In this post, we’re going to discuss the formal definition of a business analyst, list the key responsibilities of a business analyst, and explain why although business analyst roles can vary widely there is still an essential core of what makes a BA.
The Formal Definition of a Business Analyst
Business analysis as defined by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) is:
…the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions to enable the organization to achieve its goals.
The body of business analysis activities does not define a role. The BABOK goes on to say to define a business analyst as
any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organizational role may be…
and continues to reference that many roles do only some of the business analysis activities and others do business analysis activities and activities from other professional domains.
The Key Responsibilities of a Business Analyst
Primarily, a business analyst is responsible for the following:
- Elicitation - Discovering the underlying business need to be addressed and information related to the product and project requirements, often through conversations with stakeholders.
- Analyzing Requirements – Organizing, specifying and modeling the requirements to ensure they are complete and unambiguous.
- Specifying Requirements – Documenting the requirements in a format that can be shared with stakeholders.
- Validating and Verifying Requirements – Ensuring the requirements map to the real business need, are approved by all relevant stakeholders, and meet essential quality standards.
Depending on the role, the BA professional may also take on more senior-level activities such as planning the business analysis activities or managing requirements. And they may do a whole host of things not formally part of the business analysis role, such as manage the project, test the solution, or write code.
(By the way, if you think you might want to start a career in business analysis, you are probably going to want join our free BA career planning course.)
But Business Analyst Roles Can Vary Widely
The definition of business analysis allows for many different approaches to the role. It brings in professionals who work on IT changes, business process changes, logistics, or ensuring compliance with regulations. It brings in professionals who work on projects focused on integrating multiple software systems, building new software systems, and modifying existing software systems, or migrating from one software system to another. Sometimes specific industry expertise is required to be successful. Pick any attribute of a project, organization, or stakeholder group — oftentimes the business analyst role in that context is shaped around multiple attributes.
And, there are many roles that are closely related to business analysis. In What’s the difference between a business analyst and a systems analyst? we explore varying perspectives on these closely related roles and titles. In The case for business analysts over combining BA with other roles our readers discuss the pros and cons of being a BA+ (i.e. someone who does business analysis and fulfills another role, such as testing or project management).
The Core of Business Analysis
While our role as business analysts can be varied, there are a few metaphors that can keep us focused on it’s core. In The complexity of business analyst roles Nathan Caswell explores the core concept of the BA as liaison.
And, as Steve Blais has pointed out in the comments below and in an interview I did with him awhile back, business analysts solve problems for organizations. While activities, responsibilities, and qualifications might vary between jobs, this essential definition remains at the root.
>>Get Hired as a BA
Our 5-step business analyst job search process will walk you through what you need to do to get hired as a business analyst.