For most of us, the title of business analyst conjures up an unexciting image of a suited professional pouring over numbers and flowcharts in an isolated corner of the office. While there certainly may be elements of truth in this perception, the role of the business analyst in the world of enterprise software development bears closer resemblance to the storyteller than to the statistician.
Indeed, as Neil Truman, Business Analysis Manager at redPanda Software points out, his daily work is far more creative and people-centric than the job title suggests.
“I am essentially the bridge between clients [companies] and the software development team,” he explains. “Very often, I become the ‘translator’ between the two parties: taking the business problem or pain point, analysing and understanding it, and then translating that into a very clear software development project.”
According to Truman, it is critical to be involved from the very beginning of the client interaction, as this allows the skilled analyst to identify both the challenges and the unique opportunities within each business scenario.
“My job is to ask the right questions, and help the client work through the various implications,” he adds. “Very often, there are multiple ways of achieving the client’s objective – which may or may not involve a bespoke software development solution.”
In today’s fast-changing and highly competitive business environment, many businesses are struggling to find ways to remain relevant in the face of relentless industry disruption. Increasingly, companies are being forced to react quickly – and to find new and innovative ways of outsmarting smaller and more nimble upstart competitors.
“For most companies, the challenge is to be able to react quickly, while still providing high quality products and services,” says Truman. “In order to help clients along this journey, the savvy business analyst has to really get to grips with the mechanics of the business – and understand the client’s pain points and main priorities.”
In order to mitigate the risk of starting out on a development project or path that ultimately proves ineffective or off the mark, the prescient business analyst will embrace the Agile approach – which entails working on development projects in small increments and building in a continuous (and highly transparent) feedback loop between the client and the development team.
“It should be an ongoing process of tweaking, adjusting, and fostering open communication with the client,” says Truman. “Without this approach, the risk of wasting time and resources is far too high.”
Another key component is the team element, and often the business analyst becomes the chief facilitator. In the enterprise software development environment, there is little room for individual glory seekers – and each team member has to assume responsibility for the success or failure of each project. As a result, if the business analyst has failed to properly communicate the business problem and ultimate objective of each project, the team effort can be severely undermined.
“That’s why to succeed in this role, one has to be unafraid to ask questions and to break every term and concept down to its basics,” adds Truman. “If not, the project in question runs the risk of getting lost in translation.”