Pub. Date:
Ross, J. Publishing, Incorporated
Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis

Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis

by Barbara Carkenord
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604270075
Publisher: Ross, J. Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 726,454
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Barbara Carkenord, CBAP, is President and co-founder of B2T Training, an organization that developed the first comprehensive business analysis training program in North America. This training and business analysis certification program has been a model for other training organizations. Ms. Carkenord has over 20 years of business analysis experience gained in various industries such as manufacturing, insurance, and banking. She possesses detailed knowledge and experience in many structured approaches and methodologies and is a core team member of the IIBA BABOK creation committee. Her areas of expertise include business analysis, high-level design, quality assurance, and project management. She earned her MBA from University of Michigan and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP). Barb began her career in the information technology area as a programmer, systems analyst, business analyst, and project manager. She is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, has authored many articles on business analysis and is the editor of The Bridge business analysis magazine. 

Read an Excerpt



This book is intended to help business analysis professionals master their profession. In order to master business analysis, you must first possess a clear, complete understanding of the essential skills of a business analyst (BA). Business analysis involves very complex and sophisticated thinking patterns and advanced communications. Describing and defining the role is very difficult. What is it that makes a BA successful?

* Is it being an expert on workflow diagrams?

* Is it having a strong technical programming background so as to be able to design software that will meet business needs?

* Is it being a strong facilitator, in order to lead requirements elicitation sessions with large groups of people?

Yes and no. A successful BA is all of these things and something more. There is something special and rare about the people who can combine technical knowledge, business acumen, analytical skills, and the communication skills necessary to be successful in this role. Excellent BAs bring value to their organizations by understanding true business opportunities, making realistic recommendations, and facilitating the successful implementation of these solutions. This chapter will give you insights into the skills and knowledge that successful BAs share.


The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA™) defines business analysis as "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 recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals" (

Business analysis involves:

* Identification of business problems and opportunities

* Elicitation of needs and constraints from stakeholders

* Analysis of stakeholder needs to define requirements for a solution

* Assessment and validation of potential and actual solutions

* Management of the "product" or requirements scope

BAs elicit, analyze, communicate, and validate requirements for changes to business processes, policies, and information systems. The business analysis professional understands business problems and opportunities in the context of the requirements and recommends solutions that enable an organization to achieve its goals.

The business analysis discipline has emerged from work previously done by project managers (gathering high-level business requirements) and systems analysts (designing functional requirements for software behavior). Currently, in many organizations there is still an unclear differentiation between the work of business analysis and project management. Chapter 2 of this book will discuss these unique roles. Business analysis builds on many of the same techniques used in systems analysis but focuses more heavily on business goals and less on the technology designs. Business requirements are elicited and analyzed at a much more detailed level than traditionally done during systems analysis. Business analysis also places more emphasis on understanding user groups and business environments and designing highly usable applications. The discipline of business analysis is useful for solving business problems and taking advantage of opportunities by helping business people design procedures, structures, and technology to support and enhance their work. Many solutions include a significant software component because most business areas benefit extensively from software automation and it is often the most complex piece of a solution.

Most of the projects in which business analysis professionals are involved include a software or IT solution, but the profession and role are not limited to software development. The work of business analysis focuses on helping to elicit, analyze, document, and validate requirements and implement solutions to business problems. The same skills that are useful for helping with software development projects often translate well to other types of business solutions. Frequently, an effective solution to a business problem involves a software component along with procedure changes and possibly job responsibility changes. It is rare to find a business unit that is not using software and technology to perform its work. BAs help to design solutions, not just software. The profession and the IIBA are working to use the word solution when possible instead of limiting discussions to software systems.

Business Analysis vs. Software Development

When talking about software development methodologies and approaches, it is important to recognize how business analysis relates to these processes. Most software development methodologies have been created by software developers to help organizations more efficiently build application systems. Very few of them include or even acknowledge the primary work of business analysis. Using the Rational Unified Process (RUP) as an example, it mentions business models and business modeling as an activity that happens before project initiation. This has a very important implication: the assumption is that when a software development project is started, the business model has already been developed (and hopefully documented) and the solution determined to best support the business is software. When RUP's assumptions are accurate — the business is well understood and solution evaluations have already resulted in a conclusion — RUP works well. The software can be designed and created following the business needs and will fulfill user expectations.

