What documents are required for your business analysis effort?

I’m often asked about business analysis documents and how these deliverables tie in with an approach such as Agile or Waterfall.

As far as documentation is concerned the approach taken influences when, and in how much detail, a document is produced. The document may also have a different name but the goals of the business analyst are the same no matter the methodology used.

The goal of the business analyst is to identify business needs and determine solutions to business problems. The solution may come in many forms but typically involve:

  • The implementation of a new system
  • Enhancements to an existing system
  • Business process improvement
  • A new information strategy
  • A new policy or strategic plan
  • An organisational restructure
  • A combination of any of the above

Most commonly, business analysts are involved in the first three.

Understanding the type of project, the problem you’re solving, or the solution you are delivering will inform the types of documentation to be produced.

If you’re procuring an off-the-shelf product, you wouldn’t write detailed descriptions of functions and features of the system. You would, on the other hand, produce business requirements with enough information about how the stakeholders need to interact with the product and for what purpose. These requirements would also include some important qualities of the system (e.g., the system must comply with the organisation’s standard operating environment). A product vendor can then provide a detailed response that aligns with the criteria of the organisation.

Where a custom solution is being implemented, highly specific descriptions of functional and non-functional qualities are necessary. In addition to the initial business requirements, the deliverables could include use cases, a user interface specification and data flow diagrams. These documents must be written with enough detail to hand over to the people who design the system’s technical architecture and write the code.

So to understand what documentation you must produce, you need to understand the type of problem you’re solving.

This is your starting point.

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