The primary responsibility of a business analyst is to elicit requirements and make sure that the requirements fulfills the business objectives. In this pursuit, it essential that the business analyst should be aware of the best practices and the techniques that are to be used along the process.
The responsibilities of a business analyst are dictated by the stage the project is in and the techniques to be used. Each of the techniques described could be used in one or several stages of the project and their purpose differs based on the stage they are being used in.
An interview is a systematic way to get information from an individual or a group of people via a formal or informal conversation. The interviewer asks direct or indirect questions from the participants to extract information. The questions can be open or close ended to dig in the required information. In case of several participants, each of them should be interviewed separately to get all the details. He then documents and catalogs the information in a structured format. This technique is widely used throughout the project life cycle and primarily in initiating, requirement gathering and monitoring and controlling phases.
2. SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. SWOT can be used in exploring new solutions, revise plans and brainstorming. The SWOT framework helps in deciding whether a business objective is attainable and thus set up specific goals and milestone to achieve that objective. This technique is widely used in the initial planning phase.
3. Facilitated workshops
A facilitated workshop is a conversation amongst the carefully selected stakeholders and subject matter experts and is led by an experienced and neutral facilitator. These workshops aid in requirement gathering, helps generate new ideas and reach an agreement about a discussion element/solution. This technique is used in requirement gathering and planning phase.
Brainstorming is a group/individual technique aimed at finding a solution to a specific problem by gathering ideas from different people or sources. It is an informal and creative technique and the ideas generated through this technique are later reviewed and prioritized for implementation. This technique is used in planning and executing phase.
Observation involves in-depth monitoring and assessment of a process or an individual. This technique is useful when there is a modification of the existing process and the observer watches the way of work closely. The observation might be active or passive and the observer prepares a documentation. Additionally, the observer might himself perform some hands on activity to get a better understanding of the process. This technique is used in initiating and requirement gathering phase.
A prototype or mockup is an initial version of a product and gives a visual depiction of the end product. Prototypes are gradually iterated and help the stakeholders visualize the product. They also contribute in user interaction and getting feedback about the system. They are widely used to depict data/process navigation, requirements validation and scenario depictions. This technique is used in requirement gathering, executing and testing phase.
7. Use cases
A use case is a methodology used to identify, clarify and document the business and system requirements. It defines interaction between ‘actors’ and ‘system’ to attain a particular goal. Typically it contains: actors, preconditions, flow of events, post conditions, relationships and alternate/exceptional flows. Also, use case diagram, activity diagram, sequence diagram are often used to visualize a use case. Use cases are used in planning, executing and testing phase.
8. Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis involves finding out the underlying source of the problem. It is done to resolve the main cause of a problem and prevent its re-occurrence, rather than simply treating the symptoms. The methods to find the root causes are fish-bone diagram (or cause and effect diagram) and Five whys. Root cause analysis are used in executing and monitoring and controlling phase.
All the above defined techniques could either be used separately or in conjunction with each other. These are widely used by business analysts to effectively conduct business analysis.