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How to Ensure That the Business Analysis Scope Aligns with Key Business Drivers

Business drivers are entities that have a major impact on the performance of a specific business, and identifying them is critical to scoping your analysis project properly. Business drivers

  • Reflect the performance and progress of your business

  • Are measurable

  • Can be compared to a standard, such as a budget, last year’s figures, or an industry average

  • Can be acted upon

You need to make sure that your scope and the identified problem/opportunity align with the business drivers. You don’t want to end up with a project with requirements that don’t support (or conflict with) the drivers. Doing so can lead to cost overruns and scope creep in the best case and complete project failure in the worst case.

Business drivers vary among organizations. To understand what drives your specific project and organization, ask questions such as the following:

  • What organizational units will be involved with the project? What systems and departments are going to interface with the project?

  • Which individuals within those organizational units am I going to work with? What is their stake in the project? How am I best going to work with them?

  • How do the various organizational units work with each other?

  • How are the subject matter experts (SMEs) going to interact with the project team? How are they going to interact with the technical team?

  • How are the technical systems developed within the organization? What are the methodologies used?

  • What deliverables and what level of detail does the implementation team expect from the business analysts?

Knowing the answer to why the project is being done helps you establish the context surrounding the project and helps you understand why the organization is undertaking this project.

The information you get from these answers can help you organize the drivers to understand them further. Business drivers normally fall into one of eight categories:

  • Revenue: Companies often undertake a project in order to increase revenue. If the company you’re working with is publicly owned, chances are that increasing shareholder value is a big business driver.

    Not all organizations are driven by revenue. Nonprofit organizations may have other primary business drivers.

  • Cost: Another reason organizations undertake projects is to decrease the cost of doing business. When focusing on the cost business driver, remember to include stakeholders that may have insight about or be impacted by this decision, such as the customer service department. Ultimately, the business driver of cost may override customer service, but that department should still be included.

  • Customer service: Organizations often look to increase customer service and provide better service than their competition.

  • Compliance: Sometimes your own organization doesn’t initiate the project; instead, a governmental organization or a regulatory body dictates what you must do. Sometimes companies have to change some form of the organization or enterprise in order to be compliant with new mandates.

    Sometimes, from the business side, being noncompliant is more cost-effective than spending the money to be compliant. However, the company’s image may suffer if it’s found willfully negligent, so the cost to implement may be necessary from a publicity standpoint.

  • Brand: Another business driver may be maintaining brand standards. Companies that have a well-respected brand may want to enhance or not damage that image, so they may decide to undertake a project even though it costs them money.

  • Time to market: Organizations generally want to get their products to market faster than their competitors because doing so can mean name recognition.

    Not all companies prioritize this business driver. Some organizations wait until the first product is already out before they leap into the market with a similar product. They want to see what works and what doesn’t and then develop their product accordingly. (Note, however, this strategy may backfire if the first-to-market product is accepted with great fanfare.)

  • Agility: Some organizations realize that the strongest companies aren’t necessarily the ones that survive; the most agile ones are. Companies that are able to adapt to changing conditions and markets are the ones that continue to do business year after year after year.

    Consider how automobile companies are changing with the rising cost of oil. They’re looking at alternative fuels to power vehicles because the market is changing; more and more buyers have a greener outlook on automobile power and don’t want to burn gasoline. The more quickly the companies can change and give their customers what they want, the more likely they are to be in the marketplace for years to come.

  • Fulfillment time: Fulfillment time is the elapsed time between the order being taken and delivery of the order. Look at what Apple’s iTunes did for the music industry: It changed the expectation of when customers could get their music. Now customers expect to be able to purchase and download items instantly instead of waiting to go buy them at the mall.

  • Market reach: Many of the projects undertaken by business analysts in the late 1990s and early 2000s were global projects that rolled existing legacy applications out globally. This trend occurred because organizations recognized the need to extend their reaches to new consumer markets.

    As they did so, they also faced new challenges of rising costs. So eventually, after they had the global reach, many of those companies started selling similar products in multiple markets.

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