Business Analysis For Dummies
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In your business analysis, you must consider the needs of a company by interviewing company leaders. Just be sure that when looking to discover these business needs, your research is focused within the context of what the business is trying to achieve or do, not just on what the leaders are trying to do.

If you let your team start working on solutions that meet stakeholder’s needs without making sure you’re serving an important business need, your project may not be the best investment.

Start you questions with the person at the company who requested that you embark on this project to find out why, what, and “what for” the requestor is asking in the first place; then let the research take you where it will. If stakeholders aren’t clear, consider using the following to clarify:

  • Analyzing the mission: Are the mission and vision clearly articulated? Is the company going in the right direction — delivering on its mission, achieving impact, and adding value? As a result, is it realizing benefits? Is the company’s performance at a level that suggests the future vision is in sight and likely to be accomplished?

    If the only answers you get to these questions are “no,” “don’t know,” “not to the extent it could or should be,” or even just “not yet, but getting there!”, the company definitely has mission-related needs!

  • Scrutinizing the market: Companies generally operate within or serve a particular market or set of markets. What problems is the company solving? What clients or customers is it serving? What solutions is it offering?

    Are those audiences excited about those solutions because they successfully solve their problems, or do they have a lukewarm response because the solutions only scratch the surface? What’s the customer experience when dealing with the company? Are customers happy or frustrated? Are other competitors solving their problems better or less expensively?

    Consider also that a company may be operating within or serving markets not in line with its mission. If so, find out why and determine whether it should continue doing so.

    Branching out, expanding, and pursuing new markets are totally acceptable, but is that outreach a discovery experiment, or does the company need to redefine its mission at some point to reflect new directions and strategies? If so, how does redefining it affect its organization, operations, or enterprise architecture?

  • Looking toward the company’s future: In addition to maintaining its status quo, a company typically has targets to shoot for each year. That means that even if a company performs and progresses effectively and accomplishes its overall mission, it periodically gets new goals, objectives, and milestones to achieve for continued success.

    Ask these questions: What are the specific goals and objectives for the next year? How about the next 3 or 5 years? What are the critical milestones? What are the key performance indicators? Are they being met?

  • Identifying obstacles: Like any entity trying to accomplish a set of goals, the company likely faces challenges along the way. Consider what those challenges are.

    The company may be facing competitive or legislative concerns; it may have to confront regulatory inquiries, operational issues, or perhaps financial or cash-flow challenges. Legal guidelines, operating standards, a host of requirements, and terms may come down from external stakeholders, business partners, and suppliers. The company needs solutions to those problems and support for its efforts.

    Each hurdle may translate to a need of some sort: a need to meet a requirement, a need to comply with a law or regulation, or a need to find opportunities and rise up to competitive challenges.

    What’s stopping progress or operations? What requirements have others presented, and what’s the company’s position on each?

You also have to dig into performance-related issues within the business. Begin by simply inquiring about its performance with questions such as the following:

  • What areas of service or operation are currently monetized? What’s the profit margin? Is it enough or too much? Has it changed?

  • What’s the revenue trend in each area? What does that trend indicate?

  • What surprises the business leaders? (For example, are certain products not selling as leaders thought they would?)

  • What did the company expect to perform differently, and what needs to change?

  • Strategically, is the company serving the market or operating in the domain that it should be?

  • Are customers or clients offering concerns or suggestions? If so, has the company done anything about them? Identify what happens if the business does or doesn’t implement a specific suggestion or fix a certain problem. Would the business still achieve its desired outcome? What’s the impact of a hit or a miss? How serious are the concerns raised to the business?

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Paul Mulvey, CBAP, Director, Client Solutions, B2T Training, has been involved in business analysis since 1995. Kate McGoey, Director, Client Solutions, B2T Training, has more than 20 years' experience in application development and life cycle processes business. Kupe Kupersmith, CBAP, President of B2T Training, possesses more than 14 years of experience in software systems development. He serves as a mentor for business analysis professionals.

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