At a Cross Road as a BA? How to improve your decision-making processes
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How to overcome factors that impact the decision-making process for IT Change strategy initiatives
As Business Analysts, it is not uncommon to be tasked with complex, lengthy initiatives with exceedingly long planning phases, strict governance, and regulatory constraints, or initiatives that require complex software development. This may at times lead to much confusion, uncertainty, a lot of second-guessing, and even procrastination.
Analysis Paralysis is a term used when overthinking and overanalyzing affects the decision-making process so much so that the next course of action becomes unclear.
Stepping out of one's area of expertise or safe zone may be daunting and bring on certain fears, such as a fear of making an error or a fear of suggesting a wrong course of action; however, there are many proven business analysis competencies, tools, and techniques that aid in overcoming the barriers of Paralysis by Analysis.
Let's identify what causes Analysis Paralysis to manifest itself
While we may find ourselves pointing blame at various methodologies and frameworks or even corporate bureaucracy for the effects of analysis paralysis, factors such as unclear objectives, poor planning, un-specified requirements, and a lack of stakeholder alignment may as well be high contributors too.
Analysis paralysis can also manifest itself when head-strong stakeholders vocalize their conflicting opinions and viewpoints, making it difficult for any forward movement.
This article aims to address not only these causes but is also targeted at the highly conscientious Business Analyst who struggles to find a balance between their structured work ethic and progress over perfection. Conscientious people tend to work orderly in a very thorough and careful way, considering all potential outcomes of their actions. While this is a highly remarkable and desirable trait, it can also lead to the inability to move forward with decision-making due to over-thinking problems. We often hear this old saying, "the devil is in the detail," but to counter that, I want to remind you that as long as you have the detail … you should "Trust the process".
Here are some important steps which are often taken for granted when conducting business analysis activities. Incorporating these steps into your regime will help you and your organization achieve its objectives effortlessly with minimal roadblocks.
Understand the Core Reason for the Change
Avoid any urge to advance straight into defining the desired future state and exploring solution options if the reason for the need is still vague or ambiguous. Before the change process starts, make every effort to understand why the change has come about and then analyze the current state by creating a simple context diagram or using the SIPOC technique. These are great methods to aid in understanding the high-level data flows and triggers between internal and external system interfaces, possible alternative process steps, and/or the various process touchpoints. These and various other proven techniques encourage effective process analysis and root cause analysis and make it easier to define a clear and concise problem statement, along with smart goals and objectives to accomplish within the future state that will ultimately add value and address the need.
Be Intentional about Stakeholder Analysis and Interaction
With the previous step showcasing just how a change may directly or indirectly impact various stakeholder groups, it is important to find out who the stakeholders are and their level of influence on the change. Once this is done, start engaging and collaborating with these stakeholders early enough to ensure that the right expectations are set.
A stakeholder map is a great way of demonstrating which stakeholder groups are impacted and which stakeholder groups are not impacted by the upcoming change and aids in understanding how much influence and interest the various stakeholders have on the project.
Sometimes you might find out about future initiatives or inter-dependencies from your stakeholders, which may empower them to align their domain goals to organizational strategies. Always maintain stakeholder engagement and transparency throughout the project lifecycle to promote trust and prevent misalignment or ambiguity.
Remember that stakeholders can be internal as well as external, so do ensure that all stakeholder groups are covered.
Be Organized and Maintain Control from Start to Finish
Establish and communicate all logistics such as Frequency of Meetings, method of sharing communications, the method for receiving information, approval process, escalations process, and the likes, early enough to set the correct structure.
RACI Matrix and Roles and Permission Matrix are useful and ensure all activities' coverage.
Unpacking of Business Requirements
These are the steps that I undertake to protect against requirements analysis paralysis or even a high volume of defects and change requests during testing;
- Post elicitation, I proceed to clarify requirements and understand any associated business rules and then seek confirmation from the relevant stakeholders to prevent any ambiguity.
- I ensure requirements models and designs are of high quality as this will promote informed decision making, and I define the requirements architecture and showcase these to the relevant stakeholders
- With the help of subject matter experts, all requirements deemed not part of the solution scope are then omitted from the requirements backlog, and this is communicated to all stakeholders.
- I capture the acceptance criteria for the valid requirements, and the Dev team informs me of the complexities and effort involved
- I then engage with all stakeholders to understand the prioritization of features and requirements. It is not uncommon at this stage for the sponsor to prioritize a set of requirements as a Minimum viable product to be developed as a Proof of concept.
- As a team, we explore various solution options, such as utilizing existing solutions which can be enhanced to meet the business need (Build) or buying an off the shelf product
- Once solution options are known and have been discussed with all relevant stakeholders, I then arrange another session to invite the Sponsor, demonstrate the same along with the costs and timelines, and seek approval for the next steps.
Use Case diagrams and scenarios, User stories, and simple mockups are my go-to techniques for these tasks.
Plan for the Unforeseen
Don't underestimate previous experiences and lessons learned. Pre-empt all possible issues, constraints, or limitations that could possibly occur while transitioning from current state to future state, and perform impact analysis for the risks that are deemed most probable show-stoppers.
Communicate these to all concerned parties early enough and plan for the various treatment approaches such as mitigations, avoidance, transfer, or, if needed, do make recommendations about the course of action to be taken.
While the above is not a fully comprehensive list of tasks, it ensures that the core structure for conducting business analysis activities is performed, leaving no opportunity for confusion and doubt to creep in.
To conclude, analysis paralysis can occur in a BA's life at any point in time but what's important is how you overcome it by working on your self-confidence, getting comfortable with uncertainty, trusting your instincts, and avoiding decision-making. So follow the above tips and say goodbye to analysis paralysis!
The techniques suggested in this article are not entirely unique to the business analysis world, but they certainly do support effective analysis and decision making, so I encourage you to use whichever relevant tools and techniques you feel comfortable using.