Goldilocks And The Three BAs
Once upon a time, there were three BAs, they all wanted their analysis to be “just right”, but what does that actually mean?
‘Just-enough’ and’ just-in-time’ sound like straightforward concepts, but how much is enough? This very much depends on the context and the needs and preferences of your Goldilocks. We always want our business analysis outputs to be accurate, but we also need them to be proportionate and appropriate to the situation.
So ‘enough’ business analysis means: establishing clear expectations and exclusions, sufficient breadth and depth of investigation, engagement with representative stakeholders, utilization of suitable analysis techniques, and a focus on creating analysis outputs and assets that meet a specific purpose.
We can look at the characteristics of ‘over-analysis’ and ‘under-analysis’ to help test the balance, and ensure our analysis efforts and outputs are just right.
The First BA: Over-Analysis
This BA finds it difficult to know when their analysis is ‘finished’.
We can always speak to one more stakeholder or hold one more workshop! It is easier to frame analysis outputs as ‘sufficient to meet the purpose’ (which may be to inform further activities, share knowledge, facilitate agreement, enable decisions, etc.) rather than ‘finished’. We must also remind ourselves that new information will always emerge, this does not mean our analysis was wrong but reflected what was understood at that point in time. The purpose of the analysis is to increase knowledge and test assumptions. Some assumptions will be proven wrong, and new perspectives will emerge.
The characteristics of over-analysis:
- Feeling overwhelmed and experiencing Analysis Paralysis
- Too much detail, no summary or high-level routes into the detailed analysis
- Endless meetings/discussions/workshops with no progress
- Number of requirements out of control
- Too much focus on edge cases
- No prioritization of analysis effort
- Repository of unread documents
- Total reliance on BA to navigate the analysis, opaque to others
- Regularly finding duplication of requirements or analysis assets
- Audience for analysis outputs unclear
- Being ‘90% done’ for weeks or months.
The Second BA: Under-Analysis
This BA does not challenge assumptions or apply analytical thinking.
Stakeholders may have low expectations of this BA, treating them like an order-taker or scribe. When we accept a very narrow role or are told we cannot deploy the full range of analytical techniques required for the situation, the quality and veracity of the resulting analysis will be compromised.
The characteristics of under-analysis:
- Always engaging the same small group of stakeholders
- No stakeholder analysis
- Solution pre-defined
- No clear problem definition
- Applying a very limited range of analysis techniques
- Only creating user stories
- No consideration of edge cases
- No templates or reuse, always starting from scratch
- No peer-review by other BAs
- Process-view only, no consideration of data
- Technology view only, no consideration of business
- Opinion over evidence, deference to HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions)
- No challenge of ideas/assumptions/processes
- Undocumented assumptions
- Writing things down with no critical thinking or analysis.
The Third BA: Just Right
This BA understands the audience and purpose of the analysis and is confident in the business analysis skills and techniques which will achieve the required outcome.
A key aspect of creating analysis outputs that are accurate, appropriate, and proportionate is agreeing on who will use the analysis and for what purpose. It then entails considering possible routes to achieving that purpose, how the analysis will be carried out, and getting further agreement on that approach.
A ‘definition of done’ for the analysis deliverables is very valuable, and creates a shared understanding and agreed set of expectations from all stakeholders.
Questions for getting analysis just-right:
- WHY am I doing this? What is the purpose of the analysis?
- WHO am I engaging with? Who is missing? Are the stakeholders representative and proportionate? Are they appropriate for this stage? Who will use what I produce?
- WHAT am I creating? What format, what length, what systems will I use?
- HOW will I approach the analysis? What business analysis techniques will I apply? How will I select techniques that are appropriate to the audience, timescale, and other constraints? How will I ensure I am producing analysis and not simply documentation? How will I achieve validation and approval of the analysis deliverables?
- WHEN is the analysis needed? What can be achieved in that timeframe, what cannot be achieved? What constraints does that place on the engagement and investigation? What dependencies exist?
- WHERE will the analysis be shared and stored? How can I ensure transparency and increase engagement?
The first BA is drowning in the detail and doesn’t know where to stop. The second BA is doing what they are told, and not bringing analytical tools and thinking to the situation. The third BA is asking a lot of questions, and quite possibly annoying people who think they should ‘just get on with it’, but certainly has the most chance of producing analysis outputs that are useful and valued.
The recipe for getting business analysis just right is to be aware of the characteristics of over and under analysis, to apply a suitable range of analysis techniques which explore multiple perspectives and to understand the expectations of Goldilocks.