Joe Newbert talks with Mohamed Bray about on-the-ground trends in the business change life-cycle and how opportunity knocks for business analysis techniques.
Through his proactive industry involvement and disruptive community innovations, Joe, MD at BCMG, is well-known internationally as a keen contributor to contemporary business analysis, project delivery and change management competency.
Starting from the top, what does the 2017 Inter-View survey data have to say about strategic business analysis?
It could be said that business change is all about responding to an organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – exactly what business analysis serves to do – and Inter-View found that, for the business analysts who help shape business strategy and tactics (22%), SWOT Analysis (66%) is their primary business analysis technique to facilitate this.
What’s worth paying attention to here, though, is that much of the power of SWOT Analysis is unleashed when certain feeder business analysis techniques are formally employed, such as an external PESTLE Analysis (9%) and internal Resource Audit (5%), but these are not widely used (nor is MOST Analysis (9%) which frames what needs to be achieved and how it is going to be done).
What are the highs and lows of requirements elicitation techniques for investigating the business situation?
Encouragingly – knocking brainstorming off its perch (84%) – Interviews (97%) and Workshops (96%) are top-of-the-pops for eliciting business requirements. This balance is reassuring, because when conducted expertly – a major caveat – they complement each other nicely by exploring both an individual’s personal perspective and the broader group’s collective thinking.
Document Analysis (67%) and Observation (56%) — to better elicit explicit and tacit knowledge — could perhaps be more widely used, but this middling statistic may talk to a split between improvement projects and greenfield projects. Either way, the Context Diagram (64%) is an under-appreciated scoping technique that can definitely help business analysts.
Are there any indications of how well business analysts are managing stakeholders and their expectations?
This is an area of central importance, crucial for guiding people towards goals and objectives, and interestingly less half of business analysts (45%) see this as an area of responsibility – with few of this subset handling Stakeholder Nomination (19%), considering the Stakeholder Power / Interest Grid (11%) and performing Stakeholder Management (37%).
But for business analysts it doesn’t stop at knowing who’s who and keeping them onside, as problems usually stem from differences between stakeholder worldviews. In this regard,
which goes on to openly explore these different perspectives and bring them to consensus.
Getting to the pure business analysis part, how thoroughly are business needs and solution options analysed?
This is an area where business analysts can truly demonstrate value, beyond scribing, translating and couriering business requirements. And of those responsible for this activity (62%) Business Process Modelling is their go-to technique (87%), with a Gap Analysis (69%) then framing what works, where the problems lie and serving as the basis for business improvement.
Half use an Organisation Diagram (52%), to bring together the external environment and internal Value Chain Analysis (39%) and first establish the context of the process in the wider world. And certain key process analysis techniques that underpin the quality of a process model are less in favour — Business Events (25%), Business Rules (67%) and Decision Trees (42%).
How deeply are business analysts exploring business change options and evaluating their feasibility?
Business analysts don’t appear to be putting options on the table – 22% [of the 29% who are responsible for options evaluation] explore Options Identification. This infrequent generation of alternatives may indicate a leap from problem to solution, or a pre-determined solution. However, it’s these possibilities that are the starting point for putting together a business case (32%).
The Feasibility Analysis (48%) of options — business, technical and financial — is conducted every other time, perhaps due to environmental pressures.
A challenge for business analysts is to find creative ways to assess feasibility leanly:
by owning techniques that pull together a view and the gut instinct to know what’s worth pursuing, perhaps via a simple Force Field Analysis (6%).
Bringing it all to its point, once a preferred option has been identified, what does requirements definition look like?
This is not a straightforward area to make sense of. Firstly, 83% of business analysts indicated that defining requirements is something that they are responsible for, and, of these people, 88% said they produce some form of requirements documentation, 62% define Non-Functional Requirements and 69% walk stakeholders through a Requirements Review.
More devil might be found in the detail, and specific technique usage may indicate how thoroughly business requirements are specified on the ground, with the Data Flow Diagram (55%), Use Case Diagram (56%) and Entity Relationship Diagram (38%) featuring the most, but intermittently. Then there’s prioritisation, be it MoSCoW (32%) or Backlog Management (33%).
A successful transition is landed by people. How are business analysts helping organisations embrace change?
Beneficial business change is the absolute intent of business analysis; it’s the end goal in mind – whether greater revenue, reduced costs, improved customer service or legislative compliance. Curiously, of the 81% of business analysts who indicated that they are responsible for or involved with managing change, 52% do not use a single change management technique.
Looking deeper into the fire, many business analysts don’t make good use of the Benefits Management (29%) and Business Realisation (30%) techniques. And consideration of the critical behavioural aspects of organisational change — Cultural Analysis (14%), Kurt Lewin’s Model (4%) — and people change — SARAH Model (2%), Learning Cycle (11%) — is largely overlooked.