Early engagement of Business Analysts in the project lifecycle provides opportunities to deliver more complete systemic reviews of organisational issues.
What is a Business Analyst?
Business Analysts are problem solving specialists who articulate organisational issues in business and technical terms.
They specialise in identifying solutions that are congruent with legislative requirements, organisational strategy and have the highest probability of being successfully implemented.
Business Analysts engage with staff at all levels within an organisation to identify and understand key issues affecting organisational performance, including the:
- Root Cause of the issues;
- Symptoms created by the issue; and
- Available options to remediate/resolve identified issues, including the:
- Technology, process, and people impacts associated with a given remediation approach; and
- Potential costs and benefits of implementing a given remediation approach.
Why are business analysts needed?
Business Analysts are Value Multipliers that provide improved efficiencies in project delivery as well as financial benefits.
They do this by providing organisations with high quality information that can significantly improve the likelihood of project success.
While the cost of establishing a dedicated Business Analysis capability can appear daunting, the benefits far outweigh the cost in terms of:
- Improved likelihood of project success;
- Reduction in project scope, budget and schedule blow outs; and
- Improved confidence in the ability to deliver expected outcomes.
Business Analysts significantly reduce risk exposure by ensuring Senior Executives / Senior Responsible Officers are fully informed of the risks associated with project delivery before committing to a course of action. They also identify and recommend viable alternatives that better manage risk.
What does a Business Analyst produce?
Business Analysts produce a comprehensive suite of artefacts to deliver project success including:
- Business Cases – identifying how a proposed solution aligns with an organisation’s strategic vision. Business Cases normally include a Cost-Benefit Analysis which assists organisations with determining the most cost-effective approach to resolving organisational issues. Approaches may consist of technical, process or people solutions – or a combination of each.
- Concept of Operations (ConOps) – describing how an organisation’s business operations will be supported by technology they are planning to utilise. A ConOps can also provide insight on what the technology needs to deliver to improve User Experience outcomes.
- Business Requirements Specifications (BRS) – defining the functional and non-functional requirements for a solution. The BRS establishes how the solution must respond to different business scenarios (the functional component) as well as describe the constraints that the solution will need to conform with (the non-functional component). Non-functional components describe aspects of a solution such as system performance, operational redundancy as well as integration with other organisational system assets.
- Specialist Issues Reports – describing specific insights within an organisation, depending on the nature and business operations of the organisation. Reports are usually focused on a key aspect of concern within an organisation such as governance framework compliance, however reports can be as broad as determining the extent to which an organisation may need to introduce a new information technology platform in order to meet its legislative obligations.
Limitations of a traditional Business Analyst Approach?
Business Analysts are typically embedded within a project team. They are primarily engaged to document the solution requirements, although they are also used to produce other artefacts including test cases, user guides and standard operating procedures (SOP).
Business Analysts are often engaged once an organisation has already determined their preferred solution to resolving an identified issue.
The effectiveness of a Business Analyst to facilitate project success becomes increasingly difficult where an organisation has already determined and endorsed the overall scope and budget for a project.
Issues subsequently encountered by Business Analysts in these situations can include one or more of the following:
- Root cause of the issue is not well understood – an organisation’s staff, while specialists in the work they perform daily, are often unable to identify other factors impacting their operations. Implementing improved technology solutions independently without consideration of other organisational issues and risks may not deliver the intended outcome.
- Project scope, budget and schedule is already defined (and firmly set) - limiting opportunities for the Business Analyst to review and identify efficient and effective solution options to address an issue.
- Proposed scope of the project is not the most effective approach for resolving the organisation’s issue. Given the opportunity, a Business Analyst may provide a range of comparable technology / business process change recommendations that could deliver significant savings (and process efficiency gains) for organisations.
- Tendered solution requirements not being able to meet the organisation’s business needs – A Business Analyst can assist the organisation to achieve better outcomes by providing input into the development of Tender documentation, including production of supporting business requirements.
How is a Business Analyst best utilised?
Business Analysts are more effective members of a project teams when they are engaged very early in the establishment of a project. Business Analysts are most effective in roles where they can work closely with an organisation’s senior executive to:
- Identify areas of organisational concern;
- Align proposed projects to the organisation’s strategic vision; and
- Develop efficient and effective solutions to resolve organisational issues.
What are the benefits of this approach?
Early engagement of Business Analysts in the project lifecycle provides opportunities to deliver more complete systemic reviews of organisational issues – ensuring legislative, policy, process, technology and people impacts are carefully considered before a project commences.
This results in a more effective, efficient, economical and ethical use of resources to achieve desired organisational outcomes.