We recently received the following question via our Ask the Experts page: “How much has the role of a Business Analyst changed or affected the gathering and structuring of requirements”.
The short answer to this question: The Business Analyst (BA) has added structure, discipline and knowledge of steps , tools and techniques to effectively execute the Scope and Requirements phases of a project. Furthermore, the BA’s elicitation, communication, and facilitation skills and knowledge of requirement best practices has resulted in the documentation of well written and valid requirements that reflect stakeholder needs.
The long answer to this question: When I talk about the BA’s role in requirements, I’m talking about the front-end of the process which includes scope, because you cannot write GOOD requirements unless you have a clearly defined and well understood scope.
The BA’s role in defining Scope: At the very least, the BA is expected to understand the scope of the project, as well as communicate and maintain that Scope with all stakeholders throughout the life cycle of the project. Often, the BA has an integral role in defining the Scope. In this role, the BA will work with the stakeholders to understand their business issues and needs as well as resolve conflicts amongst the stakeholders as the components of scope are being defined. In addition, in order to get sign-off on the Scope, the BA will have to work to get the stakeholders aligned to a common vision and get their buy-in and agreement. No small task by any stretch of the imagination.
The BA’s role in Requirements: Once the Scope is defined, the BA must liaise with the stakeholders to understand what their needs are and makes sure that what is being asked for is not only needed but also feasible. Now, it would be really nice to say that when the stakeholders are asked what their requirements are, they provide the clearest, most concise and unambiguous requirements ever articulated. But, we already know from experience that this simply does not happen. So in order to get clear, complete and unambiguous requirements from the stakeholders, the BA employs various elicitation and analytical techniques which yields information from the stakeholders that is then documented in the form of requirements. These requirements…”the what” are subsequently communicated, validated and baselined.
So “How much has the role of a Business Analyst changed or affected the gathering and structuring of requirements”? The BA has had a significant impact on the process of gathering requirements and more importantly, improving the quality of the requirements written. It is through the BA that we have seen improvement in communications with all stakeholders. The BA works with the stakeholders to understand their business problems, their opportunities, their wants, their needs and expectations and then assimilates and translates this information into requirements for people, processes and systems. It is through the efforts of the BA that we have requirements that are needed, verifiable, feasible, clear, concise, unambiguous and within the context of the Scope and the BA’s understanding of the business.