Factors Impacting Analysis
As Business Analysts, we are experts at defining good quality requirements and processes that enable the implementation of solutions which are fit for purpose and deliver the benefits from the business case. We may have several Business Analysis qualifications and many years’ experience working on all types of projects, from simple process changes to complex technical overhauls with multiple integrations, data migration and significant business change elements, and everything in between.
Yet our skills are just one of the many components that enable us to do our job well. There are some other factors which we don’t have much control over but which are also hugely important. We need to be aware of them and should consider them upfront and throughout the delivery of our projects to set ourselves up for success. Unsurprisingly, they can all be grouped under communication within project teams and organizations’ delivery standards and processes.
- Consider the delivery model
Are the delivery frameworks from your organization and any third party you are working with aligned? Organizations tend to have slightly different definitions of the same terms, for example “delivery phase”. Does the delivery phase consist purely of coding and configuring what has been defined in great detail in previous, distinct analysis and design phases? Or will the delivery phase also include collaborative sessions at the start where technical teams, BAs and users flesh out these details together?
- Consider roles and responsibilities
This is particularly important in organizations which have a high staff turnover, use many contractors or employ staff on short, fixed term contracts. The execution of testing can be a grey area for example, particularly User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Who is expected to write the test scripts? Is it the Tester(s) on your project, the business Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), or even yourself?
- Consider the experience from other key roles within the project team
Do the Project Manager and other key roles within the project team have a good understanding of the role BAs play, what we do and don’t do? For example, do they know that BAs need to be present in all meetings with the users and technical team(s) where the scope is discussed? Or that we cannot make an on-the-spot decision about the validity of a change request, such as descoping an area of functionality because of new budget constraints, without assessing the impact on the processes and the integrity of the solution overall?
- Consider the project plan
How will the project plan be produced? Do you need to do some “right to left” planning, because the go-live date can’t be moved, which is common on a lot of commercial or regulatory projects, or can you estimate the duration of each phase before agreeing on a go live date?
In the first scenario, you will need to timebox each activity and almost certainly compromise on some elements of your analysis. In both cases you need to really think through any assumptions which are being made around the effort required to produce each deliverable and any dependencies. You should also document any risks you foresee as a result of the approach being undertaken.
One common oversight is the business users’ availability to support the project, which can really hinder progress if not managed effectively. This can range from planned absence, such as annual leave, to having to perform Business As Usual (BAU) activities no one else can backfill, or supporting other projects which have a higher priority.
- Consider the project governance
Does your organization have well defined processes to govern the decisions required around the different project milestones and the challenges you will meet in the course of the delivery? For example, are you clear on the documentation that you need to produce, or contribute to, at each stage gate? What is the change control process you need to follow when a new requirement emerges after the requirements catalogue has been baselined?
- Consider the Sponsor’s role
Sponsor engagement, and the BA’s access to the Sponsor, are critical to the success of the project. Are you able to have one-on-one meetings where you can speak openly to update them or seek guidance when you are uncertain about the direction you should follow? Does your Sponsor know the level of involvement they need to have so that they support you, the Project Manager, and the delivery of the project, without interfering with the methodology or the due diligence required, for example?
There are no simple answers to these issues. Every organization has its own culture, and each project team has specific dynamics.
However, identifying them as early as possible means that you can prepare for them and address them effectively within the constraints that you operate in, even if it means you’re not able to follow best practice. When dealing with these challenges, regardless of your level of experience, you will achieve something much bigger than the delivery of your project.
This may be learning something new about the way that you communicate, educating your colleagues about the role of the Business Analyst, or even instigating an improvement in the way in which your organization delivers change.