Category Archives: Uncategorized

Project Phases for Business Analysts

This article is focused on enabling better performance in business analysts and aspiring business analyst professionals. In this regard, I thought knowing the basics of project phases may be a useful read. Basically I’m hoping to touch upon the various aspects of a technology project that achieves a specific business outcome in which business analysts play a vital role.

Why choose technology projects for business analyst discussion?

Our world today is governed by technology. From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we hit the sack in the night we are in a way ruled by technology. A business analyst role in a way is better appreciated when there is technology involved. As mentioned earlier in my posts, anyplace in this world, that combines people, process and technology would result in a problem.

If there is a business analyst, who is working exclusively on process without any impact to technology or without any aspect of technology involved, I would like to meet him or her. So coming to our topic – let us try to understand from a business analyst and consulting stand point in a simple way the different phases of a functional business project that involves technology.

Note – Please note that I’m refraining from getting into Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) or Agile. I would like to keep the context of this post brief and not specific to a particular project management style though what I do state would align to most methodologies.

Is a business analyst actively involved in the project sub phases?
Business project that involves technology are often split into 2 large phases in the consulting world. The first phase is called Scoping and the second phase is called Delivery. Both these phases contain multiple sub phases in which a business analyst plays a vital role. We will look at them in detail.

The sub phases of a the Scoping phase of a consulting project are usually split into Scope Definition, Analysis and Functional Design.

The sub phases of a Delivery effort in a consulting assignment includes Technical Design, Construction / Build, Test phase that includes System Integration Testing (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing.

Scope definition – From my experience, I have noted than often the scope definition of the project is prior to a business analyst being assigned to the project. In some cases, the business analyst might get lucky and stand to be included in the scope definition of the project. But usually in this phase a project / functional manager, the program manager and subject matter experts play a major role. In some cases, this phase is also called blue printing.

In certain instances the scope phase include the requirements gathering process while in some cases, it gets pushed into the analysis phase of the project.

Analysis phase – Again while the term Analysis strictly refers to analyzing the business requirements gathered, more often the requirements gathering process start in this phase. The analysis phase of the project actively involves the business analyst interfacing with the stakeholder and gathering the business requirements and analyzing the requirements to better understand which requirements fit into the scope area defined and which doesn’t.

It is a big challenge that in some instances business requirements often exceed the given project scope and may need to be identified by the business analyst and De-scoped. To the contrary in some cases, there is scope creeps and a lot of the business requirements are missed being documented. The analysis phase is definitely an area where a business analyst plays a critical role.

Functional Design – In the consulting world, the design phase is split into functional design and technical design. The function design is the phase where design elements with respect to data flows, requirements mapping to data flows, requirement functions that can be met through the design etc will be documented.

Technical Design – Technical design as the name suggests is the design document that provides the technology that defines the systems that will specifically be used to meet the functional business requirements documented by the business analyst. While the functional design document details the functions that would be met as a part of the design implementation, the technical design sticks on to the technology used, type of server to be used (Windows vs Linux), the type of database to used etc.

A lot of times in organizations these two documents are combined together to house a single design document. The usefulness of the comprehensive design document is completely contingent on the methodology followed by the organization. In some cases, where the business analyst is more functional some parts of the comprehensive design document becomes a challenge to understand.

A business analyst in the design phase plays the role of a solution expert. The business analyst is required to validate that the design document and the solution proposed meets the project objectives and the specific business requirements that have been captured.

Build / Construction – While in a strict sense a functional business analyst role would be restricted to requirements planning, requirements gathering and documentation until hand off to the IT teams, organizations today take a holistic view of the business analyst function. A business analyst might not play a very active role in the construction phase of the project. That certainly does not mean that a business analyst moves on to another project at this stage or has a relaxing time. While the IT team works on the construction phase of the project, a business analyst may be required to work on supporting the Testing preparation along with the project manager.

Apart from potentially supporting change management deliverables, a business analyst may be required to help drive reviewing the test strategy, test plans, test scenarios, cases and scripts.

The CBAP handbook specifically calls out that creating design documents, test strategy, test plans or executing test cases is not considered as relevant work experience for CBAP certification. I’m sure most of us would agree that irrespective of our likes and dislikes and what the handbook says, for all practical reasons, a business analyst usually ends up taking on these deliverables.

In my opinion getting our hands dirty on these deliverables is very good as you would no longer be restricting yourself to the role of a business analyst but scaling up to be a management consultant.

Test Phase – I hate to break it to you, but testing is further split into sub components.

A business analyst would know that the systems integration test is more often the key to solving most of the issues and problems in a technology project. While in the build phase, the IT team would ensure that they perform selected core testing on what they built, it more often becomes the role of a business analyst to support integration testing. The systems integration testing involves passing data through source and down stream systems to often test the interface / data flow between the systems through predefined test cases/ scenario having a specific test result.

