Business Analyst: a Leading Player in Your Software Development Team

When it comes to everything digital, the dynamic nature of the market is beyond question. A single event can start a chain reaction that changes the whole game, shifting consumer needs, their daily habits, and the global economy itself. Companies that adapt to the ever-changing business environment and turn every opportunity into their advance are more likely to survive.

On this point, it’s absolutely necessary to hire someone who makes sure that project deliverables meet the exact business goals you need — someone like a business analyst.

What is the role of a business analyst on a software development project?

A business analyst is a core member of a software development team for many reasons. First of all, a BA investigates a business from an aerial perspective, identifying its pain points, needs and finding practical solutions. Furthermore, a business analyst establishes efficient communication, ensuring all members are looking in the same direction towards the same business goal.

Let’s take a look at the main responsibilities of a business analyst throughout the software development lifecycle.

Key responsibilities of a business analyst

A business analyst’s role has various responsibilities and tasks depending on the project phase. Engaging a business analyst right from the start of the software development lifecycle is crucial for on-time product launch and efficient resource allocation. That’s why you shouldn’t neglect the discovery phase — the work done on the pre-development stage directly affects your product’s cost and time-to-market.

Researching the field

The business analysis starts with getting well-oriented in the project domain and history and understanding the company’s inner workings. It’s also important to determine the project’s stakeholders since they’re the primary source of requirements. Stakeholders typically include customers, end-users, investors, and the company’s executives.

Clarifying the product’s concept & requirements

Business analysis activities include defining the ultimate idea of a product and its value for the company. To see the full picture, a business analyst interviews decision-makers and the product’s targeted audience. The process also involves setting up project milestones and definitions of “done” for each feature.

If the field research was done right, it lays the foundations for well-organized communication between all parties and ensures that requirements won’t change during the development. The requirements analysis process contributes to meeting user expectations and building the backbone of a project backlog.

Developing project documentation

After requirements are gathered and well-analyzed, a business analyst creates both technical and business documentation for a project. The amount and type of documentation vary from project to project, but the best practices recommend include at least some of the following types:

  • User stories or use cases
  • User personas
  • Project road map
  • Software Requirement Specifications (SRS)
  • Design documentation (mind maps, wireframes, and prototypes)
  • API documentation
  • System architecture documentation

Some software development methodologies such as Agile reduce the amount of documentation and focus on direct face-to-face communication between the team and decision-makers. However, this approach often results in miscommunication and overtime work for designers and developers. By storing the whole project’s documentation in one place, a BA facilitates smooth workflow for the team and peace of mind for product owners.

Creating a project backlog

Using their business domain expertise and analytical skills, a business analyst can build an efficient and realistic project backlog. A project backlog requires prioritizing must-have and secondary features for delivering a fully-functioning MVP — the trick is finding a balance between getting fast ROI and creating a well-designed system.

A business analyst estimates what work needs to be done and how long it takes to implement every feature. Therefore, a business analyst takes part in resource allocation, finding ways to achieve the project’s goals while staying within the budget.

Supervising the development process

The business analyst’s duties aren’t limited to project discovery and planning. They include tracking the development process, translating product requirements to the team, and ensuring everything sticks to the plan. To keep in a loop with the daily workflow, a business analyst attends daily team meetings and backlog grooming prior to the next project milestone.

Business analyst’s essential skills

Business analysts come from different backgrounds, such as UX design, technical writing, quality assurance, software engineering, business consulting, and so on. Although tech proficiency varies from person to person, every business analyst should have the following skills.

  1. Critical thinking

    Unbiased fact analysis and qualitative/quantitative research are the two core qualities of every business analyst. Since a BA makes vital decisions that influence the pace of a project, their ability to process and evaluate information is critical.

  2. Data visualization

    A business analyst should be fluent in using modeling tools that visualize the system components or processes. UML and BPMN diagrams help communicate system architecture or internal business procedures with colleagues and project decision-makers. Furthermore, a business analyst assists UX designers in defining user flows and creating product mockups.

  3. Finding practical solutions

    A defined problem is half-solved, and a business analyst is the one who knows exactly how to frame and investigate complex issues. A high-qualified business analyst grasps the problem from multiple perspectives, including technology, business, and end-user. Problem-solving skills come hand in hand with the ability to collaborate with tech and non-tech experts from various fields.

  4. Focusing on value

    End-user satisfaction stands at the center of all planning, monitoring, and assessment affairs as an integral component of project success. By advocating for users’ needs throughout the product development lifecycle, a business analyst directly increases value for users and, as a result, for the business.

Project manager and business analyst: What’s the difference?

While the duties of a business analyst and a project manager overlap in many cases, there is a fundamental difference between these roles. A project manager makes sure all tasks are completed on schedule, resolves in-team personal and technical issues, and creates a strategy to prevent potential risks. A business analyst is concentrated on the inner processes of a company and the client’s expectations.

A project manager’s typical day includes checking-up with the team, assigning tasks, managing the workflow, meetings, and reporting. In contrast, a business analyst mostly contributes to project documentation. While a single person can combine these roles on a small project, bigger projects require hiring both a project manager and a business analyst to successfully launch the end-product.

Business analysis vs. business analytics

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same. Business analysis is about understanding business’ and users’ needs and finding the most efficient ways to deliver value. Business analytics, or so-called data analytics, is more related to gathering and interpreting the data related to the product’s functions and performance.

Unlike business analysts, data analysts come into play after the product’s release. Using various business intelligence methods, they analyze how users interact with a product and provide actionable insights for product improvements.

When does business analysis make a difference?

Building a successful digital product requires more than just code and design. Even the most talented developers cannot figure out the stakeholders’ expectations and calculate the most effective solutions. Moreover, developers tend to continuously suggest technological improvements that are not always in line with the project’s budget or users’ needs.

Here we come to the two main benefits you get from business analysis — understanding customers’ needs and reducing the project’s costs. With meticulous requirements mining and a user-oriented approach, a business analyst anticipates decision turnarounds and enhances the product’s quality. 

So, if you want to get the best out of software development and ensure your product aligns with the market demands, opt for business analysis services. At Blackthorn Vision, we transform your ideas into functional product design that helps you outshine the competition without overrunning the budget.

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Originally published.