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what does a business analyst do

Why you need a business analyst on your product development team

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Posted by: Lucid Content Team

There are an estimated 4.5 billion active internet users. To be successful, your company needs to be able to figure out who among these 4.5 billion people need your product or service. 

Each day, as these users interact with websites, social media, and streaming services, huge amounts of data are gathered, stored, and consumed. According to IDC’s Global DataSphere Forecast, “More than 59 zettabytes (ZB) of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world this year.” To give you an idea of how much data that is, 1 ZB equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

That’s a lot of data.

To make effective connections with potential customers, you need somebody who can look at and interpret the data to help the product development team:

  • Define and focus on a target audience
  • Understand customer concerns and needs
  • Discover consumer behavior and trends
  • Determine what motivates consumers to make a purchase
  • Make recommendations for product improvements or new products that will meet customer needs and motivate them to purchase
  • Formulate achievable goals

A business analyst (BA) should be an essential member of any product or software development team. A good BA can help you harness and tame all of that data so your company can connect with, and provide better experiences for, your customers.

How business analysts help in the product development process

To deliver great products and services, you need a great team. Typically, a product development team includes members from multiple teams in the following roles:

  • Project manager: Plans and manages the project to ensure that milestones and tasks are kept on track and delivered on time.
  • Product manager: Develops the strategy, roadmap, and features of a product or product line, leading the team from the product’s conception to its eventual launch.
  • Business analyst: Performs data analysis, identifies business needs, defines requirements, documents processes and procedures, and advises on ways to be more efficient.
  • Team leader: Manages the developers and is a liaison between developers, the project manager, and other stakeholders.
  • Quality assurance manager: Creates testing plans and scripts to ensure that product requirements are met.
  • Test engineer: Writes and runs test scripts to find and report bugs and to ensure that the product works as expected.  
  • Developers: The members of the team who are responsible for building the product and meeting deadlines.

In addition, product development teams may include representation from sales, marketing, HR, and operations.

What does a business analyst do to support product development roles?

Product development team size usually varies, especially in companies where multiple roles are filled by the same person. For example, some companies might expect a product manager to be a project manager and business analyst as well. 

Having employees take on multiple roles may work in smaller companies, but having business analysis function as its own entity adds value to companies of any size. A business analyst can support other product development roles in the following ways:

Communication

From their data analysis, a business analyst should be able to extract and interpret information that is important for each team. For example, the marketing team is probably not as interested in data gathered about the software development process as an engineering team would be.

After interpreting the data, BAs need to be able to coherently present the information that each team is eager to learn about, which requires that they have excellent written and verbal skills. In addition to technical project documents, the analysts will be called on to present the material in multiple team meetings. This means that they should be comfortable speaking in front of people and that they are able to translate the data into a language that each team understands.

Creating visual documents such as charts, diagrams, and slides is a great way to support ideas and suggestions rather than only relying on text-heavy documents.

Gather information and act as intermediary

Business analysts spend a lot of time with clients, users, managers, developers, and other IT stakeholders. They act as intermediaries among these various personalities as they facilitate meetings, ask questions, and gather data. As intermediaries, BAs are comfortable with and understand the underlying business operations of each team so they can speak knowledgeably with each of them and make informed suggestions.

It is important that the BAs get input from all stakeholders in the project. The more information that can be gathered, the easier it is to recognize areas that need improvement, see trends and patterns, research possible solutions, and make recommendations.

Define goals and objectives

A business analyst works with multiple teams to define who this project is for and why it is needed. The answers to these questions are the basis for defining project goals.

Taking a deep dive into the details of the goals can help analysts to define the specific, measurable actions that teams and individuals will have to take (the objectives) to achieve the goals.

The objectives should address key stakeholders’ expectations, be clear and attainable, and lead to the project's definition of scope. 

Identify options

Working with cross-functional teams, a business analyst conducts brainstorming sessions to find ways to achieve the defined goals and objectives. They use visual charts and diagrams to capture ideas and to encourage collaboration. 

When you have viable options, narrow them down by letting the BA do a cost-benefit analysis, describe potential impact, and identify potential risks.  

Define the project scope and timeline

The scope identifies the deliverables that will be included in the project and the items that may be important but can wait until a future release. 

The scope pertains to all members of cross-functional teams. A business analyst’s understanding of how each team functions and fits into the overall process gives them better insight and clarity when determining what will be included in the scope.

Using the scope to break down deliverables into smaller pieces, the BA works with team leaders to create a list of tasks for each piece of work. From there, the BA is ready to create a timeline and a project delivery plan. Deadlines and milestones should be attainable and realistic. Be sure to identify dependencies and build in some extra time to allow for unforeseen circumstances.

Define the project requirements and specifications

The project requirements are tied to the project scope. The requirements document is the guideline used by developers to build the product. It describes:

  • Functional requirements—product features, functions, processes, actions, and behaviors.
  • Non-functional requirements—operational qualities of the product such as accessibility, scalability, standards compliance, and security.

The project specifications document is a comprehensive and more detailed description of the project goals, objectives, and product functionality.

The business analyst can help to define requirements and write a specifications document because they should have a better understanding of what needs to be included from, and the interdependencies associated with, all of the project’s cross-functional teams. 

Support implementation

Business analysts may be brought in after a product has been implemented if an unforeseen issue makes it necessary to add new requirements. The BA may be involved in problem-solving meetings and analysis, or asked to help clients to accept and understand the solution as delivered.

A business analyst can also support implementation through training, conducting user acceptance tests, and providing user documentation.

A business analysis team is a valuable addition to any company. They help you by distilling information into easy-to-understand chunks of information and bring insight and clarity to the overall project and business objectives by bridging the gap between cross-functional teams.

Having a dedicated person or a team devoted to gathering and analyzing data helps you to provide clear and understandable goals, objectives, and requirements for everybody working on the project. This can save you time and money and can improve development times and decrease time to market.

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Learn how to create a business analysis communication plan so you can get the buy-in you need and align your cross-functional teams.

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