The User Acceptance Test (UAT) succeeds the systems integration test. In this phase, the testing is performed from an end-user / customer perspective. It is expected that the testing from systems integration throws up a little of problems and bugs that will need to be solved prior to entering UAT. During UAT, the end-user or customer is given the flexibility to help choose the business scenarios they would like tested. The expected results (which should match to the expectation of the user) is often shared with the user to enable boost their confidence and sign off on the testing phase.

Testing is always done in a server environment outside of the real-time production environment. So, if you are in a meeting and hear people discussing about testing environments, don’t be baffled. It is merely a server environment that often replicates the production environment but allows you to make mistakes and correct them.

Implementation / Go Live – The implementation phase of the project is when the codes and solution tried and tested through the other phases of the project are moved into the production environment. Once the codes are moved into production and the systems are ready to Go Live, with the flip of a switch the changes are posted into production and are live to be reflected.

As you would have noted, the role of a business analyst is more than often exemplified in the initial stages of the project. During the initial stages of the project, there is a greater need for the business analyst to interact with the stake holders, gather requirements, document them, analyze requirements etc. Thus a BA becomes the bridge between the business stakeholders and the IT teams making the role extremely important. At the same time, it is also important for a BA’s to understand the impact of their role and their work on other areas of the project.

For all aspiring BA’s, I do hope this article though lengthy, provided you good insight into what happens beyond your role. Hope you liked it. Please do feel free to share your comments.

Business Analyst Jobs and Careers

In a tough economic environment like the one we are currently mired in, there is nothing more important to businesses than cutting out the waste and becoming more efficient. That is why many companies have taken it upon themselves to hire a business analyst. As you might have already guessed, the jobs of an analyst to examine the business needs of his clients in order to locate any present or potential problems and then pose practical solutions. A business analyst is also often known as a systems analyst or a functional analyst and there are some promising careers available.

The simple truth is that no matter how well any one company is run, there is always room for improvement. With the rapidly changing technological environment and nearly daily computer upgrades, greater efficiency can be achieved if you know where to look. And that is where a business analyst comes in. It is their job to keep abreast of all the new techniques and products that can help companies improve their efficiency.

How does one become an analyst?

There is no set path that one can take to get involved in business analyst careers. Many times they have technical experience, either as a programmer or in engineer jobs. Analysts who specialize in computers often have a Computer Science degree or experience with IT solutions. While others come from a business background and have firsthand experience with many of the problems that they encounter.

The unique experiences and responsibilities of business analyst careers also make them qualified to perform some of the tasks of project managers and consultants. In fact, when many analysts retire, they often offer their services as high paid, part time consultants.

But an analyst does not only work on computer-related project, their skills are also utilized on marketing and financial projects. Though it is true that many analysts will stick to their own particular area of expertise, some analysts are truly jacks-of-all-trades and they customarily work on projects in different industries. The most popular job industries for analysts include: finance, insurance, banking, utilities, telecoms, computer and software services.

Just as the path to becoming a business analyst is not set in stone, neither are the roles or responsibilities of the analyst. Yes, of course, ultimately they are hired to improve efficiency. But they may also be asked to focus on only one department or division in the business. For example, an analyst may be asked to help improve sales planning, scaling, or even business strategies.

Why would someone want to become a business analyst?

For one thing, experience. As we mentioned, because of the various demands of the business, it is not uncommon that an analyst will work on different types of projects and encounter different problems and challenges every time out. This means that the analyst will quickly acquire a wealth of experience that he can call on in all future endeavors. If, for example, he wants to become a consultant or start his own consulting firm, he will have the background to handle nearly any problem that comes down the pike.

Another great reason to get involved in business analyst careers is market demand. The truth is that business analysis is a relatively new field and it is growing by leaps and bounds. There are still not enough of them to go around, which means that a good analyst can always find work. He can also become a project manager or consultant if he ever has problems finding a job.

The likelihood is that a good business analyst will never want for work. And even as the field expands and more managers graduate from colleges, the fact is that businesses will always need experienced individuals to help them cut costs, take advantage of available resources and improve overall business functions. Unlike many other businesses that are content to enroll new employees in training programs to help them learn the ropes, business analysts have on the job training. Their fees are almost entirely dependent on their experience and their reputation in the field. They are also only as good as their last project.

That is one of the reasons why business analysis is not for everyone. It is a highly stressful job that requires an individual to take charge and communicate with people from many different disciplines. And at the end of the day, if the client is unhappy with the results, the blame falls on the head of the analyst. This can not only hurt his reputation but also his paycheck for all upcoming projects.

However, if you are a take charge individual who does well in high pressure situations and can complete projects under hard deadlines, then business analysis jobs may be right for you.

The Business Analyst Career

Job Of A Business Analyst

A business analyst can prove to be a savior for the business, if it is heading towards troubled waters on account of faulty business strategies. Hiring a business analyst not only improves the working of the company, but also simplifies client interaction. Therefore, if you take a job as a business analyst, keep in mind that you are expected to help the company save money.

