October 21st, 2014
Business Analysts (BAs) fill an interesting role in IT organizations: They straddle the gap between management and the IT department, taking an active role in the development of IT solutions without performing much of the hands-on work of the users or the IT team. Navigating this interaction between IT and users can be a huge challenge for BAs.
They work with both the IT department and the management team to propose changes to processes and systems that meet the needs of the company. A good Business Analyst is able to create a solution to a particular business problem and make it happen. In some organizations or projects, they spend all their time hunting down bugs and fixing them, or improving the quality of their product – one defect at a time.
Business analysis is primarily about communication. These professionals facilitate meetings among stakeholders, learn about the needs of users and customers in the field, document requirements and processes to ensure they're well understood, and then demonstrate solutions throughout the course of development to make sure the project stays on the right track. BAs need to be effective communicators and speak the language of both business managers and programmers.
Sometimes the term "Business Analyst" and "Project Manager" are used interchangeably. A Business Analyst can be a Project Manager, but a Project Manager isn't always a Business Analyst. While they both spend a lot of time interacting with people (customers, stakeholders, and management) and managing projects and processes; Project Managers differ because they don't have as much technical knowledge. Their knowledgebase is centered on the project.
Most Business Analysts started their careers as software developers. Often times it's those internal employees who understand business processes and who think logically about procedures who move in the Business Analyst role. Someone who has a big interest in the business and takes enough ownership in the business to make sure the organization makes the right decisions. They have to think big picture and detail at the same time.
Business Analysts have a comprehensive, high-level view of their organizations combined with a solid programming background. They need to understand the business at every level and be able to communicate with the executive management team. BAs who know the strategic business objectives of the company create value for the organization and can justify IT decisions to senior management.
We always end up learning more about the system and the company processes more than the actual client does. When there is no Business Analyst, we tend to fill that role when we work with the Project Manager. We gather information from several sources within the organization to help determine what needs to be included in the end product and what can wait until the next upgrade.
If you're interested in working with us to develop your company's next piece of software, contact us for a free consultation at 285-2500.
October 7th, 2014
Do you need someone highly experienced in programming who can complete specific tasks you have outlined? Or, do you need someone who can take an active role in determining the best plan of action from an IT standpoint?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it all depends on your business needs and objectives.
Computer Programmers are more likely to be focused on the details and tend to obsess over small things. However, they are constantly learning or creating new software tools using a number of technologies or platforms.
Business Analysts are often exposed to big picture goals and need to communicate with senior management, and bridge gaps between opposing or conflicting points of views. So a Business Analyst’s job tends to be more big picture compared to a computer programmer’s who is given specific tasks and then left alone to get their job done.
We inherited a problem with one of our clients a while back where the original programmer never understood the business goals. Without going into details, this company managed a local system interface that tied into a national database.
Since the programmer didn’t understand the business rules, it would have been easy for this company to be out hundreds of thousands of dollars if the issue had gone undiscovered.
Two of our developers were assigned “bug fixes” and soon realized they weren’t dealing with bugs, they were system problems. They had occurred because the programmer didn't understand the business rules. Obviously the company was very grateful that we were able to find the error and quickly remedy it.
If your programmer doesn’t understand the business processes, it’s important that someone in the organization who works closely with the programmer does have a grasp of the big picture.
There is a growing trend to hire programmers overseas. However, there’s only so much you can do via phone calls and video conferences to relay important business information. It’s never really going to sink in. Whether you outsource your programming or hire within, the programmer is essentially told what to do and simply programs. They don’t have the business sense to analyze if a certain decision is the best option.
The decision to hire a programmer versus a Business Analyst is one that should be made after thorough consideration of the internal resources available to the potential hire.