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What is a Business Analyst

 
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All:
Since we were on the subject of Software Testers, I gotta ask. What is a Business Analyst, what is their role in the software development process?
The reason I ask is. The company I work at has about 6 Business Analysts (BA) to every 1 technical programmer. The BAs do not have technical degrees, do not know any programming languages or have programming skills, and do not know UML.
In my role (before I went to the bench), I never really interfaced with these people.
So I am just curious.
Thanks,
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
[This message has been edited by John Coxey (edited March 09, 2001).]
 
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6 business analyst for each programmer!
I think at my place it's the opposite - 1 bus. analyst for 6-12 programmers.
the bus. analyst that I know meet users and spec out users requirements into comprehensive documents that programmers get to read and implement. there is a lot of back and forth. bus. analysts also search for data sources that user want to tap into so that the programmers will just have to connect to the data source and pull data.
2 business analyst working for 2 different type of companies might be doing varied tasks.
I hope you get the gist of it.
Shama
 
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I agree with Shama. From what I have seen Business Analyst determine process. They meet with the different departments and heads and talk with them and figure out how things are currently running and how users wish it would run. Then they tally all of this data into a working model of how things are now going to run, which will hopefully answer all the questions.
They don't need a technical background (though it would help) because they are not worried about how one is going to develop or program it, they are just worried about what it should do and what problems it will solve. Once all of this is laid out, then they meet with the lead developer and translate it to them so they can develop it. That is why I think if the business analyst knew development or at least UML, they could then run the project from concept to implementation. Which is I am guessing what a architecture actually does.
But your 6 to one ratio does seem way off. That should be reversed if you ask me.
Bill
 
John Coxey
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Bill:
Nope, the 6 BA to 1 PROGRAMMER is about right. I was stunned to see this many BA's in one place. Seems like we hire 4 or 5 every week. I've only seen 2 Java hires in the past 3 months here in Denver.
We do a lot of contract work for Qwest/AT&T/Time-Warner.
I never saw any BAs at Lucent or at EDS - where everyone seemed to be technical (except for the admin/secretary).
Well, lets hope they can make pretty diagrams that I can understand.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
Shama Khan
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OK, yes 6 Bus. Analyst to 1 programmer in a consulting project.
The idea is that if the analysis ( the 1st 3 or 4 phases) of the System Development Life Cycle is done correctly then they wouldn't need so many programmers.
I was surprised by the way they (the system analysts) look down at us programmers. I discovered this when taking a system analysis class being taught by an IBM consultant.
They think that we, the programmer, make things more complicated.
But my argument is that if the specs were right and written in stone to begin with, then yes we wouldn't need many programmers.
In a system analysts' ideal world, there will soon be tools that will take in the spec and spit out accurate code (ha!). And then they won't need programmers (haha!).
My question is the following: Knowing that certain tools do exist but are almost useless, who really has been building that tool and who is perfecting the tool if not us programmers.
If such tool does become perfected (ie. being able to handle the changes made at the whims of the analysts and users until the last minute of the development) who would have responsible for it - if not us programmer.
Damn I thought this was meaningless drivel forum
[This message has been edited by Shama Khan (edited March 13, 2001).]
 
John Coxey
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Shama Khan:
I am wondering why these System Analysts don't need more of a technical background - especially in UML.
Most of the one's I have talked to around here have business degress - no technical engineering degrees.
As far as getting looked down upon - everyone here seems to get along ok. I really don't have time for that game.
As far as the ratio of 6BA:1PRG - that's what I am seeing here at work. And, we just hired another 2 yesterday.
Oh heck...it's lunchtime...I gotta go.
Johnny
 
bill bozeman
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As for as the business vs technical degree, I actually think a business degree makes more sense. I am not saying they shouldn't know technical areas and UML and programming, but I think the business degree is very important. But maybe I think that because I have an accounting degree and worked in business for 4 years before moving into web programming.
But you need someone who knows how businesses run. If you are designing a large process, you need someone who can say, Marketing people will look at this one way, while the Financial people will look at it this way, and Human Resources will look at it this way. So you need someone who understands all facets of business so they know when something needs to be addressed. I am not saying that having a technical degree doesn't qualify you for that, but business school and business experience does train you in all areas of management.
Bill
 
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John,
I can offer a quick-description of the function of BAs at the client-site where I work (a large brewing firm in Denver-area). Here, BAs manage IT budgets per department and act as laison, of sorts, between technology users (in their department), finance department, and the global IT management ring (Other IT consultants - like ERP-type consultants, here, SAP, VPs and such). While many have technical backgrounds, many do not necessarily have technical education. I think that telecoms provided background for quite a few, here. The BAs attend all IT-related meetings (which means most meetings) and must approve all technology-oriented spending within their departments. Hence, the BAs have strong input into not only the design of technology developmenmt, but, also, they control the purse-strings to an extent. Of course many of the global IT decisions, such as particular OS/hardware platforms are provided from more general pots of funding; however, BAs also participate on these decision-making committees.
I work for a technology contractor in Denver, who is making drastic changes in their service offerings, I might hit bench anytime, too. My recruiter has recently resigned and taken another position here locally. If you need help at all feel free to email me: javatom44@yahoo.com. Also, can you recommend any resume writer firms, here, in Denver.
 
John Coxey
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All:
Thanks for the replies.
Tom:
I sent you an e-mail to the address you listed.
----------
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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hiring more BAs is a sign that a project is in trouble.
I've seen it happen, when a project is running into trouble the technical staff is reduced and business staff increased until even management realises the project will never get done with the (then) current team. At that point the project is abandoned.
 
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I agree with much of what's already been posted. I thought I'd add some comments from my personal experiences.
In most engineering companies ( Stone & Webster, Black & Veatch, etc. ) I see the Business Analyst position titled as Business Developer. This is in stark contrast to IT companies.
A BD is a technical person with seniority (maybe even a partner) that is leveraging their expertise to develop projects and manage the client side of the engagement.
When I've run into BAs it's been through consultants. They tend to be strong on project methodologies and know the answers to typical technical questions. They are able to conceptualize complex systems and coordinate their company's assets.
Mike
 
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I have never seen a ratio like 6:1. Is this at the very beginning or end of a rather large project?
As a BA I sometimes appear to look down on development staff. This is because when a developer comes to me with a suggestion I listen intently and then decide what to do based on the time, cost and quality impacts of his suggestion v's the planned & budgeted direction. I sometimes don't have enough time to fully explain why a certain technical idea may not fit the project at THAT PARTICULAR TIME, although I always note the points down to be re-visited or rolled into a larger enhancement should a number of similar or impacting change suggestions appear.
I have no programming ability but I know how to decide which code is best for use in any particular situation, which code does what and how the code is actually compiled and tested, etc. I don't feel I should need to know any more than that, otherwise I'd be a developer?
P
 
John Coxey
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Paul:
The company was American Management Systems (AMS). I was laid off from them about 3 weeks after I started this thread in March 2001.
Our project never did get started - and they have since laid off about 80% of their staff in the Denver office.
----
I am currently here in Evansville, IN working for American General Finance - coding on-line credit application systems in Java.
I sm responsible for both the design documents as well as the technical documens and actual coding. We meet twice a week with various teams in the organization to discuss how the program should be put together from a functional standpoint.
Then I come to my desk - type up what we discussed - and any issues that I may have and then send the e-mail out to the other teams. Then we discuss any issues they may have at the next meeting and then move onto another requirement/idea for the project.
After 3 months - we hope to have the design doc completed and coding started.
John Coxey
(jpcoxey@aol.com)
 
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