A business analyst interprets the project terms and simplifies the business requirements of the stakeholder and sponsor. They formulate an effective project communication system. It is the business analyst’s job to gather accurate data and analyze information on clientele, staff and users, in relation to the technology used. Business analysts are needed in all industries, whether banking, telecommunication, software or pharmaceutical. They are employed in consultancies to offer business related solutions to client firms.

A business analyst studies various business-related problems and works toward finding solution for them. The job also involves system and functional analysis. The business analyst is a common link between the department of information and the enterprise. They collate and document the necessary requirements for the business and make it available for the information technology department.

The Business analyst understands the specific needs of the organization and finds a sound technical solution for the same. They interpret the project terms and simplify relations between the IT department and the business as a whole. The business analyst gathers accurate data and information about the staff and users, in connection with the human resources department and the technology at hand. Thereafter, they develop an effective project communication system, keeping in mind the various business possibilities and predicted threats. In larger organizations, there are both Senior Business Analysts and Junior Business Analysts.

The Functions Of A Business Analyst Are:

Strategist – A company should always focus on a winning strategy. Business analysts provide various business strategies that enable the business to survive the constant competition.

Architect – After strategically analyzing the business needs, the business analyst designs a work strategy to run the business efficiently. Afterwards, the business analyst provides the company with a design to achieve the company goals and objectives.

System Analyst – System analysts work towards getting the best returns from expensive IT investments.

The business analyst has to make sure that the business does not face any threat in future. As a part of their job, a business analyst warns the company about the various profit and loss possibilities in the future. This helps management to be able to tackle any kind of situation efficiently.

Benefits Of A Business Analyst Career

A business analyst can prove to be a savior for the business, if it is heading towards troubled waters on account of faulty business strategies. Hiring a business analyst not only improves the working of the company, but also simplifies client interaction. Therefore, if you take a job as a business analyst, keep in mind that you are expected to help the company save money.

A business analyst interprets the project terms and simplifies the business requirements of the stakeholder and sponsor. They formulate an effective project communication system. It is the business analyst’s job to gather accurate data and analyze information on clientele, staff and users, in relation to the technology used. Business analysts are needed in all industries, whether banking, telecommunication, software or pharmaceutical. They are employed in consultancies to offer business related solutions to client firms.

How to Become a Business Analyst?

There is a burgeoning demand of professionals who can effectively recognize business requirements, devise solutions and execute plans that help businesses in accomplishing their goals. Known as ‘Business analysts’, such people work in a diversified range of industries across various job profiles. The business analyst job has become synonyms with IT specialists. As an analyst, you act as a viable link between business needs and the technology which is employed in the company.

Nowadays, the scope of business is very wide. You can work with the independent firm, where you need to use your expertise on particular projects, or you can work within a particular industry, like transport or banking.

Business analyst job requirements-

While it is not an exhaustive list, but an analyst would be expected to do the following tasks-

1= He needs to maintain cordial relations with clients
2= He has to make sure that all projects are following the deadline
3= He needs to develop and present ideas to the management
4= He imparts training to technical staff

Requisite qualifications

There are no particular qualifications required to get a business analyst job, although, a bachelor degree is required for the entry-level business analyst position. Usually, top-notch companies prefer to hire candidates who have a degree in business administration. A prior experience would be an added benefit. These analysts come from different educational backgrounds. An IT background can be beneficial in certain areas.

Required skills and traits

In order to find a lucrative business analyst job, a person should possess strong technical knowledge along with communication skills. Apart from these, you should have the following traits-

1= Negotiation skills
2= Managerial ability
3= Persuasion skills
4= Analytic
5= Team building ability
6= Strategic thinking

Career prospects

As there is a high demand of analysts in industries for improving business performance, employment of these professionals is likely to increase in a near future. The majority of jobs exists with big consultancy firms and you can also explore opportunities in large companies. Business analysts, backed with expertise and educational qualification, are set to enjoy flourishing career prospects. These analysts are required in almost all industrial sectors, including pharmaceutical, banking, telecommunication, insurance, etc.

Some of the popular job profiles exist in this domain are-

1= Data Analyst
2= Systems Analyst
3= Business Architect
4= Business Consultant
5= Business Process Analyst
6= Requirements Analyst

How much can you expect to earn?

In the past few years, the salary packages of business analyst have sky rocketed. The salary package would depend on a diversified range of factors, including location, company and experience. If you are working with a leading company, then you can easily earn Rs 50,000-80,000/month. Experienced professionals with advanced degree & qualifications can even earn Rs 1 lakh/annum. The IT analyst earns perks also.

Some of the top companies offering analyst jobs in India are-

1= Infosys
2= Wipro
3= IBM
4= Microsoft
5= Google India
6= RCOM
7= Accenture
8= HCL Tech
9= L&T
10= Deloitte

An analyst acts as the savior of the company, if it is moving towards troubled waters due to the bad business practices. When a company appoints a business analyst, then it not only helps in augmenting the functioning of the company, but it also makes it easy to interact with clients.