Unfortunately, many organizations do not understand RUP's underlying assumptions. Truly analyzing and understanding the business is not done before project initiation. In these situations, business analysis professionals are assigned to the team to gather business requirements in the context of a methodology that has no time allocated for this work. RUP uses the word "analyze" as one of its phrases, but this is software analysis, not business analysis. Business analysis professionals who are assigned to work on these projects often find themselves helping to design software functionality while they are trying to understand the business (other methodologies have similar constraints, as discussed inChapter 5). This slows the process of eliciting requirements, causing developers to be waiting for business analysis deliverables. Planning time for eliciting business requirements before functional or software requirements is the best way to prevent this confusion and delay. Business requirements may be developed before project initiation or as a first step of a project as long as time is allocated for this important work.

The Role of the Business Analyst

The business analysis profession has emerged and continues to grow mainly because of the need for people who can translate business needs into software technology and organizational solutions. Individuals who have both strong communication skills and analytical aptitude (the critical foundational skills) can be taught to use analysis documentation and presentation techniques. People who can clearly communicate and who can think logically will always be valuable to the success of their organizations. This unique combination of soft and analytical skills is the key to the BA role.

Business analysis work is being done by professionals with titles as varied as developer, project manager, systems analyst, systems engineer, requirements engineer, etc. More and more organizations in the United States and around the world are recognizing business analysis as a distinct profession and developing career paths for people who are interested in specializing in this area. Gartner Research predicts BA staffing at one BA per major business process (Morello and Belchar, 2005). This means there could be hundreds of thousands of BAs! Another interesting comparison is to developers. Currently, many organizations have BA to developer ratios like one to six, but that ratio is rapidly increasing. With the sophistication of developer tools and the speed at which code components can be assembled, the ratio will swing toward more BAs. It takes more time to perform thorough analysis and clearly understand a business problem (and design a solution) than it does to build software. In the next couple of decades, the ratio may be much more like two to one or even three to one BAs to developers.

Even as the role of the BA is still being defined, specializations in this profession are already emerging. There are business analysis professionals who specialize by industry, by software application, by technology, and by level of experience. Gartner, Inc. projects that one BA type is not going to meet all the needs of an organization (Morello and Belchar, 2005) and recommends that each organization develop a pool of BAs with different expertise and experience. This is great news for those in the business analysis profession. The more recognized the role is, the more opportunities there will be. It is also critical that individuals within the profession specialize so they can focus on particular types of business problems or solutions.

Business analysis is a complex, broad area that will continue to grow like other professions. The profession is still young; BAs often are expected to "know it all," like the early years in the legal and medical professions. Originally, a lawyer dealt with everything from copyright protection to personal wills. Now there are lawyers who specialize in corporate software contract negotiations and others who specialize in high-wealth individual estate planning. In the medical profession, as medical research continually uncovers new diseases and treatments, general practitioner doctors and nurses are unable to maintain expertise in every area. The medical profession has specialties like cardiology, podiatry, and nephrology. New technology, pharmaceuticals, and procedures also drive many medical professionals to choose a specialty and focus on it. Patients benefit from this specialization because a specialist can stay abreast of new discoveries in his or her area of expertise. BAs also will become specialized and focus on a particular area of the work where there is a special interest and proficiency.

Business Analyst Traits

Most people who are drawn to the business analysis profession have traits in common. Analysts enjoy learning new things and have a natural curiosity. In addition, BAs have a rare combination of the ability to see the big picture (conceptual thinking) while being very detail oriented. This combination of traits results in a very successful BA.

The "people" skills necessary to be a successful BA are many and varied. They include strong listening skills, both verbal and non-verbal. They include the ability to ask good questions and probe deeper for very detailed information. They include leadership abilities — running successful meetings, encouraging team members, and supporting corporate goals. The real secret to all of these skills is knowing the individuals with whom you are working because every human being communicates slightly differently.

The technical awareness needed to be a successful BA includes software development approaches, organizational IT standards, data design and storage strategies, and software usability principles. Business analysis professionals must stay abreast of current trends and capabilities and be able to communicate effectively with the technology team.

