What Do Business Analysts Do?

The question "What Do Business Analysts Do?" is an interesting one. The only correct answer is "It depends!" First off, it depends on what you mean with the title "Business Analyst". There are Financial Business Analysts who do financial evaluations of organizations. What do they do? I have no idea, and in my universe having no idea what someone else does equates to "Magic". They simply do their magic and they get paid (I assume) for it.

The Information Technology (IT) Business Analyst

This is my world; IT Business Analysis is where I live. So for me the question is "What do IT Business Analysts Do" and for that, I have a couple of answers. The first one is, "It depends". Actually, the only people who can answer the question correctly are those doing the work. Every organization defines IT Business Analysis to be whatever they need it to be based on their organizational structure. That means there is no clear-cut answer to the question. Nonetheless, there are some relatively common denominators. The information presented below comes out of a survey of over 1700 people who understood the question and could relate. They had job titles such as "Business Analyst", "Systems Analyst", "Business Systems Analyst", "Technical Analyst", "Functional Analyst", "Requirements Analyst", "Requirements Engineer", "Requirements Manager", and several others too exotic to remember.

For an entertaining and equally informative view of these results, watch the short KnowledgeKnugget™ (or, as the industry calls them, "explainer video"), Business Analysis Techniques presented by our strategic partner, BA-EXPERTS. If you prefer a chart to a video, you are here.

Survey Results

# Topic % of respondents who do this as part of their assignment.
1 Identify and Model Process Requirements* 80% Business Systems Analyst Tasks

This chart combines results from multiple sources (including our data).

It reflects about 1700 IT professionals who consider themselves IT Business Analysts.

What Do Business Analysts Do?

2 Identify and Model Data Requirements*

75%

3 Identify Business Rules Requirements* 75%
4 Test Requirements** 75%
5 Manage Requirements 70%
6 Facilitate Requirements Sessions (JAD) 65%
7 Help Scope the Project 60%
8 Write Use Cases 55%
9 Improve Business Processes 50%
10 Design Screens (Prototype) 40%
11 Write System (technical) Specifications 40%
12 Determine Benefit/Cost 30%
13 Lead (manage) Project 25% * sometimes we saw this as "Help identify . . ."
** this includes many levels of testing and it would be interesting to split out the percentage by testing type, but alas, the data was not there.

  

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About author:

Tom has been in business analysis since long before it was called business analysis. He has over 30 years experience in the fields of information technology, methodologies, and business analysis. In his writings and lectures he strives for enlightening while entertaining. As a facilitator, he achieves results through inclusion and synergistic group-building. He has taught thousands of students business and systems analysis skills since the '80's and has facilitated hundreds of requirements discovery sessions under a variety of acronyms (JAD, ASAP, JADr, JRP, etc.).

2 Responses to “What Do Business Analysts Do?”

  1. Michael Legut says:

    Tom – Based on your experience what would you say is the industry standard for the percent of cost allocated to the requirements development and management for any large project. I’ve seen a number like 15%. …and is there a best practice percent. Thanks

    • Tom Hathaway says:

      Michael,

      Great question. Obviously, there are many factors that influence the distribution of effort across a large project. Fundamentally, the more time spend in requirements discovery, analysis, and management, the more efficient the project runs. This is true whether the project uses an Agile, Iterative, or Waterfall methodology. The only difference is when during the life cycle the effort is expended. The less time spent dealing with requirements prior to coding, the more time will be spend after coding in the testing phase (where historically most requirements are actually discovered at a much higher cost!). We recommend planning around 20% of the overall effort for requirements related work on a typical large project.

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