Effective business analysis techniques
Learn how to effectively conduct business analysis in tech with Ten10 Lead Consultant, Gavin Dufton
At its core, the role of the Business Analyst is a liaison between technology and the business to facilitate change. This means understanding the needs and objectives of the business before translating them into technical requirements. The Business Analyst will then support the development and test activities before supporting the business with the implementation of the changes.
While core aspects of the Business Analyst role are unchanged regardless of delivery methodology, the advent of Agile and other, fast-paced software development processes, coupled with the change to remote or hybrid ways of working means that new techniques and skills are being developed.
Working with a range of business and technical stakeholders the Business Analyst will employ these core and emerging skills and techniques to deliver a variety of artefacts, depending on the nature of the project and the software development methodology adopted by the project.
The most effective business analysis techniques
This section provides an overview of five of the main Business Analysis techniques, consistently used on technology projects.
Technique #1: Wireframing
A wireframe is a diagram or set of diagrams that represent the skeleton of a web page or user interface to demonstrate the required system functionality.
Wireframes provide a visual representation of the user’s functional requirements and can be overlaid with ‘look and feel’ elements to form a prototype. This technique creates a simple mechanism for eliciting early feedback in the design process.
Working cross-functionally with Product Owners, business stakeholders, UI/UX designers, testers and developers, and adopting an Agile approach, the Business Analyst can use wireframes to support the collaborative development of software changes.
Technique #2: Process Mapping
Process mapping is a tool where flowcharts are used to illustrate business activities and system processes, showing key tasks/activities, decision points and alternate flows, at varying levels of detail.
This technique is particularly effective for mapping the current state (As-Is) to identify how things work currently and where there might be operational issues or opportunities, and then to define a corresponding future state process (To-Be). This enables a gap analysis to be completed, driving out the business or system requirements.
Business Analysts will work with a range of business and technical stakeholders, usually via workshops and interviews to build accurate process maps to the required level of detail. This technique can be used for any type of project and provides another visual artefact to elicit feedback collaboratively.
Technique #3: Data Flow Diagrams
A Data Flow Diagram provides a high-level, visual representation of how information is moved through a system, showing external entities that push data to, or receive data from the system, associated data transformation processes, data stores and data flows.
Data Flow Diagrams are usually used early in the analysis process as a discovery technique and tend to be a precursor to more detailed data modelling. The diagram provides a business with important context of the key data flows in a user-friendly format.
Business Analysts will work with business and technical stakeholders to develop data flows and utilise them along with other artefacts to help define a project’s scope and to drive more detailed analysis and design activities.
Technique #4: Requirements/Design Workshops
Requirements or Design workshops are consistently used as part of the analysis and design effort, ranging in size, frequency, subject and venue, depending on the project.
Progressing from one-to-one interviews, workshops allow for multiple stakeholders to focus on specific process and design-related topics efficiently and consistently. Issues can be worked through, requirements can be elicited and conflicting priorities can be addressed collaboratively.
The Business Analyst plays the role of organiser and facilitator, ensuring the purpose and objectives of the workshop are clearly defined and met, and that outcomes – decisions, requirements etc. are recorded.
Technique #5: Functional Decomposition
Functional Decomposition is effectively breaking down a process, system routine, functional area or even deliverables into small parts to allow for more detailed analysis and planning.
The objective of this technique is to decompose the subject into independent components to provide a hierarchical structure and therefore a conceptual view of the process, scope or work effort under consideration. This will initiate more detailed decomposition and allow for: scope or organisation modelling, identification of dependencies and constraints, requirement definition, prioritisation and backlog formation, and work assignment.
The Business Analyst will use Functional Decomposition as a technique at varying stages of a project. Diagrams will often be created following workshops to align understanding with the wider project team.