Successful product development is a balance between 1) solving a real problem, 2) creating a product that’s easy to use and 3) making financial sense for the company building the software. And that’s exactly where business analysts (BA) and user experience researchers (UXR) come in.
Plainly put: BA represents the business’ needs — the business that’s selling the product and the stakeholders purchasing it. UXR represents the product user’s needs. You can see the overlap already.
Together, they help develop, test and iterate on solutions that benefit business and user. To see how, take a look inside each role.
What does a business analyst do as part of the digital product lifecycle?
Keep in mind, BA is an evolving role (as are many roles in product development). It may differ between companies, industries or even across teams. But, ultimately, the BA keeps your product team accountable to business constraints, financial drivers and business processes.
It’s their job to create customer segmentations, understand customer behaviors and competitive product trends. They analyze business and technical user needs, develop business cases, write out business requirements, process workflows and system specifications.
“I see my role as a bridge that closes the gap between client expectations and technical/development capabilities. The role of BA is to translate the client’s wishes and wants into actual requirements for a working product,” says Gaby Andric, Senior Business Analyst from Ventera.
Then, like the rest of the product team, the BA iterates — analyzing data, feedback and stakeholder needs continuously to uncover areas of opportunity that will influence product and feature roadmaps.
The BA makes data-driven recommendations to ensure the product is delivering value to the customer paying for it — and that the investment in updating features or adding new functionalities makes financial sense for the business building it.
What does a UX researcher do?
The UXR sees the individual user within each of the BA’s customer segmentations, zeroing in on user behaviors, needs and motivations to make the product more intuitive and easy to use.
Ultimately, they are responsible for being empathetic to the user and ensuring the product delivers on user needs and goals. They provide data, insights and recommendations that help UX and UI designers design better products.
“BA brings in an analytical view of the business needs along with an understanding of processes, pain points and an understanding of stakeholders. The UXR helps the team learn about their users to create solutions that meet the user needs,” says Meghna Vemulapalli, Product Owner at Ventera.
UX research includes both qualitative and quantitative methods to understand users on a level users may not even realize themselves.
A UXR uses qualitative methods, like interviews and observation, to ask open-ended questions and dig deeper to understand a user’s preference or thought process when completing a task.
Quantitative research, like usability testing, analytics and card sorting, can help a UXR test hypotheses about a feature or user behavior, evaluate larger swaths of users and validate design decisions made during a recent iteration.
Through this research, the entire product team — from UX and UI designers to product owner and developers — achieves a better understanding of users’ expectations and behaviors. It can help prevent costly design and development missteps by aligning product strategy with user needs, accelerating development and delivery with a clear product vision.
5 tips for successful BA and UXR collaboration
1. Get to know each other’s backgrounds
Encourage all members of your product team to understand the role of a business analyst and the role of a user researcher. Don’t stop at the job description. Take time to know the individual person doing the job, their strengths, experiences, preferences and motivations.
Collaboration doesn’t mean swimming in a clearly defined lane. Working together, BA and UXR can identify what levers to pull — and when — to push the product team forward with double strength!
2. Define working agreements at the start of the project
But first, you need to come to an agreement. Truth is: recommendations from a BA and a UXR aren’t always going to align. Sometimes, what’s best for the user isn’t clearly backed by business specifications — and vice versa.
Your decisions here won’t always be if we do X, then we can’t do Y. Oftentimes, it’s about setting priorities. Meet user goal A, then work on stakeholder objective B.
Take the time at the beginning of a project to outline how BA and UXR will discuss, sort out and define what to do with business and user recommendations. Set clear and comparable KPIs to help each side weigh costs and benefits. Then identify product team members who can provide additional perspectives, solidify priorities and identify next steps.
3. Continuously exchange information
Silos don’t work on product teams. Especially not on user-centered agile development teams. The relationship between BA and UXR needs to be a partnership. Even if they’re each representing the needs of separate stakeholders, each side is essential for success.
Consider methods for continuously exchanging data, research, insights and recommendations between BA, UXR and the product team.
Daily standups and dashboards are key to making sure all parties to the product team can see, access and use the brilliance your BA and UXR team members bring to the project.
4. Be supportive of each other’s activities
Daily standups and dashboards help here too. Ask questions about the segmentations, analyses and research your BA or UXR counterpart is doing.
Consider what you can learn from their work and how to incorporate their insights into your own recommendations. Have live conversations about what each of your findings and recommendations mean to the greater project and the product vision.
Then, if it’s feasible, participate in their activities. Business analysts can learn new perspectives from attending user testing or even participating in quantitative research, like card sorting. Moreover, user researchers will gain valuable insights about the business side of product development when they attend stakeholder meetings and business unit updates.
5. Strive for healthy conflicts and don’t take things personally
It’s OK to disagree! BA and UXR are set up to represent the needs, goals and preferences of different parties. It’s your job to see the conflicts and use everything you know to propose, test and develop the best way to solve it.
User-centered agile teams don’t make decisions based on their own preferences. They continuously return to the user, ask questions, dare to be wrong and then deliver something better. Then they iterate. It’s never about them.
BA and UXR need to bring the same attitude to prioritizing features and resolving conflicting interests. Remember: it’s not about you. Put the stakeholders and users first. Build products that meet each side at their needs and you’ll find product success.
How to start BA and UXR collaboration
If your BA and UXR team members aren’t already working as partners in product, there’s no time like now to start the conversation.
Prioritizing this partnership will help your team build products that solve real problems, are easy to use and make financial sense for all stakeholders. And that’s the power of business analysts and user experience researchers working together.
What’s next: How can operations research help your business make better data-backed decisions (even with limited data)?
Implementing an operations research culture in your organization can lead to small, incremental improvements every day, driving monumental changes over time and putting your business ahead of the competition.