Why are analysts crucial to software development?

Why are analysts crucial to software development?

Why are analysts crucial to software development?

Why not let business staff with an idea for a new app — or even just a new feature — work directly with your developers? What difference does an analyst make to the development process? What value do they add? Why are analysts crucial to software development? “As an analyst, you speak the language of both the customer and developer,” says Caro Arnouts. She is an analyst at Contribute, one of Equalminds’ stablemates at the Fieldside cluster within De Cronos Groep.

After studying applied computer science at Howest in Bruges, Caro wanted a career in IT. But she felt her talents lay in analysis rather than programming. Caro has worked as an analyst at Contribute for about two years now, and she’s done most of her learning on the job. “My first client was a government agency that needed to create a smooth and efficient process for submitting and managing grant applications.”

What role does the analyst play?

“When an internal customer requests a new feature for an application, I immediately get involved,” says Caro. “I first meet with the product owner or business staff member to get a broad idea of what the feature should deliver. I then sketch out the beginnings of a possible solution. With this, I approach our developers and discuss how the solution can be technically realized.

“If there are different options to choose from, I challenge the programmers. Which option is better, faster, more efficient, or cheaper than the others? This encourages them to think about the solutions even more deeply. Ultimately, we arrive at the best and most cost-effective approach. And that’s what the customer wants — the right solution at the right price.”

All set? Let’s get to work!

Once the customer has chosen the technical solution, we start with the actual development. “I split the feature into fully analyzed, bite-sized blocks, displayed on different tickets in Jira. That is a project management tool for Agile teams. The developers then work on these blocks one by one, during sprints of two weeks each.

“Once they have developed a block, the developers indicate this in Jira and I test its functionality. Does it include everything the customer expects? Is the software bug-free? If not, the functionality goes back to the developers and we discuss what they still need to do. Once the functionality is ready, we head for the test environment, where the customer can try out the new feature. If they’re happy with the work, they give us the green light and we can go into production.” Caro and her colleagues go through this process in cycles of two weeks, sprint after sprint.

Why is an analyst so crucial to this process?

“You mainly need an analyst to clearly map out the customer’s needs and convey them to the developers in the right language. You essentially act as an interpreter between the business and technical staff. Because they tend to speak different ‘languages’, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings.”

And what happens if an internal customer contacts a developer directly with an idea for a new feature? “Then things usually tend to go wrong, because business and development teams have little insight into each other’s work. The developer doesn’t fully understand how the business works. And the business teams don’t know the ins and outs of how a developer builds a solution. The skill of the analyst lies in how they can align these two worlds. We always ask questions, think outside the box, and maintain an overview of the entire process. At the same time, we must remain sufficiently critical and have the courage to be realistic in the face of unrealistic expectations, even with the customer. This way, you balance the costs and benefits, resulting in the best solution for everyone.”

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