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Crafting a Compelling Business Case: A Practical Guide for Business Analysts

Developing a business case is akin to telling a compelling story—one that captivates your audience and persuades them to invest time, resources, and support in your idea. As a Business Analyst, mastering the art of creating a persuasive business case prior to crunching the numbers and making the pitch is essential for driving successful projects within your organization. Here are eight major points that will help you navigate the intricate landscape of business case development (i.e. “make the case”).

 

  • Basics of Making a Business Case

Let’s kick things off with the foundational principles of constructing a business case. Regardless of the nature of your proposal or the industry you’re in, the process remains surprisingly consistent.

First and foremost, abandon the idea of diving into logical arguments or grappling with intricate numbers right away. Instead, envision yourself as a storyteller, beginning with the identification of a problem or opportunity. Ask yourself: What business need are you trying to address? Once you’ve pinpointed this, it’s time to introduce the characters in your story—stakeholders, beneficiaries, and subject-matter experts.

Stakeholders, often high-ranking decision-makers, hold the power to greenlight or reject your business case. Beneficiaries are those who stand to gain from your proposal, while subject-matter experts provide insights into problem-solving. Collaborate with these individuals to explore various alternatives, considering efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and alignment with your organization’s culture.

Having chosen the best option, create a high-level project plan to estimate the time and resources required. Finally, clearly articulate the value your solution brings, setting the stage for the subsequent number-crunching phase, including ROI, break-even points, payback periods, net present value, and internal rate of return.

 

  • Learn How Your Organization Evaluates Business Cases

Understanding how your organization reviews and approves projects is crucial for tailoring your business case effectively. Answer questions such as: Does your company have a formal evaluation process? Is it connected to other processes, and how detailed do stakeholders want the information?

Leverage the knowledge of a colleague familiar with the evaluation process. In large companies, formal templates and specific review times may exist, often tied to annual budgeting. Some organizations use a “tollgate” process, where approval is sought for project phases, allowing gradual commitment of resources.

Smaller organizations follow a similar pattern, albeit with less structure. Identify decision-makers’ authority levels, and if your organization lacks a defined process, seek insights from successful colleagues who navigated similar challenges.

 

 

  • Know Who’s Calling the Shots

Understanding who holds the fate of your project is paramount. Whether it’s an individual or a small committee, knowing your audience allows you to tailor your case to their priorities. Your boss might have insights into the decision-makers, whether it’s the CFO, division head, or a committee representing various organizational facets.

Identify the dominant department, as their goals often carry significant weight in decision-making. Find a champion within that department or committee who can advocate for your proposal. Remember, the goal isn’t just approval but informed decision-making, even if it means rejection.

Once you know the decision-makers, understand their priorities. Senior leaders look for projects aligning with the company’s strategy, emphasizing the importance of ensuring your case dovetails with broader objectives.

 

  • Understand the Audience’s Objectives

Aligning your business case with your company’s objectives is pivotal. Begin by identifying these objectives through sources like annual reports, CEO letters, and all-staff communications. Grasp the overarching themes—whether it’s growth, cost-cutting, global expansion, or regional focus.

Those evaluating your case are likely responsible for meeting these objectives. Clearly demonstrate how your proposal contributes directly to these goals. Understand the priorities, values, and decision-making styles of stakeholders by engaging with experts from various functions and consulting your boss.

Remember, stakeholders may not always agree on how to achieve company goals, emphasizing the need to involve experts from diverse functions when building your business case.

 

  • Clarify the Need

Before delving into team-building and solution brainstorming, the business need must be crystal clear. Referred to as the “pain point,” it’s the urgent problem or opportunity driving your proposal. It could be a sales force losing bids, service desk requests falling short, or an opportunity for substantial cost savings.

Document the pain point(s) thoroughly, noting the origin, impact, and the solution’s objectives. This documentation serves as the basis for your recommendations, making it easier to present a compelling case to stakeholders later on.

Whether you identify the need yourself or stakeholders present it to you, rigorous research is essential. Document everything, keeping notes on paper or digital files to refer back to when faced with conflicting or partial information.

