Business analysis is at a dangerously low level of maturity for most organizations. According to Standish Group Research, the top five reasons for failed or challenged projects are:
1. Lack of user involvement
2. Lack of transparency
3. Poor or incomplete requirements
4. Changing requirements
5. Lack of business alignment
Look at all these problems carefully; all of these are related to poor business analysis. Looking at this and other research, poor business analysis is the number one cause of failed and challenged projects. A vast majority of business analysts only write solution requirements and do not perform other activities as specified in IIBA’s Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. Many are not involved in activities such as Enterprise Analysis and Solution Assessment and Validation. Many only write solution requirements and have not idea about the importance of other requirement types defined in BABOK. A mature business analysis function will perform the following types of activities:
- Focus on achievement of business outcomes and enablement of business change.
- Perform analysis and evaluation, not simply taking notes.
- Work with Business SMEs to analyze the problem and root cause.
- Work with Business SMEs to redesign business process to decrease cycle time, reduce errors, and reduce waste.
- Serve as the knowledge manager for the solution by providing advice, facilitating discussions and decisions, and promoting collaboration between business and technical stakeholders.
- Responsible for defining and managing solution scope.
- Work with stakeholders to simplify solutions and eliminate non-value added features and functions.
- Write high quality requirements that are concise, clear, complete, testable, and valuable.
- Assess and validate the development and deployment of the solution to ensure it achieves the expected results.
If the primary or only role of BAs in your organization is to write solution requirements, then your level of maturity of business analysis is very low. Your organizations has a high risk for:
- Increasing the number of failed or challenged projects
- Failing to achieve business benefits
- Delivering solutions that do not meet user needs
- Creating high development rework resulting in budget and schedule overruns
- Having low customer and user satisfaction
- Failing to manage solution scope resulting in delays and budget overruns
If your organization suffers from these problems, then it is time to deal with the cause of the problem, which is most likely poor business analysis. You should focus on building business analysis skills. Here is a list of specific recommendations:
- Ensure that the role of the BA is documented and understood. Business analysis involves more than just defining solution requirements.
- Increase business analysis maturity—encourage standardization of business analysis practices. Consider establishing a community of practice or Center of Excellence to focus on education and building business analysis skills.
- Ensure that critical up-front business analysis activities such as problem definition, solution scope, and the business case are performed as part of every project.
- Project managers should verify that projects have critical business analysis skills on the team. If not, project managers should document this as a risk and look at supplementing the team with external resources who have these skills.
- Ensure that the problem is understood and a clear vision has been developed before starting to define requirements.
- Ensure that the solution scope is defined before starting to define solution requirements. Do not use requirements to define solution scope!
- Require a Business Analysis Plan that addresses
- Requirements Management
- Stakeholder Engagement and Communications
- Requirements Traceability
- Solution Assessment and Validation
- Business Requirements
- Stakeholder Requirements
- Functional Requirements
- Non-Functional Requirements
- Transition Requirements
- Ensure that all five types of requirements are defined.
- Develop requirements collaboratively—both user and technical input are critical.
- Develop requirements with just enough detail, just in time. Do not under-specify, and do not over-specify.
- Ensure that business analysis deliverables are defined and included in the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
- If your project involves business processes, ensure that the solution is being built for the To-Be solution and not the As-Is way of operating.
- PMs should work with the BA in properly defining the Solution Assessment and Validation approach and integrating with Quality Management processes.
- Use a proven business analysis tool such as Enfocus Requirements Suite™—do not rely on Microsoft Word or Excel, or on a simple requirements management tool. A basic requirements management tool will not solve a business analysis problem!