What is a Business Analyst?

Guest Post by Brad
People often ask me “Brad, what is a business analyst?” While I can’t see your face while you’re reading this, you will probably have the same disappointed look as most people when I tell you the answer.
Although I don’t mean to be complicated, the answer is a bit complex. It is not as simple as defining the role of a Business Analyst. While doctors may have specialties (as do BAs), most people understand the concept of a physician because they have had direct experience with them. A doctor can often provide tangible, sometimes even immediate results. The Business Analyst is an abstract concept within an industry or organization. The output of the analysis is often difficult to measure and intangible.
There is a lot of information available about the BA role. I will however give you my definition which comes from the International Institute of Business Analysis (equivalent of the PMI for Project managers). The IIBA defines the BA as “a liaison between stakeholders in order to understand and recommend solutions that will enable the organization achieve its goals.”
Based on the IIBA definition, it is possible to see the complexity of describing the BA role within an industry or organization. In the banking industry, for example, a Business Analyst might be responsible for the operations side of designing, developing, and implementing complex financial products and services. A BA on the policy side of the industry may be responsible for analyzing federal regulations and recommending changes to ensure compliance.
The Software Industry, where I have spent most of my career, may have a Business Analyst who is responsible for helping to define the Software Development LifeCycle. They also help to design policy regarding how the business creates software. (A hybrid BA/PM) A BA can also serve as a Subject Matter Expert, working closely with customers to develop and document solutions to specific problems.
The IIBA publishes a Competency Model (also known as a BABOK) that helps to describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to succeed in the BA role. The IIBA doesn’t attempt to cover specific industry knowledge. Instead, it aims to provide a guideline to help the BA determine the skills they will need. In the banking example, the BA who works on policy might be called a Business Rules Analyst. Similar to the banking example, the BA who works on policy in software industry may be called a Business Process Analyst.
If you’re looking for a Business Analyst job or just curious about what the Business Analyst in your company does every day, keep in mind the IIBA description. One of the BAs stakeholders could be a Project Manager like you.
Brad has been a BA over 12 years. He produces a podcast for Business Analysts called Business Analyst Mastery, which you can find on iTunes or at http://businessanalystmastery.com.
He has been an employee and contractor in 11 industries. Brad is a big picture guy and enjoys Enterprise Analysis and finding the best solution to the problem. He is currently a Product manager for a publicly traded firm.