Introduction to BA

By Lily Tran

on 14-11-2023

Though the Business Analyst profession has been much more popular in the last decade, it’s still not clear to the majority of people what Business Analyst does. In this very first blog, I would like to introduce the Business Analyst profession and some key concepts & frameworks which have a big impact on Business Analysts in general.

So, let’s start.

The first, simple yet important question: what is Business Analyst (BA)?

There is no single answer for this. At concept level, BA is an agent of change (according to IIBA, one of the most prestigious communities of BA profession in the world). Diving deeper, what does BA do to deliver that value? They identify business areas that could be improved in terms of processes, products (software included), services, before introducing and managing change to organizations, whether they are for-profit businesses, governments, or non-profits. A BA straddles the line between Technology and Business to help bridge the gap and improve efficacy.

Although working across multiple industries, BA normally go through similar processes. Each industry and company would tailor the process here and there to fit their need and maturity of their workforce, but the backbone of the framework is the same. Therefore, understanding these fundamental processes would facilitate BA onboarding to projects and help them quickly get their hands dirty.

1. Project Management Lifecycle

A BA is a team member working in one or multiple projects at a time. Therefore, a sneak peek into Project Life Cycle will be helpful for BAs, especially in terms of planning/ anticipating tasks and workload during different phase of project.

Typically, a BA of the vendor side (sometimes called outsourced) works in Delivery period, while BA of client side works in Initiation phase and provides deliverables acceptance during Delivery. BA working in a product team in a start-up or product-type company would normally participate in all phases.

2. Product Development Lifecycle

Though Project Management Lifecycle is useful to BA, it’s under PM’s custodian. BA as a project member needs to know about project phases but not so much on the details. However, the product aspect of the project is under their lead. As such, there comes the need of getting familiar with the Product Development Lifecycle.

Obviously, Concept, Research and Analysis stages are done during the Project Initiation phase. And business BA is the one taking note of the concept as well as product definition, to conduct business analysis later. The deliverable expected for this Business Analysis stage is business requirement, which is also known as Business Requirement Document (BRD) or Product Requirement Document (PRD). It is a critical input for the Requirement phase during Project Delivery.

3. Software Development Lifecycle

For BAs working on digital-related projects, which contributes more than 90% of projects nowadays, it’s important to understand about the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). This process depicts stages happening during Delivery period. Technical BA will be leading the Requirement phase and assisting other team members during the rest of the time. Since the scope has been defined during the Initiation phase, the main purpose of this stage is to translate the already approved business requirements (BRD) into technical solutions which could be understood by the engineering team. This deliverable is the most popular to BAs, which is known under the name of Functional Spec (FS), Functional Specification (FSD), Software Requirement Specification (SRS), to name a few.

From the angle of understanding input and output of each phase as well as teams taking charge, the value of SDLC keeps constant even with an agile approach.

That concludes my first blog of introduction about BA and some key processes.

Next blog, let’s discuss requirement classification schema (which I prefer to call requirement “layers”), with some concepts and samples.

You’re reaching the end of this blog. Thanks for reading!


Business Requirement

Hi, welcome to my second blog, where I introduce requirements layers, which are often referred to as Requirement Classification Schema. According to BABOK, there are 4+1 types of requirements in the schema: Business requirements, Stakeholder requirements, Solution requirements, which is further divided into Functional requirements & Non-functional requirements, and Transition requirements.  In this blog, I would introduce the first type: Business Requirements. Business requirements are “statements of goals, objectives and outcomes that describe why a change has been initiated” (BABOK Guide v3.0). Right from its definition, it is obvious that business requirements must be established during the Initiation phase of a project. It guides the strategic direction for the entire endeavor. A good business requirement should be short, concise, and measurable. Below are a few examples of business requirements: The project leverages Machine Learning to forecast ATM cash demand which results in reduction in the frequency of cash delivery trips to ATMs by 20%. The project builds a new system to automate the recruitment process within the company, which boosts productivity of the HR department by 20%. The project builds a digital workplace for the company, which aims to increase employees’ productivity by 20% and their satisfaction by 25%. Looking into Business Requirements, a BA would understand the purpose of the project, as well as the objectives of the product to be built within that project. It is a solution for a pain point or opportunity that a company is suffering or pursuing, respectively. The question may arise at this moment: well, am I as a BA supposed to define this?  There is one thing for certain: the Sponsor of the project must approve it. However, the responsibility of the proposal is not so clear, mainly due to the complexity level of the product. “Complexity” is not a sexy term, but its close relatives “Digital Transformation” is one among the trendiest nowadays. Complexity of a product positively correlates to its digital type, going from the easiest Digitization to Digitalization, and the most difficult is Digital Transformation. You may easily find the definition of Digitization, Digitalization and Digital Transformation everywhere, just by searching through the Internet. Simply speaking: Digitization focuses on recording and converting data. An example is e-book. Before digitization, you could only read physical books, but after digitization, you have one more choice: e-book. Digitization is at task-level and thus the simplest. Digitalization focuses on processes with the aim to automate that in part or as a whole and improve wherever possible. You may see the application of digitalization everywhere in the last decades, like a system to automate procurement processes, CRM, ERP, etc. Digitalization is at process-level. Digital Transformation focuses on creating new ways to do business leveraging technology advancement. You see it coming and may hear about it more often than experience it. An example is AI changing the way business works. Several jobs are soon to be replaced by AI, and many others must change to adapt with the new model. Digital Transformation is organization-level with strategy shift and thus the most complex. Through my career, I do not see much on Digitization projects, but due to its simple nature, anyone should be able to spot the improvement opportunity and propose. For Digitalization projects, very senior business BA could assist the team in eliciting the business process, even perform business process re-engineering to come up with ideas on process improvement opportunities. I want to emphasize again on the word “idea” in the absence of feasibility and P&L validation. For Digital Transformation projects, with the focus on building a new business model, more senior people would be required for the Initiation phase. It could be Program Manager, who takes care of both project and product aspects of an endeavor, to be responsible for the proposal for Sponsor’s approval. That concludes my second blog of introduction about BA. Next blog let us discuss stakeholder requirements. Thanks to VNPT for the nice business model canvas picture! You are reaching the end of this blog. Thanks for reading!