 

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  • Build a Cross-Functional Team

Developing a business case is not a solitary endeavor. Relying solely on your perspective risks overlooking crucial aspects. Instead, assemble a cross-functional team comprising individuals from various departments and perspectives.

While you may not have a dedicated team, bring together individuals at different points in the process. Include a finance representative to provide a big-picture view of costs and benefits. Engage beneficiaries to voice their concerns and ensure a holistic problem-solving approach. If the project impacts customers, involve customer-facing representatives like account managers or customer service representatives.

External experts can offer valuable insights, whether sourced from your network, online communities, or vendors. The key is to form a tight team of experts focused on the specific case, respecting the organizational chain of command and securing support from reporting managers.

 

  • Consider Alternatives

The brainstorming phase is where your cross-functional team shines. Encourage the exploration of potential solutions, using problem statements as a starting point. Look beyond individual departments, considering how other organizations or departments might have addressed similar needs.

Emphasize that these sessions are working sessions—opportunities to generate options without delving into detailed project plans or specific vendors. Facilitate creative thinking while reminding the team of limitations and constraints. The goal is to consider all viable options before narrowing down to 2-3 choices.

Thought-provoking questions guide this process. Which option costs the least? Is it the fastest to implement? Does it have the fewest risks or bring in the most revenue? Present each option with at least one significant advantage and be ready to share rejected options and the reasons behind their dismissal.

 

Think Through the High-Level “How”

Paint a vivid picture of how your proposed solution will be implemented within the organization. While not a detailed project plan, this outline provides a realistic basis for estimating costs and benefits. Consider what tasks need to be done before, during, and after the project switch.

Engage subject matter experts and stakeholders in this process. Anticipate potential roadblocks and resource requirements, securing buy-in from involved departments. Validate your proposed solution with your cross-functional team, ensuring feasibility and uncovering any hidden costs or constraints.

This high-level planning stage helps you identify whose support you’ll need and ensures that all costs, including one-time expenses, are accounted for. It sets the stage for detailed financial calculations and further strengthens your business case.

 

Here’s to crafting a compelling case that resonates with stakeholders!

What’s Next: The Future of Business Analysis in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, professionals across industries are witnessing the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analyst profession is not untouched and is on the brink of a significant shift in its roles and responsibilities. As AI technologies continue to advance, they are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of business analysis. In this blog, we’ll deep dive into how AI is set to impact the future of business analyst professionals.

 

The Rise of AI in Business Analysis

 

1. Data-Driven Insights

Business analysts have always been tasked with extracting valuable insights from data to support decision-making. AI, with its machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics, empowers analysts to delve deeper into data. They can now unearth hidden patterns, make more accurate forecasts, and identify trends that might have remained concealed with traditional business analysis methods.

 

2. Enhanced Efficiency

AI-driven automation tools can handle repetitive tasks, such as data collection and cleansing, leaving analysts with more time for critical thinking and strategic analysis. This increased efficiency allows business analysts to focus on high-impact activities, making them indispensable assets to their organizations.

 

 

 

 

  1. Real-time Analytics

AI enables real-time data analysis, providing business analysts with most relevant and current insights. This instant access to reliable and accurate information empowers business analysts to respond swiftly to market changes and emerging trends, enabling more predictable and agile decision-making which is critical for reaching organization’s strategic goals.

 

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  1. The Evolving Role of Business Analysts

As AI becomes more integrated into business operations, the role of business analysts is evolving in several significant ways:

 

  • From Data Analysts to Data Strategists

With AI handling routine data analysis, business analysts are transitioning from mere data collectors to data strategists. They are expected to interpret AI-generated insights and translate them into actionable business strategies.

  • Ethical Considerations and challenges

AI raises ethical concerns, such as bias in algorithms and data privacy issues. The role of Business analyst is to navigate through these ethical challenges and ensure that AI systems are used responsibly and the data they collect and analyze is both accurate and unbiased.

