client guides · Clock10 min · 30 May 2022

What is a Business Analyst's Role in App Development?

Alevtina Yalovenko

Alevtina Yalovenko

Business Analyst

business analysis
Illustration by Amir Kerr

All too often, companies hold the erroneous idea that software developers can single-handedly make their projects a success. However, how can you bridge the gap between technical details and the business agenda to make sure both are aligned? That’s when you need a business analyst to have your back and communicate your needs to developers. 

In this article, we’ll flesh out the basics of business analysis, debunk common misconceptions and share the benefits of hiring a business analyst (BA) for your project.

What is Business Analysis?

Business analysis generally refers to a batch of activities that help elicit, validate, and address business needs, requirements, problems, and solutions to calibrate the final product with the stakeholders’ vision. The input of a business analyst is recurrent and is present at all stages of the mobile app development process. Business analysts step in as mediators between technical departments and clients to bring diverse points of view to a consistent project vision.

As a stage, business analysis usually kicks off the software development lifecycle and lays the necessary foundation for articulating requirements and business needs.

app development cycle.png

The purpose of business analysis can take three forms as the project progresses:

  • The first goal is to develop a thorough understanding of a business idea before suggesting a solution.
  • The second goal is to ensure the right level of user needs and relevant features are uncovered to meet the teams’ definition of being ready to start the development process.
  • The third purpose is to help build a full-fledged solution with minimal risks and costs.

Why Business Analysis Matters in Mobile App Development

According to a McKinsey report, 17% of IT projects end up so bad that they cripple the business. On average, projects finish 7% behind schedule and 45% over budget. The tendency seems even more negative for consumer mobile apps, with an average success rate of 0.05%.

These daunting statistics might discourage companies from investing in mobile apps and tech in general. However, business analysis can reverse the numbers and set your project up for success. Here’s how.

App market relevance

Market research is the fundamental starting point of the app development lifecycle. Its main goal is to both determine the unique way you can position your solution in the market and prove its market viability. Considering the neck-breaking competition, business owners would spend months combing through competitors and their USPs. 

Business analysts take over full-throttle market research and help you answer the following questions:

  • What’s your target audience?
  • What are your competitors?
  • What are your app’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • What’s your app’s goal, and does it correlate with real-world user needs?

As a result, app owners have a detailed and data-driven app concept that will later help prioritize core features for a minimum viable product (MVP) that will be fine-tuned to market needs, the latest niche trends, and user needs.

Accurate requirements elicitation

According to a report from the Project Management Institute, companies that pay due diligence to requirements management have 65% of projects meeting their original goal and business intent. Conversely, vague and volatile requirements cut the success rate to 46% of projects.

Business analysts help gather and document requirements for new features and enhancements, working closely with stakeholders across the organization. By understanding the business goals behind a project, they can create detailed user stories that can be used by developers and testers to create a tangible plan of action. 

The output of this effort is a set of functional and non-functional requirements that can be used to guide solution design, development, and delivery. This way, business analysts help ensure that mobile apps are designed and developed in alignment with what businesses need and want.

Defined app metrics

While the number of downloads might be the first metric to cross your mind, it can be misleading since some apps may be deleted right after they are downloaded. Business analysts have a far wider selection of core metrics to evaluate an app’s performance. 

Based on your app’s specifics, business analysts will hand-pick a list of performance metrics that embody your strategic objective. These can also empower a more pragmatic marketing strategy once your solution is up and running.

Reduced software development costs

Industry research shows that around 80% of functionality in the average software product is rarely or never used. Meanwhile, only 12% of features make it to daily usage. Therefore, a lot of companies invest in irrelevant functionality that gathers dust instead of revenue. The problem of redundant functionality is the direct result of poor or absent business analysis that leads to gold plating and mismatched requirements. 

Conversely, business analysts leverage a set of tested prioritization techniques such as story mapping and others to narrow down the features with maximum user value. This also helps avoid redevelopment expenses in the future.

