Business Analyst – What do they do? Interview – Seana Hughes
A Business Analyst is a key team member you will work with as a UX Designer. Where you represent the user, a BA represents the business. Design solutions have to accommodate both to be truly successful.
We speak to Seana Hughes, a Business Analyst at Capgemini.
How did you get into your current role?
I studied Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) at The University of Manchester. This is a very practical degree course supported by some of the UK’s top employers in the field such as IBM, Microsoft, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Jaguar Land Rover etc.
These employers identified that Universities were producing graduates with technical skills but very limited communication or soft skills as well as lots of social science graduates with no technical skills.
The ITMB course was designed to bridge these gaps and provide graduates with an in-depth insight into various career paths associated with their industries and help them to develop the necessary skills to have a successful career.
I really enjoyed the course and subsequently decided to pursue the path of IT Consultancy. I was then lucky enough to get onto a graduate scheme with Capgemini and the rest is history. I was assigned to the Consultancy Team within the Business Technology Solution department where I have been given the opportunity to take on further training and study for a diploma in business analysis.
To date my work as a Business Analyst has included an asset management project at Heathrow Airport and my current role within the Ministry of Justice as well as other internal projects. I believe that the skills I gained through my degree course along with my previous employment in both retail and the public sector have contributed to me acquiring my current role and successfully working my way to attaining my diploma in business analysis. I am currently one module away from completing the course.
In your own words, what does a Business Analyst do?
It is difficult to define the role of a Business Analyst because it varies so much, hence some of the key requirements of the job is flexibility and the ability to adapt to shifting priorities at the drop of a hat.
I think it is fair to say that no two days are the same for us and whilst the work we carry out is similar in nature we are obliged to continuously adapt our approach to match the character and requirements of our clients, colleagues and stakeholders.
The various roles of a Business Analyst include:
- Working with a business to identify opportunities for improvement in business operations and processes through facilitation, elicitation, visual modelling and critical thinking.
- Engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and a diverse client base to enable effective collaborative working and build strong professional relationships to gain an understanding of their problems, aspirations and key requirements.
- Helping to develop solutions to problems whilst facilitating the design or modification of both business processes and IT systems, marrying the business needs with IT resources.
- Documenting the functional design of any new system.
- Working with developers to ensure the design meets business requirements and is implemented in line with agreed timescales and quality.
- Helping with the testing of any new system/process.
- Helping with training on new system and creation of user manuals.
To summarise the Business Analyst takes ultimate responsibility for the identification and resolution of problems which affect a business solution and in so doing they work closely with the Project Manager in the analysis of existing business systems and the development of recommendations for improvement, simultaneously teaching and learning new skills.
Some periods are busier than others particularly if deadlines are tight, so we are continually adapting to challenges and high-pressured situations.
What is a typical end to end BA process?
Generally we follow the steps outlined below:
- Plan the requirements management approach and assign roles and responsibilities.
- Research existing business and identify all stakeholders.
- Engage with stakeholders throughout the whole process.
- Create an ‘as is’ document.
- Identify improvement opportunities using the ‘as is’ document to highlight gaps that need to be addressed.
- Plan Requirement activities which involves requirements gathering workshops, interviews, observation periods, creation of research requirements and business requirements documentation (both functional and non-functional), change impact assessment, feasibility studies.
- Validate, prioritise and carry out activities.
- Map out a plan of action outlining the improvement project and journey from A to B taking into consideration constraints, risks and dependencies.
- Work closely with Solution Design Architects to ensure that requirements are understood.
- Work closely with all business users who may be affected by the proposed changes to elicit business requirements which may affect project planning.
- Keep stakeholders engaged through all aspects of the design particularly if changes are required or if some of their aspirations are not feasible.
- Apply critical thinking and provide suggestions and ideas to ensure achievement of end goal.
- Facilitate the acceptance process, communicate will all stakeholders to agree process and gain their buy in.
- Provide help re quality assurance and communication of change to all users.
What are the main challenges in your role?
- Gaining commitment from all stakeholders.
- Conflict among stakeholders.
- Ensuring accountability for all decisions taken.
- Misalignment between business and technology.
- Agreeing change to initial requirements document.
- Lack of clarity of end vision.
- Inadequate time allocated for BA Work.
What types of people do you typically have to interact with?
The Business Analyst interacts with a very diverse client base such as end users from a variety of business areas.
They can range from general administrative staff to technical and professional staff, academics etc. Both Senior and Junior Management, Developers, Project Managers, Legal Consultants, basically people from all walks of life. This is the part of my job that I find most enjoyable.
How does a BA feed into the UX design process?
Typically the BA represents business needs, where the UX represents user needs. Both roles should run in parallel and compliment each other, ideally in an equal partnership to ensure that requirements are captured in a way that will be understood by developers and can be tested and enables the correct assignment of priorities to ensure achievement of end goal.
The BA will gain an understanding of the business requirements, capture and track the detail required to produce the end product, and document same in the form of user stories / use cases and process flow maps, content matrix, error spreadsheet and UX feeds into this.
The UX Designer will participate in requirements elaboration and will work with the BA to find the best way to convey information to users such as colt warning messages, pop up messages etc but the Business Analyst will have ultimate responsibility for gathering and documenting requirements.
UX, however, will often work in equal partnership with the BA to achieve effective stakeholder management, making sure that the correct people are consulted and kept informed about all decisions and change around the solution.
How do you incorporate end users into the analysis process?
Good communication and effective engagement is the key. All stakeholders must be involved in every aspect of the change process that will affect them. It is important to communicate the vision and gain everyone’s buy in at the offset and this vision must be driven and supported by senior management and cascaded down to all end users.
Management need to involve end users in workshops and testing and give them a voice, allowing them time from normal duties to participate in such events. This will ensure everyone is represented in the change process and eliminate fear.
What tools and techniques do you use?
Microsoft Visio is the tool I use most often. It is a software application that aids communication and can be used for capturing and presenting ideas to stakeholders e.g. I would use it for; Preparing UML diagrams such as use cases, activity and sequence diagrams, preparing process flow charts etc.
I also use Microsoft Word for analysis, Microsoft Excel for requirements management, PowerPoint for presentations and Google docs for collaboration.
I use the following techniques for requirement elicitation:
- Focus Groups
- Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) (a standardized notation for creating visual models of business or organisational processes.)
- Agile business analysis (used to discover primary business objectives, define scope, plan for multiple iterations)
- Six sigma (a set of techniques and tools used for process improvement.)
Where do you see the future of business analysis going?
I believe there will always be the need for the BA’s social skills as long as there is the requirement to engage with people and not robots. I do however believe that there is a move towards the development of more technical tools which can carry out the analysis of business structures and processes to identify strengths, weaknesses, hotspots etc which in turn will allow the BA to focus on cause and effect and improvement activities.
The Agile delivery model will also have an impact on the role of a BA. This approach will demand greater collaboration amongst a project team and instead of having separate silos such as a BA team, Developers Team, QA team the emphasis may be on one Core Project team with collective responsibility for delivering full functionality and business change on time and on budget.
This should help to diminish the them and us mentality between IT personnel and Business analysts paving the way for greater synergies between the two disciplines creating a more effective joined up working environment with the BA acting as liaison officer between the project team and business stakeholders.
Are there any books/resources you recommend for learning more about Business Analysis?
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