June 8, 2012

The Value of a Business Analyst to a Project Team

Post by: Brian Laehn

Brian Laehn is a Business Architect at Core BTS and has 20+ years of experience as a Senior Business Analyst, Scrum Manager, Project Manager and Agile Team Lead.

The Role of a Business Analyst on a Project Team

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) describes a Business Analyst (BA) as: “a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals”. It is important that management and stakeholders in all organizations recognize the value of adding a BA to a project team as they are able to create value and decrease costs for their organization in several different ways.

A Business Analyst’s main role in on a project team is to manage the solution scope of the project deliverable. The BA takes the lead in handling all aspects of the solution scope and acts as a facilitator, communicator and problem solver for a given project. BAs elicit requirements, analyze those requirements, and plan all the business analysis activities while monitoring and controlling the solution scope. A Business Analyst also helps validate requirements during user acceptance testing and ultimately meet client outcomes and expectations.

The Project Return on Investment Calculation

One way we can quantify the value of adding a BA to a project team is to look at a formula that makes up the project’s return on investment. A project’s return on investment calculation can be defined by the following equation: [Total value achieved through completing the project] minus [Total cost of the entire project].

Organizations should be aware of the total cost of owning the project throughout the entire project lifecycle. At first glance it can appear that adding a BA to a project team will result in higher overhead and increase the cost of the project. Personally, I have had the opportunity to consult for several different organizations and have seen some that refuse to add a BA because they are unable to justify the cost. However, these organizations were not accounting for the value added and costs saved from using a BA resource on their project teams to their rate of return calculations.

By not adding a BA to the project team, projects often take longer than they should and go over the allocated project budget. The most common reason for this is a lack of defining and documenting quality project requirements which leads to missed requirements. Missed requirements lead to costly rework and time spent on something that should have been defined before the developers began working on the project.

I have seen communication break down when there is no BA facilitating between the business and IT staff. The lack of a BA can ultimately lead to increased development time costing the organization much more than if they would have added an efficient BA to bridge the gap between the business and development staff. Management needs to realize that adding a BA to a project team should be looked at as a positive project investment because they can help increase value and save money on the project in the long run.

BAs are able to impact both of the variables that make up the return on investment of a business project. Specifically, BAs have the ability to:

  1. Increase the total value achieved through completing the project.
  2. Decrease the total cost of the entire project. 

5 Ways BAs Can Increase the Total Project Value

1. Prioritizing the Requirements by Value

BAs excel at making sure that the stakeholders focus on the highest priorities and document the requirements that are the most important to a project and provide the business the most value. The must-have features that provide the most project value should be documented and delivered in the final solution. 

2. Discovering New Business Needs or Requirements

BAs often are the ones who discover a requirement that the business or IT had not thought of and could lead to increased project value. Missing requirements leads to rework and higher costs. When a BA actively discovers requirements, this helps the business understand what is needed for the project to be successful. 

3. Increasing Communication Between the Business and IT

Communication is ultimately the key to project success and it is vitally important that communication is effective between the business and IT. BAs make sure that the communication between the business and IT continues throughout the entire project lifecycle which results in cost savings to the project. 

4. Provide a Framework in Which an IT Team Can Scale

As an organization grows so does the number of stakeholders and projects. BAs enable a small team to scale to a larger one. This helps increase the benefits realized because more projects can become successful investments. 

5. Recommend a Process Change

BAs might discover that a certain process can be changed which will result in an increase in total project value. 

5 Ways BAs Can Decrease the Total Project Cost

1. Documenting the Right Requirements

BAs are experienced in defining and documenting the right requirements which define the solution in a way that best meets the end users’ needs. 

2. Reduction in Rework

If BAs focus on the right requirements, there should be a reduced amount of unnecessary changes to the project. The need for rework can be reduced by ensuring that the requirements gathering processes are thorough and by making sure the business and technical members of a project are involved in these processes early on in the project. 

3. Shorten the Project Length

Every day that a project can be shortened results in cost savings. Project resources can be allocated to other projects allowing for earlier start times of future projects, thus increasing potential revenue. 

4. Reduction in Stakeholder Wasted Time

Stakeholders’ time is valuable and they should not spend excess time in unproductive discussions. A BA role on a project team can decrease this cost as the BA can help with decision making, track open issues, document discussions, and reduce the time rehashing previous discussions. The BA can summarize and provide information quickly to the stakeholder via a quick status report. 

5. Discover More Cost-Effective Solutions

BAs may help reduce costs by finding more cost-effective solutions when researching a problem. Often BAs come up with solutions that management or other key stakeholders have not thought of ultimately saving the organization money.

Conclusion

As you can see, BAs are vital members of project teams that create extreme value for their organizations. The benefits of adding BAs far outweigh the costs of adding them to your project team. Every organization should look to add at least one BA to each project team. Large projects will benefit from utilizing multiple BAs to manage the project solution scope and validate requirements during user acceptance testing. In conclusion, an organization can add value to and decrease the total cost of their projects by adding a BA to their project team. This will improve project success, and ultimately increase the organization’s return on investment in the long term.

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