  • Cross-functional Collaboration with different partners

Business analysts are increasingly expected to collaborate with data scientists and AI engineers to develop and implement AI-powered solutions. Effective communication and collaboration between these roles are vital for successful AI integration and forms core of various digitization initiatives.

  • Continuous Learning is the key to success

The rapid evolution of AI requires business analysts to engage in continuous learning and skill development. Staying updated on AI technologies and methodologies is crucial to remain relevant in their roles.

  • The Impact on Job Market

Even though the initial buzzword of AI lead to job insecurities but future seems to be bright. While AI is automating some aspects of business analysis, it is also creating new opportunities. The demand for business analysts who can harness AI and effectively interpret its insights is on the rise. Companies are actively seeking professionals with AI skills to drive innovation and competitive advantage.

 

Conclusion

Industry’s future hinges on how well business analysts use Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analysts will find themselves at the vanguard of data-driven decision-making as AI technology develops and advances. They will play more strategic and team-oriented roles with an emphasis on utilizing AI to boost corporate success. Business analysts are expected to embrace AI and see it as a potent tool if they want to succeed in this dynamic and fast paced environment. They should invest in their AI-related skills, navigate through ethical challenges, and adjust to the shifting needs of the labor market. By doing so, they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that Artificial Intelligence presents and remain valuable resources for their organizations in years to come.

Maximizing Business Analysis with ITIL: A Strategic Integration for Success

In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the role of a Business Analyst (BA) stands as a linchpin between technological advancements and strategic objectives. Within this realm, the integration of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) principles has emerged as a pivotal force, reshaping the way BAs navigate and optimize business processes.

 

Understanding ITIL:

At its core, ITIL represents a comprehensive framework that encapsulates a set of best practices for IT service management. ITIL has evolved into a globally recognized framework, offering guidance on aligning IT services with the needs of the business. It comprises a collection of detailed practices, emphasizing service lifecycle management, continual improvement, and customer-centricity.

 

Enhancing Business Analysis with ITIL:

For Business Analysts, the incorporation of ITIL principles serves as a catalyst for profound change, fostering a more strategic and holistic approach to their responsibilities. Let’s explore how ITIL augments the role of a BA:

  1. Structured Process Analysis: ITIL provides a structured framework for analyzing, designing, and improving processes. BAs leverage this methodology to gain a comprehensive understanding of IT service lifecycles, enabling them to streamline operations and enhance efficiency.
  2. Facilitating Effective Communication: With a standardized language and terminology, ITIL bridges the communication gap between IT teams and business stakeholders. BAs proficient in ITIL can effectively convey complex technical concepts in a language that resonates with organizational objectives.
  3. Informed Decision-Making: By embracing ITIL methodologies, BAs gain insights into service strategy, design, transition, and operation. This knowledge equips them to make informed decisions that align IT services with overarching business goals.
  4. Continuous Improvement Culture: The core principle of continual service improvement in ITIL aligns seamlessly with the BA’s pursuit of optimizing business processes. BAs facilitate a culture of ongoing enhancement and adaptation, ensuring that IT services evolve in tandem with organizational needs.
  5. Risk Mitigation and Adaptability with: ITIL equips BAs with the tools to anticipate and mitigate risks effectively. This proactive approach minimizes disruptions, ensuring business continuity in the face of technological or operational challenges.

 

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Real-world Impact and Success Stories:

Numerous success stories attest to the transformative impact of integrating ITIL into the scope of Business Analysis. Organizations have witnessed improved service delivery, increased operational efficiency, and a more strategic alignment between IT initiatives and business objectives. BAs proficient in ITIL frameworks have played a pivotal role in orchestrating these successes, driving innovation, and fostering a collaborative environment that embraces change.

 

Challenges and Adoption:

While the benefits of ITIL integration are substantial, challenges in implementation persist. Resistance to change, organizational inertia, and the complexity of aligning ITIL methodologies with existing processes often pose hurdles. BAs navigating this landscape must demonstrate strong leadership, communication skills, and a keen understanding of organizational dynamics to facilitate successful integration.

