The 8-Step Business Analysis Process
Free Video Training (Part 2 of 3)

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Part 1 – Quick Start to Success as a Business Analyst

 


Full text of The 8-Step Business Analysis Process

Hello. Laura Brandenburg here. I want to start out today saying thank you for the comments and gratitude we’ve received for our work at Bridging the Gap. It’s awesome to know that there are so many talented professionals wanting to get started in business analyst careers and make their projects more successful.

In a world that is often uncertain, it’s fulfilling to see so people who want to use their communication and analysis skills to make the world a better place, and join a profession of people who do great work and help organizations thrive.

We build our profession one business analyst at a time, and positive organizational change starts with you.

This is the second lesson in our free Bridging the Gap training series on getting started with success as a business analyst. In the first video, I described what a business analyst is.

  • I recapped the career opportunities for business analysts, and how there are hundreds of thousands of new job roles opening up in the coming years, and that those moving into business analysis tend to see significant salary bumps, like the 40% increase I received when moving from quality assurance to business analysis.
  • I also gave you insights on how to overcome the most common challenges new business analysts face on business process and software change projects – i.e., being too business oriented, too technology-oriented, or too new and assuming you have to make this up as you go along.

When I started Bridging the Gap back in 2008 my goal was to share what I’d been learning through all of my experience and give others an easier path. At that point, I had several years of experience as a business analyst, director of a business analyst, project management, and quality assurance team, and was actively consulting and contracting as a business analyst.

To be honest, even with all that experience, I thought that a structured, streamlined business analysis process would be impossible to create. Projects are so different. Stakeholders do unexpected things! Every domain has its own nuances.

However, over time, I’ve proven myself wrong.

How to Earn Your Stakeholders’ Trust and Respect

There is a step-by-step process that can radically transform your professional career and help you earn your stakeholders’ trust and respect. I’ve shared it with thousands of course participants as part of our BA Essentials Master Class and I’m going to share it with you today.

Because once you know how to walk your project team step by step through the business analysis process, then there isn’t really any ambiguity about what to do next and you are even able to come up with realistic and credible timelines that keep your project managers happy.

All of a sudden, you start to experience some other amazing benefits as well. Your stakeholders start showing up to your meetings, because they don’t want to miss out on the decisions and, well, even the fun.

(That might sound odd, but I’ve always been told that I can make a boring process like business analysis at least a little bit fun!)

Now, before we dig into the details of the business analysis process, let’s make sure we are on the same page about what this process is in service to. All processes have a desired outcome – or a goal that they are designed to achieve. So what is the goal for our business analysis process?

What Success Looks Like

I believe success for a business analyst means that all project team members understand and act from the requirements and the requirements represent the best possible solution to the business needs.

This is your measure of success. This is the standard against which you can evaluate your work and decide where to improve. And, if you are in the work of mentoring and coaching other business analysts, then this is the measure of success you can use to evaluate their work and help them improve.

Achieving this kind of success means that you collaborate. And as a business analyst, you will:

  • Collaborate with business stakeholders to understand their needs and problems.
  • Collaborate with the project manager and technology stakeholders to understand what types of solutions are possible and feasible given the technology options available.
  • Collaborate with business process workers to make changes to their day-to-day workflow as part of the solution to deliver increased value.

Your work most definitely does not happen in a vacuum. Business analysis work is very analytical, but it is not only analytical. And this is why communication skills are so critically important for success as a business analyst.

So we know that our goal is to be sure that all project team members understand and act from the requirements and the requirements represent the best possible solution to the business needs. And we know that we will collaborate with business stakeholders, project managers, technology stakeholders, and business process workers to get there.

So how do we do it? What’s the process like?

The 8-Step Business Analysis Process

Here is the 8-step process that will allow you to get started quickly and effectively as a business analyst. I’ll talk you through this at a very high level and then we’ll address some of the more common challenges that come up.

And the first thing I want to say is that even though we’ll talk through the steps in a linear way, your actual work as a business analyst will be iterative and it’s not uncommon to bounce back and forth between the steps as you gain more clarity and uncover new issues.

Step 1 – Get Oriented – This is where you clarify your role on this particular project, figure out who your stakeholders are, understand the project history, and learn about existing systems and processes. So many mistakes that new business analysts make can be resolved here, by being willing to ask questions and seek out information instead of making assumptions that turn out to be false.

And if you are getting a new business analyst up to speed, proactively providing this kind of information will set them up for success instead of failure.

Step 2 – Discover the Primary Business Objectives – This is where we get clarity on the true business needs, before the scope is defined,  and often by reconciling conflicting expectations among your primary stakeholders. Rest assured, whether you address them now or later, these differences will come up. And it will save you a lot of time and frustration to deal with them early in the project.

