At the onset of a new project the excitement and enthusiasm for starting, and even more so implementing, a new solution which will solve every problem imaginable is infectious. The project sponsors have compiled the concerns and issues from their front-line resources and developers are giddy with anticipation; ready to jump into the work of making it all come together immediately. It is not too long however, without a clearly laid out path and direction, that the developers are designing/implementing only a part of what the business partners were envisioning and there is frustration that the business is not receiving the solution of their dreams. When looking back as part of a project retrospective meeting, it will be these questions everyone wants answered: What went wrong? Where does the fault lie?
In many situations like this one, the fault does not lie with one group or understanding. Perhaps the developers are developing what they understand the requirements to be based on what was included in the original request. Because the business partners are so close to the issue at hand, perhaps they did not realize that there are others out there who do not have the same understanding of various intricacies and principles. Both groups are very knowledgeable in their area of expertise, however without someone in the middle, it can be increasingly difficult to have the appropriate blend of the technical and business worlds.
This blended world is the realm of the business analyst. There they work their magic with a combined understanding of both the business and the technical worlds.
What is a Business Analyst?
Business Analysts (BAs) are key resources in projects responsible for identifying, documenting, and delivering the technical AND functional requirements from the project subject matter experts (SMEs) to the project developers and testers. They become the owners of the requirements and the central point of contact. They act as a meeting facilitator, communicator, and problem solver. For example, if the developer raises questions or concerns with the requirements, then it is the role of the BA to reach out to the SMEs, complete the additional analysis and modify the requirements appropriately. When working with the Testing resources, the BA provides the requirements, as well as an over-arching understanding of how they fit into the bigger picture. Then the test designers have the necessary details to develop and execute accurate test cases. Here too, the BA would be the first contact for any questions, review prepared test cases for accuracy, and assist with analysis of defects. Once all the work between development and testing is complete, the last task for the BA is to bring the completed development back to the Business SMEs for approval.
Why should I consider adding a Business Analyst to a project?
Adding one or more analysts to a project will definitely add a cost to the overall project, especially since they are typically included to some degree throughout a large portion of the project. However, in my opinion, based on the tasks they are involved with, the benefits they provide far outweigh the cost. First, the BA has direct time with the subject matter experts. This cannot be emphasized enough. The BA works with those closest to the topic at hand and really dives into the problem which is being solved. They can dig deeper into understanding the business processes. They can ask all sorts of questions, maybe even some that get the SMEs really thinking hard, establishing which requirements are truly needed and which are nice-to-have. They will get approval of those requirements and by doing so, have concise details and scope to provide to the developers. The developers will then be able to deliver exactly what is being requested and the client will receive what they envisioned the first time without having massive rework or going back to the drawing board.
While no process is ever 100% failsafe, the probability of success sky-rockets if high quality, well-trained analysts are included at the beginning of projects. They work with the clients to establish a firm foundation which the rest of the project is based upon, helping to ensure that what is being asked for is what is delivered and implemented at the end. Business Analysts bring a great value to any project.