Business Analysis Methodology | What is it and is it ‘real’?

Is there such as a thing as a ‘Business Analysis Methodology’?

Although there is no single name for a Business Analysis Methodology the generic term ‘Business Analysis Methodology’ refers to the method (rules, principles and processes) that you apply to implement the Business Analysis activities within your project or organisation. The term, methodology is about describing the underlying principles or rules to follow when applying process, techniques and activities.

Most projects or organisations have an agreed methodology which they follow when they implement their different projects. The most common of these methodologies are referred to as the Waterfall / Traditional methodology or another methodology becoming more popular is the Agile methodology. These two methodologies are inherently different in their approach to delivering project outcomes and placed into two distinct camps:

  • Plan Driven Approach (Traditional / Waterfall) – the plan driven approach is primarily focused on planning most of the activities and deliverables is done in the initial stage of the project / initiative. The goal is to try and remove any uncertainty of what will be delivered and aim to plan and execute the plan in a sequential / linear way. The main disadvantage with the plan driven approach is that by the time an outcome is delivered the requirements may have changed.
  • Change Driven Approach (Agile) – the change driven approach is on the other hand not concerned with a lot of upfront planning and thrives on delivering on an iterative and incremental basis. Change is continuously introduced as a result of each iteration and although each iteration is carefully managed and controlled, change is welcomed and part of delivering a relevant and customer focused end result. The type of methodology is sometimes confused with being uncontrolled and completely open and undefined before work is started. Although a lot of flexibility is allowed for with this methodology it requires significant planning, designing, building and testing on an iterative and continuous basis whilst adhering to time and budget constraints.

Where does Business Analysis fit into these methodologies?

Each project will adopt a methodology and it will most likely be a Waterfall based or an Agile based methodology although sometimes organisations tries out hybrids of these two by combining principles to form a third type of methodology. This will not be elaborated on here but is just mentioned to provide that perspective to the reader when considering their own organisation’s methodology that is being followed. Regardless of which fundamental methodology is followed, the Business Analysis approach is developed within the framework of that methodology. Business Analysis techniques and tools selected within the Business Analysis Approach are adopted to suit the methodology requirements. For example, if you are a Business Analyst on a project which follows the Agile methodology, you will most likely not be delivering business requirements in the format of business requirement documents but rather use the format of user stories instead. So the Business Analysis activities are very much affected by which fundamental project methodology is chosen for a project.

So where does this leave the ‘Business Analysis Methodology’?

As you will now understand there is not really a separate concept of that of a ‘Business Analysis Methodology’ as such but rather Business Analysis Approaches planned and implemented within the framework of a particular methodology such as Waterfall or Agile. It is important as a Business Analyst to completely understand the difference between these two fundamental project delivery methodologies in order to be able to implement, execute and be part of the Business Analysis approach being adopted on a particular project.