Business (Pricing) Analysts: Why You Need to Hire One to Your Team
What exactly is a business analyst, and does your business need one? There is often much confusion around this role, so here is a handy breakdown for you to give you some helpful clarity.
In this article, I will cover the following topics:
- The definition and role of a business analyst
- Business analyst qualifications
- The six steps of business analysis
- The role of business analysts in system integration
- The benefits of system integration
What Is a Business Analyst?
Business analysis as defined by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) in the A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) 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 deliver value.
What Is a Pricing Analyst?
Pricing analysts focus on the pricing aspect and work with the sales and marketing teams and determine which trends to follow and pay attention to the pricing strategies of competitors. Pricing analysts (PAs) are, therefore, an important part of an organization’s overall strategy. For the sake of this article I will be using both titles (BA & PA) interchangeably.
They conduct business analysis to facilitate change and improve business systems, processes, strategies, policies, products, services, tools, software and/or hardware. Solutions may include software development, process improvement, structural change, strategic planning, policy development and system integration.
The ambiguity around this role stems from the fact that it doesn’t have a fixed definition, as the business analyst often straddles different departments, including operations, sales, strategy and development. They act as the liaison between management and technical developers, bridging the gap between different departments by facilitating effective communication.
Their overall aim is to conduct a holistic investigation of an organization’s systems, identify its needs, develop and implement technological solutions, create documentation, and provide ongoing support and maintenance.
Pricing Analyst Qualifications
These are some skills and qualifications required to be a business analyst.
Business analysts are usually qualified in one of the following:
- Business administration
- Business analytics
- Data science
- Computer science
- Information management
- Analytic problem solving
- Managerial skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Negotiation and persuasion
- Attention to detail
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Creative thinking
- Organizational skills
Knowledge and experience:
- Requirements engineering
- Process modeling
- Financial analysis
- Stakeholder analysis
- Systems architecture
- Business process management
- Integration strategy and road mapping
- Quality management and testing
- Application development
- Project management
- Industry knowledge and experience
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Microsoft Access
- Google Analytics
It should be noted that business analysts vary in their technical knowledge. The main role of the business analyst is to evaluate the business, identify their needs and design solutions. A systems analyst works on the technical aspects like coding, scripting and designing programs. Some business analysts who have these technical skills might combine both roles, creating a hybrid role like a Business Systems Analyst (BSA) such as this.
The 6 Steps of Business Pricing Analysis
1. Discover business information and objectives
This forms the foundations of the entire business analysis process.
Business analysts begin by eliciting business information and objectives from stakeholders. They need to understand existing business models and the project’s history. It is essential that business analysts are aware of stakeholder expectations and discover their “why” — i.e., the reasons behind the project.
These objectives should be clearly defined and documented. Business analysts will reconcile conflicting expectations among departments to ensure that everyone in the organization has a shared understanding of the project’s objectives.
Business analysts usually use a combination of these elicitation techniques: brainstorming; document analysis; focus groups; interface analysis; interviews; observation; prototyping; requirements workshops; survey/questionnaire. Read more about these elicitation techniques by BABOK here.
2. Analyze and plan
Based on the data collected, business analysts identify needs and opportunities, then develop ideas and solutions. They formulate a business analysis plan containing realistic deliverables and timelines for completion.
To do this, they need to interpret business rules and requirements for IT systems. They might also design processes to standardize workflows, among many other things.
It is at this stage where they determine operational feasibility and the stakeholders decide whether to go ahead with the solution.
Read more about analysis techniques here.
A key responsibility of the business analyst is to create documents for stakeholders and departments to support the implementation of new systems and technology. This includes process documentation, system documents, user manuals, training programs and guidelines.
Business analysts create documents that are clear, consistent, complete and useful, using visual presentation aids like data models, process diagrams and design wireframes. They will also specify deliverables that are actionable and sequenced to minimize ambiguity, reduce complexity and generate quick wins.
4. Facilitate effective communication and collaboration
Business analysts identify all parties involved in the creation and validation of each deliverable. This usually involves different departments like market researchers, product developers, IT developers, top-level management and more.
A common challenge is that information is easily misinterpreted when being transmitted from one department to another. For instance, business stakeholders might not understand technical jargon from the IT developers. The role of the business analyst is to translate these technical complexities into a language or format that is understood by each party. This will ensure that everyone within the business is aligned with a common vision.
5. Implementation and monitoring
This is the actual deployment of the solution, which often requires technical implementation, such as customizing software or integrating computer systems.
The business analyst works with the development teams to test the new solutions, improve the quality of technical services and resolve issues. It is also the business analyst’s responsibility to monitor the progress of change implementation and ensure it meets its intended objectives.
6. Support and maintenance
After the implementation, it is equally important that the business analyst supports the business by helping them to understand and correctly utilize the solution.
They may directly train the organization’s end users or collaborate with their staff to implement a training program. Business analysts will also carry out maintenance activities to ensure the solution works flawlessly. This includes activities such as fixing bugs, keeping the system up to date, adding missing features and improving problematic ones.
