CORPORATE: Lifting the Veil on Business Analysis

| By: Michael Tan, Associate, Business Analysis, NUS-ISS

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While a business analysis involves identifying business needs and determining how best to solve a problem, business analysts must be good facilitators and communicators, writes NUS-ISS lecturer Michael Tan

Suppose you work for a supermarket wanting to build a website to increase its sales. You’ve engaged a vendor with the expertise to develop websites. But here’s the thing: the vendor needs relevant information to build a website that delivers on the objective.

As a business analyst, you will need inputs from the product department in deciding which products to place on the website. You must factor the requirements of the finance department in receiving payment, and tie-in with the delivery processes of the fulfilment department.

The catch? None of your stakeholders has a full view of the overall requirements of the supermarket. It is your role to act as the information hub, and to translate the knowledge you’ve gathered into a clear and executable brief.

To do a thorough job, you would consider your potential customers and recommend that the website be designed in a way that caters to their needs. You may gather feedback from target users, say busy working mothers who shop online, and discover that most of them are drivers without regular routines that accommodate delivery times. As a result, you may recommend a drive-through pick up as part of the overall solution.

Strong facilitators and communicators
 
It’s no surprise that business analysts are often effective facilitators and problem solvers. They understand the business domain, and are good at liaising and communicating efficiently with different stakeholders to achieve buy-in to business ideas.

Many good business analysts I’ve met are also great at anticipating problems. They may not be the experts in the solution to the problem, but they take initiative to find solutions that solve the problem.

Business process reengineering and user experience design techniques are good problem solving skills a business analyst could acquire. It is a bonus too, if they possess technical skills, as it would help them to better understand the solution.

Solid career prospects

In Singapore, there is a clear demand for professional business analysts. According to an IDA manpower survey in 2013, IT business analysts rank third in a list of jobs that are most sought-after by employers.

Many candidates start out as junior business analysts in the areas of business requirements, processes or systems. After accumulating more experience, he or she can progress to an intermediate role handling larger projects, and eventually to a senior capacity where they could be responsible for programmes consisting of multiple projects. A business analyst can also move on to be a Project Manager or Consultant. 
 

Getting started

NUS-ISS offers a NICF - Business Analysis Fundamentals – Requirements Development that caters to those considering branching out into business analysis. For those who are more experienced in business analysis and are seeking recognition, NICF – Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) preparatory course might be just the right one for you. Besides Business Analysts, Project Managers, Testers and Developers are some of the roles that could benefit from knowledge in BA. Project Managers who are well versed in BA practices can serve as a reviewer or take on a secondary role as a business analyst, while Developers and Testers might find themselves more proficient at work if they understood BA practices better.
 
Business Analysis can also be applied to Agile projects. In Agile projects, business analysis focuses on the discovery of requirements details in smaller increments, rather than the traditional big requirements up front approach (BRUF). This is done without losing the big picture through the use of release and iteration planning techniques. Also, business analyst value add to agile project by facilitating the formulation of acceptance criteria, which helps the development team to ascertain whether the requirements are successfully met or not. Finally, business analysis values add by collecting and analysing feedback as input to solution quality. To learn more, you can sign up for NICF- Business Analysis for Agile Practitioners course offered by ISS.

Personally, I encourage students to internalise their business analysis knowledge by conducting sessions where they impart what they’ve learned in class. Many find opportunities to put their lessons to practice at work, trying it out on a small part of a project. It has also been heartening to see a growing number of peers in the LinkedIn community, where we have interesting group discussions and encourage continued learning through professional exchange and useful management articles.

Case in point

Andy Tan handles IT contracts and undertakes research, implementation and training of IT best practices at the Singapore Land Authority. Since graduating from NUS-ISS’ four-day Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP©) Preparatory Course, he has found himself busily applying the BA skills and techniques acquired at work. “I’ve become more professional at gathering business requirements, and this drives the technical solutions when we address user’s needs,” Andy says.

He shares that the knowledge has helped him to propose the right business and technical solutions aligned to business requirements. “It sets the basis for effective system implementation, complete with clear ROI in terms of measured and perceived value,” he emphasised.

Hadi Candra, a Senior Systems Analyst with Senoko Energy, signed up for the NUS-ISS Business Analysis Fundamentals - Requirements Development Course to acquire insights on methodologies and techniques involved in the requirement gathering process “to deliver efficient IT systems that improve business productivity”.

His exposure at the three-day course has bolstered his confidence to adopt more systematic measures to capture user requirements. “There are various approaches to the documentation process and I’ve learned to be more accurate so that my project or development team can better understand the requirements. It’s about distilling the correct requirements and managing user expectations,” Hadi disclosed.


Michael is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) with over 10 years of IT experience in project management, business analysis and software application development in the financial, healthcare, logistics and government sectors. Besides lecturing, he’s been involved in the formation of the International Institute of Business Analysis’ Singapore Chapter.

Got a burning question on Business Analysis? Get in touch with Michael at tanyongheng@nus.edu.sg

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