Q&A: What is a business analyst’s role specifically in a waterfall development process?

Question by m g: What is a business analyst’s role specifically in a waterfall development process?
I am moving from long-time developer to business analyst. The position has been newly created at my company, and I’m trying to help define my new role. We use the straight waterfall development process, and I’m wondering how the job of a business analyst specifically should be adapted to this methodology. I understand the role of BA varies greatly from org to org and particularly depending on which development process a company uses. Which job functions typically associated with a BA are particularly important when using waterfall? Also, which functions typically associated with a BA might be less appropriately handled by this position since we use the waterfall process?

A little about my organization that may be important:

– We do have a dedicated QA team that currently writes their own use cases which are used as test cases.

– For most projects, our “customers” are internal.

– Our products are for the most part built for an entire industry, not individual customers though they are sometimes adapted to specific implementations. Any external customers we may pull in would be more representative than comprehensive, as might be the case if we were a contractor or custom development shop.

Best answer:

Answer by Andrew

I have been a Business Analyst at various organisations and generally speaking you will be brought in at the requirements elicitation stage. This usually extends to creating an AS IS and proposed TO BE document. Eventually you will normally produce a System Requirements Specification document which instructs in detail what business practices and/or IT systems changes are to be made. Documents such as AS IS, TO BE and SRS must be signed off by all project and business stakeholders.

Proposals for big or costly changes may require you to write and/or present a business case to senior management. This might include options, costs, benefits, what might happen if you don’t go ahead with the proposal.

In my experience, business analysis usually means that you speak to the money-makers and then discuss how you can achieve what they want with representatives from IT. But not all projects will involve IT. A business analyst is involved earlier in the life or a project whereas a systems analyst is purely systems-focused and comes in at a later point.

When IT changes are needed, developers should create or change systems only as per your requirements and they must ask YOU if anything is unclear or unspecified (rather than just make it up on their own terms).

You will also need to be available for answering questions that the testers will have.

Hopefully you will be assigned a Project Manager for each project but on smaller projects you will often have to PM things yourself. Project Management, besides steering the project to completion on time and on budget, requires constant communication with key project members at all times.

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