Posted in BAs & UXDs

Business Analysts and User Experience Designers: Kissing Cousins

I am new to the business analyst career space.  I’ve only been a BA for a year now.  And before that first year was up, I got hip to UX, and I’ve been completely taken over by my fascination in user experience design and digital product design.  And as I still work to improve at my new career and dabble in this new fascination, I am always running into ways BAs and UXDs overlap.

This is probably why I’ve noticed more than a few successful UXDs that have come from the business analysis practice, such as Oz Chen of UXBeginner.com.

Below is an infographic I came across that totally spoke to me, as a student of UX coming out of the BA perspective:

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Created by Oliver Richenstein with iA.net

In Joe Natoli’s UX Fundamentals lectures on Udemy.com, he gives the equation for UX:

Business goals + Customer goals + User Interface + back-end processes = User Experience

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) defines business analysis as “the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.”

Stakeholders are often considered the business the BA is working for, but really, the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) defines stakeholders as anyone that has anything to do with the solution, project, or organizational change that is being worked on – that includes the end-users.

BAs and UXDs both need to understand the business’s strategy and goals.  We both need to understand what problem is trying to be solved.  We both need to create or understand a competitive analysis.  We both need to understand the user’s goals, processes, and pain points (though that can sometimes be easily forgotten in the BA process, since we have business stakeholders standing in front of us, not users).

Where ever I go, whatever webinar I watch or discussion I participate in, I hear UXD’s using similar tools.  For example, I listened to a webinar where a tool for documenting design decisions was suggested, so later in the design process when someone goes, “Why did we decide to do that, again?”  Bam! You’ve got it written down.   And I thought: “Hey!  I do that now!”  BAs call that a decision log.

At the UXBeginner.com’s Facebook page, a UXD, Tim Chan, asked the group if anyone had pointers on writing clear design specifications.  He felt like the UX classes he attended did not go into the skill of writing design specifications.  As a BA, that’s what I do all day.  They’re called requirements.

Other tools both BAs and UXDs use are stakeholder interviews (BAs call this Elicitation), surveys, (proto-)personas, and user-stories.

I’ve only been studying UX on my own for less than a year.  More and more, I’m seeing overlap between the BA and UXD spaces.  I see articles on BAs using design-thinking.  I hear about BAs using prototypes earlier in the project to get stakeholder feedback earlier in the process so we can incorporate that feedback into the solution design.  Last month, I attended a talk given by Valerie Osinski, Chief Technology Officer with Project Lead the Way, who spoke about this exact process in her agile development team.

At a recent meet-up, Dan Laughlin, Director of UX at Apparatus, was giving a talk called “User Stories are not User Feedback”.  At the end, he asked the crowd, “How many of you are UX Researchers?”  Half the group raised their hand.  “How many of you are Business Analysts?”  Me and a few others raised their hands.  “Ten years ago, that would have been flipped.”  He went on to explain that he’s managed both groups and noticed that the skills necessary is very similar.

Wouldn’t it be wild if the two career paths will eventually merge together?  Business analysis is established, and still misunderstood by the Business at large.  User Experience Design is a fairly new discipline, currently the hip-happenin’ career, and barely understood by its own practitioners.  Perhaps a merging of the two career paths will be how UX finds its standards and consistency.

Of course, User Experience design incorporates multiple disciplines, including visual design and user interface design, where business analysis has not ventured into yet. You can see this in the infographic referenced above. I mentioned before that prototyping is starting to be introduced to business analysis processes, especially in agile projects.  Visual design and UI design might be too far outside the established BA practice to make a merger realistic.

Adriana Beal argues in her persuasive 2013 article on ModernAnalyst.com that the BA and UXD should be two separate project roles, and that their skill-sets complement each other nicely.

Looking at the UX spectrum, which runs from UX Researcher to UX Engineer, Business Analysis would overlap with the UX Researcher.

Whether or not that is the future of the User Experience Researcher or Designer, this overlap means that one, such as myself, who has the business analysis background will find a path in the UX discipline.

At the moment, I will be bringing my own spin on the business analysis process, as a UX advocate – bringing together multiple disciplines and multiple perspectives to find an ideal solution for the Business, the User, and the Engineer.

UPDATE 12/17/16:  As this subject fascinates me, I continue to find new material.  This blog post is from a UX designer in the UK who attended an event called “BA & UX” hosted by UXPA and IIBA.  She outlines the differences and similarities between the two roles.  My favorite line: “BA and UX are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the digital lifecycle.”  Nice.

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