9 Keen Focus Areas in Strategic Business Analysis
Recently I was having breakfast with a CEO of a ½ billion dollar annual revenue resource company.
He was telling me how they had a strategic planning session with a former executive where they mapped out their plans for the next five years. As with most companies, the plan is to grow, to expand and explore new worlds and go where they have never gone before. Does that sound familiar?
So being the strategic planner and business analyst that I am, I asked if they had defined, scoped and prioritized their initiatives yet. There was an awkward moment of silence. Sixty seconds when you are not sure if you should begin to pray, cry or buy a lotto ticket. The response was they had not gotten that far yet because they were busy operating the business. But their people will do that, get right on it, right?
Business leaders and professionals often do not take strategic planning to the next level, a situation I know only too well. Companies create great plans and ideas from their initial strategic planning and mapping sessions only to front load everything and not take the time to understand where they should focus, why and what should be the priorities.
This is where strategic business analysis (enterprise analysis) comes in. As in the question, I asked above; strategic business analysis is used to define, scope and prioritize initiatives, a step in the strategic planning process that gets missed. In the real world of business, strategic business analysis is an essential component of every project or change initiative to ensure outcomes align with the goals and objectives the entire organization and its departments.
In a review of the IIBA Body of Knowledge, several books on strategic analysis, my book, SET for Success, and from the work I have done with small to large corporations, strategic business analysis requires a keen focus on the following:
- Understanding the business structure, architectures, and people and culture
- Conducting capability analysis to ensure the organization can do what it says it plans to do
- Ensuring proper strengths and weaknesses are recognized, and opportunity and threats are identified and defined
- Business problems and opportunities are analyzed, and solutions are brainstormed beyond the norm of improving processes, increased sales and cut costs
- Performing feasibility and risk analysis on the potential solutions and compare the solutions alternatives through success and failure analysis, pros and cons discussions, and cost, ease, benefit analysis and developing decision grids to prioritize solutions
- Determining the proper scope change initiatives based on business, structure and organizational parameters and capabilities
- Developing the business case to drive out the investments and expected returns externally or internally for the key initiatives.
- Creating a communication plan that helps guide the organization through the changes that will take place as initiatives become implemented, and
- building a roadmap focused on using project management best practices of implementation with business champions, key initiatives, tactical focus, time and dates and a reporting structure to ensure initiatives are moving forward as originally planned.
There is a lot going on here, and it would be a mistake to think that this is the private domain of business analysts identified on an organizational chart. It is not. Business analysis and strategic business analysis is a set of skills that bridge a position. In today’s business world the CEO, COO, VPs, various Managers, and Professionals must be able to perform these critical tasks at the strategic, tactical and operational levels. Granted there is a difference in the tools and techniques employed, and the expected outcomes and deliverables that exist in the details. The key is that there is a shared vision of success connected to the goals and objectives of the organization. Something many business leaders and professionals miss with a negative impact on the organization.
Effectively implementing strategic plans means using proper strategic analysis and strategic business analysis to ensure you make the best strategic decisions, that you are actually strategic through proper strategic management considerations and that you are focused on the best initiatives and projects for your organization at this point and time. Strategic analysis and therefore, strategic business analysis focuses on factual support of business decisions. Hopefully, in the end, the business has made better business decisions.
I have always enjoyed the topic of strategic planning, management, and analysis because it is incredibly interesting to help shape an organization’s future and because learning strategic business analysis is for everyone in business, from the executive to the professional. Granted you may not be working at the strategic level in your career, but you have a business impact at the tactical and operational levels. If strategic business analysis helps scope out the initiatives and projects delivered by mid-level and project managers, then other professionals have to flush out the details to ensure that prioritized initiatives and projects deliver.
The best part is that strategic business analysis is connected to strategic management which is concerned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization, includes multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process, has to incorporate short and long term specifics of initiatives and projects and knows that there is a trade-off between effectiveness and efficiency. If you are going to envision it and plan it, you better make sure you are addressing the right problem, leveraging the best opportunities and you get your priorities straight; strategic business analysis will help. Good luck.
Do your best, invest in the success of others, and make your journey count. Richard