Agile Business Analyst

In 2014 I changed my vocation from front-end architect to Business Analyst. But what does a Business Analyst actually do?

Let’s start with the basic description of the job, courtesy of CIO.com.

Business analysts (BAs) are responsible for bridging the gap between IT and the business using data analytics to assess processes, determine requirements and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders. BAs engage with business leaders and users to understand how data-driven changes to process, products, services, software and hardware can improve efficiencies and add value. They must articulate those ideas but also balance them against what’s technologically feasible and financially and functionally reasonable. Depending on the role, you might work with data sets to improve products, hardware, tools, software, services or process.

Business analyst is a container term. A business analyst tends to have a specific focus:

The business analyst, sometimes, is someone who is a part of the business operation and works with Information Technology to improve the quality of the services being delivered, sometimes assisting in Integration and Testing of new solutions. Business Analysts act as a liaison between management and technical developers.

Personal experience

One of the main reasons for becoming a BA is wanting to make broader use of your skills. An organisation likes people with deep knowledge of the internal workings of the company, and the various technologies and business practices those entail. It is extremely beneficial for an organisation with a big turnover of external developers to have people be able to get those started quickly and guide them through the various corporate mazes.

In practice

At my current employer, and added layer of complexity is that a Business Analyst is part of a Scrum team. It restricts the usefulness of the analyst as their influence on strategy is limited in an operational team. A lot of the knowledge and skills has an overlap with the Product Owner and Scrum Master.

Let’s dig a little deeper, and examine the work I do, or should be doing, using the military’s model for the four levels of war.

1. Tactical

The tactical level of warfare is that level where men meet and fight from the individual level through the division. It is the realm of skirmishes, engagements, and battles. Planning at the tactical level starts at ‘now’ and occurs out to roughly 48 hours in the future, or at most a few weeks. The tactical level of warfare is where one sees the face of battle.

2. Operational

Operational level planning occurs with the intent of setting missions and objectives that will bend the enemy to your will in an entire theater of operations. Think of this as the blueprint that helps you build a house from a bunch of bricks.

3. Strategic

Strategic plans aim for objectives that lead directly to, or at least significantly toward, peace. In other words, these plans seek to answer the question, “How will we win this war?”

4. Political

Decisions at this level involve the interrelationships between allies, decisions regarding the factors of production, the national will, and societal issues. And it is here that another profession holds great sway, one that operates in the realm of influencing civilians.

The political level is not necessarily a level where a BA is very active. It is the realm of top management. But that doesn’t mean there is no role at all to play.

Growth

When you work in a big company, the personal development focus tends not to be on what you do now, but on things that you need to start doing, and growth. In the current context there a several paths visible to me.

Not all paths lead to personal growth, and honestly, if you are stuck in one development team at a time it is fairly limiting. The best place for a business analyst is near the Architecture team or near the Business to maximise their liaison super powers.

For me personally, I’m perfectly happy to stay in my team, but at least perform a more diverse set of tasks, thus “enhancing my seniority”.

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