Change is inevitable. And when it comes to technical improvements in software that helps businesses with their everyday operations, there are changes happening all the time. Software created these days is sleeker, faster, more user-friendly, and more efficient than ever before.
When the time comes for a company to update its outdated software or systems, it’s extremely valuable to have a Business Analyst engaged. The BA will ensure that the new software that’s replacing the old system meets all of the current and future needs of the business and is a smart investment for the company.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the value that BA’s bring to software projects.
Understanding Needs Through Information Gathering
While a company may have a general idea of what they want to get out of the software they use, they may not understand or know everything the system should do (or could do!) to produce those results. Similarly, internal stakeholders may not account for all employees or their departments that also use the software and consider their needs for the new system as well.
A Business Analyst can take a step back to grasp the big picture and find a solution that serves everyone’s needs. We are trained in elicitation techniques (some of which I cover in more depth in previous articles and in my course, Understand and Elicit Requirements) that help identify obvious requirements, but also potentially uncover some previously unknown needs. Or things that are assumed or forgotten because of their commonality and frequent (muscle-memory) use.
Documentation & Analysis Are Everything
It’s one thing to have a general understanding of what you want to have happen but without proper documentation, things are forgotten, details are missed and you risk deploying non-optimal solutions.
BA’s know how to efficiently and accurately document and organize data and findings elicited from interviews, questionnaires, and other information gathering sessions. We can take all of the data, all of the information, and we can analyze it, and draw insights from it – helping to paint the picture and tell the story of the desired solution.
Very often, when working on software projects, there are parties from multiple departments that need to provide valuable input – sales teams, operations teams, IT departments – you get the gist. Many of those individuals will have different requirements and needs for company software and systems, often varying by department, but there can also even be a variation in requirements within one department based on different duties and roles.
In addition to this, the terminology and language that is used can be diverse among those users. The IT team, for example, may communicate much more technical needs with terminology that hasn’t been heard beyond the walls of their department, whereas the Sales team is more concerned with reports, data, and algorithms – so their KPIs, SQLs, and SAOs.
Business Analysts, with our varying skills, can help bridge the gap and communicate the requirements that range across the teams and departments, and possibly even how they may work together. But beyond simply bridging the gap, we add value to each and every interaction because of our background and experience. We communicate clearly and this is not only crucial in defining needs, but also when communicating with the developers who will be designing the system, and with the stakeholders whose needs are being documented.
Another common way that a BA adds value is through project management. I don’t mean creating a full-tiered and color-coded schedule, handling resource allocation, and the like – but instead, assisting with the management of the project.
Managing the initial information gathering and requirements elicitation, organizing and analyzing data, keeping documentation and communications of needs for the software clear, ensuring valuable information gets to the people who need it, and continued project monitoring to ensure progress is occurring and milestones are met. All of this requires a BA to manage the whole process and ensure that the stakeholders and end-users are delivered a product – in a timely and cost-efficient way – that will improve their business and jobs.
Adding Further Value and Guidance
Because the BA is close to all stakeholders and has personally collected the needs and desires for the software, they understand how the end-user will want to use the software and can help with:
- Assisting with the user interface design
- Preparing or reviewing specification documentation
- Software QA and testing the product
- Coordinating and managing User Acceptance Testing
- Onboarding plans and training for end-users
- Roll out support and enhancements to the product after launch
While on the surface it may seem like a simple task to replace old software with some new ‘out of the box’ solution (don’t even get me started on custom solutions), there is much more involved when you really start to dig deep everything that has to go into making that change happen.
A Business Analyst provides the guidance and support that a company needs to ensure that the software they’re investing in isn’t just a short-term haphazard fix. A BA will find a long-term, worthwhile investment that will help the organization reach its business goals, create efficiency in its operations, and make the day-to-day jobs of its employees easier. That’s the value we bring.
– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide