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Is your business analyst failing your project?

Analysts are ambidextrous while dealing with business and IT for a successful project delivery.

This ability makes analyst a catalyst for achieving business process efficiency. What’s the secret ingredient for an analyst to be the most important piece of this puzzle?

With an ever changing IT landscape, business leverages IT to manage and optimize operations, thereby reducing the cost. IT provides a comprehensive solution to an identified business problem which helps streamline business processes and achieve desired cost reductions. With a right team, tools, techniques, resources and solution, IT can deliver marvelous results. Business analyst ensures the right alignment of business with IT to assure an intended delivery.

Oftentimes, the solution achieved is not the intended one. As a result, the solution has to be re-designed to fit the original or an existing business problem which incurs supplementary cost. Ultimately, the business won’t achieve the proposed cost reduction. This failure of not being able to deliver the envisioned solution starts a blame game between business and IT.

More often than not, the root cause of this problem is simple. Either the information was not processed right or the right information wasn’t processed. Who takes the ownership of processing information? Is this a responsibility of project manager or a business sponsor? The answer lies in the very basic principle of software development life cycle methodology. Most information processing happens during the requirements phase and the role responsible for it is a business analyst.

A business analyst is the person who not only understands the proposed solution to a business problem, but also identifies the scope and purpose of it. This enables a business analyst to identify and define the right requirements of the solution being implemented and then translates those requirements in an executable technical language. This is where the glitch happens.

In most cases, analyst translates a request/need into a functional requirement which tends to deviate from the solution holistically. Their inability to see a situation from an enterprise perspective wanes out their effort. In turn, they fail to gather the right information and process it right, which leads to undesired end state. This isn’t just a problem of requirement gathering and processing it, but also about sharing it. Not all information is being shared correctly with the right person at the right time. As a result, interpretation of the requirement changes from person to person, situation to situation and time to time.

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Business analysts can make or break a project with their ability to understand the request. If they make sure that the information they receive and share is correct, sufficient and relevant, projects can adhere to the intended delivery path, schedule and budget.
Business analyst being the bridge between business and IT, the most critical building component of the bridge is an ability to process the right information right. This skill set can be achieved with a combination of subject knowledge, domain experience and the right communication technique.

There are four major ways in which a business analyst can ensure that the right information is being processed in the right way.

1. Understand solution holistically

Analysts need to identify a business problem and understand the solution and its alternatives. They should examine the solution fit, perform impact analysis and ask relevant questions to the stakeholders and capture the information.

2. Requirements walk-through is a blessing

Once the analyst is confident of having gathered all the information required, it then needs to be mapped to the solution requirements. Once the requirements are authored, analysts need to set up a walk-through session with both business and IT to get their sign-offs on the expected delivery requirements which ensures that the requirements adhere to the project scope and the proposed solution.

3. Hand over the changes in a timely manner

Business is ever-changing and so is the business problem. As a result, project scope needs adjustment every now and then. Therefore, the solution has to adopt new changes coming in. These changes are disrupting agent for a successful and timely project delivery. Business analysts should always retrofit such unaccounted changes in the requirements. Pass on these changes as per the priority, either in the form of an emergency change request or as a post-delivery clean up item.

4. Use the kill switch when required

Not all requests or changes can be entertained. Some of them are just the noise. Business analysts should have an eye to identify the noise and be a gatekeeper. Use the kill switch when required. Don’t let the requirements fall prey to such noise. In worst cases, escalation is the right approach.

These steps won’t just let you be good at business analysis but will also ensure value addition to the overall project. I personally consider that a business analyst is not only a binding agent, but also a catalyst for the project. If you believe that my observation and experience needs maturity and learning, I’m glad to hear your observation, findings and stories.

With a strong belief that open minded people embrace being wrong, are free of illusions, don’t mind what people think of them, and question everything even themselves, I urge you to share your expertise.

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