By Carl Herron, Business Analysis Expert and Instructor
Perhaps more than any other role on a software development project, the Business Analyst role is like a general practitioner, or primary care physician, in the field of medicine. She must have knowledge in several domains including Operations, Marketing, Sales, Information Technology, Personnel and Executive Management. The Business Analyst is responsible for being sufficiently fluent in the languages of team members with disparate skill sets, while developing a common language that all team members will understand.
Take a general practitioner who treats a patient with an obscure illness. The medical doctor will:
1. Exercise a good bedside manner to create an environment where the patient is comfortable and openly communicates symptoms and perceptions.
2. Actively listens to the patient, eliciting useful information, helping doctor and patient stay on the same page.
3. Based on the conversation(s), the physician begins analysis which may include tests (both in-office and through independent laboratories) to develop a diagnosis.
4. If necessary, the physician will collaborate with other medical specialists during the diagnosis and treatment of the illness. The patient may be referred to one or more specialist physicians for treatment.
5. While the patient is under the care other specialist physicians, the general practitioner – as primary care physician – keeps in the loop on treatments and prognosis.
The pattern of behavior of the general practitioner in medicine is similar to the activities of a Business Analyst. As the BA approaches a software development project from a generalist perspective, she must know enough about all aspects of the project to consult with domain experts who will be providing inputs, driving decisions and performing the actual work at each phase in the software development life cycle.
1. The BA will exercise a good bedside manner with sponsors, customers and users.
2. Through active listening, the BA will extract the real requirements from stakeholders.
3. The BA will engage users, architects, designers, developers and others in thoughtful requirements analysis.
4. As a leader in the software development process, the BA will work to ensure that all stakeholders speak a common language (using Storyboards, UML Diagrams, Software Requirements Specifications, etc.) and are working toward a common set of deliverables.
Like a primary care physician, a Business Analyst has generalist knowledge and takes advantage of expert resources from several domains to successfully complete software development projects.