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Author: Joe Newbert

The Business Analysis Hierarchy of Needs

The business analyst’s journey is an enduring one.

You find yourself amongst broken systems, inefficient processes, contradictory information, blue-sky ideas, and unhappy customers. Which do you address first?

The stakeholders’ response of “everything, now” is the conflicting norm.

But that doesn’t help…

At any given time only one thing can be the most important—only one item can be top-priority. Yet if we don’t know what that is, we might be fixing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Or, fixing the right thing at the wrong time, as solid solutions are only so on strong foundations.

You can pinpoint the right level to work on at the right time, by understanding the business analysis hierarchy of needs.

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Figure 1 The Business Analysis Hierarchy of Needs


Needs lower down the hierarchy must be satisfied before you can attend to needs higher up.

  1. Problem – the creation of opportunity.
    When it comes to business change, there needs to be a problem or an opportunity. When it comes to business analysis, you need to discover the need, explore the situation and understand the objective in order to move up the hierarchy.
  2. Solution – the creation of capability.
    Many businesses build ineffective solutions because they jump into solution-mode or focus on technology. It’s important you build a product that addresses stakeholders’ needs. And your solution must be baked into a holistic business system.
  3. Service – the creation of competence.
    This is where you realise operational efficiency. The idea is that as the solution settles, the business starts to become more organised and less dependent on you. By enabling operations effectively you move the needle onto business as usual.
  4. Impact – the creation of transformation.
    This is where you realise the change is not about transaction but transformation. You are not deploying a function, but rather a product/service that impacts somebodies. You need to focus on changing behaviours, and managing emotions.
  5. Utility – the creation of satisfaction.
    You started with a promise (not a guarantee) about the change you were seeking to make. To achieve total satisfaction you need to maximise usefulness, productivity, profitability, or other benefits. This should be the objective of your change.

The business analysis hierarchy of needs is a compass that can be used to co-create “value” from a base with opportunity towards the pinnacle of utility.