2. What is Business Analysis

 After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand the core soft and hard skills of business analysis
  • Understand the relationship between requirements, process maps and user stories


Business analysis is a combination of soft skills: (listening, questioning, communicating, analyzing, facilitating) and the technical skills (requirements capture, business process mapping and writing user stories). These are learnt skills.  Sure, some people seem to be more natural, but anyone who wants to be a business analyst can and must develop these skills.

First the soft skills.

  • Listening: This is active listening without formulating an opinion or trying to influence. Listening is not waiting for the other person to stop so you can talk! BTW listening is the #1 skill for improv performers.
  • Questioning: Often the only way to understand what the users want, and to get their buy-in, is to help them discover what they really need – by questioning. This is a combination of open questions – sentences that start with How, What, Why, When, Who – and closed questions or restatement to confirm understanding.
  • Communicating: You need to present ideas, concepts, solutions so you need to be able to present well and engage your audience, whether that is face to face, on web conferences, over the phone or in writing. Bear in mind how much information is lost when you are not seeing the body language or hearing the tone of voice.
  • Analyzing: A key part of business analysis is analyzing the requests in the context of the business operation. This will require some understanding of how the business operates but it is important to stay impartial so you are not imposing your view over the business users.
  • Facilitating: You will need to bring together individuals from different parts of the business or different disciplines to drive out a shared result that everyone agrees on. That is a combination of herding cats, adult supervision and ultimate patience. The most critical aspect is preparation (5Ps) and we have some concrete ideas in a later unit of this training.

Now the technical skills

  • Capturing requirements: You need an approach to capture all the requirements from business and technical users in a central place. You then need to triage, validate and prioritize them because some (many) will not be valid, others will be poorly thought through or unimplementable as described. And finally some will not have been thought of, so are missing.
  • Mapping business processes: The easiest way to validate user requirements and also identify missing ones is to document the business operation in simple process maps. There are other benefits. The process maps can be re-used in UAT, user training and for regulatory compliance.
  • Writing User Stories: The output from great business analysis is really crisp, unambiguous user stories that the development team can use to configure, code and then test the solution. The user stories will be linked back to the requirements and business process diagrams for context.


Many of you end up being relegated to “Admin order taker”.  Someone senior says they want a new feature, field, picklist value, flow or report. And you work out how to implement it, even though you probably know that it is probably not the right answer.

The business analysis approach that this training covers puts you back in control and inserts some rigor and analysis into the cycle. Then you can start building what is really needed.



Here is the relationship between requirements, process maps and user stories. You may start with some requirements. You start mapping business processes to validate the requirements and identify new ones. You then develop user stories.


Your users often don’t know what they really want. They think they do and express their needs as requirements. These are a mix of:

  • high level wish list items – We want CPQ
  • business outcomes – We need to comply with CCPA and GDPR
  • technical solutions – Industry field needs another picklist item or validation rule

Your job is to triage, validate and prioritize the requirements. This means that you need to interpret them to understand what is really required. This is a tricky job if the people suggesting the changes are forceful and senior. But business analysis is a neat way of supporting you, helping you “Say No by saying Yes”.  You can say Yes to the request, but then analyze what they really need, and give it to them, which is probably not what they originally asked for. This is easier than saying No.

Process maps

To make sense of the requirements you need map out the business process.  This gives the requirements context and validates them. But it also surfaces new requirements that hadn’t been thought of.

Developing business process maps is easy when you understand the principles. The approach covered here is called UPN (Universal Process Notation) and has been proven over the last 25 years in nimble startups all the way up to Fortune 500, highly regulated corporations. It is designed to be easily understood by business users from different disciplines and at all levels of seniority.

The process maps can be developed quickly in live interactive workshops which engage business users, get their buy-in and shared agreement.

The process maps have a life beyond this phase of the project as they are used in UAT (user acceptance testing), end user training and to support regulatory compliance.

User stories

User stories are the output of the business analysis phase. The development team use them to understand how to configure, code and test the solution. There may be a number of user stories for every requirement. User stories show the different scenarios that follow the business processes.

User stories have a common structure:

As a {role}, I want to {do something} so that I can {achieve something}.

For example:

As an Account Exec, I want to close an Opportunity so that I can trigger an invoice to be raised.

User stories also include testing or acceptance criteria.


Elements Catalyst supports business analysis; capturing requirements, mapping processes and developing user stories. You will need to run a free 14 day trial.