Step 3 – Define Scope – Here you make the business needs tangible in such a way that multiple project team participants can envision their contribution. This is a collaborative process, and buy-in on scope paves the path for a successful requirements process.

Step 4 – Formulate Your Business Analysis Plan – Here you determine the work you have to discover, analyze, and validate the requirements. You decide what types of requirements deliverables you will create and you create a timeline that incorporates your scope of work, and the involvement you need from stakeholders to ensure your success.

And while many business analysts resist this step, because so much feels outside of your control, this is the work that actually establishes your value and your power. Your plan defines define the circumstances of your success, will help you get buy-in from stakeholders on the time they need to be available, and make it clear what challenges like not having time for meetings or documentation reviews will do to your project.

Step 5 – Define the Detailed Requirements – This step often takes the most time, and it’s what we think of when we think of business analysis. In fact, many BAs jump right in and try to start here.

And it is critically important because, without clear, concise, and actionable detailed requirements, implementation teams flounder and deliver the wrong solution.

And this is the step where the business analysis process overlaps with an agile software methodology.

Here, as an agile business analyst, you would choose to detail your requirements in a product backlog and user stories. And your work in steps 5, along with the next two steps 6, and 7, would be very iterative. You actually might be working in all 3 steps at once, for different sets of requirements, or product backlog items.

The process isn’t always linear – it’s a guide.

Step 6 – Support the Technical Implementation – Here you transition from being an owner and a driver of the requirements into more of a supporter and reviewer of the project.

But you can’t step away entirely. Remember, success means that the project team members understand and can act from the requirements.

The work you do in this step ensures your technology team is designing and building a software solution that meets the business need.

Step 7 – Help the Business Implement the Solution – This is where you make sure the processes and work flows in such a way that the intended outcome of the project is met. Or that the business process aspect of the solution is in place, to ensure success.

Otherwise, you risk the failure that one of my clients experienced (before they hired me as their business analyst) where they implemented a document management system intending to eliminate manual steps and save paper, only to find out the business users were printing and scanning documents multiple times.

And that brings us to Step 8 – Assess Value Created by the Solution – This step is often skipped as the time pressures of the next project loom over the business analyst, but nothing creates an environment of positive change more than a track record of actually creating positive change.

It’s necessary to evaluate the actual progress made, even if it’s not the full scope of what was intended, and celebrate that progress. Often you’ll also find new opportunities to improve, and so the cycle begins again.

You are really never out of work as a business analyst.

What About Smaller Projects?

Once I teach people this process, one question that comes up is what to do on smaller projects, and isn’t the process a little heavy?

For a smaller initiative, you still go through these steps, you just go through them more quickly. In fact, you may have a single meeting to go through steps 2 through 5 for a small change like adding a field to a form.

But even for that small change, you want to be sure you understand the business need, the scope, what requirements deliverables are required, and what the actual change to be made is in detail.

A common mistake is to skip discussing the business need, because the change is so small, and then the change doesn’t achieve the desired result. Often this is because the business process also needs to change, not just the software.

Or a small change, like adding a field, morphs into a significant one that involves updating several reports, migrating data, and retraining staff members. So even for small changes, go through the process.

But Then Why Do We See Technology and Industry Skills in Business Analyst Jobs?

Another question we receive is why the job descriptions for business analysts don’t quite line up with these expectations, and often focus on what seem to be unrelated skills like technology expertise and industry domain experience. It’s a great question, and a good opportunity to clarify job roles.

First of all, there are two primary ways that the title of business analyst is used.

  • The first way is for the role of enabling business process and software changes, like we’ve been discussing here.
  • The second way is more of a financial analyst role, to describe a set of responsibilities for analyzing financial data to inform business decisions.

What’s more, that definition we reviewed in lesson 1, from the International Institute of Business Analysis™, encompasses these two definitions and many, many more. It’s an extremely broad definition. And, to add to the confusion, there are many jobs with the title of business analyst, that don’t actually fit any of the definitions of business analysis.

I find it helpful to think about the different the different types of roles, and use these to sort through the different types of jobs available.

  • Hybrid – this is where you are doing business analysis AND a set of responsibilities from a related profession. It’s not uncommon to see business analysts also doing QA testing, project management, or software development. And then we see skills from those roles in the job description.
  • Specialist – this is where you are hyper-focused in a specific area of expertise. Your expertise could be in a methodology, like agile or Six Sigma. Or, it could be in a domain, like healthcare or insurance. Or it could be in a tool, like Salesforce.com or Microsoft® Sharepoint.
  • Generalist – this is someone who can work in multiple domains, with multiple tools, and with multiple methodologies, and is focused on the core business analysis responsibilities we’ve outlined here.

