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A beginner’s guide to business analysis

By: Emily Finlay


 

In a fast-paced, data-driven world, making informed business decisions is a must. In most companies, though, the people making the decisions typically lack the time or knowledge to fully understand the data they need. Business analysts work to bridge this gap. Their insights help businesses make better decisions about their processes and a variety of potential scenarios. With the help of business analysis, any organization, team, or project is guaranteed to succeed.

Business Analysis 101

Business analysis is a process that identifies the potential for improvement within organizations and helps teams make the necessary changes.

What is the business analysis definition?

Business analysis is a process that identifies the potential for improvement within organizations and helps teams make the necessary changes. Analysts work within every level of the business to find problems and develop solutions for these issues. 

Since analysts have more experience with making these significant changes, they are also responsible for communicating the need for improvements. As the organization implements the recommended solutions, the analyst typically works alongside the team to guide them through the process.

There are numerous ways to use business analysis within a company. In this article, we’re going to focus on two variations of this tool: business impact analysis and business process analysis.

Business impact analysis

Every business is focused on long-term success. No matter the problem, business decisions are made with the future in mind. If organizations want to maintain business continuity, however, they first need to have an idea of what they can expect in the coming years and months.

Enter business impact analysis.

Using this approach, you can identify the threats the business faces daily, as well as the potential problems that arise with future developments. 

During a business impact analysis, for example, you would evaluate all of the processes involved in the organization’s operations. You would pinpoint the dependencies, such as the technology, supplies, records, etc., that are essential to their processes. At the end of the analysis, the business would gain a solid understanding of everything required to keep operations running smoothly every day.

More importantly, this evaluation would show them the vulnerabilities in their business and processes. Armed with this information, they could then prepare for any issues that would affect critical operations. While still theoretical, the strategies you give will be based on data and less likely to fail when they’re needed most.

Business process analysis

While business impact analysis focuses on the impact of any emergency situation on an organization, business process analysis uncovers and resolves problems within the actual operations.

Rather than preparing for critical scenarios, this process identifies the ways companies can increase efficiency in their daily processes. It analyzes every step of their work to find waste and develop potential solutions for any inefficiencies. 

Business process analysts look only at the procedures, walking through every step and observing the roles involved. You use the company’s goals and desired outcomes to shape your suggestions. This ensures that your solutions are aligned with their values and produce a better version of the organization, rather than changing the fundamental characteristics.

What does a business analyst do?

Business analysts use data and evaluations to guide organizations to improvements and greater success. They work with any organizations that want to increase their effectiveness, operating in a variety of areas within these structures.

Where is business analysis used?

This technique is used to identify problems and develop solutions, which opens the potential for a variety of uses. Some of the ways you can use business analysis include:

  • Reducing unnecessary costs
  • Optimizing staffing
  • Streamlining project processes
  • Identifying and implementing new technologies
  • Developing marketing strategies
  • Preparing for potential risks
  • Strengthening data security

And so on. Business analysis helps organizations understand how they can make feasible improvements, using data to back all decisions and changes. With an analyst on-board, organizations can have confidence in every improvement they make.

How is business analysis performed?

Though the actual processes used depend on the desired outcome, business analysis generally follows similar procedures. This six-step process is:

  1. Understand the organization/project and processes
  2. Identify the objectives
  3. Define the scope
  4. Create a detailed plan
  5. Introduce and implement solutions
  6. Assess and adjust the results

Let’s dig into these a bit more.

1. Understanding the organization/project and processes

To make any kind of improvements, you first need to understand the inner workings of the organization’s operations. You can start by gathering background information. This can include observing processes, asking questions, reading documentation, and generally collecting data that will help you understand the specifics of what they do and why they do it.

2. Identity the objectives

Once you are oriented to the business or project, you can then focus on their goals. You will identify the stakeholders, which includes anyone involved in decision-making, such as owners, customers, partners, managers, vendors, regulators, and employees. 

Using the goals and vision expressed by the stakeholders, analysts can create a picture of the organization’s main objectives. Often, this involves developing shared expectations from conflicting goals. 

3. Define the scope

Remember, the point of business analysis is to determine how companies can improve their operations. In this step, you will use the background information and objectives you’ve learned to define the ultimate goal for your improvements.

The scope is not the plan you’ll follow (that comes next), but the reason for the changes you propose. Using this concept as a guide, you can perform a detailed analysis that results in actionable insights. As you determine the business needs, you can create solutions that both fix the problems and achieve the business objectives.

4. Create a detailed plan

Now that you know what needs to be done, develop a plan that details the necessary processes, needs, and timeline. Define multiple deliverables within the plan, along with the specific requirements of each one. If a deliverable needs specific resources or support, make sure to include the information management will need to provide them. 

Though there are many ways to approach solution implementation, the agile method is a practical technique to use. Already designed to work in multiple sprints structured around separate deliverables, this method can keep your team on-target and in control.

5. Introduce and implement solutions

Work with the implementation team to ensure the deliverables meet your and the client’s quality standards. You will also relay client feedback, make sure the work meets requirements, and assess the final solutions for adherence to the main objectives. As the new processes are implemented, you will also train end-users to guarantee proper procedures and long-term benefits.

6. Assess and adjust the results

Once your solutions are in place, do a final analysis to see if you achieved the efficiencies you were aiming for. Gather data on the results. Then, present this information to the stakeholders to show how you helped them achieve greater value. You can also schedule future follow-ups for more long-term analysis.

Which business analysis skills are needed for success?

Business analysts wear several hats, so there is a specific skill set that is necessary for the work. Along with understanding data, you have to be able to clearly communicate this information and use it to create actionable plans. Though the specific skills vary depending on the type of analysis, we’ve included the most important characteristics below.

Communication skills

Analysts are responsible for showing clients the value of their work and proposed changes, which can often be a challenge. They also act as the go-between for implementation teams and stakeholders. These interactions demand good interpersonal and communication skills. If you can’t ask the right questions or provide effective responses, your projects won’t get far.

Critical thinking skills

If you’re going to identify the issues organizations are facing and offer the best solutions, you must be able to think analytically. With each project, you will consider conflicting objectives, numerous problems, and a variety of viable solutions. Prioritizing these needs and choosing the most effective fixes are your responsibility, so exceptional problem-solving and critical thinking abilities are essential.

Organizational skills

As mentioned above, there’s a lot involved in business analysis. You will need to balance expectations from multiple stakeholders, while also leading an implementation team. Add in your other responsibilities and the potential for mistakes increases dramatically. To keep anything from slipping through the cracks, you’ll need to keep everything in place. 

Attention to detail

How does one process affect another? If the organization was hit by a natural disaster, what are all of the ways their operations could be affected? Business analysis requires both large-scale and granular evaluations. If you want to create plans that effectively address every issue and eventuality, you have to plan for even the smallest details.

Leadership skills

Many people don’t like change, your clients and stakeholders included. Business analysts must take charge of situations, confidently making decisions despite uncertainty. Though you will still closely heed your clients’ wishes, you also need to be an authoritative figure that others can comfortably follow. The better your leadership skills, the smoother your projects will go.

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