The BABOK® Guide describes and defines business analysis as the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. The business analysis comprises six knowledge areas: Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring, Elicitation and Collaboration, Requirements Life Cycle Management, Strategy Analysis Requirements Analysis and Design Definition, and Solution Evaluation.
In general, the objectives of government projects are to ensure economic growth or to meet social development goals. In other words, these projects are not profit-oriented. Therefore, one could argue that governments must recruit welfare analysts instead of business analysts as their key responsibility is to maximise social and welfare benefits. However, as mentioned above, the ultimate goal of business analysis is to deliver value to all stakeholders, and the general public is a critical stakeholder in any governmental project. Therefore, any business analyst would explore different avenues of delivering value to the general public.
The importance of business analysis in a government project
Government officials come up with new initiatives/ideas/projects every day. While some initiatives are straightforward, some are bold and unpredictable. Usually, government organisations do feasibility studies to justify their project proposals. Yet, due to uncooperative and poorly coordinated interdepartmental communication (Kim and Kreps, 2020), the officials sometimes overlook a project’s impact on another project/department/sector. This is where a business analyst can add value.
Typically, a business analysis initiative starts by analysing the current state (i.e., AS-IS). During this stage, a BA would identify why the change is needed, who the stakeholders are, and what the potentially affected areas are. A BA would carry out an impact analysis when assessing the areas likely to be impacted as a part of the AS-IS analysis, which would likely lead to uncovering internal and external (i.e., inter-department) bottlenecks, dependencies, and risks). However, in most instances, government officials are not expected nor trained to conduct AS-IS analysis, and it requires someone like an experienced business analyst to carry out such a task.
As mentioned, another area of concern is the lack of communication and collaboration between departments. A business analyst is ideal for maintaining effective communication in such situations by acting as the intermediary. Project governance is a critical component of any project. Within the public sector, however, the governance structure and processes are more strictly adhered to and failing to do so could bring grave consequences. Being involved from the beginning of the project, a business analyst can plan business analysis governance (to identify decision makers, processes and information required to make decisions) and thereby help the project manager or the project sponsor maintain overall project governance. It’s a valuable service a business analyst could offer to projects that operate within a strict governance model. And it is always good to have a fresh pair of eyes.
Nonetheless, assessing and validating the solution (solution evaluation) for government projects is vital because many of the projects impact millions of end users (the public). In 2002, the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) launched a patient record system, and the government decided to dismantle the project due to changing specifications, technical challenges and supplier disputes. This project is considered the biggest IT failure ever seen as the total costs neared £12.7 billion while generating around £2.6 billion in actual benefits (Baumann, 2011). During the project post-mortem, it was further revealed that the IT strategy has failed to identify user needs, and the stakeholders, including end-users, haven’t been involved from the beginning of the project. This highlights the importance of the BA role as requirements gathering and eliciting and stakeholder collaboration management are some of the key strengths of a business analyst.
Despite the compelling evidence, do you still believe BAs are not required for government projects?