When you look at the job market today, most of the roles are hybrid roles or specialist roles, and it can make the job opportunities seem rather fragmented. But in reality, what this shows us, is that the need for business analysis skills is so fundamental, and so valuable, that the variety of roles available to us as business analysts is almost unlimited.

Business analysis is everywhere.

And on every successful project, you’ll find a business analyst.

When you focus on developing the core business analysis skills, and merge these with any areas of expertise you have from your career background, you’ll find a subset of roles that are the best fit for you and your career right now.

And you’ll get on a path to developing skills that will serve you for your life-long career in business analysis and beyond.

How do you actually develop those core skills? That’s what I’m going to share with you in the next video. I’ll give you an insider view into some of the templates a business analyst uses at different steps of the business analysis process, and also answer the questions we’ve been receiving about our virtual training programs at Bridging the Gap.

I’ll also be sharing a time-sensitive offer, to give you a path to get started with more quickly, with more success as a business analyst, and so you’ll want to check the third lesson out as soon as it’s available.

For now, remember our key teaching – success as a business analyst means that all project team members understand and act from the requirements and the requirements represent the best possible solution to the business needs.

This requires your best, in terms of both analytical work and communication and collaboration. And it’s also a lot of fun.

In the meantime, please leave a comment below. Now that you know a little more about the business analysis process, what excites you most about the role? Where are there potential gaps in your current business analysis work that you could expand and fill, creating even more value for your organization and momentum in your career?

And, again, welcome to Bridging the Gap. We can’t wait to help you take the next step and achieve more success starting your business analyst career.

Comments

  1. Onyinye says

    Thank you so much Laura for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

  2. Gloria Innocent says

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you for sharing the 8 steps and different roles.

    I look forward to the next lesson.

    Take care

  3. Laura,
    Thank you for this second presentation, I really appreciate it. the 8 steps may sound common sense but an excellent reminder so that none are missed. I really appreciate the success factor you refer to. I think I will type that and put it up on my desk whenever we are out of quarantine next. I look forward to the 3rd part of your presentation.
    Thank you!

  4. Sandra VINCENT says

    Thank you very much for sharing the 8 step business analysis process and for clarifying the different roles BAs can play.

    Take care

    Best regards, Sandra

  5. Thank you for this detailed outline. I am looking to land my first BA role. Your class is helping to boost my confidence.

  6. Aman singh says

    Thank you maam

  7. Alberto Moreno says

    Thanks Laura for this information which is really the basic sequence in our BA environment. Also, the different types of roles to locate ourselves in this scenario.
    Regards,

  8. Thanks for sharing this, the 8-step plan is clear to follow and something I will keep top of my mind as I transition into being a BA

  9. Thanks Laura for sharing very informative and helpful now i have a better understanding of when the requirement is done and met.

  10. Josphat Moyo says

    Thank you so much very informative staff, and gives direction and removes confusion. I appreciate .

  11. Thanks Laura. I really appreciate for sharing this valuable information. After understanding and analysing these 8 steps, I understood that I need to work on step-4 to be a more successful and more confident BA.

    • Disha trivedi says

      Hello Vipul,

      That is a great self discovery! We are glad this tutorial was instrumental in helping you learn where you should focus next! Stay in touch – we would love to know more about your journey.

      Best,
      Disha Trivedi,CBAP
      BTG Instructor

  12. Thank you Laura. This is very informative. The fact that i want to transition from Accounting to BA, its a good place to start. I am ispired

    • Disha trivedi says

      Hello Emmy,

      Very glad to know you found this helpful. Accounting provides great domain knowledge that can help you find many strong BA positions and excel in those. Good luck!

      Best,
      Disha Trivedi,CBAP
      BTG Instructor

  13. oluyemisi Awolaja says

    Thanks for sharing really informative

  14. Thanks for Sharing your experience Laura. It was very helpful.

  15. Ana Karina says

    This is very insightful. Laura, the way you present information is very clear, thanks for sharing with us your experience, I’m truly inspired.

    • Disha trivedi says

      Thank you Ana! That’s great to know. We look forward to hearing more about your BA journey.

      Best,
      Disha Trivedi,CBAP
      BTG Instructor

  16. Thank u Laura
    I have been wondering how BA’s become project managers expecially that am trying to open an organization, which its aim is to bring about youth empowerment and bring about awareness off our situations in Africa.

  17. Anupama Wadhwa says

    Thanks laura

  18. Thank you so much Laura for sharing all the details .it can be really useful for me in future.

  19. Charmy Grover says

    Thank you so much Laura for this Structured Framework…This would be very useful in my current project assignment.

  20. Tracy Robinson says

    Thank You so much for sharing this information. It is extremely helpful and I look forward to putting the checklist to use!

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