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How to enable exceptional business analysis

by Business Analysis,

Benefiting from business analysis is about much more than hiring an individual with the title business analyst. Business Analysis is a means in which outcomes are derived, strategy is linked to execution and ideas are realised through to revenue. Exceptional requirements elicitation, analysis, and management enables strategic and initiative outcomes, while poor analysis achieves the opposite.

Business Analysis is a service that generates outcomes far greater than those of an individual that produces deliverables. The world has changed but current practices have not kept pace with this change.

Leaders in organisations, procurement practices, and even hiring managers look through the lens of “who is the individual in front of me and what is this individual going to cost” rather than “what outcomes am I looking for, what is the service I need, and what will the return on the investment be”.

The issue often lies within the outdated processes of those involved in the services procurement. What are the drivers of the individual areas or individuals themselves in enabling this service.

Procurement – most services in this space are commonly resource/individual focused – and they have been encouraged to be. Procurement is measured by driving the cost of goods and services down to reduce organisational spend. They, however, are not geared with measuring the Total Value of Ownership (TVO) of these goods and services, that is, the cost vs the benefit. When constraints are placed around procurement practices in this way, they have little choice but to operate to the lowest common denominator, price. The value of the product or initiative and importance in getting it right should be the perspective for the investment. “Delivered on time and close to budget but failed to make the right impact” (sound familiar?) falls on the analysis from concept through to delivery.  Unless we enable procurement to operate differently, we can’t expect any different from this key organisational function.

Project Management – “I am delivering this type of project; I need these types of skills/experience in my team”. Whilst there is logic in this approach, from the PMs perspective, this will limit ramp up times for knowledge development – without the broad understanding of how the Business Analysis service provides its full value, thus limiting engagement with this service based on previous experience alone, can also lead to constraints and further limit outcomes.

Business Analysts – “I am here to deliver X”. The issue with this is that there is not enough focus on the outcomes the organisation needs, the objectives of the initiative and measures of success. If the initiative is focused on increasing market share of a global learning and development solution – focusing only on the career and course pathways and aligning lessons to these will likely not achieve this organisational objective. Competitor analysis and benchmarking, changing the Product Management focus to a more feature drive approach to win the customer base, then stabilising the architecture to provide product longevity may be best. Simply, too many business analysts look at their role purely as producing deliverables within a value stream of software delivery, and less so as an enabler of organisational objectives whereby the investment of the organisation in this product or service will only be enabled through exceptional business analysis.

So, what do we all do about this? Well, a collective problem often takes a collective solution. Does your organisation have the mechanisms to measure ROI at a product or service level? Can you truly say that the investment in X brought Y? If yes, great, as this level of understanding requires strategic change. If not – consider aligning your project delivery to more of a product management approach and invest in your product streams – if you’d like to know more, please reach out.

Procurement is set up how they are. The outcomes and KPIs around the procurement models are simply aligned to input/output figures. Organisations can work to link the service outcomes back to the service providers and enable a more outcome-based procurement model – which, excitingly, is starting to happen more and more. However, as stated previously, the onus should not fall on procurement alone.

Project Managers will often treat business analysis much the same as they see their own profession. I have experience in the delivery of a Dynamics finance solution with company X, therefore I am competent with delivering other Dynamics finance solutions with company Y and then Z. The process for the delivery of this solution follows a similar pattern. The nuance and complexities lie within the analysis. Just because a Business Analyst has experience providing analysis on the same Dynamics finance solution, does not mean they will be able to successfully navigate the nuances and complexities of company Y to deliver the same result. And it is for this reason we need to set the sights back on the Business Analysts.

Business Analysts’ must move our conversation from “I am a Business Analyst – I deliver X” too “I am a provider of business analysis services; I help organisations achieve Y”. Understanding and taking ownership of the outcomes the organisation is trying to achieve and using these needs as a roadmap for the analysis to follow, constantly validating ideas back to these drivers, and tracing requirements to provide assurance that these outcomes will be achieved.

Our service is not wrapped up in the deliverable, our service is all encompassing, it is how we view the breadth and depth of the change, how we engage and encourage stakeholders and our team, how we deliver value back to the organisations that have entrusted us – even if they only saw us to be ‘the BA’.

Business Analysis is much more than a role, much more than an individual, it is a service that organisations need to adopt to be successful in delivery. By taking on a level of ownership for the delivery of these outcomes, it will shift your mindset and refocus your analysis to delivering what is truly needed by the organisation.

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