Business Analysis For Dummies
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Business analysis is a useful tool because companies can lose a lot of time and money chasing ideas and testing concepts in the pursuit of innovation, so they need to successfully identify and distinguish the good ideas from the not-so-good as efficiently as possible.

Innovation and idea capture tools capture and categorize information at any level and allow companies to get really good and important ideas identified quickly and easily.

These tools are best used for enterprise analysis, before any projects or products officially begin. They allow analysts and business or product leaders to more effectively analyze feedback and respond to input from a variety of sources at once by consolidating information and providing new perspectives.

Some questions facilitated or (sometimes) answered by innovation and idea capture tools are

  • Where do we put all those ideas?

  • Which ideas should we consider?

  • What issues or products do they relate to?

  • Which ideas are important?

  • Where did those ideas even come from?

  • What’s been done (if anything) so far to drive the idea forward?

After the information is captured within the tool, you and the team can analyze it by

  • Capturing, sorting, and categorizing information

  • Identifying patterns in the information, such as emerging issues or trends

  • Prioritizing the information and ideas according to relevance, importance, impact, or value to different audiences

  • Identifying opportunities to improve services, products, or brand perceptions or to grow revenue lines across the business

Tools that provide idea or innovation support may alternatively get grouped into other specialized business analysis tool categories instead of being labeled innovation tools, so be sure to explore other places where you may find great innovation support, including early requirements definition, solution visualization or modeling, business case development with portfolio prioritization, and project management.

The technology spectrum for business analysis tools

From a low-tech perspective, whiteboards and sticky notes are always great if you have to tackle brainstorming or elicitation. Each person puts her ideas on the notes (or board) and sticks them up on the wall, and then team members evaluate the collection of notes, rearranging ideas into groups or categories and determining how best to leverage the information next.

Sticky notes are also great when you need to perform scoping analysis, data and process modeling, requirements management planning — you name it.

From a mid- to high-tech perspective, the best tools are software-enabled solutions. Each tool works in a slightly different way. Some options include single or multiuser web-enabled tools, interactive whiteboards and smartphone apps, enterprise software as a service (SAAS) tools, and single-user computer tools.

Specific features of business analysis tools

Look for mid-tech tools that provide help with collaborative generation; fast-capture or collection; organization; development; and evaluation of ideas, such as mind-mapping. If you need brainstorming aid features (such as leading questions or generation of visual associations), these tools can help as well.

Just keep in mind that, after you’ve captured this information, you and the team have to analyze it, perform the critical thinking, and come to informed decisions on next steps. Following are some of your options.

Listening tools

Generally, users (such as external customers or internal employees) manually enter information (like suggestions and feedback) one idea at a time into innovation and idea capture tools. But if you need more-automated solutions, look for higher-tech tools that offer listening capabilities or customer collaboration web pages.

Listening tools tap into social media outlets; listen for key words, product names, and brand references; and then import and compile that information within the tool for evaluation and review. Collaborative web pages allow companies to discuss specific product ideas directly and in more detail with customers or customer groups who care to give more constructive or forward-thinking feedback.

Tools that track and grow ideas

If your analysis efforts are going to continue beyond the discovery of the idea, look for tools that track and grow the discovered ideas. Different tools may address a broad or niche set of innovation activities. For instance, in solution development, innovation happens throughout the lifecycle as ideas progress from conceptual into solution decisions and from feature decisions into concrete design.

Application lifecycle management tools

If you need to carry your ideas forward to completion without having to transfer the data and maintain traceability back and forth between systems, look for application lifecycle management (ALM) tools — a growing trend in the business analysis world.

These tools support requirements elaboration and definition from start to finish within one tool, eliminating the need to switch technologies as concepts develop. They enable business teams, software teams, and project governance boards to work better together through complete business solutions and software. These suites start with the initial ideas, suggestions, or customer complaints and then move them through innovation opportunities all the way into development management.

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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