When talking about Business Analysis, it is good to start from the very root of it, meaning from its definition. What is Business Analysis then and what does a Business Analyst do?
It is an interesting, multi-aspect and interdisciplinary field. It uses various techniques and tools. It is often associated with the IT industry, however it can be successfully applied in other domains too.
Business Analysis relates to change in an organization. An organization may be, for example, a business undertaking, foundation, public sector unit or anything else, as long as it meets the definition of a group of people with specified structure, pursuing designated goal. Change, on the other hand, is defined as an answer to a need, which is accurately described in BABOK as “A problem or opportunity to be addressed.”
An organization and need, they are essential concepts of Business Analysis. In the beginning, usually the need is unclear and undefined. This is where Business Analysis becomes useful. Its first stage is precise examination of the need put down as a list of requirements in a way which enables further stages of work to fulfill the need. When the specific requirements are established, Business Analysis is used to consider potential solutions and to recommend the best one. The recommendation is based on specified and accepted criteria.
Is that it? Of course not. It is a common mistake to think that analysis ceases once the requirements are defined and a recommended solution is established. Business Analysis should include also the evaluation of implemented solution and the efficiency of implementation process. The actual effectiveness should be confronted with previously set expectations. When these expectations are not met, both, the implemented solution and organization must be analyzed. This is to find the root cause of an issue and recommend appropriate remedial actions.
Business Analysis may be understood as a series of activities facilitating transformation process in organization moving it from the current to a future state. In the current state a need has been identified (problem or opportunity). In the future state (expected state), the need is fulfilled.
A simple answer to a question: Who is a Business Analyst? is that it is a person who does Business Analysis. Duties of an analyst include: recognizing real needs of an organization, describing them as requirements, considering potential solutions, working out appropriate strategy and implementing changes. These tasks usually require collecting information from various sources such as people whom the identified needs concern, existing processes and IT systems, legal regulations, etc. A Business Analyst should know and understand the goals of an organization. Also the proposed solutions and changes implemented may not be in opposition to these goals, on the contrary, they should contribute to their realization.
A good analogy (although not entirely accurate), is to compare the role of Business Analyst to the role of an architect during construction of a new building or reconstruction of an existing one. Like the Analyst, he collects information and creates consistent and unambiguous project. A good examples of collecting information are the needs of future users, regulatory requirements, technical abilities and limitations. In both domains, a project is often made in several variants, which are later evaluated and the best option is selected. Similarly, an Analyst proposes several solutions. An architect is also often directly engaged in building the solution, checking if the implementation does not stray from the initial assumptions and explains potential questions or doubts. Finally, just like an earnest architect, a Business Analyst validates an implemented solution, checking if it fulfills initially defined goals. I think that this analogy to a different domain helps to better explain the role played by Business Analyst in a project.
A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide). Version 3. 2015.