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18 February 2007

What is a business analyst?

The IT Toolbox website has a blog called “Trials and Tribulations of a Business Systems Analyst” written by a senior business analyst who shares my enthusiasm for developing the business analyst profession.

It makes for an interesting read, and I support them in their endeavours to promote discussions on the BA role and emerging profession.

I do keep reading things that make me cringe though; not because what they write is trite or wrong, but because they write from the point of view of technologists who have migrated into a Business Analyst and come with a series of expectations and assumptions about how the BA role should fit into the organisation. Come to think of it, many business analysts I know that have come from the operations parts of business (the ‘business’ business analysts) have similar pre-conceptions.

Like a lot of problems in the IT industry the issue seems to be in the definitions. There is clear disagreement about what a business analyst is and what their role is in an organisation (or a project.)

The IIBA considers addressing these foggy concepts as part of its mandate and good luck to them. So far they have this to say:

“A business analyst works as a liaison among stakeholders in order to elicit, analyze, communicate and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies and information systems. The business analyst understands business problems and opportunities in the context of the requirements and recommends solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.”
That's it?

Like many participants in the discussion the author of the Trials and Tribulations blog produces a short list of key things a business analyst does and compares them to another emerging role; the business architect.

I don’t think it’s a bad list but I want to offer my own opinion on the matter.

Presuming that an analyst and architect work in the same domain of how businesses work I think we should take a top down approach and look at the role names;

Analyst; a person who analyses
Architect: a person who plans and designs

It seems simple enough to me (I am simple, after all.)

But then there is the other facets to the business analyst role;
  • Business Systems Analysts
  • Technical Business Analysts
  • Business Process Analysts
  • Senior and Junior Business Analysts
They can all be roles in themselves, or aspects to a role.

I feel this topic expanding as I write it so I’ll wrap up with this;

Project Management is at the point where global competency standards are being discussed, but wherever I have looked it appears no-one has even drafted a definitive list of competencies, skills and responsibilities for business analysts. It’s about time somebody did and if you know of any can you please post a link to them from here.