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The birth of the business analyst

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Projects arise in every area of the business including the financial, sales and marketing division. In each instance the project manager is expected to have an understanding of the business unit in order to merge business needs with project deliverables. What does this mean for IT projects?

IT project management in particular requires a high level of specialised knowledge and training. This conundrum has led to the birth of a new discipline known as business analysis. In IT the project management role is performed by a Business Analyst (BA).

As with most projects the first stage in the IT project focuses on indentifying the requirements of the business and seeks to address those needs through IT solutions.

"Requirements management is a critical stage within each IT project.' If this phase in the project is not handled correctly the result is "overdue projects, over-budget projects and projects that require a lot of post-production work.'

The role of the business analyst is to translate project requirements to all the stakeholders in a language that they can understand, "to act as a liaison between business and IT.'

One of the functions of a BA is to act as a "filter' to determine whether project requirements will add value to the business or not.

Business analysts are expected to do more than monitor projects; they are required to contribute to the direction of the project by drawing from their unique set of skills, experiences and knowledge.

Reports show that when business analysts are assigned to IT projects the success rate is increased as projects are "19% more likely to be on time and 5% more likely to be within budget.'

Despite this evidence companies who hire or develop business analysts are hard to find. Research indicates that the failure to acknowledge the benefits of a BA could hold some companies back while financial constraints may prevent others from recruiting.

For those who are in a position to expand their staff complement, selecting the right person to manage an IT project or act as a BA can be challenging. Business analysts can either be outsourced, or chosen from and developed within the organisation.

Both options have potential benefits and disadvantages. External BA?s may have the technical expertise to run the project, but lack a thorough understanding of business operations. Alternately internal project managers may not have the training to effectively translate IT language.

Each project and organisation is unique. Management should select a BA based on the needs of the business and the requirements of the project.

For more tips on the function of Business Analyst?s in project management watch The role of the Business Analyst

By Cindy Payle - Skills Portal Journalist

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