Business analysts and the work they perform are becoming increasingly important to companies.

Over the last several years, the business analyst role has evolved and developed beyond eliciting, analysing and documenting software requirements. Business analysts are now taking prominent roles across the enterprise, to perform strategic problem and opportunity identification, conduct gap analysis and feasibility studies, and drive business solutions within their organisations.

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABoK) defines enterprise business analysis as a way for organisations to:

-- Identify, analyse and solve business problems and opportunities
-- Determine the feasibility of a solution
-- Define the solution scope and develop the business case
-- Continue to assess, refine, and validate the business need and solution
-- Evaluate the business benefits brought about by a solution

The work of business analysts does sometimes leads to a business case, but there are many other functions that enterprises business analysts perform, such as:

-- Driving business architecture discussion and development
-- Creating-functional decomposition of business areas
-- Providing thought leadership within their organisations
-- Assisting business areas in understanding the big picture (rather than talking in terms of project teams and business lines)
-- Aligning project portfolios with overall business strategy
-- Creating feasibility studies for new products, markets and systems
-- Making strategic recommendations for process improvements and streamlining across departmental divides and geographical locations

By expanding the scope of what business analysis can provide, enterprise business analysts become organisational consultants--their tools, techniques and processes are tailored to specific opportunities, challenges, and drivers. Business analysts are uniquely positioned to do this type of work, because they can repurpose common project business analysis techniques, are able to collaborate across departments and functions, and have built extensive internal networks within their organizations.

To encourage business analysts to begin thinking in strategic terms, organisations should:

-- Foster a culture that encourages problem identification and creating solutions
-- Ensure business analysts have the opportunities to learn leading-edge techniques that can be used to enhance both project business analysis and enterprise business analysis
-- Give business analysts the opportunity to participate and contribute to strategic conversations, particularly where additional research and analysis is needed
-- Encourage certification through the IIBA

The return on investment for organisations that recognise and harness the skills of business analysts is significant. By utilising the unique skill sets these resources bring to the table, organisations create a win-win. A career path is provided for highly skilled and talented resources, and organisations have a means to understand strategic problems and opportunities to inform decision making.

About the authors

Sam Cherubin and Kimberly Terribile have over 20 years of combined experience in consulting, mentoring, and business analysis best practices. Cherubin's background is in business analysis methodology, BA toolkits and playbooks, enterprise business analysis and establishing BA communities of practice. Terribile has consulted for a variety of Fortune 500 companies while working for Ernst and Young, and has also been an instructor of business analyst methodologies and best practices.