The Business Analyst…An Under-Utilized Asset?

Today, I want to talk about expanding the role of the business analyst.  I believe that the many under-estimate or under-utilize the business analyst.  It often seems that many people think of the business analyst as the person who writes business requirements or user stories, asks tons of questions, and helps with testing for specific projects, which have a short time frame or multiple phases.  The business analyst isn’t brought in to look at long term solutions and ideas.  The business analyst isn’t usually involved in the strategic planning, they are usually told “here is what we want to do…go forth and conquer….by the way we want it yesterday.”  Why is that?  I think it is because the value of the business analyst is under-estimated and under-valued.

As I’ve discussed previously, one of the key duties is to ask questions and identify the who, what, where, when, how, and why.  Two key tools taught in MBA classes are the Business Model Canvas and Porter’s Five Forces.  I will talk about these items more specifically at a later date, but just to give a brief heads up as to what they are.

The BMC looks at the customer segments, value propositions, key partners, key activities, customer relationships, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.  See a familiar trend here?  It looks a lot like Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why.  It’s just broadened a bit.

For example, you ask yourself:  Who are our key partners?  What are our revenue streams?  What costs are most expensive?  How can we improve those costs?

Porter’s Five Forces does something similar.  Porter asks about rivalry, buyer power, supplier power, threat of substitutions, and threat of new entrants.   Again, you are looking at a problem and breaking it down into the Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why but from a slightly different perspective.

For example, when thinking about the Threat of New Entrants, you can have the following questions:  Who are the potential competitors?  Why would they enter the market?  How would they enter the market?  What in their incentive?  When would they enter the market>

When you think about it, it all comes down to the fundamentals doesn’t it?  It’s just the type of questions that need to be asked.  The business analyst is using these skills each and everyday for every project.  But it goes further than that.  If you have a good business analyst, they have already established relationships with the groups that would be involved.  They have a good understanding of what the current processes are and where the gaps are, or where improvements can be made.  The business analyst is your connection to your “boots on the ground” and should be a natural addition to any strategic meeting.

I’m going to leave with one final thought for today.  Do you utilize your business analyst to their full value?

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