirements of the client, and business analyst being always available to clarify any questions and discuss features if needed.
Function #5: Perform Acceptance Testing
The business analyst must work with the developers to verify that what they have done is in line with what is requested. For this, the software is tested together with the developer, in order to verify the correct operation and implementation of the requirement. This not only ensures software quality, but also streamlines the execution of test cases.
In the end, every team member is crucial for delivering a unique and valuable software product. The crucial thing here is highlighting the importance of each role, establishing priorities and trust in your team. The involvement of a business analyst can mean the difference between a successful product or a failed one, and that’s why they should be involved from the very first day.