So How’s That Working for You?
Often while teaching business analysis, students ask me, “Why should our business adapt any of these business analysis techniques? We don’t use these techniques because they take too much time.” My initial response is always, “So how is that working for you?” This open question requires not only an elaboration, but some thought and not just a quick response. It is also an effective question that allows me to start a dialogue with the student rather than a discussion defending the use of business analysis techniques.
The word dialogue in Greek means to “talk through” as opposed to the word discussion which is derived from the Latin root meaning “dash to pieces” (1)
As the students ponder, I follow-up with some more focused questions to “pull” information from the student rather than immediately “push” my opinion onto the student. “How are your projects performing today? Are your expectations being met?” These questions, of course, assume that they are tracking projects via measurements. And by measurements I am not just talking about being on schedule, within budget, and delivering the stated scope. I’m including the delivery of the benefits and/or compliance issues as stated in the project business case (discretionary and nondiscretionary projects).
Often, project benefits are not realized until after project closure; therefore, they need to be tracked at the enterprise level.
Continuing with the follow-up questions, “Does your business actually audit the business results? Or does your firm declare victory upon the completion of a project and then move its attention to the next endeavor without any reconciliation of the business needs actually being met?” Unfortunately, many firms only measure the project level “triple constraint” (time, cost, scope) while the tracking of the business results at the enterprise level goes unrecognized and unrecorded.
Success is not gained from the project execution, but in the business result it provides.
Using active listening, I gain a better understanding of the students’ experiences. Typically responses to my initial question are the following:
- “Our project performance is good; our projects generally come in on time, within budget and deliver the committed scope” or
- “Not so good. We have experienced some challenges in maintaining project scope along with unclear business results.”
With the former response, I advise the students if they feel project results cannot be improved then don’t change. Of course, in reality there is always room for improvement; it’s just a matter of cost vs. benefits. Along with this, I recommend that students consider benchmarking their results with other firms in their industry to ensure they are not missing an opportunity. Competitors may have found ways of achieving better results, not only lowering cost, but gaining new revenue and deteriorating your firm’s market share.
Those who do not monitor their competitors soon find themselves working for them.
With the latter response, I advise the students that business analysis techniques lower the risk of maintaining project scope and ensuring business results. These techniques are best practices and as best practices, they are proven to be effective and efficient in analyzing business requirements and process improvements. Some of these are:
- Using the diagnostic approach
- Modeling the current (AS-IS) and desired (TO-BE)
- Determining root cause of problems
- Measuring performance via metrics
- Involving users
- Building a business case
- Defining and validating requirements iteratively
- Tracing requirements back to the business need
I suggest to the students that they have before them the opportunity to help explain to their firm how business analysis techniques at both the project and enterprise level can improve their business results. Their first step is to list the threats and opportunities for their business. They can then gain support by developing stories that predict both positive and negative results for their firm.
Business analysis techniques lower the risk of maintaining project scope and ensure business results.
This means, of course, that their firm must change their current posture and adopt business analysis techniques at both the project and enterprise level. Unfortunately, history shows that human beings typically are not motivated to change until they reach a cusp of a crisis. Hollywood portrayed this behavior recently in a dialogue between an outer-space alien and an earth scientist on changing the nature of human beings to save the environment of their planet (2). In this context, the key is for the firm to change prior to the demise of the business.
For change to happen, a sense of urgency needs to be established.
So in conclusion, “How is that working for you?” If your answer is “not so good,” then you have an opportunity to take the Kotter’s first step in changing the organization – state a sense of urgency (3). Start a dialogue on addressing the business threats and loss opportunities of not achieving business results (i.e., a business case). After you have established the urgency (As-Is model), establish a team, define a vision (To-Be model), and conduct a gap analysis on how to make the transition using those business analysis techniques. Yes, business analysis techniques do take time, but in reality they are time savers and saviors of the business.
Pay me now during the project or pay me much more later during the business.
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Mr. Monteleone holds a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in computing science from Texas A&M University. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®), a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) by the Scrum Alliance, and certified in BPMN by BPMessentials. He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate in Project Management (GWCPM®) and a Business Analyst Certification (GWCBA®) from George Washington University School of Business. Mark is the President of Monteleone Consulting, LLC and can be contacted via e-mail – [email protected].