In this episode, David Olson discusses the evolution of the Business Analyst role and its true value proposition.

After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • How the definition and perception of the BA role has evolved
  • Why the Business Analyst field requires multiple roles
  • The real value that BAs bring to organizations
  • How Agile changes the value proposition for the BA role

Show Notes

A common perception of the Business Analyst role is that they are responsible for documenting requirements and nothing else.  That perception leads to limitations and challenges with showing the true value of the role.

In reality, business analysis involves much more than requirements.  Some of the biggest value a Business Analyst can provide happens before the requirements stage and even before the project starts.

There is tremendous value in helping the organization understand the current situation better and identify the real problems and opportunities they face.  This leads to a better understanding of options, which could be addressed through projects or other approaches.

The real value in business analysis is in helping the organization make the right decisions.


Evolution of the BA Role

We’ve seen an evolution in the Business Analyst role and the way it’s defined by the International Institute for Business Analysis and the UK Chartered Institute for IT.  That evolution has gone from a requirements focus to a focus on needs and recommending solutions.

There are some potential threats to that evolution from organizational perspectives and the description of the role by other professional organizations which focus on requirements and in-project work.

The progress in the evolution is headed in the right direction, but still has a way to go.


The Multiple Roles of the BA

With the evolution of the BA role, the focus on out-of-project work, and the rise of Business Architects, there is a need for different types of Business Analysts.

Similar to the healthcare field, there should be one overarching definition that encompasses the full value delivered and individuals who specialize in a specific area of value delivery.  This can include in-project BAs who focus on requirements and viable solutions, Business Architects, and Strategic Analysts who focus on overall organizational strategy outside of projects.

All of these roles have a core set of skills and purpose that tie them together, but the specialties allow each role to focus on and go deep in a specific area.


The Business Analyst Value Proposition

Through analysis work at any level, whether inside a project or outside of a project across the organization, BAs can make information consumable and help their organization make the right decisions.  We become a trusted advisor, present information and options, and advise decision makers on making the right choices.

That can include decision option identification, examination of alternatives, facilitating the decision-making process, and facilitating the implementation on those decisions.  This requires BAs to be proactive in identifying solutions and recommending options and alternatives.

In the book, Smart Choices, the author recommends using Proact decision making method.  The Proact method includes:

  1. Define the decisions
  2. Specify your objectives
  3. Identify Alternatives
  4. Understand the consequences
  5. Understand the trade-offs between the options
  6. Clarify what you’re uncertain about
  7. Understand the risk tolerance level
  8. Consider the link decisions

Supporting this process is where Business Analysts can add value.  By structuring this information in an understandable way and presenting it clearly to decision-makers with recommendations will allow you to influence your organization to make informed choices, leading to better outcomes.


Listen to the full episode to hear David’s advice on how to shift the perception of your role and how Agile changes this advice.



Your Homework

Change the way you approach your job. Focus less on the change aspect and focus more on the decision-making aspect.  Bring some of that approach (the way you frame questions and how you present information and recommendations) to your daily work.


Links mentioned in this episode:

David Olson, CBAP

Creator of

David Olson is a Senior Business Analyst with experience in defining, enhancing, and supporting applications and business processes primarily in the areas of Sales, Marketing, Web, Data, and Regulatory areas. Outside of his work, he also researches and write articles and reference materials for the web site.


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