This is a good thing! It really is. Innovation and experimentation often leads to big wins or changes that further industries, professions and companies.
However, along with innovation comes failure. ‘Fail fast, fail often’ seems to be the new mantra of the start-up industry, and it’s also bled significantly into agile environments. It’s become an acceptable practice in companies all over the world, but we must remember…….failure is still failure even when we learn from it.
There is a fine line between risk and recklessness. Measured risk can have big payoffs. Measured, being the keyword.
How Does This Affect Me?
Business analysis, at least in terms of how it is viewed nowadays, is still a relatively young discipline. As such we have a great scope and willingness to embrace new methods and ways of working. Over the past 5 years, there has been a huge increase in the number of business analysts calling themselves agile business analysts. I too am guilty of this despite having more years working in waterfall than agile.
Death of the Traditional
I love what I do, and because of that, I spent a lot of time absorbing new materials related to the practice and wider industry. From traditional means such as books and blogs to newer modern ways including webinars and podcasts. All of these channels offer great value and insight for learning and are largely driven by the contributor’s experience of successful practices.
What I find much rarer these days is hearing stories of the times when the analysis was wrong or failed to offer value. These examples tend to only come up either from individual 1 on 1 conversations, or as part of examples from materials aimed at newer business analysts just starting out, on what to avoid doing.
Reading between the lines, it appears to me that some of the more traditional methods, once applied as best practices, are slowly dying out. As such you rarely see them mentioned in articles, posts or examples from the last 5 years or so.
I’m talking of the techniques I once studied 17 years ago at university or applied often in the early stages of my career when the business landscape was very different and the internet was still in its earlier and often frustrating stages, such as SWOT, PESTLE, MOST and CATWOE.
These seem to have been entirely replaced with modern techniques evolved for more modern and agile times such as user stories, use cases, wireframes, story mapping and MoSCoW.
Don’t Count Them Out Just Yet
Maybe one of the reasons for the decline of these models may simply come from the natural evolution of the business analyst cycle. Many of the industry veterans who got their start and were ingrained in these methods have gone onto bigger or different things. Those who came up or into business analysis in entirely agile environments probably haven’t ever been shown the more traditional/older models. Innovation has won out and is enabling BA’s in modern day do a very good job using only the newer sets of tools.
Innovation of Old
Fashion trends, language and pop music all seem to experience cycles. What was once in style, went and of style and then had a revival. Maybe the same could happen in the business analysis industry.
OK, that probably is a step too far. But what if, the innovators and those looking to continuously adopt new methods to try, innovated by reviving the traditionally taught models
Example 1 – MOST
For those unfamiliar with MOST analysis, it is a model used for evaluating whether the internal project you are working on is aligned to 4 main corporate strategies
Mission – Where does the business want to go/purpose of the business.
Objective – Goals of the business.
Strategy – High-level approach to achieving the goals.
Tactics – Means to implement the strategy.
I don’t really see MOST used much these days but without any deep background, it’s quite easy to see its relevance to modern and agile environments.
Imagine that you are working for a game development company. Your company has a vision or a goal driving it towards where it wants to be. You’re working with product owners, product managers, basically all the main stakeholders to come up with games to pitch to the company owners. You’ve brainstormed lots of ideas and now it’s time to build the business case for each. Applying MOST analysis to your game ideas can a modern day take on the traditional MOST analyst.
Let’s actually apply MOST to a real-life example (made up on the spot to demonstrate the ease of use). Let’s take Rockstar Games – the originators of Grand Theft Auto and red dead redemption. Imagine it is the early stages of the company and we are going to look at whether the game ideas being pitched will fit into the company ethos build using MOST. Those which do will be taken forward. Those that don’t will be scrapped before wasting the founder time.
Mission – To develop games the founders would want to play that doesn’t conform to the rules or standards current games developers are working within.
Objectives – Develop whatever they want, whenever they want and not have to answer to anyone.
Strategy – Create in-game controversy / real world feel / give the players moral choices but with complete freedom to destroy traditional morals.
Tactics – Gorilla marketing strategies /controversy in the news / word of mouth
For anyone who has played, seen, or heard about grand theft auto you will know that the game would have been a resounding YES. Whereas, if you were to be reviewing a pitch for a game like ‘The Sims’, you would have likely rejected the game pitch before the presentation stage and gone back to the drawing board.
Example 2 - PESTLE
PESTLE analysis is used to evaluate the environmental factors which impact a company. It’s a great tool to apply when thinking of starting a company going or moving into an established market. Something which probably happens more than ever in modern times. Providing a deeper understanding of certain areas which will need a more robust and comprehensive analysis done before going to market, PESTLE helps to focus on the important facets within 6 main attributes:
Political (current and potential influences from political pressures)
Economic (the local, national and world economy impact)
Sociological (the ways in which a society can affect an organization)
Technological (the effect of new and emerging technology)
Legal (the effect of national and world legislation)
Environmental (the local, national and world environmental issues)
And again let’s apply it to a modern company. This time I will pick a young company proving extremely popular in the fitness industry at the moment – Gymshark
PESTLE isn’t ground-breaking, but it does highlight areas of analysis that will need significantly more analysis. Its application to agile is just as relevant as it is to waterfall. It can be applied at strategic or product level. If nothing else it highlights potential issues and risk for the risk register and for teams such as development, design or logistics to consider.
Innovation through Foundation
As with all innovation and evolution, what sticks will be that which tends to work. In today’s continuous improvement focused environments such as software or infrastructure, we all need to be trying new things and applying new knowledge.
But let’s not leave behind all of the foundational techniques business analysis was built on. Let’s consider innovating through brilliance at the basics as well as new innovation. Applying modern takes to traditional models can really add value and prove fruitful. After all, despite it being a much different time, these foundations built the industry that all brought us to this point. They shouldn’t be discounted or left out of today’s application.