What does a business analyst actually do?

What does a business analyst actually do? What does a day in the life look like?
A business analyst's daily job duties can vary greatly, depending on the nature of the current organization and project. However, there are some activities that the business analyst will commonly do in the course of every project. They include:
  • investigating goals and issues
  • analyzing information
  • communicating with a wide variety of people
  • documenting findings
  • evaluating solutions

For a given project, the business analyst will usually try to define and oversee a series of carefully structured tasks aimed at achieving the general goals of analysis, synthesis, planning, and evaluation. Of course, these tasks are bound to require a flexible approach matching the circumstances.

Let's look at how business analysts spend their day.

Investigating: Business analysts spend a good deal of time asking questions. Regardless of the project domain, there are four questions every BA should ask, but you will probably end up asking many more. To understand the project and possible solutions, a BA might conduct interviews, read, and observe work in progress. Business analysts do research and look for solution options, both inside and outside the organization. For more on investigating requirements, see our Burning Questions on Objectives and Scope.

Analyzing: Business analysts spend a great deal of time analyzing the information they acquire—studying it for patterns and trends; continually reviewing it to ensure that it is current, thorough, and accurate; and probing deeply for the sources of a problem and potential solutions. Many problems suggest multiple solutions, so you may have to spend lots of time analyzing and comparing solutions and weighing them against the actual needs. Tools like Root Cause Analysis, Gap Analysis, and Business Process Modeling can help here.

Communicating: Good business analysts spend many hours actively communicating. More than simply talking, this means listening to verbal and non-verbal messages, establishing open dialogue, confirming you've understood what you heard, and communicating what you learn to those will build the actual solution. You can find a wide variety of resources for this critical skill on our Communications Know-How page.

Documenting: Business analysts spend a fair amount of time documenting what they learn and observe, and the results of their analyses. Take the time to consider the best ways to document specific types of information, whether as text or visual form (charts, graphs, illustrations, etc.). In addition to the communication resources mentioned above, check out our index of templates for meetings, status, and reports.

Evaluating: A business analyst must also spend time identifying options for solving specific problems, then help select the best one. The chosen solution is then evaluated throughout design and construction to ensure that it continues to meet the business needs and that the team chooses the best implementation process. Our Know-How resources for project metrics and measurement provide a good starting place for understanding these responsibilities.

For more on the business analysis role and how it interacts with others in the organization, see What is the Business Analyst's Role? Four Steps to a Clear Answer.

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