Business Analyst, Business Analyst Definition

Do we really know what the ‘Analyst’ in the ‘Business Analyst’ means?

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Do we really know what the ‘Analyst’ in the ‘Business Analyst’ means?Business analysts have been around for a long time, at least by concept, if not by exactly same designations. Business Analysts are employed by many organisations and businesses all over the world.

But the fact remains that most professionals are still quite unsure about what exactly makes a Business Analyst and what to expect from one. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) has a curious take on what business analysis really is. Some of these points state that a Business Analyst –

  • Is an “agent”, “identifier” and “facilitator” of change
  • Is equipped with specialized knowledge
  • Holds relevant formal education

Of course, all of these points form necessary conditions for one to be a Business Analyst. But these attributes are found wanting when we try to establish a set of necessary and sufficient conditions. This article aims to delve deeper into what a Business Analyst really means to a business.

While skills define what a professional ‘can achieve’, they are hardly reflective of ‘how to achieve’ the same. Deliverables, in the same vein, appear to emphasize on what ‘can be done’ – rather than how it will help address the problems at hand. As a matter of fact, the role of a Business Analyst is hardly limited to analyzing. Furthermore, the analysis that a Business Analyst is expected to offer is often ill-understood or sometimes, misunderstood.

Ever since technology has taken over the operations in most businesses, the practice of analyzing a problem before seeking help from other quarters has come to the fore – because there’s only so long that technology can go. That’s where Business Analysts come in – bridging the valley between businesses and technologies. It wouldn’t surprise many, then, that Business Analysts have, today, become indispensable components of corporate makeup in most organisations.

Defining a Business Analyst

To define a Business Analyst is to understand what analysis itself means. Looking beyond the general and understood meaning of the word, we will adopt an analytical – and somewhat semantic – approach.

Oxford English Dictionary defines the process of analysing something as ‘carrying out a detailed and methodical examination of elements or structure of something’.

So, what is a Business Analyst expected to examine?

The business itself!

What is expected of a Business Analyst is the ability to bring to the table excellent analytical skills to thoroughly dissect the processes in order to understand and help address the problems. The ability to spot problems and their root causes while interpreting them to lessen the distance between technology and a business is what makes up the bulk of a Business Analyst’s expertise.

The importance of having a ‘method’ in place

The latter part of the literal definition of analyzing emphasizes the importance of a methodical examination.

The majority of a Business Analyst’s expertise lies in examining problems. This can essentially be looked at as transforming unknowns into known. It’s just like translation – from one unintelligible form to another legible form. The algorithm of a Business Analyst at work would generally follow this pattern: discovery, examination and a methodical interpretation.

Discovery of and examination into the problem

Many times, I have come across businesses who self-diagnose their problems. Sometimes, there’s no problem to begin with, before the troubleshooting procedures create them. Businesses frequently put a lot of thought into upgrading system infrastructure to get over unidentified issues – whereas the real problem lies in not fully understanding the functionality of present system. Similarly, I have come across businesses who want to re-engineer their process flows to tackle vague issues when the real culprit is the lack of intra-business communication.

What a Business Analyst does is, at its core, transforming the unknown entity into a known entity.

  • What unknown entities are

Unknown entities generally take form of undiscovered business needs whose impacts are felt or self-diagnosed problems that may or may not be there. A common ailment like a headache is often self-diagnosed, treated or dismissed by most of us as an ordinary occurrence.  But a doctor’s way of looking at it is different – because the condition will first need to be validated before it could be treated. The role of a Business Analyst can be likened to that of a doctor, here.

  • Transforming unknown into known

The unknown factors that define a problem faced by a business are discovered and then examined thoroughly by a Business Analyst – much like how a doctor would carry out a few diagnostic tests to gain an insight into the patient’s headache.

  • Methodical Interpretation

This involves taking an overview of the business in order to be able to translate the business needs and provide effective, optimum solution(s). An expert Business Analyst will try to effect the solutions while keeping inside the business infrastructure boundaries by understanding the following attributes:

  • What is the current state? How it works? What are the user pain points? What are the inefficiencies?
  • What requirements does the business have to address the problem?
  • Who will be affected by proposed solutions?
  • Does the business have capabilities to solve the problem? If not, what sort of additional resources would this demand?
  • Can business infrastructure and capabilities be optimized to help mitigate the problem?

What makes an ‘analyst’ a ‘true’ analyst?

Drawing on my own experience, I tend to categorize Business Analysts into:

Passive Analysts – the ones who simply take for granted the information presented to them by a business as the real problem.

Active Analysts – the ones who try to get involved actively in the business processes to examine the problem space, albeit still failing to analyze it.

True Analysts – the ones who examine every piece of the puzzle synthetically and analytically to leave no stone un-turned in reaching suitable solution-destinations

A ‘true’ Business Analyst, thus, is a scrupulous examiner who has excellent analytical abilities who should –

  • Be able to elicit correct and useful information from irrelevant data
  • Be able to synthesize required information
  • Be able to optimize resources while reaching the proposed solutions
  • Be a critical thinker with an analytical approach
  • Always be intellectually curious and motivated.

How being analytically critical helps a Business Analyst?

 

To quote The Critical Thinking Community here,

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”

Being intellectually curious and motivated plays a large role in the making of a ‘true’ Business Analyst.

In summary, it can be said that defining the ‘Analyst’ in the ‘Business Analyst’ is essential to understanding what a Business Analyst can mean for a business. A more fitting approach to this is a literal approach in which the meaning of the word ‘Analyst’ is assessed to understand what makes a ‘Business Analyst’.

A ‘true’ Business Analyst is the one who can bring closer business and technology with the help of excellent analytical, synthetic and intellectual thinking.

Job deliverables are only a part of what a Business Analyst has to offer, whereas, the real value that a ‘true’ Business Analyst creates lies in being a great ‘Analyst’ itself.

What is your definition of the ‘Analyst’ in the ‘Business Analyst’?

 

Author: Adam Alami, Sr. Business Analyst

Adam Alami is a seasoned IT consultant with over 18 years’ experience. Business Analysis is his passion. His experience revolves around major business transformation projects. He is a versatile IT professional. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience with Tier 1 businesses in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.

Email: info@adamalami.com   Website: www.adamalami.com

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COMMENTS

JENNYCASTLE posted on Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:32 PM
What exactly is meant by 'synthetic' thinking?
adamalami posted on Friday, November 20, 2015 1:54 AM
It is making all the pieces of the puzzle collected together in order to form a connected whole.
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