What Is Business Analysis?

Make room on your working hat rack.

Let’s not kid each other anymore; it’s just a fact of working life: you wear several hats at work–regardless of what your official title may imply.

Sure, you may have an official title that includes a position like ‘Engineer,’ ‘technician,’ ‘analyst,’ or ‘manager,’ but your list of responsibilities looks more like someone spilled the forward-slash on your resume. Are you a designer/programmer/financial analyst/tech support specialist/help desk technician/subject-matter expert/process manager/product manager/consultant/project planner/customer service/sales rep/inventory manager/communications manager/web designer/SharePoint administrator/accountant/or maybe even /project manager?

Business analysis is no different. Many organizations are still not very clear about what “business analysis” is. As such, it is included as a responsibility under various titles like ‘database architect,’ ‘systems analyst,’ ‘financial analyst,’ ‘consultant,’ ‘process engineer (or manager),’ business architect,’ and ‘data analyst,’ just to name a few. You may be playing the role of business analyst and (like many of us once) not even know it.

What is this ‘business analysis’ hat for, anyway?

Because so many people within an organization can perform it, let’s focus on the role of business analysis and not the job title.

Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used as a framework to interact with stakeholders in order to understand and communicate the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable that organization to achieve its goals.

Business analysis can involve the following processes (with corresponding Business Analysis Body of KnowledgeBABoK–areas are in parentheses):

1. Identifying business needs and opportunities (Enterprise Analysis)

2. Gathering, clarifying and validating requirements (Elicitation)

3. Writing and communicating requirements to stakeholders (Requirements Communication)

4. Developing a plan to gather requirements, clearly define scope, and manage changes to requirements (Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring)

5. Making sure that the requirements well-written, specific, and complete (Requirements Analysis)

6. Ensuring that the solution is the best solution according to the requirements, not the other way around (Solution Assessment and Validation)

It’s all about the requirements.

Generally, business analysts are instrumental in gathering and documenting business requirements prior to project planning and implementation. Business analysts mainly participate in enterprise analysis and work to clearly define the product scope (features and functions of the product, service, or the deliverable) which is all about the requirements.

In the Software/System Development Life Cycle (SDLC), business analysts are critical in the analysis phase. This phase is where most who perform business analysis spend their time with the ultimate goal being to get project requirements correct the first time.

In fact, the Microsoft Corporation has learned over time that for every incorrect, unclear, or incomplete requirement on a project, it costs them five to 200 times more to fix that project as it progresses through the SDLC.

How do business analysts fit into other organizations?

It’s important to note that business analysts may or may not work on projects, depending on how they are used in an organization.

Sometimes, business analysts are responsible mainly for identifying opportunities for improvement. At other times, this kind of enterprise analysis is done at higher levels in the company by senior management or by specific departments, and then a business analyst is brought in when there is a project already planned to gather, write, and manage specific requirements.

A business analyst is also engaged after a project is initiated, most often to assess and validate a solution against the business requirements.

Other companies often use a project manager to perform business analysis. Small to mid-size companies frequently don’t separate these positions; instead one person must do both. This is one reason why Ready2ACT has so many project managers attending its business analysis classes and business analysts attending its project management classes.

In our experience, project managers who learn business analysis report a higher level of success at defining project and product scope. As a result, this gives them more control over scope changes throughout the project and increases the probability of completing projects on time, at or under budget, and to the complete satisfaction of their stakeholders.

To some, it’s more than a hat: it’s a profession.

Business analysis is a profession designated and standardized by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Similar to Project Management International (PMI), the IIBA sets the global standard for business analysis practices and now offers a professional certification in Business Analysis: the Certified Business Analysis Professional, or CBAP. These generally-accepted practices are contained in the BABoK, which is organized by the six knowledge areas (vs. PMBOK’s nine).

Because IIBA was only established internationally in 2006, it does not yet have the same level of recognition that PMI has. However, it has 90 chapters worldwide and endeavors to follow in the footsteps of PMI’s success by elevating Business Analysis as a profession. Like the PMP, IIBA’s CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional) certification is ISO-compliant, and is a rare certification so far with only 1,200 practitioners certified worldwide out of 12,000 IIBA members (PMI has 334,019 members and 412,503 PMPs).

According to a 2010 survey completed by the International Association of Business Analysis (IIBA), business analysts make an average of $82,493 per year, with a CBAP averaging about $89,667 per year.

Since a growing number of companies becoming more aware of this profession and its CBAP designation, you may find that it to be a condition of employment for some job openings. At the very least, having standardized training and earning a CBAP can set you apart from the pack when job applying for some positions.

By Tiffany Dahlberg

What Business to Buy

There’s a twofold answer to the question ‘What Business to Buy’ simply because in its’ core it involves two aspects: You and The Business.

At first it is all about Your Skills, Knowledge, Experience and Interests. When looking for Opportunities in Business You are a fundamental Part of the Process. Make list to narrow down personal interests, traits and characteristics and look for a Business that suits these traits. Most of the time when entrepreneurs buy Businesses that don’t match their Temperament, they end up unsuccessful, unhappy and selling the Business.

Ask yourself the following questions to get Your Ideas for Businesses:

  • What are my 5 Strongest Personality Traits? You can also opt to ask your Friends and Family to send you lists with their observations (can be very revealing).
  • What are my 5 Strongest Skills when it comes to doing my current or previous jobs?
  • What Role do I want to Play in the Business?
  • What Destination and Location do I want my Business to have or can it be a Business without a fixed Location (such as internet based).
  • Do I prefer a large-scale Business with many contacts and customers or do I prefer to focus on a niche market, dealing with a smaller number of contacts and clients?
  • Do I want a Product Supply Type of Business or a Service oriented Business?
  • What is my Business Investment Budget?