Since the role of BA requires so many different skills, most individuals in this role are constantly working on improving and increasing their skill sets. The effective BA is always stretching himself or herself to learn new techniques and improve his or her use of analysis tools.

The extent of the responsibilities of the BA changes on every project and may even change during the course of a project. Since the BA is bridging a gap between groups of people who speak different languages, he or she must be able to span the gap, regardless of its width. Refer to Figure 1.1. Assume the length of the line to be the extent of the gap. When a BA is working with an individual or group of subject matter experts (SMEs) who are very knowledgeable about their business and have worked on IT projects in the past, the gap is narrow. On the other side, when a BA is working with technical people who are strong communicators and knowledgeable about the business, the gap is narrowed. In this ideal scenario, the BA is easily able to span the gap by bringing the two groups together. Ideally, these are the types of project situations to which a new BA should be assigned.

When a BA is working with an individual or group of SMEs who are not experienced with IT project work, have never provided or reviewed requirements, and/or who are inexperienced in the business domain, the gap widens. On the other side, when a BA is working with an individual or group of technical professionals who have weak communication skills, little or no industry or business knowledge, and/or limited experience in developing software, the gap widens further. In this more challenging scenario, the BA stretches himself or herself to the maximum he or she can to bring the groups together to develop effective business solutions. This requires a more experienced, adaptable BA. Figure 1.2 shows this wider gap.

Most projects fall somewhere between the two extremes. An experienced BA assesses this gap soon after being assigned to a project. He or she then plans the business analysis work with the size of the gap in mind. Clearly recognizing and acknowledging this gap gives the BA an important insight into the scope of his or her responsibilities.

History of Business Analysis

Traditionally, everyone involved with software development came from a technical or IT background. They understood the software development process and often had programming experience. They used textual requirements along with ANSI flowcharts, data flow diagrams, database diagrams, and prototypes to document the software design. Frustration with software development was caused by the length of time required to develop a system that didn't always meet business needs. Business people demanded easy-to-use, sophisticated software and wanted it better and faster.

Many business people got tired of waiting for large, slow-moving IT departments to roll out yet another cumbersome application. They began learning to do things for themselves or hire consultants, often called BAs. These consultants would report directly to the business management and help with software design and development. As businesses experienced the benefits of having a person dedicated to finding solutions to business problems, the number of BAs increased. Individuals from the business units became BAs, with backgrounds as varied as marketing, accounting, payroll processing, and claims administration.

IT groups did not initially see the value of this new role. BAs inside business units were sophisticated users who were anxious to take advantage of new technology and were willing to look outside the enterprise for help. Some user departments purchased software packages without consulting their own IT department. Others hired outside developers to create new software. These stand-alone systems caused even more problems for IT, which was suddenly asked to support software that it had not written or approved. Small independent databases popped up everywhere, with inconsistent and often unprotected data. IT organizations realized that creating a BA role internally was critical for continuing to support the business and stay in control of software applications. In addition, as some software development projects were outsourced, the need for quality, detailed requirements became painfully obvious.

Several other factors have increased the need for and value of dedicated business analysis professionals. The explosion of customer-facing Web pages demanded an increase in the understanding of usability and human factors in design. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set quality standards that must be adhered to when doing international business. Carnegie Mellon University created software development and organizational quality standards with CMMI(Capability Maturity Model Integration). Six Sigma™ has provided a disciplined, data-driven quality approach to process improvement aimed at the near elimination of defects from every product, process, and transaction. Business process management products are dedicated to improving efficiency and consistency at an enterprise-wide level. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) encourages improvements in software design and reuse of system components (called services).

All of these movements have been driven by frustration with the quality, timeliness, and applicability of business support from technology groups. Every study of software development failures shows that incomplete, incorrect, and missing requirements are the main reason for failures. It has become clear that the software development process needs a profession of people who are dedicated to eliciting, analyzing, and presenting requirements from a business perspective and making sure that the business needs are met in the software design and development.


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Copyright © 2009 B2T Training.
Excerpted by permission of J. Ross Publishing, Inc..
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