Business analysis tackles two common project failures. Bad requirements and poor solution design. The former comes from not knowing what we want to achieve. While designing a successful solution depends on structure and facilitation.
Understand your requirements with Business Analysis
Failing to understand what our users and stakeholders need is a common reason for software project failures. The same applies to business projects. Requirements confirm and clarify the needs of our users and stakeholders.
If we don’t have requirements we don’t know where to go. At best the project is quickly cancelled. At worst our lack of direction results in a delivery that fails to meet requirements. And that is costly in terms of time, money and reputation.
I am a chartered engineer and have worked with requirements for years. I follow a standard process and adapt it to suit the situation. For example, in product or service development, I expect to see very structured requirements; ideally in a requirements management system. In business projects, I might capture the requirements in a project charter. IT projects lie between.
Design your solution with Business Analysis
Some people object to the word solution. I use it as a simple way of saying ‘the thing we are building to solve a problem or exploit an opportunity’. When we design solutions we must address the requirements. But we often need more than that. Project teams must be creative.
Business Analysis techniques encourage innovation and generate potential solutions. They assess our ideas against the requirements. It facilitates the design process, keeping all team members involved.
Influence your stakeholders with Business Analysis
I have to confess to enjoying a good Excel spreadsheet. I use advanced techniques and have started to pick up Business Intelligence tools such as Power BI. Analysis means seeking the truth in data and presenting your findings in an intuitive way. In this example dashboard, we can have no doubt about the home locations of visitors to a museum. I used this analysis to inform the marketing strategy for a museum.
Realise your benefits with business analysis
I have seen projects set out with great intentions. Teams were capable and used lots of best practice. But somehow their projects didn’t deliver what the business needed.
To stop projects drifting into becoming the personal domain of the project team, we must manage benefits. This process starts at the concept stage. For example, if a project will save money, we must specify how it reduces costs and put in place actions to deliver the cost reductions. In this example, the business analyst will find all the costs of the status quo and determine which can be eliminated or reduced during the project.
Maximising the benefits may impact the project definition. For instance, if an email migration project is to close old mail servers this benefit will drive the solution design – making the servers obsolete. It may also provide completion targets and acceptance criteria, e.g., 80% of users must be migrated.