Do you actively plan your Business Analysis Approach?
It happens too often that a Business Analyst doesn’t take pro-active action to plan the Business Analysis approach for their initiative or project and consequently they hinder their own chances for success.
There are many ways to approach business analysis work and various planning methods used across perspectives, industries, and enterprises. Many of the planning methods are a variant to an interpretation of either a predictive or an adaptive approach.
According to the BABOK® Guide, the purpose to Plan the Business Analysis Approach is…”to define an appropriate method to conduct Business Analysis activities.”
Lets start by considering what these planning approaches are essentially about.
A predictive approach (in some cases referred to, as a Plan Driven Approach) is an approach that plans upfront with maximum control of what the expected implementation would be. The Waterfall project methodology supports a predictive approach in planning.
An adaptive approach (in some cases referred to as a Change Driven Approach) is an approach, which is more incremental or exploratory in nature and focuses on rapid delivery of business value in short iterations. The Agile project methodology applied in software development projects supports adaptive planning approaches.
It is important to realize that both predictive and adaptive approaches can be applied within the same initiative. When deciding which approach to apply during business analysis planning, it is key to always consider which of the approaches will deliver the most value within your context.
Should you plan for a lot of formality and detail or not?
All business analysis deliverables or results should be defined in the business analysis approach. Predictive planning approaches are typically quite formal and produce very detailed document sets requiring formal approval whereas Adaptive Planning Approaches can be quite informal and often limiting the documentation to the bare minimum. When the adaptive approach is used, business analysis work is typically approved informally through team interaction and feedback.
Plan your business analysis activities
The business analyst must decide on the process to follow for planning a project’s business analysis activities. The business analysis work plan is often a sub-set of the overall project plan and should therefore be done in co-ordination with the project manager. To ensure the Business Analysis part of the work plan fits in well with the overall project plan, make sure that you know what the estimation standards are and what the level of task detail should be. Aim to always have open communication with the project manager in terms of what business analysis activities are being planned for and agree on what the overall planning approach will be.
Remember to consider the timing of the business analysis work
It is important to plan for when the business analysis work will be performed for a specific initiative. If it is a predominantly predictive approach that is being taken on the initiative, you will know that most of the business analysis work will be performed in the earlier phases of the project. However, the business analysis work will be evenly spread for the duration of the initiative or project if a predominantly adaptive approach is followed. So make sure that you align and plan for the correct number of resources to be available on your project to ensure a timely execution of the business analysis work plan.
Complexity affects the business analysis work
As you can probably imagine, when you are faced with a large project, which is attempting a complex subject matter or high-risk context, you will need to give this consideration when planning the business analysis approach as well as the specific activities.
Like for example, if you are planning the business analysis work activities for an airline flight control system there will be a lot of very detailed and accurate analysis required upfront and potentially on an ongoing basis too. Whereas, if you were planning business analysis activities for a mobile application development project which is focused around customer experience, you will probably be more interested in planning with an adaptive approach in mind.
Other factors that can affect the complexity of the business analysis effort could include the geography and cultural considerations, technology complexities, number of systems involved and the sheer size of the change. A change affecting everyone in the organization is likely to be more complex than when only a small isolated team in the organization is affected.
Last but not least, acceptance of the Business Analysis Approach and Plan is of key importance
It is important for the Business Analyst to socialize the Business Analysis Approach and Plan with the stakeholders who will be affected by the work that will be performed. If everyone understands the approach and feels comfortable that the plan is achievable, then the Business Analyst has a much stronger position to start from.
Although the level of formality of a Business Analysis approach and plan can differ between projects and organizations it is always important to perform this as a task for your project or initiative. As a Business Analyst close to the specific project, the company culture and agreed processes and methodologies, you will be in the best position to judge the level of Business Analysis approach and plan will be suitable in your environment. Make sure that you don’t just dismiss this task when you find yourself in an informal or small company environment, at the very least consider each element described here and make an informed decision about what the next steps should be.
You will find more information here about starting a Business Analysis career or if you are planning to do one of the IIBA® certifications – ECBA™, CCBA® or CBAP®