When going over all the answers to these questions, you will have a Clear Picture What Type of Business you want to Buy.

Find a Business to Buy

After having identified What Type of Business you want to Buy it is time to Find a Business to Buy. You will want to opt for a Business that offers Value for Money. Its Valuations have to be backed up by Reliable and Detailed Financial Data.

Some Investors are Buying Businesses because they are Cheap compared to their core Value. They believe that as long as the Market undervalues the Business relative to the core Value, they are making a Solid Investment. This way of Investing fully depends on the reasoning that the market will eventually realize it has undervalued the Business and will correct its Course.

Below some questions you can ask yourself when determining What Business to Buy:

  • Does the Business Match my Personal Characteristics and Expectations?
  • Is there a Solid Business Plan available?
  • What are the Top-5 Competitors of the Business?
  • Do I have access to all Detailed Financial Data?
  • What is the Trend in Profits over the last 5 years?
  • Does the Business show healthy and consistent cost margins?
  • What is the expected Return on Investment?

How much you will eventually profit from your Business depends on the level of Original Investment and Your Management and Marketing Skills.

Stay Competitive: Tips for the Small Business Owner

The idea of your PC being your digital storage space is dying. The power of the internet is starting to be released in the form of new web-based software solutions that give businesses the power to have anywhere, anytime access to their office. Now all a professional needs is a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC, to connect to the internet and they have access to their office at their fingertips.

What does this mean for small businesses? Lower costs and a stronger competitive advantage.

The world of technology has developed, opening doors for small businesses to eliminate their fixed costs in expensive infrastructure and IT management, and instead use pay as you go solutions that are significantly lower in cost and offer more versatility. In addition, they have the tools to collaborate with their teams in a way never seen before. Through lower costs and increased productivity, small businesses are now able to level the playing field and compete with the big guys.

No Infrastructure. No Fixed Costs.

Infrastructure is one of the most costly items for small businesses. The initial price to purchase and set up the infrastructure is enough to set a small business back months, if not years. Once it has been set up, the maintenance of the servers and infrastructure is laborious and budget draining. IT personnel have to maintain the system and protect against any downtime that could impair business productivity.

Another expense for businesses is software that requires installation. Once a software solution is purchased, it must be installed and license keys have to be maintained on multiple pieces of hardware. The process to do this is laborious and the time intensive.

To counteract these two ways of doing business, more companies are moving to the cloud. Once you have just a simple internet connection, you can do almost anything. Software-as-a-Service that runs in the cloud does not require installation which is why more companies are leveling the playing field and adopting this way of doing business. It is seamless to set up and requires no maintenance.

When a small business invests their money in cloud software, they significantly limit their spending, allowing them to invest in other aspects of their business, giving them the opportunity to compete and grow faster.

Dramatically Cut Overhead Costs

Investing in office space, travel and other resources are huge expenses for small businesses. The world is shrinking and the idea that business must be done from specified locations is becoming old fashioned. Smart businesses know that the way to be competitive is to lower costs in heavy equipment and have consistent access to your office, no matter where you are in the world. This can be done with cloud software.

Software in the cloud allows businesses to conduct meetings and manage team collaboration online. Through the use of video and web conferencing, businesses are able to meet in cyberspace, instead of traveling thousands of miles, wasting time and money. Additionally, business files can be stored and shared online, giving professionals access to their important documents from anywhere in the world. Business collaboration tools have added value to the business place, allowing for improved communication. Small businesses with remote locations or people who work from home can now work together better online, staying ahead of the competition by increasing productivity and employee morale.

With all of these benefits, it would seem that such a powerful piece of technology would take a while to implement. But the truth is, we already have the technology at our disposal, we just aren’t using it.

Immediate Implementation

One factor that has scared some small businesses into implementing new solutions, is the time it takes to transition to a new system. Transitioning to cloud software, however, is fast and easy and only requires access to the internet.

In today’s society, it is difficult to find a business that does not use e-mail or have a website. The idea of web-based software is not totally foreign to us. Because of this, small businesses are able to immediately implement new cloud software solution into their business with little transition or training time required.

The learning curve for employees is fast. Most employees use similar technology in their daily lives, making it seamless to integrate into their business life. Social networks, for example, are being turned into private business collaboration tools to enhance communications with geographically distant locations or work-from-home employees.

Businesses can be instantly more hands on, making them more innovative and productive instantly. By leveraging current technology, businesses are seeing immediate positive results.

Give your Team the Tools to Succeed

Employee morale is driven by the feeling of accomplishment. With the right tools, small businesses are giving their teams what they need to succeed in the workplace, and give public recognition to those who do well, thereby retaining quality employees.

Even with a traveling sales force, work-from-home employees and remote locations, small businesses can make sure their employees stay motivated and connected, wherever they are. By having a way to connect in the cloud, these employees get the support they need to succeed, boast about their accomplishments and drive internal competition. Likewise, managers have a bird’s eye view of the business and employees have a forum to share their ideas and accomplishments. Small businesses are able to thrive and stay competitive with a motivated staff behind them.

It is clear why cloud computing is taking the small business world by storm. With growing margins and improved employee morale, businesses can become more profitable. Lower IT and overhead costs give small businesses more ground to take off running with their business. Teams have the ability to adopt technology they are already familiar with and interact with their colleagues, partners and clients in a way never seen before, increasing employee productivity and morale. Cloud computing and business collaboration tools are crucial to the success of any small business.