A day in the life of a…..Business Analyst

As part of our ‘A day in the life of a….’ series we interviewed one of our Business Analysts about their role in a PIM or MDM project. They spend much of their time getting into the nuts and bolts of how systems integrate and ‘talk’ to each other. 

Firstly, can I ask you what the difference between a business consultant and a business analyst is?

Well, they certainly use a lot of the same skills, but while a business consultant has a helicopter view of the business and what they want to achieve, a business analyst looks at specific parts of a PIM implementation process and in much more detail.

Are business analysts involved from the start of a PIM project?

No, not always. I normally get involved slightly later in the process than a business consultant. First, the consultant has to shape a piece of work. Then they might call in the business analyst and ask them to focus on a particular issue of integration, for example, the interface between these two systems. So that means diving into as much detail as you can – the processes, the data exchanges and so on.

So you’re involved at a pretty granular level?

That’s right. We are really looking at the nitty-gritty of defining detailed requirements. For instance, we may need to define the detailed logic around process rules. To perform this role, you need to be the kind of person who relishes working at that degree of precision!

Having said that, I work very closely with the business consultant once a project is up and running, because the need to deep dive into particular aspects of systems occurs frequently, as you can imagine. A business analyst examines the problems to be solved in meticulous detail.

Could there be more than one business analyst on a project?

If it’s a big enough project, yes. You might have one analyst looking at supplier-related data, another looking at customer-related data and a third looking at internal process aspects of the design. You also get the more technology-oriented business analysts – they might be focused on the actual specific data being passed through an interface between two systems.

There’s quite a spectrum of business analysts really. Process is one end and the real ‘details people’ are the other. The fact is, in our kind of work, we’re often called on to work at both ends of that spectrum.  

I imagine the job has its challenges…

Of course! Sometimes, analysts can get dragged into arguments about project scope – I have experience of having to spend time fighting against not getting dragged into doing other tasks beyond my specific brief. That can be a distraction, but it’s a question of establishing work scope boundaries.

To be honest, it’s  similar to the challenges around being a business consultant or a systems architect or a product owner– it all boils down to getting enough time with the right stakeholders, making sure they have a full understanding of your role in the big picture and really engaging with different personalities.

Does that mean you might need to deal with a difficult personality?

Not ‘difficult’ as such, just ‘protective’. I’ll give you an example. You might be speaking to someone in the discovery phase of the project about how something works. They are a bit cagey about giving away too much information about it because it’s their ‘baby’ and they’re quite proud of it. They just want to tell you what the solution might be, and what they want…

...so they are trying to steer the communication in a direction which isn’t especially useful for you…

Yes, at times. It’s really useful to try and find out what people’s organisational backstories are – where there might be advantages you could leverage, or even where you might encounter a certain amount of pushback you need to be prepared to deal with.

What other challenges are there in the business analyst role?

Business analysts produce a lot of material – documentation and so on – and getting people to sign it off can be a challenge in itself. Again, engagement with more serious people helps them define a strategy for dealing with that issue. We don’t come cheap, so ensuring that the sign-off process doesn’t take weeks can help a business analyst to move forward with the task and get the job done quicker.

If you would like to find out more about how our product data management consultants can create value for your business, we’d love to hear from you – Ben Adams, CEO Start with Data

We’re always looking for talented people! Read more about our culture, the experience required and our current roles available. We’d love to hear from you – Joanna Hall, Head of Talent, Resourcing & People Operations