Business Analysis in Software Development Workflow
Anyone who has ever worked on a software development project will agree that having a skilled and diverse team is essential to developing great software. Although every member plays an important role, the involvement of a business analyst could determine the failure or success of the project. A business analyst works with you to determine the scope of your project and establish the requirements and standards the project must meet. The value a business analyst will bring to your development team is incredible but sometimes overlooked until it’s too late.
A business analyst, or sometimes referred to as a business systems analyst, must be involved at the very beginning of a project. The business analyst works with the stakeholders to analyze and document business processes for the system to be developed, determine functional requirements and high-level features, elaborate on the details of the software project and requirements to set the direction of the project, and support its implementation.
To better understand the importance of business analysis, here are some of the many ways an analyst can transform a project.
In the very beginning of a project, an analyst begins to work with the company’s key stakeholders to communicate the project’s vision and elicit requirements. Typically, the analyst begins by identifying the problem that the new software will attempt to solve. It’s important to consult with an experienced analyst, one that will be honest and narrow down your vision to a realistic and practical one. An analyst must make sure that all stakeholders have a unified vision. This can be done by doing the following.
- Conducting interviews: Interviews are very common and are valuable. An analyst is able to get to know the concerns of various stakeholders by asking a series of probing questions.
- Questionnaires: If there are a large amount of stakeholders, sending out a questionnaire is an efficient way to gather input around key areas.
- Document Analysis: An analyst can go through existing documents and gather data regarding current processes, concerns, and suggestions.
- Prototyping: When stakeholders are unclear about their requirements, building a simple prototype can help create understanding of the system and its requirements.
Without proper analysis before the software is built, developers may end up developing incomplete software that doesn’t solve the problem it intended to. Or much worse, the software may have to be rebuilt when it’s too late. This is the reason that business analysts often take on the role as product owner in an agile development project.
One of the key roles of a business analyst is to facilitate communication between stakeholders and developers. The business analyst works with project stakeholders in order to translate their requirements into something that can be understood by developers, while also communicating the needs of developers into something stakeholders can understand.
A business analyst works as an interpreter for the business’ needs. Having one on your team will ensure that the needs of your stakeholders are met and are consistent with the overall vision of the project.
Without the help of an analyst, a lot of time could be used inefficiently. Your developers can’t spend too much time in meetings—they need to focus on developing the software. After the business analyst investigates the needs and requirements of all stakeholders, he/she can communicate them clearly to the development team.
In addition to translating the business needs, business analysts also translate technical issues to stakeholders. It’s important for your analysts to have the ability to break down technical complexities so that your stakeholders can easily understand any issues that may pop up. This way, stakeholders understand what developers are doing to fix the issues and how long it will take.
Another benefit to having a business analyst on your team is the connections they may have within the business community. Let’s say your team is having a hard time finding a web designer or branding expert. Your analyst has probably worked on projects similar to yours and could provide you with some contacts you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
A business analyst can work with project stakeholders to review the software as it develops. By doing walkthroughs, play acting, and other testing activities, a business analyst can aid in ensuring that the project meets all the specified requirements.
For instance, a business analyst can help write user acceptance test cases. Their understanding of the requirements and expectations of the project will make sure that testing is done correctly and that users give relevant feedback.
After all of the projects requirements have been recorded and analyzed, business analysts are able to put figures behind all of them. This means that starting from the beginning, the estimated costs of the project will be shared with all stakeholders. If you neglect to have a business analyst on your team or consult with one, you may miss particular requirements that would end up costing you more because of costly rework. As a result, your software development project could take much longer to complete. The longer the project takes, the costlier it becomes.
As you can see, business analysis is a critical part of developing software. Business analysts are vital members of your team and they create tremendous value for your business. The benefits of having an analyst typically outweigh the cost of adding one to your project team.
If you’re looking to begin a software development project, a business analyst will be there to look at the scope of your project, establish the requirements and standards the project must meet, facilitate communication with the development team, and support its implementation. Having one on your team will be worth your initial investment and ultimately result in overall project cost savings. Put your project on the path to success by including a business analyst on your team from day one.