In the early days of the role’s existence, a business analyst was little more than the liaison between IT departments and business unit executives because of the common perception that the two worlds were so distant in their functions and needs that they needed someone who could act as a translator. But as IT has become more and more integrated into all aspects of business, that role has become almost superfluous. Instead, business analysis has metamorphosed to something more complex than that. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) describes the role 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.”
As the role of business analysts has grown, one of the new realities is that it now involves much more than just financial planning and technology support. Today’s business analysts share a leadership role, working collaboratively with project managers. Organizational psychology, negotiation, influencing and the ability to broker conflict resolution from a position of neutrality have become key to successful business analysis.
That’s not to say that financial planning is less important, but it is only one tool in the business analyst’s arsenal. Business models need to be more holistic, adding evaluation of all factors that influence business decisions, including recognition of the impact of uncertainty on factors that impact unknown futures. Despite the availability of sophisticated predictive analytic tools, Microsoft Excel continues to play an important role in the business analyst’s tool kit given its flexibility, versatility and ubiquity.