Business Analysis 101: Understanding The Terminology

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For anyone stepping into the realm of Business Analysis, it can seem like entering a labyrinth of terminologies and methodologies. However, armed with an understanding of key terms and concepts, you can confidently navigate this intricate landscape. This article aims to give you insight into fundamental Business Analysis terms, while also shedding light on agile principles like Lean and Kanban that streamline processes and enhance project outcomes.

Here are 30 terms that a BA needs to know to successfully execute their role without
becoming overwhelmed by jargon:

1. Business Analysis (BA):

At the core of effective decision-making lies Business Analysis. It encompasses the identification of business needs, challenges, and opportunities, ultimately leading to strategic recommendations, decisions, enhanced inter-departmental collaboration, and more successful product and project development.

2. Stakeholder:

Stakeholders are individuals or groups with vested interests in a project, product, or organisation. Their inputs and perspectives shape the project or product’s direction. Typical stakeholders include customers/end-users, business owners and managers, product managers and owners, development teams, executives and senior management, regulatory bodies, investors and shareholders, etc.

To learn more about what forms a stakeholder can take, read our article Business Analysis 101: What is a Stakeholder?

3. Requirements:

Requirements serve as the blueprint for development, outlining what a system, product, or process should achieve. They bridge the gap between business objectives and implementation. These are typically gathered through needs analyses, requirements elicitation interviews, market trends and data analysis, etc.

4. Functional Requirements:

Functional requirements define the specific functions, features, and capabilities that a system or product must possess to meet business needs.

5. Non-Functional Requirements:

Non-functional requirements highlight the quality attributes of a system, including performance, security, and scalability, which enhance the user experience.

6. Use Case:

Use cases vividly portray interactions between users and a system, narrating the steps needed to accomplish specific goals.

7. User Story:

A cornerstone of Agile methodologies, user stories encapsulate requirements from the end-user’s perspective, allowing for enhanced clarity on what the product, project or system needs to ultimately achieve.

For more information about user stories, read our article Mastering the Art of User Stories: A Guide for Product Owners and Business Analysts in an Agile Software Environment

8. Business Process:

A business process is a meticulously orchestrated sequence of interrelated tasks, activities, and operations undertaken within an organisation to transform inputs into valuable outputs, ultimately contributing to the achievement of strategic goals and delivering tangible value to stakeholders.

This holistic concept encompasses not only the procedural steps involved but also the underlying methodologies, technologies, and resources employed to optimise efficiency, enhance effectiveness, and maintain a continuous cycle of improvement. Business processes can include things such as systematic flow, cross-functional integration, value generation, measurement and improvement, etc.

9. SWOT Analysis:

SWOT Analysis evaluates an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It empowers strategic planning by identifying internal and external factors. Another common approach to achieving this kind of analysis is a SOAR analysis – Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. 

10. Gap Analysis:

Gap analysis uncovers disparities between the current state and desired future state of an organisation, paving the way for targeted improvements.

11. Feasibility Study:

A feasibility study assesses project viability considering technical, economic, operational, and other aspects. It informs go/no-go decisions.

12. Scope:

Project scope delineates the boundaries of a project, defining what is included and excluded. Clear scope prevents mission creep. Mission creep is a term used to describe the gradual and often unintentional expansion of the objectives, goals, or scope of a project, initiative, or organisation beyond its original intended purpose.

13. Risk Management:

Risk management identifies and mitigates potential risks, ensuring proactive handling of uncertainties that could derail projects.

14. ROI (Return on Investment):

ROI gauges the profitability of an investment by comparing net profit to initial investment. It’s a crucial metric in decision-making. Forecasting of ROI and analysis of ROI need to be done at the beginning and the end of a project, product development process, system development process, or at the release of each iteration in an Agile product or project.

15. Business Case:

A business case substantiates a project, detailing its benefits, costs, and risks. It aids stakeholders in evaluating its worthiness.

16. Business Process Modelling:

Modelling visualises processes for analysis and improvement. It enhances communication and understanding across stakeholders and is a structured approach to visually represent and analyse the processes within an organization. It involves creating graphical representations that illustrate how tasks, activities, and information flow through the various stages of a process.

17. UAT (User Acceptance Testing):

UAT involves end-users testing a system to ensure it aligns with their needs. Successful UAT indicates readiness for deployment.

18. Prototyping:

Prototyping creates simplified versions of products I order to gather feedback before full development. It fosters iterative refinement.

19. Agile:

Agile methodologies prioritise iterative development, collaboration, and rapid value delivery. They accommodate changing requirements. Agile is sometimes seen as an alternative to “Traditional” Business Analysis, which has set starting and end points, a formal and structured timeline, and is typically not adaptable or flexible once the project is underway.

20. Scrum:

Scrum is an Agile framework that provides a structured yet flexible approach to managing complex projects, particularly those involving software development. It emphasises collaboration, iterative development, and delivering value to customers in short time frames. Scrum’s success lies in its ability to adapt to changing requirements, promote transparency, and empower cross-functional teams to work effectively and efficiently.

Scrum introduces a set of time-boxed events to create a regular cadence of communication, inspection, and adaptation:

To learn more about what Scrum is, read our article What Is Scrum and Why is it Important?

21. Sprint:

Sprints are Scrum’s time-bound iterations, fostering a focused, iterative approach to development.

22. Iteration:

Iteration signifies the repetition of development cycles, key to Agile’s incremental progress philosophy.

23. Lean:

Lean principles eliminate waste and optimise processes for efficiency. They prioritise value delivery and customer satisfaction.

24. Kanban:

Kanban visualises work, enabling teams to optimize flow, limit work-in-progress, and adapt to changing demands.

To learn more about what Kanban is, read our article Kanban Explained

25. Waterfall:

The Waterfall model follows a linear project approach, where each phase must complete before the next starts. Otherwise known as “Traditional” Business Analysis, it suits well-defined projects.

26. KPI (Key Performance Indicator):

KPIs are measurable metrics guiding business or project performance assessment. They align efforts with objectives.

27. Change Management:

Change management ensures smooth transitions by planning, communicating, and supporting stakeholders affected by changes.

28. RACI Matrix:

RACI defines roles and responsibilities within a project or process—Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.

29. Storyboarding:

Storyboarding illustrates user-system interactions, aiding in design and enhancing user experiences.

30. Elicitation:

Elicitation gathers stakeholder insights to understand their needs accurately, informing requirements.

By unravelling the intricacies of Business Analysis terms, you will equip yourself to traverse this multifaceted field. Whether you’re navigating Lean principles to eliminate waste, harnessing the iterative power of Agile, or adopting Kanban to streamline workflows, these concepts empower you to steer projects toward success. Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to communicate effectively, strategize with precision, and drive transformative change within your organisation.