business analysis, business analyst

Get closer to user needs using business analysis

Business analysis is a practice of understanding user needs and providing the proper solution to meet those needs. The person that enables that change process to happen is called a business analyst.

What does a business analyst do?

In order to meet user needs, a business analyst first uses elicitation tool and techniques to gather information. Then, he analyzes the results of that research and gains a deeper understanding of the problem. After that, the analyst determines user requirements in detail. The entire process is documented. At last, he provides a detailed solution for the initial problem.

But, we all know that user requirements change rapidly. With this in mind, the business analyst continues to serve as a constant link between all the organizational stakeholders. He maintains the communication flow and observes future behavior. That way, the solution is constantly up-to-date with the latest organizational changes.

Who is involved?

Stakeholders: In order to start with business analysis, a business analyst first determines the project stakeholders. A stakeholder is anyone who affects the project, or is affected by the project. They can be:

  • an individual, like a user;
  • a group of people, like a market segment;
  • or an organization, like a medium.

Therefore, stakeholders have different participation in the project. They can be responsible for the project completion, accountable for it, consulted for possible solutions, or just informed about project performances.

Objectives & GoalsGoals show the future state of the project – where the project needs to go. Objectives, on the other hand, show the specific steps to take, in order to achieve those goals. Objectives should be SMART: S(Specific), M(Measurable), A(Achievable), R(Reasonable), T(Timely).

Before a business analyst can determine how to achieve the future state, he first has to gain an understanding of the current state. Here’s a question that helps with that:

“Where we are, where we want to go and what is takes to get there”.

Also, a SWOT analysis can help a lot through the process. A SWOT analysis defines the business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threads. It is a useful technique to clarify the current state and the possible solutions.

Business analysis life cycle

The business analysis life-cycle consist of five phases:

  1. Define needs: At the beginning of each analysis, you define what you are trying to achieve. Why you’re trying to achieve it. What problem are you trying to solve? Who is involved in the problem. Who to gather information from? Is there a need for new training, improved process, or company re-engeneering? Think about it.
  2. Plan the project: A business analysis plan brings clarity to the business analysis process. Ti begin with, define your project deliverables, scope, budget, measurements, stakeholders, risks and objectives from the very start.
  3. Gather information: When you gather information, ask “why” on an intelligent manner. When a customer asks you for a new software solution, dig deeper. You may find out that an upgrade on the current system can do the job quite as well. To understand the origin of the problem, use some of the following techniques: interviews, focus groups, surveys, document research etc.
  4. Develop requirements: This is where you organize, segment and analyze the information you gathered. Detailed requirements provide a better understanding about the solution. Pay attention to project’s critical path, reduce complexity, and generate quick wins for you deliverables (try with a Gap-Fit analysis, for example).
  5. Monitor & Evaluate: Evaluate the actual progress against the upfront defined objectives. Then show the extend to which the project meets the original objectives. Communicate the results with the project sponsor. Meanwhile, maybe he will come up with an idea of a follow up project to address the problem.

Types of analysis:

In this section, we provide you with some actual analytics tools which can help you get to the very core of the problem you’re solving. Let’s explain them in brief.

  • Root cause analysis (Fishbone diagram): The biggest bone of the Fishbone diagram shows the main and major problem. All the other bones connected to it, represent a specific function connected to it. The secondary problems of the specific bone are attached to the main bone. The goal of the Fishbone diagram is to address the root cause of the appearing problem.

Blank-Fishbone-Diagram

  • Interrelational diagramThis diagram shows the relationship between different organizational problems and how they affect each-other. It starts with one problem, and then connects it to all the other problems which can be a cause, or an effect of it. That way, it shows the overall picture of interrelated problems that can be a cause for the problem.

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  • Process modelingProcess modeling uses business process modeling notation to show the process flow inside an organization. BPMN 2.0 is a standardized way to represent process flow using unified symbols. You can use it to represent the current information flow within, or outside the organization. Process modeling is also a valuable technique to show the desired future state. Read more about business process modeling here.

BPMNSample2

  • Competitive analysisCompetitive analysis is what it actually sounds like – an analysis on competition. Using thi analysis, you research websites, media releases, or do a trial on a competitive project. In fact, a deeper understanding of the competition, helps you determine best practices and use them to solve your own problem.

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To sum up. Business analysis is a practice that enables changes inside organizations. A successful business analysis uses elicitation techniques to meet user needs. As a result, the changes that happen inside organizations can be minor, like providing training for employees to use the new system, bigger, like re-engeneering business processes, or after all, change the organization, as a whole.

Related articles:
How to manage projects: A guide to project management
How to do process modeling with DFD and ER diagrams


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