Balanced team workload

When you hire a business analyst, you distribute tasks evenly among the team members. Otherwise, a project manager will have to wear multiple hats. This increases the chances of poor analysis or inaccurate requirements definition. When you have both, a project manager can focus on supervising the app development process while a business analyst strategizes it to meet business needs.

Enhanced communication

According to The Economist, miscommunication has caused a delay or project failure for 44% of respondents.

Business analysis reduces this risk by establishing a stable rapport between developers and stakeholders. Since business analysts often possess technical expertise, they can communicate the right message to both parties in an understandable way. They also serve as a single point of contact, which eliminates communication gaps.

Top Misconceptions about Business Analysts

The business analyst role is a job covered in myths due to its wide scope of tasks. We have collected and debunked the most common misconceptions about this role below.

Myth #1: The team will be fine without a business analyst

Yes, you can create a project without a business analyst, but it comes at a cost — both metaphorically and physically. Without a BA, you would have to distribute their duties among all team members. 

Let’s compare projects with and without business analysts and see where it gets your team members:

TitleAdditional responsibilities without a business analystResponsibilities with a business analyst
Project ManagerIdentifies top-level requirements and writes specifications.Carries on with the usual tasks such as making sure projects stay within budget and timeframe.
Designers

Do constant design revisions and wait for them to be approved as new requirements pop up.

Designers may not take into consideration hidden logic or may misunderstand it.

They are focused on design tasks only.

Based on the detailed requirements, designers have a holistic understanding of the final product, its design architecture and visuals.

DevelopersIdentify more detailed requirements instead of writing code.Developers are focused on writing the code. They still find bugs and unforeseen scenarios, but they report the problem to the analyst.
Quality Assurance EngineersBump into unprocessed cases and are engaged in identifying requirements.Perform extensive testing to deliver a high-quality product.

As you can see from our chart, the whole development team has to chip into a Technical Requirement Document when there’s no business analyst to take over. This leads to a fragmented vision and inconsistent development process that results in more costs and time. 

On the other hand, business analysts take away the burden of requirements elicitation. They also create a “wiki of the project" that describes the project’s logic in detail and covers possible cases and scenarios for each unit. The analysts also act as project mentors and keep development and the business in sync.

Myth #2: Every client knows what they want

A lack of clear goals is the most common factor behind 37% of project failures. These statistics alone challenge the myth of informed project planning and conscious choices.

Very few clients come with a fully shaped vision and low-level details of the project. Most often, the collaboration starts with a vague requirement, like "I want a messenger like Facebook.” While this agenda may seem straightforward, it’s not enough to go ahead with the development. 

In this case, the project scope is unclear and deliverables are undefined. Here’s why:

  • A client might like the user interface that Facebook has. However, not every Facebook feature will drive value to the client's end-user.
  • The design architecture of Facebook might be irrelevant to ensuring the right level of usability for the end-user.

Therefore, the client comes with a business problem, but they aren’t always able to clearly define it or align it with the right technical solution. Conversely, business analysts don’t take the client’s request for granted. They first conduct comprehensive research to validate the client’s idea or suggest a more suitable option, both technically and business-wise. 

The goal of the analyst is to help the client identify the problem and develop a solution that takes into account business requirements, user needs, system limitations, and budget.

Business analysts also challenge the client’s product throughout the development process with questions like "Why? What for? What problem do we want to solve?". These questions may seem obvious, yet they are essential for being on the same page with the development team.

Myth #3: Client and team always clearly understand each other

Not all teams and clients have the communication competency to convey their needs and bottlenecks. Moreover, a full-scale development process is usually distributed between multiple team members, which may lead to communication gaps and disconnects. 

Business analysts step in as a go-between that gathers requirements from all stakeholders and passes the necessary information to each team member. These experts make sure that the entire team has a common understanding of the project, its goals, and the objectives for achieving those goals.

Look at the picture below and try to imagine what the communication flow would look like without a business analyst.

business analyst role.png
Business analyst's communication flow

A business analyst also finalizes the requirements before the development stage, making sure the client is fully aware of the project scope. Among other things, a business analyst also performs a demo call with a client and team to double-check that everybody’s on the same page.

