Business analysis is the practice of identifying and enabling change in an organisation. Business analysts are hired to help create a map of everything a business does – from the way it manages staff, to the way it develops products – so that everyone involved has a clearer idea of what their role is.
A business analyst generally works as an internal consultant who:
- Investigates business situations;
- Identifies and evaluates business systems;
- Defines what a business needs to stakeholders;
- Ensures the effective use of information systems.
A good analyst can help a business by taking advantage of opportunities, cutting costs and removing flaws in development processes.
Business analysts must understand business systems as well as IT systems so they can see how all these pieces fit together and how they might benefit each other.
In short, business analysts assist the organisation by identifying problems, opportunities and needs and proposing what changes might be made to achieve business goals or solve a problem.
The importance of business analysis
The importance of business analysis has grown exponentially as industries become more complex and rely more heavily on software and automation. Even the smallest of organizations can benefit from the application of an analysists’ skills.
There is growing need to find business analysts capable of implementing sweeping changes, pushing projects to completion and finding solutions to the many challenges faced by modern organizations.
Without thorough analysis, businesses might make wrong decisions when choosing the next path for their project to take. The critical eye of a skilled business analyst helps guide them away from serious financial risk.
Business analysis tools
Business analysts don’t have to be experts in technology, but they must be proficient in the use of industry tools to better identify problems and help create solutions.
It’s not possible for analysts to have an in-depth knowledge of every tool on the market but a business analyst needs to have a working knowledge of at least a handful of requirement, modelling and collaboration tools.
Having a good understanding of just some the following tools can help business analysts carry out their duties:
While something as basic as Microsoft Excel might be enough to track and describe requirements, more advanced tools help automate the process to a degree and have other nifty features such as quick file-sharing and easy communication between project members.
Business analysts often make use of at least one following requirement-related tools:
- Modern Requirements helps business analysts define requirements visually and textually. It supports a host of functions like use-case creation, trace analysis and diagramming. It can create and share reports with a single click. This software is designed with an agile methodology in mind.
- Jarma Software focuses on industry and large-scale operations. It comes packaged with a heap of automated tools like real-time impact analysis. It’s focused towards mass-production and can quickly replicate features across multiple products
- Axure is designed for IT professionals in mind. It features a combination of requirement modelling, prototyping and collaboration tools designed to bring together large teams spread across the world.
‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ – this is even more so the case when trying to explain complex IT jargon to someone with no knowledge of IT.
A good modelling tool helps explain to stakeholders how all the components of a business fit together and exactly what their roles are.
Most modelling tools come packaged along with other dedicated requirement related tools, but there are a handful of stand-alone modelling tools such as:
- Visio, helps generate entity-relationship-diagrams (ERD’s) that describe how concepts fit together. ERD’s can be used to help clarify business concepts and connect these concepts to database structures.
There are far more complex modelling tools that can automatically generate ERD’s from data taken from a database.
Even more impressive are modelling tools that can be used to automatically generate code or databases from diagrams. These tools are a bit beyond the expertise of your average business analyst however, most lie within the domain of Software Analysts or other highly specialized roles.
Sometimes it’s hard – if not impossible – to gather all the members involved in a project in the same room. Collaboration tools help people talk to each other.
Some of the simplest collaboration tools – like Skype – are free. Most collaboration tools take the form of websites accessed through your browser.
More complex collaboration tools allow for cloud storage, file-sharing and real-time editing to help teams work together.
The techniques of business analysis
All organizations can improve the way they work. Finding those habits that need changed however, can sometimes be difficult. The following techniques are all designed to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a business so changes can then be made.
SWOT is commonly used as part of marketing strategy but it can also serve to optimize business strategy and is a great way to open up team discussions.
SWOT stands for:
- Strengths – Attributes that will help achieve goals;
- Weaknesses – Areas that need improvement;
- Opportunities – External conditions that can’t be controlled, but that might be helpful;
- Threats – External conditions that can’t be controlled, that might be harmful.
Teams will answer a series of questions, filling up the SWOT model as they do. Information from different categories can be combined. For example, what strengths can we use to offset threats? Or, what opportunities might help address our weaknesses?
SWOT can be used at every step in the decision-making process to revaluate strategy and account for both internal and external factors.
PESTLE is generally used in long-term large manufacturing projects where one overlooked aspect may spell disaster for a product.
PESTLE stands for:
- Political – tax policy or trade tariffs
- Economic – inflation or interest rates
- Social – target demographics or population
- Technological – automation or innovation
- Legal – safety standards or labour laws
- Environmental – climate change or natural resources
This framework tries to account for everything that might jeopardize a long-term project. It has many variations including PESTLEE – the extra ‘E’ stands for ethics.
Business analysis certification
Business analysis tasks are often performed simultaneously by different people within an organisation. Professionals with different backgrounds and knowledge can all learn business analysis skills, then apply these to their work.
The British Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) is internationally renowned for its professional qualifications. It’s business analyst and subject-specific qualifications are designed to help broaden your knowledge and teach skills relevant to business analysis.
BCS certification is internationally recognised as a measure competence, ability and performance.
These courses will give you a strong understanding of business analysis so you can confidently demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skillset necessary to perform the role.
BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis
The BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis course explores the core tools and techniques of business analysis.
This course is a great way to gain a comprehensive understanding of business analysis.
You can study the BCS Foundation in Business Analysis by enrolling in a classroom course or an online course.
BCS Business Analysis Practice
The BCS Business Analysis Practice course is a new format of the popular ISEB Business Analysis Essentials course
As a business analyst, you will need to understand the business strategy, use proven techniques to analyse the business area, and meet internal and external challenges.
This course develops the skills needed to work with senior business and IT staff to model business activities.
BCS Requirements Engineering
This course will teach you how to elicit, analyse, validate, document and manage requirements.
If you already have practical experience in business analysis or are currently employed as a business analyst, this course will help you better understand the field of requirements engineering.
BCS Modelling Business Processes
This course will teach you how to model the processes of an entire enterprise, so that each process may be analysed, modified and improved.
The main function of business modelling is to improve the way the processes are carried out. Analysts find different ways to improve the way things work, which leads to higher efficiency and more productivity.
This course ensures that you have a solid understanding of how to identify and model business practices in your field.