ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32
Financial Times  

The importance of IT business analysis

By Yasas Vishuddhi Abeywickrama

Ten years back, hardly anyone in the IT industry understood the importance of the Business Analysts' (BA) role, but time proved that software projects need someone who can interpret business and business needs and work with the development teams to build a system that in fact supports the business.

Initially, it was programmers themselves who did this part, but numerous failures proved that it's not the correct approach. The real business situation might not be visible when it's looked at from a technical viewpoint because technical concerns are thought of even before the business needs are identified. Some of the solutions provided did not solve problems faced by the business but only solved things that programmers considered as the business problems.

Luckily, things are changing at a rapid pace now, and most projects identify the need to have someone who concentrates on the business needs. And BAs are the people who serve this purpose. Far and wide it's visible that the job market for BAs is growing at a high rate and any major project such as an enterprise-wide system would definitely have BA resources. Today, even the Programmers/Software Engineers prefer to have BAs on their teams so that they do not have any ambiguities with regard to the business requirements.

A few years back, it was quite difficult to find Business Analysis specific material on the web. It was the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) who first put forward some relevant material. Now they have gone further into developing a comprehensive Body of Knowledge (BOC).

BA is one of the most important roles in a software development setting. Business Analysts of software firms act as the liaison between the business and development teams by serving as business problem solvers. They provide the process, questions, and techniques to efficiently extract the information needed from the business users for successful development projects. In general, they can be considered as the Bridge between the users/client and the project team.

They work with the masses of information given to them by a large number of people which are used to extract a concise but complete description of the business and its requirements. They also analyze the business to identify problems and opportunities and define solution characteristics without getting carried away with technology concerns. The BA is responsible for requirements development and management. Specifically, the Business Analyst elicits, analyzes, validates and documents business, organizational and operational requirements.

Documentation skills of a BA should be first-class. He needs to document extensively during his project activities. Industry standards and formats could be used for this purpose or alternatively they could be developed to suit the specific situation.
To facilitate his tasks, several tools are available. Some companies use these while some do not. Since handling data and information is prominent for this role, data analyzing tools would also be very helpful and productive. Some of the relevant tools are CaliberRM by Borland, Rational Suite by IBM and Microsoft Visio.

Drawing prerequisite lines on paper qualifications and experience is difficult, but a sound academic background and experience in the IT field would be needed. Most in the BA position today come from the IT side with an IT educational background while a smaller portion comes through a business academic background but experienced in working in the IT industry. There is a third group, which is even smaller, who does not posses an IT academic background or experience in the IT industry, but are experts in their respective business domains.

A person with a similar background as explained above together with outstanding conceptual, analytical, communication, facilitation, presentation, organizational and managerial skills would be an ideal candidate to be an IT Business Analyst.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that it is one of the most interesting jobs found in the IT industry providing immense exposure and assuring great self satisfaction.

The writer holds an honours degree in Computer Science from the University of Colombo. He has Business Analysis experience in the USA, UK, Sri Lanka and Australia.

He is currently working in Australia as a Business Analyst for an enterprise-wide taxation project for RevenueSA and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Computer Society's (ACS) South Australian Branch.

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