How a Business Analysis Center of Excellence Helps You Center on Excellence

A center of excellence (CoE) is a structured team of people and resources that an organization establishes to promote collaboration and best practices. A center of excellence brings an enterprise focus to many business issues, including data integration, project management, enterprise architecture, business and IT optimization, and enterprise-wide access to information. A CoE helps business leaders implement and support improvement initiatives to meet goals at an overall business level. A Business Analysis CoE helps organizations deliver increased value by bolstering the trademarks of business analysis: Understanding the business domain Analyzing inputs, outputs, and stakeholders Mapping processes Identifying deficiencies Envisioning and communicating potential solutions Performing cost analysis and projections Understanding and representing business units and their needs Identifying and articulating details Ensuring that the target vision is met A BACoE is a high-performance enabler, closely integrated at a strategic level within a business. It consists of a variety of skillsets and roles that promotes business change and proactive optimization. A BACoE provides organizations with a means to instill standardization, best practices, collaboration, education, and BA maturity, which can result in: Improved quality of requirements Better collaboration between the user and developer communities Alignment of IT services with business needs Integration and alignment of people, processes, and technology Increased business value Strategic capability for competitive advantage Strategic activities of a BACoE include: Conducting research and providing the executive team with accurate competitive information Identifying and recommending viable new business opportunities Preparing the project investment decision package to facilitate project selection and prioritization Managing expected business benefits during project execution Measuring actual business benefits after the new solution is deployed Standardization One...

Challenges and Steps to Establishing a BACoE

While using a BACoE has many benefits, shifting to this approach can present certain organizational challenges. Establishing a BACoE resource may destabilize the sense of balance and power within an organization. Executives are required to make decisions based on benefits to the enterprise versus to their specific areas. Functional managers are often afraid of losing their authority and control over the resources assigned to them. In addition, project team members may be unclear about their roles and responsibilities, and how they will be given assignments. These ambiguities may manifest themselves as resistance to change, and could pose a risk to a successful implementation. Therefore, it is imperative that robust coordination and effective communication about how the BACoE will affect roles and responsibilities are part of the implementation process. Another challenge is that the business drivers behind creating the BACoE must be established very early. If the organization’s motives are poorly defined it can be detrimental to the objectives, purpose, scope, and functions of the BACoE. Also, it’s important to appreciate that the idea for creating a BACoE does not have to come from IT; it can originate from any area. What is important is that the BACoE serves the entire organization, rather than just a small segment of it. Another potential difficulty that almost every fledgling BACoE eventually runs into is bridging the gap that divides IT and the business. To overcome this, a BACoE must be prepared to provide multidimensional services to all the diverse groups in an organization. This requires making certain that the BACoE is centralized. According to a USAG/SAP survey, “Organizations with centralized COEs have...

Calculating ROI on Information Technology Projects

ROI (return on investment) is a widely used measure to compare the effectiveness of IT systems investments. It is commonly used to justify IT projects, but can measure project returns at any stage and be used to evaluate project team performance and other relevant factors. Definition of ROI The basic ROI calculation is to divide the net return from an investment by the cost of the investment, and to express this as a percentage. ROI, while a simple and extremely popular metric, may be easily modified for different situations. The ROI formula is: ROI % = (Return – Investment Cost)/Investment Cost x 100 Using ROI within IT Projects Comparing the ROI of different projects/proposals provides an indication as to which IT projects to undertake. ROI proves to corporate executives, shareholders, and other stakeholders that a particular project investment is beneficial for the business. A project is more likely to proceed if its ROI is higher – the higher the better. For example, a 200% ROI over 4 years indicates a return of double the project investment over a 4 year period. Financially, it makes sense to choose projects with the highest ROI first, then those with lower ROI’s. While there are exceptions, if a project has a negative ROI, it is questionable if it should be authorized to proceed. ROI may not be useful in every IT project. Below is a list of examples where calculating the ROI may not be appropriate: Expenditure such as IT consumables, replacing broken PC’s Short duration maintenance projects that can be completed in less than 1 month. Projects that do not produce cost...

12 Keys for Successful Enterprise Projects

In most organizations, the costs associated with poor processes, poor communications, and unnecessary development due to poor requirements is staggeringly high. Many of these problems can be traced back to ineffective business analysis practices.  A number of studies have shown that 40% or more of defects in a typical software development project stem from inaccurate, unclear, or incomplete requirements.  These poor requirements not only cause costly rework but also result in the late delivery of projects, as well as delays in obtaining planned cost savings or additional revenues.  Not only do you lose the revenue or cost savings that would have been generated in that time, you also lose the opportunity to implement other benefits your team could have delivered for other needed projects in that period. Poor business analysis also leads to poor estimation because critical elements of the problem are overlooked or the solution ends up being more complex than it really needs to be. Poor business analysis skills also mean that it’s less likely that you will be able to capture the value projects were intended to deliver in the first place. Without effective enterprise analysis, project requirements can devolve into a wish list from various stakeholders. Yes, your stakeholders may individually be happy if they get what they want but there’s no guarantee that what they want is what the organization needs. Uncoordinated changes made without analysis can make one unit’s work easier and another group’s harder.  It’s the Business Analyst’s job to make sure that the bigger picture is understood and that requirements are in line with that larger objective. The founders of Enfocus...

Business Analysts in the World of SaaS and Consumerization

Business Analysts face new challenges in a rapidly evolving world of software solutions.  Packaged software, such as ERP and CRM systems, and Software as a Service (SaaS) are becoming the “go to” answer for business problems as they can almost always be implemented more rapidly and more cost effectively than custom solutions. In addition, there are many tools available for both personal computers and via the cloud that business units of many organizations are buying and implementing as a means to bypass IT. The trend is clear; organizations are doing less and less custom software development. Instead of building custom software from scratch, organizations are finding tools and customizing them.  The Consumerization of IT and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device (e.g., iPad) are major trends that Corporate IT departments may want to stop, but simply will not be able to. Many of the worst offenders are senior level mangers who don’t care what the CIO or the IT Department think. They want quick results for their business unit and are wiling to implement a tool, pay for it with OPEX, and completely bypass IT. These trends have a significant impact on the role of the business analyst and will require business analysts to adapt the requirement process. Some may take the stance that the BA should be agnostic, and not take part in design or in selection of implementation tool. However, I believe that it is the BA’s job to help the business find the best solution to solve a business problem. Tools are working software and ready to be used. The best solution to resolve a business problem may...