Cheat Sheet

Business Analysis For Dummies

From Business Analysis For Dummies by Kupe Kupersmith, Paul Mulvey, Kate McGoey

Becoming a master in business analysis is a goal many business analysts (BAs) have, but it can be a difficult one to achieve because this field is constantly changing and evolving. The business analysis project life cycle can vary from project to project. You often have to search out areas for process improvement, even when the business involved doesn’t know those areas need improving. Plus, you have to account for the myriad ways your project may impact the business.

Business Analysis: A Basic Project Life Cycle

Business analysis projects all follow the same basic life cycle. A project is a set of steps that accomplish something, so describing business analysis activities as part of a project life cycle makes sense. Although each project you undertake is different, and you must always remain fluid and flexible to some degree, business analysis tasks follow a general order:

  1. Plan the project.

    Create a work plan and at least think through an approach for the analysis effort.

  2. Scope the project.

    Define and document the project boundaries and analyze the business problem without deciding on a solution. This job includes clearly identifying the opportunity or problem the company needs to address.

  3. Elicit, analyze, and communicate requirements.

    This task is the lion's share of what business analysis professionals do at the project level. Understand the real business needs and find the root cause of business problems, and communicate requirements to the intended audience.

  4. Design the solution.

    Business analysts (BAs) aren't typically responsible for this activity; instead, they support the solution team through this effort.

  5. Build or buy the solution.

    The business and project team make a decision based on the results of the activities Steps 1 through 4 to buy a solution prepackaged, build one internally, or have a group outside the company build it. During this time, your role is to ensure the solution still meets the business need stated in the project objectives and the business requirements.

  6. Test the solution.

    As the solution is being designed and built, collaborate with the test team to validate that the solution meets the business needs elicited during the project.

  7. Implement the solution.

    Make sure business uses the solution. You actively work with project stakeholders as the solution rolls out. You may work as a change agent, advocating the need for change, and you may also train new users on the system.

  8. Conduct post-implementation review.

    After the solution has been implemented, you need to make sure it's meeting the goals outlined in the project. If not, this discrepancy may lead to another project to address the gap. Basically, you want to make sure the business is actually using the solution you provided. If not, why not?

Business Analysis: 15 Areas for Process Improvement

A major business analysis task is overseeing process improvement — identifying, analyzing, and improving an existing business process so the company can integrate processes from mergers and acquisitions, improve inefficient processes, meet new goals, and the like. You can identify areas to conduct process improvement by keeping an ear open for these 15 indicators while talking with stakeholders and employees of the company:

  • Activities that fix errors instead of preventing them

  • Unnecessary handoffs or complex communications between roles or other processes

  • Unclear decisions or conditions (otherwise known as gateways)

  • Activities that perform statistically outside the norm or standard

  • Inefficient flow of existing processes

  • Activities that are being performed by an inappropriate employee or other entity (also known as a resource)

  • Areas of authority ambiguity (where two or more people have the power to make the same decision, which leads to confusion about who has final say)

  • Areas that have too much or too little management control

  • Roles that are bottlenecks

  • Activities that have unclear role assignment

  • Areas with backlogs

  • Areas with activities that don't provide business value

  • Areas that can reduce or eliminate waste

  • Areas that can reduce or eliminate defects

  • Areas that can reduce or eliminate frustration

Performing a Business Impact Analysis for a Project

A business impact analysis (BIA) is a business analysis tool that helps you predict how significantly your project will impact the business. You use it to gather information about the project's various elements, players, and entities so you can determine the depth and breadth of your potential efforts.

Here's a worksheet to help you complete a BIA. In the third column, write "low," "medium" or "high" according to the guidelines in the second column. Then count the numbers of each ranking. The predominant ranking denotes the impact of your project.

Factor Impact on Business Rank
Number of users 0–100: low
101–1,000: medium
1,001+: high
Number of stakeholder subject matter experts (SMEs) 1–3: low
4–10: medium
11+: high
Number of team members 1–6: low
7–12: medium
13+: high
Highest position held among stakeholders Manager: low
Director: medium
Executive: high
Number of stakeholders' geographic location 1: low
2–3: medium
4+ (or international): high
Business complexity Subjective. Consider the complexity of core components, nonfunctional requirements, and implementation. Assign low, medium, or high.
Solution complexity Subjective. Consider software, hardware, technical architecture, support, and whether the task is outsourced. Assign low, medium, or high.
Relative importance of the project to the organization Subjective. Consider this project relative to the project portfolio. Get input from project manager and executive sponsor. Assign low, medium, or high.
Business risk Identify risks. Identify costs for high risks. Consider input from project manager, executive sponsor, or business SMEs. Assign low, medium, or high.
Quality requirements/expectation Potential for loss of comfort: low
Potential for loss of discretionary money or opportunity: medium
Potential for loss of life, essential money, or mission-critical: high
Due date Movable date: low
Target date: medium
Fixed date: high
Project length Project length > project scope: low
Project length = project scope: medium
Project length < project scope: high
Stakeholders' knowledge Subjective. Consider the value of stakeholders' knowledge and representation. Assign low, medium, or high. Note: This ranking has an inverse relationship with impact (high knowledge = low impact ranking).
Project budget Subjective. Relative to size of company or other projects. Assign low, medium, or high based on input from project manager and executive sponsor.
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