Business analysis is the process of evaluating business data and requirements to improve decision making and efficiency in software development projects. The process identifies and addresses business needs in a systematic way.
7 Functions of Business Analysts
- Clear requirements to ensure everyone understands project goals
- Risk management to identify and tackle potential issues early on
- Cost efficiency to optimize resources and avoid unnecessary expenses
- Alignment to ensure the project aligns with overall business objectives
- Stakeholder communication to bridge communication gaps between technical and non-technical stakeholders
- Change management to anticipate and manage changes effectively
- Quality assurance to define clear requirements for high-quality deliverables
Business analysts, the professionals who handle business analysis, face myriad challenges, among them insufficient domain knowledge and technical skills, the dynamic nature of requirements, time constraints and communication gaps. AI can help meet some of these challenges, and here’s how.
3 Challenges for Business Analysts
Business analysts ensure projects are completed and deliver tangible benefits to the organization. I will delve into three key challenges they typically face.
Collecting clear requirements from all stakeholders
Statistics show that 32 percent of software project failures are due to poor requirements management.
In the tech world, there’s this saying: Garbage in, garbage out, or GIGO. It means if you start with bad input, you'll end up with a bad result. This holds true not just for computers but also for analysis and logic. From my time as a business analyst lead at a custom software development company, I’ve learned this is especially crucial in software development. From the start, get the client’s vision and requirements right or your final product won't be up to snuff.
That said, a main challenge for business analysts is to collect the requirements from all stakeholders and interpret them properly. This can be an extremely difficult task, especially for massive projects because the time for discovery is limited while there are plenty of stakeholders, all with different views.
What’s more, business analysts often encounter situations where stakeholders request modifications to requirements, even after these requirements have been confirmed and accepted. Such situations may not be a one-time event and could repeat for the same requirement. These alterations can influence both the business analysis process and the overall project, affecting effort, cost and schedule.
Communication proves to be a central challenge for business analysts due to the array of stakeholders they engage with. Navigating through various perspectives, expectations and expertise levels of stakeholders requires adept communication tailored to each audience. Bridging the gap between technical details and non-technical stakeholders, interpreting feedback effectively and managing expectations are essential facets of this challenge.
In addition, business analysts must navigate language barriers, ensuring that technical jargon is translated into understandable language for all stakeholders. The role also involves clear and comprehensive documentation, which demands accuracy and clarity for varied audiences.
Negotiation and conflict resolution
Business analysts need negotiation and conflict resolution skills to maneuver conflicting stakeholder interests. They must balance stakeholder needs and priorities to ensure agreements match business goals. Successful negotiation involves finding common ground and fostering collaboration to create a harmonious working relationship.
In addition to negotiation, conflict resolution stands as a critical facet of a business analyst’s role. In the dynamic environment of complex projects, conflicts are inevitable. Business analysts need the capability to identify the root causes of disagreements, mediate between stakeholders with opposing interests, and facilitate constructive dialogue. Proactive conflict resolution not only helps maintain a positive working atmosphere but also ensures that potential roadblocks are promptly addressed, contributing significantly to the overall success of the project.
How AI Helps Meet These Challenges
Here’s how AI can help business analysts meet these three main challenges.
Collecting clear requirements
AI-driven natural language processing (NLP) tools can help business analysts extract and understand requirements from various stakeholders' documents, emails, and communication channels. These tools can identify key terms, sentiments and priorities, streamlining the process of gathering and interpreting requirements.
AI-powered tools can also analyze historical project data, identify patterns and offer insights to improve the requirements-gathering process. They can also predict potential challenges based on past projects and suggest effective strategies for requirement collection.
Managing clear communication
AI can assist in overcoming language barriers by providing real-time translation of technical terms into understandable language for diverse stakeholders.
AI-driven chatbots, on another hand, can facilitate communication by answering queries, providing information and guiding stakeholders through the requirements and project details.
Negotiation and conflict resolution
AI can analyze past negotiation scenarios and conflicts, predicting potential areas of disagreement. This proactive approach allows business analysts to address issues before they escalate, promoting a more collaborative working environment.
AI can analyze communication patterns and stakeholder sentiments to gauge potential conflicts early on. By understanding the emotional tone in communications, business analysts can intervene and initiate conflict resolution strategies promptly.
Why AI Won’t Replace Business Analysts
While AI can be a valuable tool, it falls short of fully replacing human business analysts. The fundamental challenge lies in AI’s stateless nature — it acts as a black box without information storage. Therefore, while contextual details are crucial for accurate responses, AI has a limited word capacity, incompatible with the depth required for comprehensive business analysis.
Consider the process of gathering requirements through interviews: understanding stakeholders’ moods and positions is essential. Human analysts excel in this regard, reading body language and voice sentiment during face-to-face interactions. AI, constrained to written or static visual inputs, currently lacks this observational capability.
Moreover, successful business analysts stay up-to-date with market trends and domain-specific knowledge. AI’s reliance on internet knowledge, with data cutoffs like September 2021 for ChatGPT3.5 and April 2023 for ChatGPT4, poses limitations. For certain restricted domains or classified projects, where internal specifications deviate from common rules, AI may provide misleading or inaccurate information.
The unique strength of human analysts lies in their deep domain knowledge, eliminating the need to repeatedly explain the entire context. A skilled analyst can efficiently extract relevant information from AI tools to enhance their work. However, the complete replacement of human business analysts by AI remains a prospect for the future, as AI tools continue to evolve.