A Project with and without a BA: spot the difference
They say, without a BA it is impossible to deliver a viable product. Or you’ll pay twice as much for the system to deliver only because you didn’t consider some implementation details or market conditions. Deadlines will never be met, developers won’t know what to do and the list goes on of all the possible dreadful outcomes.
In reality, a project, especially a small one, can do just fine without a BA. Yet, some delivery nuances may emerge which you should be well aware of in advance. For this reason, we’ve placed a chart below, so that you can see what BA functions you’ll have to do yourself or find someone else to do it for you and what happens if no one does it.
Who else can do BA’s duties?
Can a PM make up for a BA’s absence?
As you see from the chart above, BA’s job can be done by others. An especially popular choice among the clients is to assign a BA’s duties to a PM. However, professionals advise against such practices due to the different nature of work done by these two experts. BA at Symfa, comments:
“I would not recommend fusing these two roles into one person. A PM delivers horizontally and can manage several projects simultaneously. A BA, on the contrary, delivers vertically, i.e. dives deeper into the project business objectives, including domain specifics. His/her mission is to make sure the project’s business objective is met, while a PM monitors mainly budgeting, team performance, and timing. A talent constantly switching between a BA and a PM duties is more likely to start neglecting system requirements while focusing more on timely delivery within budget, as the latter is where generally clients push more stress on.”
PM’s duties vs BA’s duties
BA duties on an Agile project
Many argue whether an Agile team needs a BA. Iterative development is seen as a spontaneous, even chaotic progress where rigid requirements are unwanted, to say the least.
There’s also an opinion that the Agile methodologies require less/no documentation, therefore no BA is needed for an Agile project.
So, let’s see if business analysis in Agile is so different from, say, the classical Waterfall model.
Here’s a step-by-step Agile BA sequence.
- Agile projects start with the same requirements collection and business analysis, only it is not as comprehensive in the beginning.
- V&S, less detailed though, is prepared, too. Details will be added up later on with each iteration.
- Other documents may include a list of user stories or use cases, or it can be simply a set of issues captured in Jira or Azure DevOps (or any other PM system of the client’s).
As Agile projects do not imply detailed documentation, a special focus is made on the quality of user stories. Those serve as a detailed guide for the development team and are major BA responsibility on Agile projects. “A true BA always mentions some background, design, notes and acceptance criteria because the typical “I as a user want …” is not enough”, our BA pinpoints.
- Agile projects do require modeling and diagrams to fill in the gaps of understanding so that all the stakeholders and project members can see the big picture in small details and stay on the same page.
Hence, in a nutshell, the scope of work in an Agile project is not so different than that in a Waterfall project. In Agile, the impact is less intense in the beginning, but a bit-by-bit approach gives it a snowball effect. Moreover, Agile projects may need BA even more, as it brings in some degree of order which they often lack.
How BA can save the day for the client
We have finally got to our favorite part - life stories from Symfa. We asked our BA to share with us how she navigated her projects as a BA through turbulent times.
“The first case that comes to mind was during the development project for our FinTech client. A guy just threw me a link at a random website and said “I want something similar to this”. I was a bit at a loss at first. The website was a huge array of financial data and boards. So, I started with prototyping to see what the client truly expected of a would-be system. I showed the client the prototype and documented his observations. Generally, prototyping goes second and requirements collection first, although in this case, the situation required some out-of-the-box approach.
In the end, the client was so immersed in the project, we managed to discuss all the minor details of the system he imagined. In fact, the project resulted to be pretty different from that at the link that the whole story started from.”
If the key stakeholder is a super busy person and cannot answer BA’s questions, an experienced BA can always make use of a roles switch. Such was another story that came to Symfa BA's memory.
“My key stakeholder wasn’t really excited about working on the system for the lack of time or whatever reason. So, in the end, Symfa asked the client if he could delegate requirements elaboration to someone else knowledgeable about the subject matter. The client offered a PM on his side and I saw this as a window of opportunity. And it was the right decision! This was a match. Together with the newly assigned PM, we did all the job almost in no time. She always kept the key stakeholder informed about the project progress and was an efficient intermediary link I used to resolve the project blockers in a blink of an eye.”
How a BA can save the project
How to choose a qualified talent for your project (BA’s qualifications and certifications)
After a super informative digest on the BA’s value, it’s time to find out how to hire a proper one, as BA’s qualifications vary and so does the value they generate, as a result.
First of all, you should understand that no universities give degrees in IT Business analysis. People with absolutely different backgrounds become BAs (software developers, QAs, or professionals without previous IT experience). In an ideal situation, a BA is a professional with a tech background and great soft skills. However, non-tech backgrounds in BAs often come in super handy.
“For example, I have a degree in economics,” Symfa BA shares. “It helps me a lot to see the product from the marketing perspective. That’s why my favorite part of the project is actually developing the business level or end-user level.”
Second of all, although you won’t find an IT BA graduate, you can very well find a certified BA. Institutions providing the BA training abound, as well as online courses (such as LinkedIn Business Analysis Course, Udemy Business Analysis Course, etc.). Yet, though certifications are important, no paper will back up real-life experience. So where to go to seek the truth?
In case you’d like to hire a well-versed BA, check out his/her professional accomplishments (usually detailed in CVs). Moreover, for a BA, it’s also nice to have versatile job experience - a bit of Project management or QA skills never hurts. Simply analyzing the requirements and jotting them down isn’t enough. So mind that, too!
“Don’t get me wrong, a BA must get some sort of professional degree. However, BAs generally get certifications and regalia if they regularly attend meetups or conferences or are brand ambassadors to generate more interest in their persona, - our BA points out. “If your objective is to hire an expert who knows ins and outs of his/her vocation, focus on CV and professional accomplishments, not fancy-looking certificates.”
How to hire a BA
Oooph, finally you’ve reached the end of this long read! Seems like you’re really into the topic and won’t mind us adding up a few more details. Worry not, there are only two of them left, actually.
- You don’t need a BA. Clients often have great tech backgrounds, do a top-class business analysis and formulate competent requirements. So, yeah, you may not need a BA at all, it’s your developers and testers that do. Those are the first people to suffer the absence of such a talent in the project, as they will lack the guidance on which way to go, at what speed, what tools to use, etc. And the users will surely go second if the team won’t make it on their own.
- Apart from tech experience, great communication skills, tons of useful documentation, and other benefits, a BA brings objectivity into your project. He/she sees your system through a clean lens of a potential user professionally trained to underpin your would-be system weaknesses.
Now as you know all the basic info, you’re equipped with the knowledge to make the right choice.