This uninterrupted communication link helps avoid redesigns caused by a divergence of views between the customer and the development team.

Myth #4: It's easy to make changes during the development process

No project is immune to changes during the development stage. That is the main reason why most teams root for the Agile approach that allows for iterative, frequent, and flexible deliveries. However, some changes may backfire, thus wrecking other functionality or even the entire architecture of the solution. 

Business analysts help make project changes painless and hassle-free. They first conduct a full analysis of the change request and propose the best solution. On the contrary, introducing changes with no prior analysis can lead to many bugs due to the inconsistencies in the requirements.

Business Analysis Process: Step by Step

Next, to help you better understand the mechanism behind business analysis, we briefly describe the contribution of a business analyst at each development stage. 

business analysis process.png

Stage 1. Identify, analyze, and specify requirements

Business analysts' work output is the backbone for the future development process and final product. In particular, requirements identification and initial project support are the main focus of business analysts.

Step 1. Identify requirements

Analysis doesn’t boil down to collecting requirements when clients just communicate their idea in a raw format. Instead, requirements elicitation is a collaborative analytical process that includes a wide range of activities. These include gathering, discovering, extracting, and defining requirements.

At Orangesoft, business analysts use the following methods of requirements identification: 

  • Interviews;
  • Workshops;
  • Focus groups;
  • Observation;
  • Questionnaires;
  • System Interface Analysis;
  • User Interface Analysis; and
  • Document Analysis.

A business analyst's mission is to dig out the whole miscellany of requirements, including obvious and hidden ones. They later translate this patchwork into a shared vision of all stakeholder needs. 

Step 2. Requirements analysis

At this stage, business analysts polish the requirements and make sure that all stakeholders have a clear understanding of them. They thoroughly examine the requirements for errors, gaps, and other deficiencies. Moreover, the requirements analysis includes breaking down high-level requirements into more detailed requirements, prototyping, feasibility analysis, and prioritization.

The purpose of this stage is to make the requirements detailed enough to help estimate project costs. An in-depth requirements description will also guide the technical staff in designing, developing, and testing the solution.

Step 3. Requirements specification

This is the stage where all requirements get documented. Business analysts record requirements of various types in a consistent, understandable, and testable way so that they are clear to the stakeholders and developers. 

Business requirements may be captured in a Vision & Scope document, while user requirements are usually presented as use cases or user stories. Detailed functional and non-functional software requirements are recorded in a Software Requirements Specification (SRS) or another repository like a Requirements Management Tool.

Stage 2. Test and approve requirements

Next, the team reviews and validates the requirements for gaps and weaknesses. Requirements testing is a salient part of pre-development since it minimizes the chance of reiterations. 

Validation focuses on whether the future product meets the expectations and requirements of the end-user. 

This stage also helps to ensure that:

  • The Software Requirements Specification properly describes the intended capabilities and characteristics of the system that will meet the needs of the project stakeholders;
  • The software requirements accurately reflect the business requirements, system requirements, and business rules;
  • The requirements are complete, feasible, and testable;
  • All requirements are sufficient, and all of them are enough to achieve the business goals;
  • All requirements are compatible with each other; and
  • The requirements provide a quality basis for the design and software development.

Stage 3. Support designers, developers, and QA team during implementation

Although the lion’s share of business analysts' work is done pre-development, they contribute to all development stages. Thus, they identify areas for improvement during design, gather feedback post-development, and provide readiness reviews after testing.

The business analyst is the custodian of project information. This is the person who answers all of the team's questions during project development and makes sure the entire team is on the same page.

Add Business Analysis Professionals to Your Project

Companies with poor business analysis capability will have three times as many project failures as successes. Our team of business analysts accelerates your success rate and helps deliver user-centered and business-focused mobile applications. 

At Orangesoft, business analysts make sure you and developers speak the same language, and they prepare the requirements and documentation for your project development. Drop us a line and we’ll create the great together.

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