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Planning the Business Analysis Approach: Aspects to Consider

Jorge Salinas Mata, CBAP

Determining the business analysis approach is the first step in BA planning and it is necessary to consider the purpose of this task along with several elements in order to come up with an approach that will be suitable for the project/organization. BA approaches are planned in order to come up with a suitable method to conduct business analysis activities – that is, the way in which tasks will be carried out and the deliverable that will be produced. Planning the BA approach gives rise to concise execution details, order, resources, documents, templates, agreed participation and outcomes.

Executing BA activities and identifying the stakeholders to interact with does not happen in the first meeting, workshop or video-conference. Multiple aspects must be assessed and agreed upon in order to align efforts, such that it meets the expectations of the teams and gives rise to planned results. Some aspects which needs to be considered are:

  • Nature of business/work the organization is in
  • Complexity, size of the project and risks involved
  • Prior experience with different approaches
  • How tolerant the organization is towards uncertainty
  • Stakeholders and organizational culture
  • The deliverable that will be generated and whether it will require a subsequent approval or review

The two commonly used and well-known approaches are Predictive approach and Adaptive approach and it is possible to use different approaches within the same initiative.

The predictive approach focuses on in-depth planning and analysis of the projected future for anticipated risks. Also known as “waterfall” method, this methodology relies on an early phase analysis and a detailed breakup of the features and tasks for the entire development process.

In case the project approach is predictive, more upfront and detailed planning is necessary to ensure that the participants, formats, and necessary information are required/available on the planned dates. This approach also calls for formal documentation and representations.

Adaptive approach on the other hand focuses on small, highly collaborative teams, which work on a series of short cycles, emphasizing on transparency and rapid feedback from stakeholders.

The adaptive approach is best suited to organizations, which are into new product development/emerging solutions, products that have never been tried before and where change and customer’s feedback is welcome. This approach is not highly focused on formal documentation, it instead focuses on more interaction and collaboration with stakeholders.

If project approach is adaptive with a combination of low maturity level of expertise or execution from stakeholders’ side, a strict follow up of approval definition processes must be implemented.

The two factors which will influence the BA approach are described in some more detail here:

  • Project needs - The business analysis approach is shaped by the problem or opportunity faced by the organization. It is necessary to consider what is known about the need at the time of planning, while acknowledging that project needs evolves throughout business analysis activities.
  • Stakeholders - Perform and document a stakeholder engagement plan to ensure planning and monitoring activities reflect stakeholder needs and account for stakeholder characteristics.

The business analysis activities are integrated with the BA approach. The business analysis activities, which will serve to obtain the required information, are planned with the relevant stakeholders and the objectives and schedules of the required sessions are set. Where review and approval activities are required, include it as part of the plan. When stakeholders understand what is expected from them and the level of involvement expected, they tend to engage more and offer support in all the BA activities.

Some commonly used techniques to determine the BA planning approach as described in BABoK v3.0 are:

Technique

Description

Brainstorming

Used to identify possible business analysis activities, techniques, risks and other relevant items to help build the business analysis approach.

Business Cases

Used to understand whether elements of the problem or opportunities are especially time-sensitive, high-value, or whether there is any uncertainty around elements of the possible need or solution.

Document Analysis

 Used to review existing organizational assets that might assist in planning the approach.

Estimation

Used to determine how long it may take to perform business analysis activities.

Financial Analysis

Used to assess how different approaches (and the supported delivery options) affect the value delivered.

Functional Decomposition

Used to break down complex business analysis processes or approaches into more feasible components.

Interviews

Used to help build the plan with an individual or small group.

Item Tracking

Used to track any issues raised during planning activities with stakeholders. Can also track risk related items raised during discussions when building the approach.

Lessons Learned

Used to identify an enterprise’s previous experience (both successes and challenges) with planning business analysis approach.

Process Modelling

Used to define and document the business analysis approach.

Reviews

Used to validate the selected business analysis approach with stakeholders.

Risk Analysis and Management

Used to assess risks in order to select the proper business analysis approach.

Scope Modelling

Used to determine the boundaries of the solution as an input to planning and to estimating.

Survey or Questionnaire

Used to identify possible business analysis activities, techniques, risks and other relevant items to help build the business analysis approach.

Workshops

Used to help build the plan in a team setting.

 

It is also important to consider the level of formality that is required and create the content and BA information that meets the established criteria.

The analysis and documentation techniques required are aligned to the project situation, that is, if it is a project with distributed teams, it is necessary to consider the tools that the organization has.

Task

Tools

To conduct meetings

  • Establish the audience and purpose of each meeting, as well as the nature of each meeting (whether it is discussion, milestone approval, demo etc.), duration and access method like phone, PC-application, Web-conference etc.
  • Web-conferences avoids the need to travel and it is a great way to engage and interact with colleagues, partners and customers and allows face-to-face meetings. With work from options becoming more popular, it is good to have a back up connection to ensure uninterrupted interaction. Eg:  GoToMeeting,  Webex, Google Meet
  • For sharing content, one must be familiar with platform.
  •  Meeting recording may be helpful according to the importance of the matter of discussion. Be clear and communicate ahead with participants that the meeting is being recorded.

To publish and authorize deliverables

  • Establish and communicate different artifacts/templates to be used, including author, approver(s), purpose and audience of each document, frequency of usage of different templates etc.
  • Publishing and communication tasks are aligned with the enterprise environment, rules and tools available, which may have been previously assessed.
  • Document management and storage systems like SharePoint can be used for this purpose along with emails to communicate and collaborate with stakeholders. It is also important to build a directory of approvers according to the phase or type of authorization required.

 

In both predictive and adaptive approaches, the compliance metrics are communicated for the project team to know their participation and role in each phase.

To conclude, this task of planning the BA approach results in identifying the approach suitable for the organization and the BA activities including identifying participants, resources, expected deliverables, focus, level of detail of each deliverable and a schedule for the execution of these activities.

The outcome of planning the approach for business analysis tasks will have a positive impact as it will provide certainty of the best techniques, media for meetings and communications across the organization, the templates to be used or created and the role of the different stakeholder groups.

 


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