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5 Things Business Analysts Should Learn From UX Designers

Blog: Business Analyst Learnings Blog

User Experience and Business Analysis have a lot in common.

Both disciplines research problems or needs; test solutions; and build products to meet those needs. While the Business Analyst is focused on managing requirements, budgets and stakeholder-developer relations, the UX designer is engaged in activities targeted at ‘delighting the user’. At least, that’s what it might look like from the outside.

Like Business Analysts however, good UX designers are data-driven, process-based and aware of the business side of product development.

Therefore, it makes sense that Business Analysts looking to work more innovatively can learn from UX Designers and vice-versa.

These 5 UX-inspired changes can be used by BAs to add business value and build better products.

1. Gather user requirements, guerilla style

Business analysts may feel like they ‘own the requirements process’, and with pretty good reason. It’s the BAs who have the necessary experience to understand what executives and users really want; capture these requirements in an understandable and clear fashion; and to manage these requirements throughout their lifecycle.

It might sound strange that BAs can learn requirements elicitation skills from UXers until we look at it from this angle: UX tools and techniques can help elicit more “humane” requirements and functional nuances that might otherwise have been missed.

Established UX techniques such as role-playing can complement or even replace the traditional 1-1 requirements elicitation interview: put potential users in the context of use while acting out a work scene, perhaps even with some physical props. Requirements can then emerge from the role-playing exercise. This UX technique can then be supplemented with a more focused brainstorming and traditional question and answer session. The requirements elicited will be comprehensive compared to what one would get from a traditional interview. Joy Beatty has great advice for successful requirements gathering through role-playing.

Other UX techniques such as interactive prototyping, user personas, and contextual enquiry can strengthen the requirements gathering process.

2. Dare to be more experimental with tools

UX Designers are suckers for trying out new toys to help them do their job better. And that’s a good thing. From data visualization tools to remote user testing apps, the wealth of user experience tools out there is impressive, and getting to grips with new technologies helps UX designers increase efficiency.

Business Analysts are often a little slower in adopting new tools. This might be because fewer come from a design background, or because they’ve got their eyes fixed solely more on the outcome of their recommendations than the tools needed to arrive at those recommendations. Whatever the reason, BAs can also benefit from experimenting with new tools to help them do their jobs. Prototyping tools with integrated requirements documentation features are only one example of progressive technology. BAs should also explore collaborative work-flow models, decision tables and tools that can help improve their work processes.

3. Get on top of scope creep

Scope creep. The bête noire of many professionals – BAs are no exception.

No matter how much effort BAs put into defining and planning their business analysis work prior to the project’s initiation, schedules, budgets and even requirements can get out of control later on in the process.

This happens frequently, and it’s a headache.

Adopting a UX-influenced approach in the early stages of a software project can help limit scope creep. Kick off requirements elicitation with a UX-style workshop using a prototyping tool to make iterations right there in the workshop. Onespring does this kind of rapid, realtime prototyping at the start of their projects and as they explain, it’s “a better way of capturing software requirements. You can see the proof when everyone in a session is engaged and contributing to the discussion. That proof is also reflected in the expressions of team members as they leave a JAM Session, still talking, full of energy and ideas, and ready for more.”

Increasing stakeholder engagement creatively will reduce the number of unexpected (i.e. unelicited) requirements later on, thus helping BAs define scope more effectively.

4. Build a brand, not just a product

The way people interact with products has changed completely. Take retail. Before, a consumer went to a store, bought a shirt and put it in their wardrobe. Now, the customer’s experience of that process can be infinitely more personal: customer sees a social media post of an influencer wearing a shirt; they go to an online shopping site; they watch videos of real people modeling their shirts on the retail website; they buy the shirt; they try it on at home and like it; finally, they upload their own social media photos and share them with the retail site to help other consumers. 

In this kind of modern consumer interaction, the brand is crucial. Users have to want to engage with the brand’s digital platforms, feel comfortable sharing their lives with the brand’s community, and want to buy and promote the brand’s products.

This huge shift in consumer behaviour means it’s down to the Business Analyst to make sure the product meets all these “emotional” user needs, as well as the needs of the C-suite. BAs should learn to work with UX techniques to understand these needs and desires and translate them into solutions/software functionality. BAs can learn to listen to users through qualitative, rather than quantitative user experience research. Find out when to use which UX research method on NN Group’s blog.

5. And finally…learn to work together.

BAs can learn a lot from UXers, that much is certain. But perhaps the most valuable thing the two disciplines can learn from each other is working together. Both roles have the same ultimate aim – to produce a product that has business value and meets users’ needs. The approaches may differ but are far from conflicting: BAs create value by delivering good features and functions, UXers by delivering good experiences.

Empathy and understanding of their individual roles will help BAs and UXers work together. There are plenty of ways to increase empathy and collaboration in companies. One way is to introduce a UX-BA buddy system, where the two roles sit together one day a week and work on projects together. Another way is introducing one-off workshops where UXers have to solve BA problems, and BAs have to adopt UX techniques.

Through these kinds of mutual appreciation exercises, BAs and UXers will be able to combine mindsets and skillsets, eradicate pain points and solve business problems.

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