I have a simple notion of the true value a business analyst provides. In short, a business analyst is a communication expert.

An analyst’s communication expertise is applied to perform the following tasks:

  1. Get what’s in a stakeholder or group of stakeholders’ minds regarding a problem and criteria for success into his/her own with as little loss of fidelity as possible.
  2. Confirm that his/her understanding of that vision matches that of the stakeholders.
  3. Model the implications of the problem and criteria for success in a way that enables the analyst to transfer it to the minds of the team who will design, develop and deliver the solution.
  4. Confirm that the understanding of the delivery team matches that of the stakeholders.
  5. Iteratively reconcile the vision of the stakeholders to that of the delivery team (and vice versa) throughout the process of solution delivery – through change control, constraints, and any other challenges that may alter the relationship between desired vision and reality.

While I said the notion was simple, it certainly isn’t easy. The reason we need communication experts is that transferring a vision – while maintaining clarity and meaning – is incredibly difficult.

There are techniques, models and good practices that are useful in facilitating this communication, but it is important to remember that the goal isn’t just to create a document or process flow or mock-up, or to “follow the process,” and certainly not to jot down a list of whatever the customer says – but to create a shared understanding of the problem and what is required for a solution to be successful.

That is how an analyst puts an organization in a position to deliver a successful solution.

For more on the topic of business analysts as communication experts, have a look at my friend @Kupe’s thoughts on the matter here.