How long do business analysis activities take?

How long do business analysis activities take?
How long you should spend on each analysis task will depend largely on the project's scope and approach, the complexity of the business need, and the availability and engagement of business subject-matter experts.

There's a line of thought that says analysis activities should take as long as they take. Another view holds that they can, and should, be carefully estimated using detailed task lists. In reality, it's impossible to predict the future; and spending endless time estimating and detailing a precise, minute-by-minute schedule for each activity almost never pays off. It's rarely accurate enough to be useful. In real life, few project teams are given the luxury to take as much time as they need. Happily, there's a balance somewhere in the middle. As you gain experience, you'll be able to see the patterns in how long various activities generally take within the organization.

The chosen approach to a project has a deep impact on the sequence of your business analysis activities. In a waterfall-type project, you'll have to plan for heavy, intensive requirements work during the stages of concept and selection, initiation and planning, and also the early phases of execution. The requirements work will taper off during execution, when the business analyst plays a supporting role, answering questions and seeking or providing clarification. If the business analyst is assigned quality assurance duties, validation activities will likely require lots of time during approval and delivery.

In an iterative project, the requirements work has similar peaks and valleys, but on a smaller scale: your business analysis activities will rise during planning and the early part of each iteration, and taper off during construction, then rise again during testing and validation.

Various other factors can impact the time it takes to do business analysis. When planning your approach to the requirements, remember to take into account how the people, processes, and technology will impact your activities.

Factors that can increase the time to complete requirements activities Factors that can decrease the time to complete requirements activities
  • Inexperienced business analyst, with limited support from a more experienced business analyst
  • New or previously undefined standard processes or templates for eliciting or documenting requirements
  • Limited access to the right subject matter experts
  • Unconstrained involvement of too many "interested" parties who are not subject matter experts
  • Limited opportunities for collaborative discussion with business, business analyst, and development teams
  • Highly complex subject matter
  • Significant organizational or financial risk associated with the project
  • An experienced business analyst who plans or directs the activities
  • Standardized templates and automated requirements management and traceability tools
  • Unfettered access to subject matter experts with deep subject matter knowledge
  • Regular opportunities for collaborative discussion with business, business analyst, and development teams
  • Readily available documentation about current state and current processes
  • Participation by team members who have worked on prior projects with similar tasks or that addressed a similar business need

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