Many a times, we struggle to make enough time for business analysis or convince management to allocate resources and time due to other priorities. Though business analyst roles have been prevalent for decades, it is not well understood to people from many organizations/walk of life. Still I encounter situations when people ask me what you do and I say, ‘I am a business analyst’. It doesn’t ring a bell and then I must give elaborated answers with many examples/ scenarios. Wouldn’t it be ideal if people understood this role similar to when you say, ‘I am a doctor’, ‘I am lecturer’ and so on. Once I just said, ‘I am analyst’ then I got a response ‘okay, you are scientist’. I would love to hear from you if you have similar experience so please do share in comment box. In this blog I will explore why it is important and what could happen when it is not done properly.
When analyzing a situation, it helps you to go into details, collating evidences, establishing sequence of events and to make logical conclusions bringing together different pieces of fact & findings. It enables detecting different symptoms and connecting them with different stages & outcomes to divulge the possible root causes. Once you have possible root causes, then you can test them to ensure correct root cause/problem is addressed. You shouldn’t be stopping for obvious assumptions but dig deeper beneath frontal appearance till most of your 5W (Why, How, Where, When, Who) are answered. It is obvious that unless you establish/identify actual problem and associated risks/dependencies/constrains, you can’t define right solution and options.
Similarly, analysis of requirements is necessary to ensure its alignment with business needs, to remove any duplication/ Ambiguity/ irrelevance, identifying any associated assumptions/risks/dependencies and to prioritize as per anticipated business values/ benefits. Having quality requirements save a lot of time which would otherwise be spent unnecessarily in revising requirements, fixing requirements bugs/defects and additional back & forth communication at different stages of the change initiative.
Sometimes it is hard to provide convincing benefits of analysis, but we could easily outline what could happen if it is not done properly. Some of common issues/situations, we come across frequently are:
- Solution didn’t fix the problem because problem was not understood at first place.
- Certain features/ functions developed were not required at all.
- High percentage of bugs/defects during testing/ live proving are related to business requirements.
- Requirements were not understood correctly and were lost in translation resulting in unwanted solution.
- Technological solution was not required, problem could have been solved by operational process change or people change.
- Solution is not fit for purpose as it lacks in utility, performance or scalability.
- Opportunity is missed as it was not identified at the right time.
- Certain impacted business area/ systems were not included to be part of scope.
- We can’t deliver on time as we find more complexity and new urgent scope items.
- We bought a fantastic system but it has had very limited usage for last 6 months as it has not been embedded successfully.
- Failed to deliver business benefits and it was a waste of investment funds.
- Business case is outdated and it doesn’t reflect correct justification of the business change.
- Expenses are already multifold of the estimated cost.
- Why spending much time in analysis when problem is obvious and solution is needed urgently.
Now question is what a business analyst could do so that above situations does not occur frequently. It is true that we cannot run analysis work just for the sake of analysis which lead project in analysis paralysis mode and becomes a never-ending process. It shouldn’t be that all analysis work be done upfront and also in name of analysis, you can’t just create a long document copying information from different sources.
Also, we always have time constraints, so we need to play smart using the right tool and techniques to complete analysis to satisfaction within stipulated timeframe and we have to move forward with certain assumptions/ constraints/ risks/ dependencies which you need to validate/resolve as you go along. We shouldn’t be perfectionist and spend lots of time in creating awesome documentation. Using visual artefacts certainly helps in reducing lengthy documentation and making artefacts easy to understand. Sometimes we need to take a hit & trial approach to conclude the right option. The proof of concept and prototyping activities will help in identifying failing solutions faster. Sometimes in crunch of time, you have to go with your gut feeling and intuition. I would suggest to collaborate with business SME and ask technology SME for their advice as well.
The scope of the analysis must be defined and must be understood clearly with all relevant stakeholders on what goal/results we expect to achieve. One thing I always do with any analysis work for deliverable/artefact is to outline associated risks, issues, assumption, caveats, constraints, dependencies and discuss them with project team and wider stakeholders throughout drafting, reviewing and sign-off process. This will help in planning further analysis at a later stage when needed. This way change management is aware of the time/money needed for further analysis work at later stages and an appropriate resource planning could be done in advance to negate any surprises. Another activity I always do is to maintain a lesson learn log and then keep sharing with team and others as soon as possible. It helps improving understanding, productivity and efficiency. Creating analysis artefacts collaboratively with concerned parties/ stakeholders will get visibility of work/ efforts and challenges so that they are supportive during any management decision.
Managing the sources of information and keeping them one click away will help you find them quickly and make it easy to revisit them in future. Also better to have some information engagements with other BA’s working on other initiatives to understand what analysis work they have done as sometimes you can have access already completed analysis outcomes which are relevant to your work hence saving your time so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
Analytical thinking and behavior help you to organize yourself in optimal ways, prioritize your task effectively, anticipate any RAID item, find interlock situations with other projects and in turn, it helps you to move forward without any major unforeseen hiccups and blockers.
One famous saying comes to my mind is ‘proof of the pudding is in eating.’. So if your analysis work is helping the business / programme to deliver business outcomes/ benefits they are bound not to ignore or dismiss the importance of analysis.
Finishing this with a business analyst humour from ModernAnalyst.com, I hope you find my blog useful and please do share any comment/feedback.