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An introduction to business analysis

In this article, we define business analytics and introduce the tools and techniques required to get started in the field.

Intro to business analysis

Business analysis and business analysts have become invaluable assets to companies in recent years. Here, we explain the importance of analysis and analytics in business, break down business analysis tools and techniques, and explain how to get started as a business analyst.

What is business analysis?

According to the International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA), “Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.”

Business analysis is a strategy for initiating and managing change in organisations, whether for-profit, government or non-profit organisations. Though there are dedicated business analysts, many additional positions – including management, project management, product management, software development, quality assurance, and interaction design – rely on business analysis for success.

Business analysis is used to locate and communicate the need for change in how organisations operate, as well as to help organisations to implement that change. Business analysts identify and define solutions that will help a business deliver the most value to its stakeholders.

Business analysts are constantly questioning what they observe: what’s being done and why; whether there might be a better way to do things; whether rules are being followed, or whether exceptions are being made; whether those rules should even exist in the first place. They also analyse the efficiency of a business.

Business analysts work across all levels of an organisation; their responsibilities range from defining strategy to developing enterprise architecture to taking a leadership role in defining programme and project goals and requirements, as well as supporting continuous improvement in the organisation’s technology and processes.

Business analysts (and aspiring business analysts) can benefit from reading the BABOK Guide, the globally recognised standard for business analysis.

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Writing a business case

Business analysts will often write the business case for a project. A business case describes why a company will devote time and resources to a particular project; it balances the activity’s timeframe, expenses, and risks against the expected benefits. 

It’s a case of assessing the benefits and drawbacks before making a sound decision. The project is unlikely to see a return on investment unless it has a strong business case.

Benefits, risks, expenses, technology, and timescale are all factors to consider while preparing a business case. These project concerns are crucial to the business case. They describe the current situation’s challenges and the advantages of the new company strategy.

The business case combines the current situation’s benefits, drawbacks, expenses, and risks with the project’s future vision so that executive management may determine whether or not to proceed. Many projects fail because the scope, timeframe, cost, and benefits are not clearly established during the early stages of the project.

What is business analytics?

In today’s economy, business analytics is a valuable tool. Organisations across industries are creating massive volumes of data, which has increased the demand for experts who can interpret and analyse that data. Companies use business analytics all over the world to improve process and cost efficiency, drive strategy and change, and monitor and improve financial performance.

Business analytics is a powerful tool for gaining clout inside an organisation. You’ll be more influential if you can go into a meeting prepared with statistics to back up your arguments and recommendations.

In order to make educated business decisions, business analytics employs quantitative methodologies to extract meaning from data. Management, business, and computer science are all combined in business analytics. 

The business aspect necessitates both a high-level grasp of the business as well as an understanding of constraints. The analytical part requires knowledge of data, statistics, and computer science. Business analysts can bridge the gap between management and technology thanks to this mix of disciplines. 

Business analytics also includes effective communication and problem-solving, as you need to translate insights from data into information that is easily communicated to executives.

The three methods of business analysis

There are three methods of business analysis. Descriptive analysis interprets historical data to identify trends and patterns; predictive analysis uses statistics to predict future outcomes; prescriptive analysis applies testing and other techniques to determine which outcome will produce the best result in a given scenario. The best method to use is determined by the current company circumstances.

Organisations can use cloud analytics solutions to combine data from many departments, such as sales, marketing, HR, and finance, to create a single view that demonstrates how one department’s figures affect the others. Furthermore, techniques like visualisation, predictive insights, and scenario modelling provide a wide range of unique insights across a company.

Why are business analysis and analytics important?

Business analysis and business analytics are excellent tools for ensuring that a company grows and succeeds. Thorough business analysis and solution implementation can improve a variety of areas in a company’s operations.

  • ROI is likely to rise, as the business analyst identifies areas where a company is wasting time or money and determines how to minimise costs.
  • Business analysts can help a company save money by identifying areas where it is overspending and recommending solutions to cut costs in those areas. Business analysts play an essential role in helping firms develop and flourish over time, because they can help them save money and find methods to cut crucial time out of business procedures. A smart business analyst can ensure that a company stays on track so that its owners don’t have to worry about it, giving them more time to focus on other essential matters.

Technology advancements have had a significant impact on how businesses use IT-based solutions to address a variety of business difficulties, challenges, and concerns. As a result, many organisations throughout the world have continued to have a strong demand for qualified personnel who are familiar with business analysis procedures.

Business analysis techniques

Business analysts use hundreds of different techniques to assess their clients. Here are just a few of the most popular.

1. SWOT Analysis

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats are the four elements of SWOT analysis. Strengths and Weaknesses are “internal” factors, whereas Threats and Opportunities are “external” factors. The business analyst assigns each element to a quadrant and places the data as the answers for each quadrant. SWOT analysis is one of the most widely used business analysis techniques today.

2. PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental. Each of these elements influences business decisions.

Business analysts use the PESTLE analysis technique to identify elements in the organisation’s operating environment, as well as to analyse how those PESTLE aspects will affect the organisation’s future performance.

PESTLE can be used in tandem with SWOT to identify external Opportunities and Threats to a business.

3. MOST Analysis

MOST stands for Mission, Objective, Strategy and Tactics.

An organisation’s Mission pertains to its purpose and aims for its future. It is easier to analyse and assess the remaining components if the mission is specific.

Objectives are individual targets that help a business to achieve its Mission. Objectives must be SMART – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

A company’s Strategy is the steps that it takes to achieve its Objectives and accomplish its mission.

Tactics are the methods that a company uses to carry out its Strategy.

4. Brainstorming

This is a group activity and one of the most frequently used techniques in business analysis. This is a creative strategy where a group of people come together to produce ideas, analyse root causes, and provide solutions to issues. Brainstorming is used in tandem with other business analysis techniques such as SWOT analysis and MOST analysis.

5. Business Process Modelling (BPM)

The goal of business process modelling is to improve processes. It is a legacy process that is frequently used as a business analysis approach during the analysis phase of a project to identify the gaps between existing business processes and future business processes.

Business analysts execute the following duties in a BPM project, according to IIBA: Strategic Planning, Business Model Analysis, Defining Processes and Technical Analysis.

Processes, decisions, and information are usually depicted as a sequential workflow in a BPM diagram.

6. Use Case Modelling

Use case modelling uses infographics to show how a business should operate in a proposed system through user interactions. This is most commonly used in software development projects and during the design phase to convert business requirements into practical specifications inside an existing development project.


CATWOE stands for Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, Worldview, Owner and Environmental Constraints. It highlights the key players and beneficiaries, bringing together the perspectives of various stakeholders on a single platform. This technique is used by business analysts to assess how any suggested change will affect the various parties.

8. Six Thinking Hats

This business analysis method directs a group’s thinking by encouraging them to evaluate a variety of ideas and viewpoints. The six coloured “hats” represent different personalities, from creative types to logical thinkers.

Business analytics tools 

As technology advances, business analysts increasingly rely on software to assist in and automate the processes of business analytics. These are a few of the most popular tools

1. HubSpot

HubSpot is a software platform for inbound marketing, sales, and services. It includes built-in analytics as well as reports and dashboards. Its Marketing Analytics Software allows you to track the results of all your marketing activities in one location.

2. Xplenty

Xplenty is a cloud-based data integration technology for connecting disparate data sources. It has no-code and low-code options, making it accessible to everybody. Its marketing analytics solution enriches a company’s marketing database with data-driven insights and functionalities. It provides marketing, sales, customer service, and developer solutions.

3. Oracle NetSuite

Oracle NetSuite is a business management software suite. It offers services for both small and large organisations. It allows you to construct a workbook without coding and aids in data analysis. It has the ability to filter and match data in order to fulfil a variety of business needs. It also provides basic and customisable reports.

4. Creatio

Creatio is a low-code platform that integrates CRM (customer relationship management) and process automation. Medium-to-large businesses will benefit the most from this solution. It can be used both on-premises and in the cloud. This low-code platform allows IT professionals and non-IT professionals to create apps that meet their individual business requirements. Its self-service platform allows business analysts and clients to collaborate.

5. Wrike

Wrike is a project management tool that runs in the cloud. It aids in the establishing of deadlines, scheduling, and resource allocation. Business analysts may update and provide tasks from anywhere using Android and iOS apps.

6. Oribi

Custom reports, automated event collecting, visitor journey, and email capturing are just a few of Oribi’s features. It is appropriate for all types of businesses. With only a few clicks, a business analyst can simply design marketing funnels and track where visitors are leaving. It has event monitoring capabilities and allows you to define conversion targets without writing any code.

How to get started with business analysis and analytics

With the right business analysis course, it’s easy to learn the skills and techniques required in order to become a successful business analyst. FutureLearn offers several business strategy courses that can start you on the path to a lucrative new career.

Another way to quickly become acquainted with business analytics skills is to read the BABOK Guide (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge), produced by the International Institute of Business Analytics. The guide covers the steps required to become a business analyst, including:

  • Business analysis standards, regulations and best practices
  • The skills, deliverables, and techniques required by business analysis professionals
  • How adopting different perspectives helps companies better analyse their business

Final thoughts

As businesses expand and the world becomes more interconnected, business analysis skills are becoming more important than ever. Fortunately, it’s also becoming simpler to learn these skills, thanks to a suite of innovative techniques, advanced software and online courses that will allow individuals and companies to pick up these skills.

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