Best of BATimes: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective BAs
In my experience as a Business Analyst (BA), I have seen many analysts struggle in trying to strike the right levels of analysis. Some analysts tend to overanalyze while others, under analyze. Getting trapped in the dilemma of when to stop and/or when to continue analyzing can put you into a vicious cycle of ineffectiveness and devaluation. The result: zero business outcome yet a ton of frustration and a huge load of wasted time and effort.
The 7 habits of highly effective BAs guide you in establishing thresholds and protocols for your analysis finish line and helps you determine how far you are from the finish line. These 7 habits provide you with a compass that guides you to determine when to hit the breaks and/or when to accelerate your analysis.
1. Be cognizant of the allotted project budget and schedules. Create a mini work breakdown structure (WBS) for yourself that distributes analysis tasks and activities based on the allotted time and effort. Over time, you won’t need to formally put this down on paper and your mind will automatically signal you when you’ve exceeded or unfulfilled the allotments. However, be aware that this strategy alone may not help you in striking the perfect level of analysis. For best results, combine this technique with one or more strategies described below. For example, requirements analysis can be about 25-30% of an overall development project. If the analysis is taking more time than testing and programming put together, there is something evidently wrong. The flaw with this approach is that you will need to continuously monitor your project spend before you determine you’re on the wrong track which sometimes can be too late in the game to backtrack.
2. Establish and communicate success criteria at the onset to understand where the real finish line is. Once you have fulfilled the success criterion, you’ll know that you’ve more or less completed the required level of analysis.
3. When performing use case analysis, ensure you’ve considered not only normal and alternate flows but also exception flows. In my experience, at least 1 normal flow, 2-3 alternate flows, and 0-1 exception flows are typically enough.
4. Ensure you understand the inputs (preconditions), outputs (outcomes and postconditions), and actors before you start your analysis. This will help you say focused and on the right track in terms of scope.
5. Always refer back to the business objectives, goals, and vision. When performing any sub-activity, always ask yourself if what you are doing is related to, impacts or is impacted by the overarching goals. If the answer is no, stop! If the answer is yes, continue and go back to the success criterion.
6. Define limitations, assumptions, and constraints and keep those in mind all along when performing analysis. This will help you rule out some scenarios and help you continue on your journey to a fruitful analytical activity.
7. Know your audience. Ask yourself these questions: Who is the receiver of my analysis? Who would my work interest? Knowing who you are performing the analysis for will help you identify the level of detail required and therefore the amount of analysis to perform.