Finally, business analysts assess whether the outcome had met its initial objectives. They report the results to project stakeholders and suggest follow up initiatives to solve new and/or outstanding problems.
The Role of Business Analysts in System Integration
To improve organizational efficiency, business analysts facilitate system integration and help businesses overcome related challenges.
To keep up with the market, organizations need to modernize their business systems by integrating them for technological and business agility. Systems are increasingly designed to connect, and a business analyst would often recommend that businesses install emerging technologies, add new functionality to existing computer systems and implement new systems. This enables flexibility on the front and back end, thus increasing value to both the company and the customer.
System integration could refer to a major overhaul of the organization’s systems involving the integration of all its hardware, software and communications solutions. It could also be done on a smaller scale, for instance, integrating different applications and platforms within the Finance department.
Business analysts often work with systems integration engineers, systems architects, technical developers and other specialists. Together, they choose and configure hardware and software, oversee installation and configuration, conduct testing, write instruction manuals and train end users.
The System Integration Process
This is a brief guideline to the system integration process. Do note that this process is unique to each company, as each business has their own objectives, processes, software and so on.
1. Gather requirements
Establish objectives in order to identify a suitable solution.
Get expert advice and determine operational feasibility.
3. Architecture design
This is the logical design, in the form of a visual plan, demonstrating how to combine different components to achieve the desired outcome.
4. Systems integration design
This is the physical version of the architecture (logical) design, where the actual integration occurs.
Verify and test the system before releasing it, then ensure all users are educated on how to utilize it.
6. Maintenance and support
Collect user feedback and make regular updates.
Documentation is an essential part of system integration. Identifying and documenting requirements are critical to the development and integration of core software and back-end applications. As these applications are under many regulations, it is essential for business analysts to create detailed documentation and ensure compliance.
Given the multiple variables involved, the business analyst plays a key role in system integrations, bringing together different parts to act efficiently as a coordinated whole. It is the business analyst’s responsibility to ensure completion and success, ensuring that a common vision is maintained across different departments, and that each step is aligned with business objectives.
The Benefits of System Integration
1. Modernize system architecture
Many business analysts face the challenge of dealing with monolithic architecture systems, where they have to work with inherited and interwoven systems that cannot easily be replaced. This is problematic as these legacy systems are unable to work well with new platforms. As it is unrealistic for most businesses to change their systems completely, system integration is often the most appropriate solution to enable old and new systems to work in tandem.
During system integration, some applications may be moved to the cloud – this usually includes enterprise resource planning software, supply chain management systems, procurement software and payroll solutions. Businesses might also adapt modern SaaS applications, such as customer relationship management platforms, performance management software and human resources software.
It is vital that an organization’s system architecture is built on solid foundations as this affects its strength and scalability. When conducting system integration, it is not enough to just consider current requirements, it is essential to factor in future needs in terms of performance, maintenance, reuse and scalability.
Modernized, integrated systems make automation possible. The automation of routine tasks such as invoicing and financial consolidation increases business efficiency and creates a workflow that optimizes profits and growth.
Automation reduces manual processes and human errors. It also boosts overall productivity, reduces new hires, and enables employees to focus on more valuable growth-focused activities.
3. Data management
High quality data is crucial for decision making. Storing data on separate systems is dangerous, whether they are on-premise or cloud based. When disparate parts operate independently, data compilation becomes inaccurate and incomplete, making it impossible to achieve accurate data analysis. This creates a fundamental roadblock to successful business outcomes.
Separate systems also hinder productivity, as time is wasted reentering data manually into each subsystem. This laborious process also creates more room for error.
Additionally, issues with data flow can lead to poor customer experiences. For instance, if an online store is not integrated with its warehouse system, a potential buyer might receive inaccurate information about an item’s availability or price, thus hindering their purchase.
Integrated systems enable real-time visibility and control across all aspects of the business. This enables coherent reporting across different departments like product, sales and finance. It also helps in error detection and provides up-to-date data for stakeholders to make time-sensitive decisions. These are some of the reasons why it is beneficial for data to be centralized within an organization.
During system integration, multiple separate components (e.g., vendors, software, departments) connect to work as a cohesive whole. A business analyst ensures that data structures are coherent and unified throughout this process.
In an organizational sense, a business analyst facilitates business process inter-operability, which is the ability of diverse business processes to work together. This means that the data is communicated in a language that is understood by all business units.
In terms of IT, a business analyst will implement standardization to achieve software inter-operability — i.e., the capability of different computing units to communicate, execute programs and exchange data using the same protocols.
5. Choosing a Solution
A key role of the business analyst is to guide the organization into selecting the most appropriate solution for their needs. This is a challenging task as the system integration process is often complicated, costly and time consuming. Small businesses or those with limited budgets might not have the resources or technology required. Many businesses will also be unable to afford the time commitment. It usually takes six months or more to deploy an integration environment (and that doesn’t even include the actual integrations)!