Yeah, But What Do You Do?

Analysis text under a magnifying glass
It’s invariably the question I get asked every time I tell someone what I do for a living. When I tell people that I am a Business Analyst, in some form or another they always ask the follow-up “What does that mean?” Depending on the person to whom I am talking and the amount of time I have, I’ll often answer with a facetious “Well, I analyze business.” After years of doing what it is that I do, I know full well this explains nothing. So, in the interest of trying to make the world a little more Business Analyst-friendly, I’ve decided to try to make things a little more clear.

Business Analysis covers a pretty broad spectrum of competencies, some of those being more specifically suited depending on the industry. Over the years, I have been a Business Analyst in one form or another, depending on what was needed at the time. For the last several years, I have been working in advertising, so that’s the context around which I will try to keep my comments. Just understand, while you may not call them a “business analyst,” it’s very likely you have someone that performs the same – or similar – duties in the cubicle across the aisle from you.

puzzle pieces on a wood table
As Business Analysts, we work hand in hand with Developers, Brand Strategists and User Experience (UX) Architects to break down the functionality and features that are needed for a given project. Based on understanding those needs at a granular level, we offer recommendations. Those recommendations are based on best practices and questions that we ask the entire team so that we can produce the documentation used throughout the life of the project. Simply put, Business Analysts take the strategic plan and creative vision of a project, and compile documentation outlining the details needed to produce the end result for the client.

While it is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, a general rule is that a Business Analyst can offer expertise in gathering and documenting the necessary requirements when a client request involves:

  • Software solution comparisons
  • Website redesigns
  • Changes to a website content management system
  • Functional audits
  • Process flow questions
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Functional documentation
  • Third-party involvement on a project
  • Mobile apps
  • Technical concerns in general
  • POV documentation
  • UX usability testing consultation
  • User guides/training
  • General project documentation

Graphic showing a jumble of words that are all related to analysis
Business Analyst involvement can vary from a few hours of consultation time on a smaller project to full involvement from the beginning of an enterprise-level undertaking such as a full website redesign or development of a mobile app. I have been called in to help with brainstorming sessions on a project and never even needed to attend a second meeting. Our involvement varies based on the needs of the client and the project. The best scenario is when we are given the gist of the project and can take a few minutes to evaluate the situation to determine how involved we really need to be.

The deliverables from our team also vary greatly. From quick functional audits to help improve an existing website to full project documentation and user training, we strive to offer the deliverables that make the most sense for the project and try not to overcomplicate things. Many of the documents generated by the Business Analysis team help define what is and what is not in scope for a project. To do that, our team works closely with the Account Management and Project Management teams to ensure client requests remain within scope and budget.

Ultimately, we are there to serve as the translators of the project. Everyone has been in that kind of meeting – one side of the table is saying something and the other side doesn’t get it. Business Analysts are there to make sure everyone understands what everyone else is saying and to make sure we are all working toward the same goal.

By translating project and client needs across different disciplines, the Business Analyst helps to provide the granular specifications for creative, production and quality control as to how that end goal is accomplished. By detailing the project plan from strategy through execution, the Business Analyst provides context in a way that everyone on the team can understand and then verify to ensure project success.

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