 

Continuous Learning and Evolution:

In the ever-evolving realm of technology and business, the journey of a BA integrating ITIL principles is an ongoing process. Continuous learning, staying abreast of updated ITIL practices, and adapting to changing business landscapes are essential for sustainable success.

 

Conclusion:

ITIL isn’t merely a set of guidelines for IT management; it’s a strategic enabler for Business Analysts. Its integration empowers BAs to be strategic partners, driving organizational success by aligning IT initiatives with business objectives, fostering innovation, and enabling a culture of continual improvement. Embracing ITIL principles expands the horizons of Business Analysis, transforming it into a proactive and value-driven function crucial for the modern enterprise.

The synergy between ITIL and Business Analysis isn’t just a trend; it’s a strategic imperative for organizations seeking to thrive in an increasingly digital and competitive landscape.

An End and a Beginning: A Practical Application of Business Analysis Techniques

Business analysis is not just an IT-related profession; it is a profession that has expression in every facet of life, and hence one of the reasons why you should take pride in this profession if you are a business analyst or why you should aspire to be one.

The tools and techniques are transferable skills that have applications or expressions in other aspects of life.

I briefly discuss two as the curtains close in 2023.

  1. Lessons learnt
  2. MoSCoW

Have you taken time to reflect on 2023 and list out the lessons learned? Making use of this powerful BA technique is one of the ways you can identify what went well in 2023, what didn’t go well, where you made mistakes, and what you can put in place to avoid those mistakes in 2024.

Note that this does not only apply to the current year or next year; rather, it is a set of business analysis techniques that can be applied to different seasons and phases of life.

  1. Lessons learnt

What went well?

A1: Why did it go well?

B: What didn’t go well?

B1: Why did it not go well?

C: What mistakes did I make?

D: What can I do to rectify or avoid the mistake in the future?

E: What are my achievements?

F: What lessons have I learned?

 

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2. MoSCoW

Based on your analysis above and the lessons learned, you can draw up your plan for the future (the next phase).

A: What must be done?

B: What should be done?

C: What COULD be done

D: What won’t be done

This can also be seen as a positive thing to do in the new year and a negative thing to avoid.

While new year resolutions may be difficult for some, using the above BA skills should help you plan your coming year with hopefully less pressure.

Concluding Remarks

As a phase comes to an end and you look forward to a new beginning, take time to consider these business analysis techniques, take time to reflect on the lessons learned, and plan the MoSCow for the future.

Best of BATimes: Approaches for Being a Lead BA

You’ve worked your way up the BA ladder – started as a Junior BA, then a BA, then a Sr. BA, and now you’re a Lead BA on a project working with other BAs. What do you do? This article focuses on some of the Do’s and Don’ts of being a Lead BA. Some of it is science and some of it is art.

 

Requirements Governance:

1. Who do you take direction from your PM or your BA Manager:

The first place to start as a Lead BA is establishing your own personal Requirements Governance. Who do you provide status updates to and who do you take direction on requirements from – PM or your BA Manager? The scenarios I’ve encountered are:

  1. You as the Lead BA take your BA requirements direction from the PM and provide status updates to your BA Manager.
  2. You as the Lead BA take your BA requirements directly from your BA Manager and provide status updates to your PM.
  3. The third and most often scenario is where both the PM and your BA Manager are of the opinion that you take requirements direction from them and provide status updates to the other.

Tip: Right at the beginning of the project start the conversation with your BA Manager and clearly establish the relationship you’ll have with him or her and with the PM (in my experience coaching BAs too many Lead BAs don’t have the conversation upfront and then find themselves in a bind when scenario C) above becomes an issue during the project itself). If the answer is taking your requirements direction from them, set up a short meeting with your BA Manager and the PM to establish this relationship as PMs generally don’t like that arrangement, and it’s best to get them to discuss it face to face. If the answer is taking your requirements direction from the PM, then simply follow-up the meeting with a confirmation email to your BA Manager and just let your PM know that you’re effectively going to report to them and take, where appropriate, BA approach direction from them.

