Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
There is a popular adage often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the father of time management, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” The quote may sound like music to your ears but planning for business analysis work is a key area which tries to zero in on the importance of planning in a software development project. Sadly, it is a step that is often overlooked.
The absence of proper planning can detrimentally affect timely meeting of the on-going project deliverables. To avoid such a failure it is vital that a project manager ensure that the requirement planning activity is given due importance, so that everything is under complete control.
So, how can a project manager ensure that a business analyst (BA) is given the power of execution to get the things delivered with the required level of quality and within the defined time frames. Let’s examine some of the key pointers essential to effective business analysis planning.
The Planning Stage
The planning stage gives a high level understanding of the intended software product. It gives the project team a pulse of the current systems and processes, while evaluating the existing deficiencies and identifying the key objectives that need to be addressed in the proposed software development activity.
The planning stage also helps the stakeholders identify the risks that may be associated with the project. Over time, the business requirements keep growing in an attempt to enhance the existing functionality. The objective of the planning stage is to make it absolutely clear – working in partnership with the client and the development teams – what full range of functions and content will be addressed.
The Kick-off Meeting
The kick-off meeting is the opening play of the project. It is an ideal occasion for the project team and the client to introduce them selves and set the project expectations and milestones. The meeting should identify the team roles across the entire spectrum of project related activities, in order to ensure that these activities get completed smoothly.
Requirements Tools and Templates
The business analyst analyses, documents, manages and presents the project requirements for review and approval to the client in a comprehensible manner. As part of the planning process, and early in the project, the BA should communicate to the customer the standard templates and requirement management tools they will adhere to, in order to document the requirements specifications.
For projects large in size and complexity, it is important to make use of requirements management tools to manage version change, track requirement status, communicate with stakeholders and reuse the requirements wherever possible.
Define Points of Contact and Escalation Hierarchy
Should there be any queries or concerns regarding any aspect of the planned project activity, it is important to define a clear process to identify the key points of contact in the project engagement with proper escalation mechanism.
The steering committee is responsible for advice on strategic direction, overseeing planning and implementation, resolving open issues, achieving the project deliverables and milestones, and for preparing a weekly project status report giving updated and accurate information as the project progresses.
The Requirements Sign-off: A Project Milestone
It is imperative that every project participant understand what the Requirements Sign-off means, and its associated impact on the project. Clients should not dismiss sign-off as meaningless, but rather consider it as an important project milestone.
Requirements sign-off means a formal agreement with the project stakeholders, stating that the contents of the requirements document, as drafted, are complete to the final projections and that there are no open issues left to be addressed.
Obtaining a requirements sign-off is typically the final task within the framework of Requirements Communication, which is an expression of the output of requirements gathering to all those concerned with the project.
A holistic approach is absolutely essential and indispensable for the success of the project. It takes effort to leverage and climb the ladder of success. The journey is indeed rewarding and also a voyage of discovery.
Nilesh A. Raje is a Sr.Consultant (Functional) with SYSTIME Computer Systems Ltd. SYSTIME (www.SYSTIME.net) is a leading global business provider delivering reliable, high-quality, cost-effective IT solutions and services. Nilesh has extensive experience in Business Analysis. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering and is also pursuing his Master’s in Business Administration. He has also been published earlier with International Institute of Business Analysis, a leading association in the world of business analysis, as well as in a previous issue of Project Times. In 2007, Nilesh represented his country as “The Youth Icon of India” in Brussels at the First CCS World Youth Forum in the European Parliament. Nilesh can be reached at [email protected].