Eight Steps to Improvement

Kupe’s Korner

More and more organizations around the world are recognizing the need for better understanding of business needs and have turned to the business analysis role as a way to improve. Whether these organizations have employees with the title Business Analyst or not, they are beginning to implement proven techniques to increase the success of projects. This is just the beginning. Organizations need to start setting themselves up to continually improve their business analysis practice. My colleague and friend, Angie Perris, and I came up with an eight step approach to continuous improvement. The following actions demonstrate the typical steps involved in implementing business analysis process improvement. (Note: The steps and sequence may vary from organization to organization.)

1. Secure Sponsorship and Funding

Before beginning your business analysis process improvement effort, ensure that the process improvement program has senior management sponsorship and funding. Such sponsorship and funding are critical to the program’s success. Educate senior management about the value of business analysis and developing a repeatable, measurable process. Provide an executive summary of the strengths and weaknesses of your current business analysis approach and a cost benefit analysis for this endeavor.

2. Prepare the Organization for Change

For purposes of this blog post, an organization is defined as one business unit, department, or even as an entire company. If you start with a smaller group, it is easier to manage, measure progress, and adjust to feedback. Treat this process improvement initiative as a project that can be tracked. Form a team of BA managers and senior BAs to lead the effort. Establish the business reasons and the business goals for the effort. Create a compelling case for change, include the rationale for the undertaking, a process improvement effort and the expected benefits and costs for the people affected. Poor business analysis affects all phases of the project lifecycle. Motivated employees and great technology are very important to project success but, even with the best people, they cannot perform at their highest potential when the business analysis role is not understood and respected, or the business analysis process is not efficient. Develop a persuasive presentation of the problems and opportunities to communicate with the affected organization. Below is a list of common problems that can be addressed through business analysis maturity.

  • Business and IT stakeholders have different interpretations of the requirements
  • Requirements elicitation is haphazard
  • Important requirements are missed
  • Frequent and often unnecessary requirements changes delay the project
  • •Requirements are not always verified by the affected stakeholders
  • Solution alternatives do not consider business impact to operations
  • Requirements cannot be verified
  • Customers are not satisfied with the product quality
  • Milestone dates for requirements are missed
  • Reporting requirements cannot be met

3. Provide Core Training

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” The goal here is to level-set the BAs in your organization on fundamental business analysis skills, techniques, and language that will be used in your business analysis approach. This training will be the foundation for your organization’s business analysis approach and toolkit.

4. Come Together: Form a Community of Practice or a Center of Excellence Group

Get your BAs talking and sharing. Develop and promote an atmosphere where the BAs in your organization collaborate. Communities are strengthened by building relationships where people trust and help each other reach their goals. This can be accomplished by having regularly scheduled meetings where BAs get a chance to network, discuss their challenges, and find potential mentors.

It is more rewarding to work at a company that feels like a community. A community of BAs has greater knowledge and experience than any individual. BAs have similar challenges and can help each other. This group, or a subset of the group, can coordinate process improvement activities across the enterprise and continue to exist even when a process improvement project has ended.

5. Know Where You Are

In order to find out where your organization is today you must establish a baseline assessment by evaluating the skill level of your BA community and the standard practices followed in your organization. This evaluation looks at many factors including individual interviews or surveys as well as reviewing deliverables, standards, processes, knowledge, and organizational culture. This step can occur before training if there is already a clear understanding of business analysis competencies within your organization. Compare industry accepted business analysis practices to your organization’s processes to determine a benchmark. Conduct surveys to gather information from managers, project leads, and workers to gauge cultural opportunities and barriers to change. Begin to establish a baseline of analysis performance. Build a detailed picture of the present. This includes knowing your environment, existing project methodologies, types of projects, business analysis tools, availability of business stakeholders, etc.

6. Know Where You Are Going

Define your organization’s success criteria. Compare the picture of where you are to the one of where you want to be. The difference between the two is the focus of your process improvement program. Get a balanced view from management, project leaders, business analysts, and other staff about what they think is most important. Each will have different objectives they want to achieve. Prioritize and communicate the business analysis competency areas to address and build your improvement plan. Your organization may decide to make incremental changes or dramatic innovations to your current process.

7. Execute Your Plan

Have a team start using the new practices as determined in your plan. Make sure to have a team available for support and coaching. Keep track of strengths and weaknesses. Track your progress against the plan. As organizational goals are met, your plan needs to include a feedback loop to assess if any more process improvement iterations are required. Additionally your plan should accept and evaluate change requests from anyone impacted by the new practices.

8. Track Your Success

Communicate your program’s progress in reaching the organization’s goals. Continuous process improvement yields ROI due to better articulated requirements, clearer understanding of the business analysis role and responsibilities, improved customer and IT relationships, earlier defect detection, improved risk identification and management, better control of solution scope, more satisfied customers, etc. In order to continually improve, organizations must remain vigilant along the journey. The business analysis role and process is new to many organizations. This work has traditionally been performed by various individuals in an inconsistent manner. Creating an effective, mature business analysis discipline requires management commitment, time, and resources. It doesn’t happen by accident. Only a clear strategic plan for developing the discipline and the role will move an organization to the highest level of success.

To your continuous improvement,

Kupe

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Jonathan “Kupe” Kupersmith is Director of Client Solutions, B2T Training and has over 12 years of business analysis experience. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in various industries. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals and is a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) through the IIBA and is BA Certified through B2T Training. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone! Contact Kupe at [email protected].