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Toolkit for a business analyst

June 14, 2016
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Have you seen how a doctor works? When you visit a doctor, he first asks you to explain your problem. He then examines you using his tools which are ready at hand. He then understands the problem and prescribes further course of action or medicines. If it is a common problem, he usually has a stock of medications which he can give. Else he has tools to write a prescription etc.

Similarly as a professional, a How to become a Business Analyst should have a toolbox that will make him more effective at work. The toolbox should have virtual tools in terms of skills and hardware and software tools.

Here we focus on the hardware and software tools that will enable you to do our job better -

1) Software – The Business Analyst must have desktop applications such as MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint and MS Visio or similar applications. These tools help in documentation, analysis, visualization and presentation.

2) Templates – A business analyst should have some templates that can be readily used. They provide a structure to get data and in gathering requirements and documenting them . Here are some document templates that will be useful for a business analyst -

  • Business Requirements Document - This template provides a structure for detailing out key issues, requirements and the business solution in the document. It should have the project scope detailed so that the BA knows how much functionality is to be developed.
  • Use Case document – The BA should be able to list all use cases their preconditions, post conditions, steps, alternate scenarios and link the use cases as required.
  • Change Request Template – It contains details of the change asked for and reasons for it. The impact on system functionality, code, test cases, cost and efforts is documented here. It also has a section for approvals.
  • Business Model document – This document captures existing business context and the current business processes. It documents modifications and new processes to be developed.
  • Traceability Matrix – The traceability matrix is useful to trace relationship between 2 entities. It can be used to check the connect between requirements or trace relationship from requirement to use case to code to test case.
  • Issues – The issues log is a log of all issues, their resolution, date of expected resolution and persons responsible and accountable to solve the issues
  • Requirements and Specification Meeting Notes – It will be helpful for the BA to have a structure for the meeting notes so that he can have clarity in thinking and pose questions in a structured manner.

3) Whiteboarding Tools - BAs spend a lot of time communicating with different teams involved in the project. They are involved with clients to get requirements. They have meetings with end users to understand functionality. They need to collaborate with the development team and test team to explain processes, features and functions that need to be developed. It will be helpful if the BA has the ability to use the whiteboard to put forth his points. Visual representation of issues and features will eliminate possibilities of misrepresentation. A BA must be confident enough to grab a pen and draw on the whiteboard or use virtual whiteboarding components.

4)Efficient Meeting Tools – One to the main responsibilities of the role of a Business Analyst is to collaborate with stakeholders. The business analyst gets into meetings with client team members or with project team members. It is important that the BA's meetings are efficient and effective. As a Business Analyst, you should

  • Save relevant numbers such that they are easy to retrieve.
  • Know the organization's process to set up face-to-face meetings, book conference rooms, set up virtual meetings and make conference calls.
  • Keep a reference checklist of whom to collaborate with for which kind of meeting with the contact details.
  • Be ready with tools to jot down notes and ensure that the minutes are sent to all participants. There are note-taking apps like OneNote, which can be used.

5) Mind mapping tool and Wire framing software - A Mind map is an excellent tool to explore ideas and get to the root cause of problems. It can be used by BAs in personal interviews and requirements workshops. Mind Mapping helps organize information, give direction to ideas and information presented in a meeting. Business analysts should use mind-mapping tools to visually represent information.

mind mapping

Example of Mindmap

You must have heard or read the saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words. This is true when building software applications. As a business analyst, you can develop wire frames, which can be mock representations of some high-level business requirements. They help to elicit new business requirements or detail out requirements. They help to define scope of the project. Wireframes help in finalizing data points, sections, attributes etc. Use of wireframes reduces rework in later stages of project development.

The above-mentioned tools will aide a business analyst to capture requirements in a better manner and design effective solutions. They will improve the quality of work and bring increased alignment within the project team.


About the Author

Vidya Kumar is a management graduate with 14 years of experience in the IT industry managing complex Software Projects across various industry verticals. She has around 6 years experience in content development. She has co-authored two eBooks and writes regularly on personal finance, IT, travel and other business topics.


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