Great Business Analysts understand customer needs and provide the voice of the customer to inform priorities and decisions. When the customer is the focal point of project work, teams deliver solutions that delight the customer.
Most Business Analysts would agree with this in theory, but in practice, customer needs get buried under the day to day quicksand of details, deadlines, politics, and fire-fighting. There are so many things that distract us from our customers. Here are the top 4 roadblocks on our path to customer value:
Roadblock #1: Limiting Our Definition of Customer.
Who is your customer? If you think it’s just an internal customer, think again. Think beyond the silo of your internal customer:
- How does the internal customer serve the organization’s external customers?
- Who does the internal customer serve in other parts of the organization?
- How does the internal customer serve the organization’s external partners?
Even when the project scope appears to be internal, it has an impact on the operation of the organization, which eventually impacts additional end users. Even a tiny database change to an internal system could prevent an internal call center employee from having the data they need to answer a customer’s question.
Avoid this roadblock by identifying your customer chain from start to finish. Understand how their needs connect and help your team keep relevant needs top of mind throughout the project lifecycle.
Roadblock #2: Ignoring the Fact That Our Customers Are Changing
Markets change every day. A new product or announcement from your competitor can significantly change your company’s priorities and objectives. Even customer expectations are changing, rapidly! This means their definition of value is changing rapidly too. If you don’t keep up, lackluster solutions that erode your customer base get delivered.
Think about how quickly our lives are changing—none of us grew up with smartphones and social media, family road trips required an atlas instead of google maps, we couldn’t find good places to eat “near me now,” and breaking news came from the TV instead of Twitter.
Every change brings new demands from customers. In fast-paced, competitive industries, your requirements might be outdated before you get them prioritized!
So, how do you bust through this roadblock? LISTEN to your customers. Be sure you have mechanisms in place to monitor their needs, wants and expectations in real-time and be sure to address roadblock #4. Keep your mind open to noticing subtle changes not only in your project but in other projects around you and even your organization’s marketplace.
Roadblock #3: Only Doing What Leaders Ask Us to Do
What leaders ask for is NOT what they actually want. Their intentions are good, but there’s always more to the story. If the story is incomplete, our customers will receive incomplete solutions.
As Business Analysts, it is our responsibility to help leaders understand the full story. Our leaders want us to challenge scope, approach, and design to discover the full value in their ideas. We avoid this roadblock by intelligently disobeying these requests to implement their intent, not the exact requirement they give.
So, what does it mean to go with their intent and intelligently disobey? It means Business Analysts elicit and analyze to align intent and value. They use engaging techniques to get the team thinking and talking about what is valuable to who. Then, BAs give recommendations and high-value options that align to the leader’s intent.
Dig deeper into expectations of your customers and sponsors. Dig into the data to find data points to support the business vision, goals and objectives more subjectively. Help your leaders and sponsors build robust and thoughtful business cases to support their vision, goals, objectives and expectations. Don’t gather requirements – elicit them. Requirements are not laying on the road around the office for you to pick them up off the floor. You need to ask questions, challenge to gain a deeper understanding and create objective validation of the requirements and link them to the expectations of your leadership and sponsors. Trace and align requirements to the vision, goals, objectives and expectations of your leadership and sponsors. If the requirement doesn’t align – it’s time to red line (or cut the requirement).
Roadblock #4: Using an ineffective and outdated requirements approach.
Old-school requirements include a single requirements phase where BAs write down what stakeholders say they want (roadblock #3) and then hand off requirements to the development team for distant delivery (roadblock #2).
To deliver high-value products that delight customers, requirements of today and the future require a new way of working. Value-packed requirements do not come from scribe BAs who just write down what they’re told. We need to dig deeper to find real customer value.
The products that delight customers are not full of features they asked for, and they are full of features that make them think "wow, that is cool, I wouldn't have thought of that!"
Business Analysts need to help their team to avoid this old-school requirement roadblock by evolving requirements from “what is stated” to “what will delight.” This evolution requires insight, observation, data, empathy, high impact collaboration, human-centered design patterns, and experiments. This new way of working is paramount to a successful customer centered approach.
Do you deliver solutions that delight your end users? Please post a comment below to share your success story with other BA Times readers!