For the Business Analyst: Why Relationships Trump All!

What Are We as Business Analysts?

Based on the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®), we are the liaison among stakeholders, who understand an organization’s structure, policies, and procedures. What do we do with this understanding? We use it to help an organization define its needs and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its business goals.

Whenever I read this description, I am somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge and the level of skill we need to possess as business analysts in order to fulfill the expectations put on us. Just think about the diversity of the stakeholders who are affected by their organization’s structure, policies, and procedures. If there is one thing I have gained over the years that has helped me the most in defining and delivering solutions, it is the knowledge that “relationships trump all.”

Business Analysts and Their Relationships

Remember, as business analysts, our first objective is to help define needs (requirements). Defining needs is really about defining change. The need for change can come from several different levels and involve several different roles within an organization.

For a business analyst to be effective when defining needs, it’s necessary to understand the various roles that we interact with as business analysts. We also need to understand the roles’ perspectives on defining change in terms of requirements. Change may include organizational change, strategic planning and policy development, process reengineering or improvement, and IT systems development and implementation.

Each of the roles depicts a specific group of stakeholders. Each will have expectations of the results of change based on their unique perspectives. The following descriptions will help you understand their perspective.

  • Management: There are two types of management
    • Executive — These are the strategic leaders of the organization. They are concerned about what their customers’ needs and desires are.
    • Functional — These are the tactical leaders of the organization. They are concerned about the resources needed to build the product(s) that satisfy the customers’ needs and desires.
  • Business Process: Operational Staff — These are the people who report directly to functional management.
  • Information Technology: There are two types of information technology
    • Software — Application developers design and build the product(s) that will be used by operational staff.
    • Hardware — Infrastructure developers design and build the product(s) that will support the application developers and operational staff.

As you can see, the stakeholders in each role have different perspectives. As business analysts, we need be prepared to acknowledge that not everyone is the same and be determined to know our audience.

Requirements, Products, and Relationships

Remember that requirements define change, and products are developed and delivered based on those requirements. So, what does that have to do with relationships? Well, requirements are set by the stakeholders, and they are also who will be impacted by the final product, which will only be as good as the requirements defining it.

The likelihood of successfully determining solutions acceptable to all is greatly increased when the business analyst bridges the communication gap between stakeholder groups. We must learn how to talk with each of them and translate their concerns so that everyone understands. Therefore, we need to build and maintain a relationship with the stakeholders to help us define and deliver the appropriate product.

For context, we will take a moment to define the categories of requirements.

  • Business Requirements: These are the high-level requirements defining the strategic change needed. They help us define success and what “done” is for the developer role.
  • Stakeholder Requirements: These are the detailed requirements defining the tactical change needed. They help us define the day-to-day operational needs.
  • Solution Requirements:
    • Functional — Detailed requirements defining the automated features of the product(s).
    • Non-functional — Detailed requirements defining the environment the product(s) will exist in.
    • Transition — Detailed requirements defining the implementation of the product(s) into production.

We need to build relationships to assist our stakeholders define their needs and get a product that meets those needs. We do that by seeking to understand a stakeholder’s concerns, setting expectations (for us and them) about what type of requirements they need to provide, and helping all stakeholders reach a consensus on the final product to be delivered.

You never know when you will need to depend on the relationships you build during a project, and you never know what opportunity will present itself during the course of the project that will help you build those important relationships.

Excerpted and available for download from Global Knowledge White Paper: For the Business Analyst: Why Relationships Trump All

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