 

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2. Establish your role as Lead BA on the BA team:

Make sure it’s clear to the BAs you’ll be leading that you are the Lead BA, and they will work with you in that capacity. A couple of ways to communicate this:

  • Ensure you’re called out on the project governance as the Lead BA and ensure the BAs you’ll be leading review the project governance
  • Where you’re taking your Requirements direction from your BA Manager have them send out an email to the BAs you’ll be leading that you’re the lead and that you’ll be guiding the approach etc. to the Requirements deliverables

 

3. Start by learning about your BAs:

At the beginning you’ll need to establish how experienced the BAs are with eliciting, documenting, and analyzing requirements, how familiar they are with the project subject matter, etc./ by scheduling quick little chats with the BAs you’ll be working with

  1. If you’re dealing with Sr. BAs with lots of experience, then your focus with them will be on making sure things are going smoothly and that they working to the timelines for their requirements work packages; You can give them fairly large and complex requirements work packages
  2. If you’re dealing with more Jr. BAs then you will be in a more guidance/ mentoring mode – periodically reviewing their requirements and providing feedback, mentoring on approach to different types of requirements such as documenting process flows and business rules, etc.; Initially limiting the scope of their work packages to small well-defined pieces of requirements; have little chats with them about how things are going

 

4. Develop a view of the requirements work packages:

Typically, a group of BAs is assigned to a project because the project is complex and there are multiple “groups/ categories” of requirements that need to be created to deliver the scope of the project. At the outset understand the drivers and objectives of the project and establish a view of the requirements work packages. Some examples of this are:

a. Achieving compliance with regulations or another compliance-related purpose:

    1. You may need to look at work packages focused on complying with different sections of the regulations
    2. If the compliance covers multiple departments or Lines of Business (LOB) you may need to focus on requirements for each department/ LOB to comply with the regulations

b. Developing and implementing a large technology system or platform:

      1. You may need to look at requirements work packages focused around different groups of users with the system – for example if it’s a workflow system you likely have work packages for customer-facing components, back-office-facing components, etc.
      2. You may need to look at requirements work packages focused on different functional features. For example, a customer-facing platform for a direct investing platform may consist of trading-related features, viewing account holdings, researching different securities, etc.

 

5. Managing the requirements work packages:

a. Establish a view of the project timelines with respect to the requirements work packages based on their complexity etc. I prefer a matrix like this to do so (using the direct investing platform as an example) based on the requirements lifecycle – plan, elicit, analyze, document, get sign-off (note do this in Excel or Project to track progress, etc.)

Plan Elicit Analyze Document Sign-Off
Trading requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22
Security Research requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22
View account holdings requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22

b. Based on what you learned about the BAs you’re leading assign them to different work packages – and monitor their progress on their work packages against the. I’ve found the best way to keep track of this is using a matrix like this that I update on a weekly basis:

Legend:

P – Plan, E- Elicit, A- Analyze, D- Document, S- Signoff

BA1 BA2 BA3
Trading requirements P – Jan. 1/22
Security Research requirements P – Jan. 1/22
View account holdings requirements P – Jan. 1/22

 

With these 2 matrices, you can keep track of who’s doing what and how they are doing against the target dates so you can provide status reports to the project team as required.

 

6. Monitoring progress and connecting the BAs as a team:

The most effective approach that I’ve found to monitor the progress of my BAs is to hold weekly meetings – with a twist. Most people just do a status check-in during their weekly meetings – how are you progressing against your timelines. I believe that weekly meetings are a good chance for the BAs to inform and help one another. I encourage them to talk about challenges they are having – someone else in the team may have encountered this and have a solution/ approach to tackling it. I encourage them to talk about effective approaches that they’ve found to doing things that may be helpful to other members of the team. Finally, I ask each BA to give a brief overview of the requirements they are working on. As most projects with a BA team have a common goal – by talking about requirements it will quite often identify synergies or conflicts between requirements/ work packages that will help move the project forward more efficiently.

 

Conclusion:

Hopefully, these approaches will help you become a more effective BA Lead. There are lots more approaches and in future articles, I may expand on them.

 

Published on: 2022/01/27