Business Analysis For Dummies
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The type of question you ask as a business analyst determines your source, so after you have your type of question figured out, you know who to go after!

At this stage in the game, you may not have actual names of stakeholders; you may only be able to identify your sources by titles or positions. Review the company’s organization chart and ask questions about any positions that are unclear. Then go through the chart and pair questions with the positions and titles.

You generally direct “why” questions to the higher-ups in an organization, while the lower-level employees doing the day-to-day work are a fit for “what” and “how” questions. This approach makes sense if you think about each person’s position within the organization.

Employees in managerial roles typically understand more of the strategy — the why — behind performing a particular procedure and are more likely to understand interactions with other processes or departments. CEOs, directors, and managers can all put the operations within a great mission-driven context for you, as well as tell you how everything should run (or at least how they think it runs).

The people actually performing the job can (usually) tell you exactly what they do and provide you with the step-by-step instructions or procedures that outline how to do it. That is, the line staff can tell you what really happens in those trenches.

The sample organization chart illustrates this division. For example, if you want to understand how the sorters perform the sorting process, who should you ask? The sorters. Why? Because they do the job day in and day out. True, the line manager may once have been a sorter and probably still knows how the process works, but she now has more management responsibilities.

The farther you go up the org chart (business lingo for organization chart), the farther away from the day-to-day operations of the business process you get. If you need an answer to the question “What are our sales quotas for all regions in the United States?”, however, you ask a higher-level manager.

The sorter, though able to figure out work-arounds and alternative ways to accomplish the process, may not be aware of this information.

[Credit: Illustration by Wiley, Composition Services Graphics]
Credit: Illustration by Wiley, Composition Services Graphics

Every day a manager is out of the hands-on operations of her business, the more she loses the knowledge of the how a procedure is done. These managers start losing their subject matter expertise each day they aren’t performing the subject matter, so keep that in mind when pairing sources with questions.

Here’s another example: Suppose the business has received complaints about shipment deliveries. You’d ask the operations manager and possibly the area supervisors questions like “Why is this a problem for the company?”, “What are the current profit margins?”, and “What is the impact to future sales and customer service metrics if we don’t fix this?”

Then maybe you’d ask the line manager and sales manager “Who was assigned to the specific deliveries in question? How were they trained?” Then you’d ask the sorters, salespeople, and assemblers questions that reveal the nuts and bolts: “What are the processes we perform to sell a product, take an order, assemble it, and deliver it?” and “How can those processes be improved?”

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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