In the British Computer Societies book “Business Analysis” Debra Paul summarises the role of a business analyst as follows:
An internal consultancy role that has the responsibility for investigating business systems, identifying options for improving business systems and bridging the needs of the business with the use of IT.
Lets take a closer look at the statement and break it down
Internal consultancy role: I take this to mean not involved in day to day operations, works in an area that is looking to the future.
Investigating business systems: This does not mean computer systems. I interpret this as looking at all the various elements of a business work together and how it works as a unit, will be a combination of people, equipment, locations, timezone, IT and communications etc everything
Bridging the needs of the business with the use of IT: This is clearly the computer bit, I see this as how the business analyst works as a kind of liaison between the business and IT, a sort of translator who can speak “business” and speak “IT”
I have worked as a Business Analyst on a large number of projects over the years and the various roles have basically fallen into the following three catagories
Opportunity and Strategy: These sorts of projects have involved detailed current state analysis, followed by reviewing the various options with senior management on how to improve things. This can be either by changing the way people work or by changing the technology, or by a combination of both. Normally these projects go through to business case and are then handed off to a project team to implement.
Operations Business Analysis: These projects have been 100% about the people, these have included changing the process flow, changing the procedures, changing the location where processes have been done. These projects go through exactly the same steps as any other. From current state analysis, to reviewing options through to implementation.
IT Business Analysis: These projects have been about improving the process by improving the technology. This is what many people think of when they think “who is a business analyst?” This remains a people job though, you have to understand the business problem that is being solved and not just think about the technology.