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What’s in a Name: Business Analysis

what is business analysis

What is business analysis? Is it work that’s reserved only for those with the professional title?

According to the IIBA, “Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.”

To Systemation, that’s a terrific definition. It’s concise, it describes specific activities, and it tells you what the business analyst responsibilities would be in once concise sentence. It also shows that you don’t have to have the title of “business analyst” to be doing business analysis work. In fact, many people who take our classes don’t have the title. During the course, they’ll discover it’s a role they’ve been fulfilling even though they never thought of themselves that way.

The IIBA’s definition of “What is business analysis?” also shows that this is a noble role. Even before there were formal associations and systems and certifications, the function of business analyst existed. Its goal has always been to move the organization forward and make it better. As a result, the impact a business analyst can have on the organization is tremendous. Particularly in today’s volatile, rapidly evolving business environment, the business analyst’s role as an agent of change is extremely important and valuable.

What is Business Analysis in the Context of Your Organization?

As helpful as the IIBA’s definition is, though, there’s one slight wrinkle: Quite often, the people who are in the role of business analyst don’t have the business acumen, strategic mindset or authority to carry out all aspects of the function. In fact, in many cases, it’s the business leaders who have this skill set and actually fulfill those business analyst responsibilities. That, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a problem, as even the IIBA says that a business analyst is any person who carries out these duties. But it can bring up questions about who does what and who should be doing what.

A good way to understand the nuances of what business analysis is means viewing the role of business analyst in the same way that we might view the role of project manager. Even though project charters are required in the conception stages of projects, most project managers don’t prepare these. The vast majority of the time, senior management (or their staff) prepares the project charter.

The same is true for business analysts and the business case. Most business analysts don’t create the business case upfront. Instead, they fulfill it after it’s approved. This is not to diminish the role of an analyst but to put it in the context what business analysis is and how things really get done in organizations. While the association does a great job of describing the responsibilities and creating professional standards around business analysis, in some ways they can push you into thinking you need to take responsibility for activities in areas where you don’t realistically have the authority to handle them.

If you’re doing the work of business analysis and performing business analyst responsibilities, rather than worry about those areas that aren’t within your control or purview, focus on building your competence and confidence on the activities you should be doing. That’s how you’ll fulfill your role as an agent of change who can solve problems and deliver value to your stakeholders.