What specific activities should I expect to do?

What specific activities should a business analyst expect to do during the lifecycle of a project?
While a business analyst must possess the skills to handle a broad variety of projects—long, short, complex, or simple—there's really no need to re-invent the wheel for each new project. In fact, experienced analysts find themselves performing essentially the same broad categories of work, again and again, even for projects that may superficially seem quite different:
  • Understanding the requirements
  • Documenting the requirements and verifying that they've been understood correctly
  • Transferring knowledge about the requirements to those who will develop the solution (and those who'll ultimately own and maintain it)
  • Making sure the solution meets the requirements and delivers the expected benefits

Because none of these activities happens magically happens, count on rolling up your sleeves—you'll need to invest a great deal of energy in each phase: planning, managing, monitoring, wrapping-up, and transitioning.

The following table lists some of the activities typically associated with the project phases.

Activity Type Sample Activities Likely Project Phases
Planning Stakeholder analysis

Requirements management planning
Initiation and Planning
Understanding Understanding the business need

Eliciting requirements through interviews, workshops, documentation, etc.
Concept and Selection

Initiation and Planning
Documenting Selecting a proper documentation tool for the requirements

Documenting the requirements in the tool

Walking through the requirements with the stakeholders to ensure accuracy
Initiation and Planning

Execution and Approval
Transferring Walking through the requirements with those who will develop the solution Execution and Approval
Measuring Testing

Validating that the solution meets the business need

Measuring the benefits
Execution and Approval

Delivery and Close-down
Managing and Monitoring Managing the activities of the business analysts

Monitoring requirements documentation and processes to ensure quality

Managing change
Execution and Approval
Transitioning Completing and delivering a training plan

Archiving the documentation for reuse
Delivery and Closedown

Reading the table, it may have struck you that we omitted activities that are often required under each category. It probably also occurred to you that not every project requires the same activities. The detail, scope, and scale of the activities depends on the project's size and the chosen approach.

The project approach (methodology) is sure to impact how you spend your time and sequence your business analysis tasks. The traditional "waterfall" approach calls for a fixed, formal sequence of tasks: planning, understanding, documenting, transferring, and validating the full set of requirements.

By contrast, an iterative approach requires a more flexible, fluid cycle: understanding, documenting, transferring, and validating limited sets of requirements at a time. For example, a project to choose a vendor tool will likely begin with an iterative RFP process: understanding, documenting, transferring, and validating a high-level set of requirements, followed by another cycle with the same steps, but at a deeper level of detail.

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