What does a Business Analyst (BA) actually do?
With the growing popularity of the IT industry, the focus is usually on the “programmers”, i.e. software engineers. It’s often talked about Frontend, Backend, programming languages and frameworks, databases, etc. These terms are related to the development and implementation of a software solution. The question that always comes up is: how do we know what to create? How do we find out what the client needs and define the looks and the functionalities of the future solution? The answers to these questions have indicated that there’s a need for a new team member who would face the challenges of mediating communication between the client and the programmers. The new team member is a business analyst (BA).
A dynamic job filled with different kinds of activities and challenges
This is a dynamic job. It consists of various activities, which differ with each client. Depending on the client’s firm size, the business analyst performs some of these activities on the daily basis:
- Giving presentations, often doing the pre sales meetings;
- Identifying the client’s current business methods using questionnaires, surveys, workshops
- Analysing the user request
- Workshops with the representatives of the client
- Formalising the request in the functional specification form approved by the client’s representatives and the implementation firm
- Turning functional requests into specific tasks for the technical team
- Testing the solution before it’s demonstration to the client
- Creating the user manual
- Training the users
The challenges experienced by a business analyst
The essential skill is to understand the needs of the client – the ones they told you about, and the ones they didn’t. The clients aren’t usually familiar with the technical background of the solution and can’t clearly state their needs. Most often, it takes a series of presentations, meetings, workshops, mockups, and demonstrations to get to what exactly these needs are. It’s not uncommon that a client completely understands a future solution only when it’s done and ready for testing. The readiness for the frequent demonstrations and the usage of agile methodologies are necessary in order to get to the future solution with as few times of going back to the beginning as possible.
What prior knowledge is necessary for this job?
There are no specific formal qualifications which would ensure that someone will be a successful business analyst because the job, more than anything, requires common sense, capability of abstract thinking, translating individual cases into rules and vice versa. Good communication skills are needed for the everyday encounters with different kinds of people. Other than that, good organisation, previous experience in the field of the specific software solution, and the familiarity with the business processes are important. The project management experience and the experience in leading projects with agile methodologies are a plus.
In Serbia there are many companies doing outsourcing coding for foreign clients. In these foreign companies there is a team of people who translate their wishes into specific tasks, only in such cases they are located at the company commissioning the job and are often invisible.
The fact that there’s a need for this profession is very encouraging because this creates a place in IT for all the people with the affinity for new technologies who know business processes and have experience in different fields and IT skills.