Picture the scene. You’re at a restaurant having dinner with friends of friends and the small talking is flowing well. Then the question comes up “So what do you do for living?”

I take a quick swig of red wine and politely reply, “I’m a Business Analyst”. This starts a chain reactions of glances around the table. “Does anyone here know what that is”, their eyes say. I quickly follow up with “I just work in IT”, to which everyone breathes a relatable sigh of relief. “Oh computers, why didn’t you just say that?” Well, not quite…

I’m sure many of us have been in similar situations, especially with the ever growing range of weird and wonderful job titles. However, having worked with Stockport Council for the last 6 months it’s become clear that even our internal teams don’t all understand what a Business Analyst (BA) is or does (and why should they?), so hopefully, this blog will help.

Business Analysts are the ‘Explorers’

  • We investigate and identify the who, what, why, where and how
  • We answer questions defined by the project type and scope
  • We provide options and recommendations

When it comes to exploring, our methods and equipment may differ to those of Sir Ranulph Fiennes but we do share one objective: Discovery! BA’s are generally tasked with recommending a solution to a problem and identifying the facts along the way.

Initially, this could be as straight forward as proving that the ‘problem’ really exists, using data and statistics to justify it or identifying a root cause for the problem in the first instance.

From here potential solutions can be identified. It could be a slight change to process, a new piece of software or something entirely brand new. All solutions need to be reviewed for feasibility, with a key focus on how much it will cost, how long it will take and how risky it is to do.

Finally we’re also responsible for identifying why the solution is required or another way to look at it: What is the return on investment (ROI).

Within the Digital by Design (DbD) Programme we are using an Agile methodology.  Therefore BA’s typically undertake a short ‘feasibility study’ to identify all of the above at a high level first, so that the decision makers can better schedule and prioritise which projects to take forwards based on the potential value they could deliver.

How do BA’s work with our Services?

Through the DbD programme, BA’s will be sent across the organisation to work with different teams and service areas on many projects. You may be wondering though, why is a BA required if these teams already know all of this about their own service and processes?

  1. Objectivity
    BA’s can remain impartial to tough or emotive decisions and challenges
  2. Time / Availability
    People already have ‘day jobs’
  3. Ownership
    To obtain a total overview of all impacting factors
  4. Detail. Detail. Detail.
    Everybody loves an idea and ‘blue sky thinking’ but not many can manage and articulate back, the full detail behind it

There are lots of articles and videos available online to describe the role of a BA in today’s world and you may also be interested to learn more about some of the tools we use to gather our results, such as the principles defined in Lean 6 Sigma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_Six_Sigma) or the Agile methodology. I highly recommend this site for your Agile and Scrum needs: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog

I believe that as companies and organisations strive to identify savings and deliver more with less, the role of the explorer will be around for the foreseeable future. 


Photo by Pablo Guerrero on Unsplash


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