Monday, 14 September 2015

Defining the Business Analyst

The role of the Business Analyst varies from industry to industry, from company to company, from department to department and from individual to individual. Yet there is always a common theme that run through every Business Analyst job description - if you can't find anyone else to do a task, it's a part of the Business Analyst's role. The good old catchall of "other tasks as defined from time to time" makes up a significant portion of the daily tasks heaped upon the Business Analyst. 

At one end of the scale companies use the experience, knowledge and expertise of their Business Analysts to help shape their strategy. Multi-million pound IT projects or remodelling the corporate structure become reliant on the involvement of the Business Analyst. And at the other end, the Business Analyst is documenting a process for how the Contact Centre's IVR flow works or how the paper clips get ordered. 

As is the case for most roles, the ability, knowledge and competence of those in the Business Analyst skills pool can vary hugely.  Though if the role of the Business Analyst isn’t properly understood or appreciated resource allocation can often take its cue from selecting the sports team at school.  The popular kids being picked first and the weedy kid with the strange odour being left as Hobson’s choice.  This can result in the top talent being reduced to counting the paperclips and the task oriented Business Analysts being left to do root cause analysis on why the organisation’s strategy is failing.  When it comes to how organisations value their Business Analysts, all too often their all round ability and general willingness to pick up the threads that everyone else is all too willing to leave hanging seems to count against them. They can be left feeling either undervalued or overstretched because their skills aren’t being used appropriately.  

Whilst clear definition exists between Programme Managers, Project Managers and Project Management Office roles or Enterprise, Project and Software Architects, for the Business Analyst the differentiation is often made through the subtlety of a prefix such as Principal, Lead, Senior or Junior.  This lack of clear definition shouldn't undermine the value placed on a core component of the project team.  Organisations who use find and replace to differentiate their Business Analyst job descriptions, giving the same tasks a different verb to show the level of the person, need to think differently.

As we look to do more for less, harnessing the benefits of fleet of foot, agile delivery in both business process design and technology delivery, Business Analysts will segment further into those who have the skills of strategic, enterprise thinking; and those who are task focussed with a keen eye for detail. And as organisational structures becoming slimmer and more streamlined, often with business functions outsourced en mass, the need to empower Business Analysts to represent a smaller group of stakeholders in making decisions based on their own breadth and depth of knowledge will grow.  The Business Analyst, with the ability to define the strategy and with the business or subject knowledge to make decisions, will be required to fill the gaps in this slimmer structure.  Meanwhile the task oriented Business Analyst will support their peers in bringing their vision to fruition. 

Whether the Business Analyst role will morph into Enterprise Analysts, Project Analysts and Process Analysts or whether organisations will begin to recognise the subtlety of the prefixes currently in existence remains to be seen. For those working as a Business Analyst to have better definition of their role and the opportunity to be allocated to work based on their skills is undoubtedly attractive and will drive the marketplace; with the value and desirability of the roles at the Enterprise level becoming rightly more marked. 

Organisations who fail to remove the ambiguity from their job descriptions will be the ones who are left with only the task focussed Business Analysts; whilst those who make the definition and reward appropriately will reap the benefits at both ends of the scale. 

Read my other posts
Just in Case - From early adoption to maturity
I have control - Can we truly own our identity
Tipping the balance - Getting the right balance between security and user experience
You don't know what you're doing Poor security practices are putting users at risk 
I didn't say you could touch me - Biometric authentication and identityYou don't need to tell me - Impacts of the EU General Data Protection Regulations
Coming together on being alone - The need for a clear government digital strategy
I'm not the person I used to be - Authentication for real world identities
Distributed Identity has no clothes - Will distributed ledger technology solve identity
Bring Your Own Downfall - Why we should embrace federated identity
Unblocking Digital Identity - Identity on the Blockchain as the next big thing
Tick to Agree - Doing the right thing with customer's data
The Kids Are All Right - Convenient authentication: the minimum standard for the younger generation
The ridiculous mouse - Why identity assurance must be a rewarding experience for users
Big Brother's Protection - How Big Brother can protect our privacy
I don't know who I am anymore - How to prove your identity online
Three Little Words - What it means for your business to be agile
Unexpected Customer Behaviour -  The role of self-service in your customer service strategy
Rip it up and start again - The successful Business Transformation
Too Big To Fail - Keeping the heart of your business alive
The upstarts at the startups - How startups are changing big business 
One Small Step - The practice of greatness
In pursuit of mediocrity - Why performance management systems drive mediocrity

About me

Bryn Robinson-Morgan is an independent Business Consultant with interests in Identity Assurance, Agile Organisational Design and Customer Centric Architecture.  Bryn has near 20 years experience working with some of the United Kingdom's leading brands and largest organisations.

Follow Bryn on Twitter: @No1_BA

Connect with Bryn on Linked In: Bryn Robinson-Morgan


  1. Interesting article and spot on IMO, my last role was as I described it once "Glorified phone boy" as the boss just wanted me to open calls and represent him on them when he was off being "too busy". Whereas my current position there is a much more defined responsibility role which I prefer.

  2. Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work! easy to use project management software