I have had executives of organizations ask me this question repeatedly “Why do we need a Business Analyst”. My observation so far, is that a handful of them do so with some sense of a hunch, wanting to hear more than they had experienced or are experiencing with their Business Analyst s and because they may be struggling to rightly situate the need for a Business Analyst in the business strategy framework. Other executives have asked with a glaring sense of curiosity and inquisition. In all this, it appears that there is not enough understanding or appreciation of the value of a Business Analyst or let’s be fair, may be the kind of Business Analyst these executives have dealt with in the past did not deliver much value, good enough to convince them to appreciate the role.
Let me not address this. I will not simply state the value adds of having Business Analyst on a project, rather the things that are not possible to accomplish successfully (note the word successfully because I have seen many people swap the title of Business Analyst amongst their staff or colleagues without minding the accompanying skills required to play the role effectively) without having the right skilled Business Analyst.
In any project, particularly a system related project- be it a system upgrade, decommission, build, couple etc.- having a Business Analyst to coordinate and bring various pieces of ‘needs’ and ‘stakeholders’ into a functioning stream that delivers a business objective is very important for the following reasons.
Developers are not meant to manage requirements.
I’m sure you also have heard this before. Believe me, this is not a stereotype and never intended. It’s a statement of fact, that the business and the set of soft skills (see article on Business Analyst required soft skills) critical to functioning as a Business Analyst are not there and don’t come naturally to most developers. Business Analyst job could be an art and science combined, depending on the project environment. The skills required in each world are learned and perfected over years. Often times, developers lack the patience and tolerance to handle users’ feet dragging, change of mind of requirement etc., most are defaulted to build and start building immediately. Except on a very small close-knit project, having a developer double as a Business Analyst (which you find rarely), the organization is simply setting up on the path of failure.
Subject Matter Expert won’t totally replace Business Analyst
This sounds very untrue right? Particularly when you have a Business Analyst on your team whose got no domain knowledge about the scope of the project. Yes, I know how the sponsors of such project feel, as they must suck it in until such Business Analyst finds its footing. I get it. But to replace that role with an SME will be a great misdoing. First, subject matter experts have their daily business as usual tasks and most times are not able to combine effectively with other ad-hoc or special out-of-their zone tasks. Second, being an SME does not automatically help to build the special knowledge and skills required of BUSINESS ANALYST s; strong communication, critical thinking, documentation, engagement, collaboration etc. are developed over time. Third, most SMEs display some tendencies of some developers: always drifting and getting into the rabbit hole, making simple engagements or tasks unnecessarily complex. The resultant effect most times are time slippages, budget overrun, and project delay- overall project failure.
Stakeholders don’t model requirements
Here, I’m speaking about the direct/primary users of the to-build solution. You’ll hear people argue: what does it take users to write down their needs? Sounds like a question that has a simple answer. It’s not that simple in real life. Without degrading the value of the end users in any form, experience has shown that users are ServiceNow focused (not ServiceNow service manager application). Most projects require someone who can think outside the current boundary of operations to be able to facilitate and document a more efficient and viable future, Business Analyst fill in the gap here. Business Analysts can connect cross- functional dots; they are able to understand cross- functional interfaces, processes and are able to provide a helicopter view approach to supporting and recommending both business and technical best fit solutions.
As I mentioned, Business Analysts need to deliver value to their employers within the shortest possible time. I understand it’s difficult to completely grasp the head to tail of a newly assigned job, particularly when the business analyst in question does not have the domain knowledge, however, you can look for some low hanging tasks like current process documentation, system context etc. to quickly excite your employer. Business Analyst roles is such an important role and cannot be substituted for another.
Let’s discuss more how you can excite your employers within the shortest possible time and never be in a position where your employers are uncertain about your capabilities. Let’s chat buddy!