In the context of digital transformation, the occupational field of business analysis is of great importance, as more and more business processes are to be digitally optimized. Creating a shared understanding between business and IT is essential when implementing software projects. In our interview, Christian Müller explains how this works and what tasks the multifaceted job of a business analyst at knowis entails.
What are the customer needs? Which requirements can be derived from this and how can they be implemented efficiently and effectively in a project? Answering questions such as these is part of the job of a business analyst. Depending on the industry and the individual goal of the employer, however, the tasks of a business analysts may differ considerably. The basic principle, though, is that they analyze business processes in order to optimize them, and plan the necessary steps in the project they are involved in.
The expertise of knowis is focused on the financial industry; banks and financial institutions are our customers. Like many other companies, they are challenged to digitally evolve and rethink existing processes to increase their efficiency and remain competitive. This is when, first and foremost, business analysts are called for! The financial industry is a complex field of business that requires them to thoroughly deal with intricate topics before they can start to develop a solution.
An interview with Christian Müller provides more insight into the tasks and requirements of a business analyst at a software company. Christian has been part of the knowis team since 2017. After training as a banking specialist, he worked as a balance sheet and risk analyst in the area of commercial credit processing and analysis for several years. Now he is part of the knowis Professional Services team and looks after his own projects with clients. In the interview, Christian talks about the implementation of digitization projects and compares his daily work at a software company with his previous work at a bank.
"The people working at knowis are reliable, want to take responsibility and move things forward. I have rarely experienced so much commitment in my professional career to date."
Christian, you've been with knowis as a business analyst since 2017. How would you describe your daily work?
Most of the time, there is actually no real work routine in my job. As a business analyst you have a wide variety of tasks, depending on whether you are working on a specific customer case or focusing on internal projects. I do a lot of different things: from writing stories, to conceptualizing the application based on business domains, or to sales situations in which I present showcases. A large part of my day consists of coordination – whether at the customer's site or in the office in Regensburg. It is my job to map out how to implement requirements within our software product in the best possible way. That calls for lots of discussions and a good deal of planning to find the optimal solution.
You are part of the Professional Services team. What is this team’s function?
Our main job is project business with our customers. We support financial institutions primarily in process analysis and the realization of requirements that result from it. But we are also there as a sparring partner for our customers on all other topics that are important in such a project, i.e., planning, next steps, communication with stakeholders and the preparation of project plans. So, we always try to provide the best possible support for our customers at every step and offer our know-how.
A customer project often starts with a workshop. Why is that and can such workshops also work in digital form?
We like to use different methods for such workshop formats to achieve a common objective for the entire project team. In our case, these are mainly User Story Mapping and Event Storming. With both methods, we can develop technical domains on the one hand, and define the first epics and sets of stories on the other. Such agile procedures make it easier to grasp the whole breadth of a topic, but they do not necessarily dive deeper. The details are worked out later in the individual sprint iterations in the context of Scrum. It can happen from time to time that things that were perhaps not an issue a few months ago suddenly come up in the project. For example, legal requirements or documentation requirements can change. These topics are then prioritized much higher in the software application.
These workshops also work in a digital format with the help of special tools: From my own experience, I can say that a discovery workshop for story mapping works well via video conference. The rules of the game are generally somewhat different for online conferences. Since you perceive gestures and facial expressions differently, you have to speak more and often question things that would be intuitively understood in a personal conversation on site. But basically, a lot of things that were thought to be "only possible on site" before Corona work online as well. In my job, I have noticed that both customers and colleagues or partner companies react very positively to the digital alternatives because, for example, you save an incredible amount of travel time that you often cannot use productively.
What qualities do you need to be a successful business analyst?
Flexibility and resilience are definitely part of it, but I think the most important skill for a business analyst is abstract thinking. If you get stuck, be it when you are thinking of how to solve a requirement in our banking platform or how to approach a customer meeting, it often helps to zoom out and take a different perspective. It is very important to be able to take the customers’ point of view and understand what exactly they want to achieve with their requirements.
Applicants should definitely be interested in new things and not be afraid of making mistakes, because there are always situations in which you have to come to a decision on your own. Much of what you do as a business analyst is pioneering work – so you rarely have a ready-made standard solution at hand. A trial-and-error mentality is therefore simply part of it.
You know both sides – the job in a bank and at an agile software company. How would you compare everyday banking with your work at knowis?
The comparison is not so easy at some points. Banks are often institutions that have grown over decades and have formalized and bureaucratized everything. knowis is a young company, plus the company’s business area of software development is incredibly busy. This concerns new technologies or the understanding of how to prepare software architecture, for example. As a result, there are often no patterns or blueprints to fall back on. A bit of research is always part of our work – and if you want to be innovative, too much bureaucracy is simply a hindrance.
Business Analysts: Problem Solver on the Project
Today, the profession of business analyst is more relevant than ever: Particularly in the context of digital transformation and the resulting change in processes, business analysts play a vital role when it comes to modeling sophisticated solution concepts. It is essential to identify potential problems early on and to distinguish where there is room for improvement. Business analysts therefore often focus on reconciling the needs of the stakeholders with IT-driven business processes. Just like interpreters, they translate the requirements of subject matter experts into specifications for the IT experts, acting as mediators between the different worlds. A substantial knowledge base in both areas as well as their structured, analytical approach distinguishes experienced business analysts.
The successful interaction between all participants – which means, above all, the flow of communication – must be ensured until the previously developed solution has been implemented. The job of the business analyst consequently requires not only professional and methodological know-how, but also a good deal of communication and social skills.
The Tasks of a Business Analyst at knowis
At the beginning of the project phase, the diverse specifications of the customer demand a thorough strategic analysis of the situation, usually directly on site – specialist knowledge in the field of banking is an advantage here. Developing a concept of the solution together with the customer is fundamental in order to create a common understanding. With the help of various complementary methods, such as Event Storming and User Story Mapping, complex business processes and their planned implementation in the new solution are distinctly displayed. This serves to identify the potential and the problems that might come up, and helps to ultimately determine clearly defined project goals. The business analyst acts as a moderator in such events and guides the participants.
Only now does the operational phase of business analysis begin. The exact specifications are derived from the evaluated solution concepts. The targeted IT solution is broken down into subtasks, which are typically realized in the context of agile software development. The various roles in the implementation team (for example, solution architects and solution engineers, IT architects and developers) are now working together to actually implement the solution. For this reason, it is an important function of the business analyst to define the desired IT solution and all associated requirements correctly, completely and comprehensibly. This is the only way for all team members to know what is essential for the successful implementation and achievement of the project goals.
Bridge Builders and Strategists with Personality Wanted
You want to get to the bottom of things and improve them continuously? These are the best prerequisites to succeed as a business analyst. An economics degree, preferably with work experience in a suitable subject area, is one of many possible foundations for your career start. However, newcomers with basic knowledge also get a chance with knowis, if they want to develop further and bring the necessary motivation for the job.
As a business analyst at knowis you combine business and IT. You should have an affinity for software and an understanding of business processes. Your personal skills are also particularly important: Since you are the link between different areas and interests, versatility and empathy are among your most important qualities. Your open demeanour and strong ability to interact convince our customers when modeling solutions in workshops. Does that sound like you? Apply now!
Image Sources: Teaser: SIphotography - 952769210 - iStock; Photo: knowis AG