Business analysis and technology go hand-in-hand, so much so that many people wonder if adding BAs to their team is valuable if they don’t work with technology or on IT projects. However, while many people associate business analysts with approving client-side programming and development projects, they do so much more within the department of information technology to keep companies modern and afloat.
In fact, if you are just using your BA for development projects, you could be missing out. Previously, we discussed the role of BAs in the finance department and in human resources, now it is time to focus on information technology. Here is the full scope of work that business analysts provide to IT departments — and why your company needs them.
Business Analysts Move the Company Forward Through IT
The goal of a business analyst is to optimize efficiency so a company can do more with the resources available to them. The core of this goal is in the IT department.
The team at New Horizons says that IT is at the foundation of every successful business. If there isn’t a strong IT infrastructure, then the operations, communications and growth of the company are all on the line. Business analysts know this, and work closely with IT to make sure the systems operate at their best (and most efficient) so the company can be successful.
Business analysts might never work with a single client, but that is because the company is their client. Their job is to support the operations of the organization, starting from a technological standpoint. “They have to work as a product owner, even though the business is the product owner,” explains Bob Gregory, professor at the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University.
Business analysts need to identify requirements, develop a plan for improvement and deliver a product in the same way that traditional development teams would.
Interestingly, the team at management and IT consulting firm Treinen says that business analysts can also help with external projects and contractors. If your IT department needs to hire outside firms for work, BAs can work to develop requirements and review them with the rest of the team. Good requirements and a clear RFP can attract top prospects to handle the projects, increasing the chances that they are executed smoothly.
This contractor and RFP management isn’t client work, but rather team management to support the overall organization.
Business analysts will continue to be in demand as companies look to technology to solve their problems, which means they are essential for IT. “It is harder to impress customers with traditional business solutions,” agrees Dharmalingam Narayanan, product manager at online education provider for IT and project management courses, Whizlabs.
Plus, more companies are reaching points of maximum efficiency with how they do things. By working closely with the IT department and the technology solutions providers within a company, business analysts can help developers understand their options for improvement.
Business Analysts Have a Set Role in IT
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is asking a project manager or programmer to take on BA responsibilities. They don’t set aside a dedicated employee to manage business analysis or require their BAs to wear many hats.
Erivan Ramos, IT business analyst, says he often sees BAs with too many responsibilities, taking on the role of project managers, UX testers and even developers. This dilutes the effectiveness of your business analyst, who now has to spend less time evaluating and more time helping other teams.
“Although business analysis is a role that involves many activities throughout the project, this does not mean that it can replace other roles during the project life cycle,” he writes.
Once BAs become more seasoned, they start to set clear boundaries for what their job entails and what parts of the project they will work on.
Of course, as projects grow more complex or start to veer off track, business analysts can step in and take on a stronger presence within the team. Business solution designer Brad Egeland encourages analysts to take over the development team “from a day to day task management aspect.” They can make sure the priorities are aligned and work to remove any speed bumps.
However, this extra attention isn’t sustainable. BAs can jump in only when the project is at risk, and then take a more hands-off approach for other development goals.
Hiring a dedicated business analyst can also make your BA efforts more successful. Your development team might not know how to step into the BA role if you ask them to — or they might not want to.
“Many developers or coders want to do just that…code,” writes Tracy Hoerschgen at information technology solutions provider RKV Technologies. “It is not productive to have developers participate in lengthy requirement discussions.”
She explains that developers often want to dive into a project or idea before they fully understand the scope. They can see the end product but might not have realistic expectations for how it gets done. This is where having a dedicated business analyst can help. They can identify the risks and the processes needed to make the dream a reality.
Business Analysts Monitor Technological Adoption
Business analysts don’t just create and launch a plan for development. They also continue to support projects once the development process is completed.
Serena Josh at ZaranTech says it’s up to business analysts to monitor and assist with the implementation and acceptance of new technology. The IT department and senior management might agree that the technological upgrade is valuable, but that doesn’t mean everyone in the company will know how or want to use it. Business analysts continue to monitor the project until the entire company is on board.
Implementing new systems and technology is actually harder than it sounds. A 2019 study by YouGov for Cherwell Software found that 64 percent of UK employees say their employers will only adopt new technology once it has entered the mainstream and just nine percent of those employers are considered “digital innovators.”
The survey discovered that many companies don’t spend enough time introducing new processes and helping team members with digital transformations. The result is frustrating for both parties. The IT department wants to be as advanced as possible while everyone else struggles to keep up.
These struggles with new technology occur at all levels of the organization — and in organizations of all industries and sizes. In an article for Business Insider, Rachel Premack reported on new technology in fast food chains. Apps, kiosks and online ordering look impressive for shareholders, but it’s the Taco Bell, McDonalds and Starbucks employees who have to keep up with the new tools.
Due to lack of training, more employees are unable to use or fix the new technology when it breaks. This leads to higher turnover rates and worse customers experiences when the new tools don’t work. While this research applies to the fast food industry directly, other employers are discovering similar trends in their own fields.
In other words, technological development and implementation is only the first step. Business analysts need to keep working until the tools become second nature to employees.
Analysts Bridge the Gap Between Business and Technology
Because business analysts need to take a full approach to technological advancement and implementation, they often work with both the IT department and the other business teams.
“Technical business analysis is a second tier of business analysis dealing with the sole purpose of interpreting business requirements into systems and technology language that can then be easily understood by a technical audience,” explains Adam Alami, Ph.D. fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen. “In so doing, Technical Business Analysis comes in as an entity of bridging between business problems and its technological solutions.”
Business analysts who work with internal IT departments are needed because they both understand the technical nuances of the technology and the business needs and goals of the rest of the organization.
“There IS high demand for someone who has a BA skillset – someone with depth in business knowledge and understanding of software design thinking with the ability to talk to people at all levels, translate and capture competing, ambiguous and contradicting information properly, and respectfully question unrealistic expectations,” writes Tina Joseph at B2T Training.
In a way, BAs become ambassadors for the IT department, communicating their needs and goals with the rest of the company (and vice versa).
Business Analysts Increasingly Use Big Data
Not every business analyst is able to work in IT. They need to understand the nuances of technology and be able to handle the complex terms and tools available to them. Plus, more IT departments are utilizing big data, and encouraging other workers in their organizations to use this resource.
“For any kind of meaningful derivatives to be drawn from this wealth of data, businesses will need to extensively leverage Big Data tools and practices,” says Nikhil Barshikar, cofounder and managing director of ed-tech institute Imarticus Learning. “BAs who understand Big Data concepts and how to mine data for business insights are already and will continue to be, in high demand.”
The University of Wisconsin data science team emphasizes the importance of having “strong foundational data science skills” in order to work as a business analyst. These professionals need to develop plans and strategies for improvement with the information that is available to them.
While developers ask “can we build it,” BAs ask “should we build it?” This means that successful BAs can determine the level of technological advancement within a company and work closely with senior leadership and project managers to create timelines for IT growth.
According to The Business Analyst Job Description, big data is opening doors for business analysts who want to monitor projects and push development forward. BAs who are data savvy can use big data to identify the stories behind the numbers. In the same way that a BA serves as an ambassador between business-minded and development-minded teams, they also serve as translators between data and the rest of the company.
It is easy to assume that business analysts will be part of the IT department on the company organization chart, but they really belong on each team. If your IT team has a BA, make sure you are using them for the right projects and the best way possible to grow your organization.