Why do you need a business analyst?

As a seasoned business analyst, a lot of my work involves uncovering the real value of initiatives. I am often a thorn in the side of managers who want to “just get it done” when I ask questions like: What are you really trying to achieve? Have you assigned adequate weights to all the risks? Is your optimism about this project really justified?

My sense of integrity requires that I ask the same questions of myself. I advocate for the use of good business analysis in business as Vice President of IIBA Australia Chapter and Chair of IIBA Brisbane Branch. I need to ask (and answer) the question – what is the real value of business analysis?

I like this definition of business analysis: “Business Analysis uses proven tools and techniques to analyse business performance, evaluate the impact of change and advise the best course of action.” Why do we need to spend money on this effort, for a profession that didn’t even have a name 20 years ago?

The answer I think lies in the changing nature of business investment and in particular in the “IT project”. The graphic below shows the amount of effort expended in different categories of work. The technology project has dramatically higher levels of decision making compared with other investments.

Decision making needs to be informed by good analysis. It is unreasonably optimistic to think that any individual in an organisation has sufficient understanding of current and future state to proclaim “the answer”. It needs those proven tools and techniques to discover the reality of the current state, develop models of the future state and advise on the right decisions in areas as diverse as “What is the likely return on investment” to “How should we configure this input screen?”. The business analyst is your key resource to do this and you need to invest in this area to be successful.

Of course other professions are clamouring for resources, from architects and project managers, to change managers and software developers. All are important and you probably don’t have enough money to fully resource all of them; but with decision making being the key to success in technology projects, business analysis should be the first investment to be prioritised.

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