How to Provide Supporting Materials for Your Business Analysis Report
The details section of a business case provides all the supporting documentation and diagrams for the recommendation that results from your business analysis. You usually include only the details of the recommendation, but you may want to add details of some alternatives if they were close in comparison or the audience may be interested in seeing them.
How to address supporting documentation in your business analysis
The amount of detail that you include in a business case is primarily driven by the audience of the business case. If the business case serves as a repository for the details of the opportunity, then you want to include all supporting documents regardless of whether the reviewing audience will utilize them.
The types of supporting materials include the following:
Problem statement: The executive summary and mission statement discuss the problem, but they may not include all components of a fully defined problem statement. The problem statement is a structured way to represent the problem or issue causing the organization “pain.” Here’s a quick review of the statement’s basic structure:
The problem of [description of the problem] affects [name(s) of the stakeholders affected by the problem], the impact of which [description of the impact of the problem]. A successful solution would be [list of key benefits of a successful solution].
Solution position statement: The solution position statement represents the expected results if the solution is developed and implemented. It focuses on the business impact. Again, you can find detailed information about building a solution statement, but the general structure is this:
For [name of the target customer] who [statement of the need or opportunity], the (or a) [solution or product name] that [statement of the key benefit or the compelling reason to do business with]. Unlike [primary alternative or current situation], this solution [statement of primary differentiation].
Background or evidence of need: These items are the details behind how the opportunity originated and may include summaries of discussions and meetings related to the opportunity and impacts to the business.
Approach or plan to implement: If an implementation plan is required and has been developed at the time of the business case, include it in this section even if it’s only a high-level outline at this point.
Any other relevant data: Depending on the opportunity, an internal and/or external communication plan or a change management plan may be necessary. Also, if you consulted an expert who provided supporting documentation, this part is the perfect place to include a copy of his report.
How to note your assumptions in your business analysis
Whenever you’re developing estimates for the cost/benefit analysis, you make assumptions. Some estimates are based more on factual data than others, but almost every item in a cost/benefit analysis is an assumption that should be visible in the details.
Give the reader all the assumptions used in the estimates. For example, if you’re assuming that an existing process takes 5 hours to complete, and the new process will take 1 hour to complete, you should document in this section how you determined that assumption. Did you have a similar improved process that readers can refer to, or did you guess using some other reference point?
Here are some examples of assumptions:
Cost of labor won’t change during the duration of the project.
Resources will be available for the duration of the project.
The skills required are available in the marketplace at the cost estimated.
The software vendor will respond to problem calls within 4 hours.
The software vendor won’t sell the software rights to another vendor for at least 2 years.
Laws won’t change the way the business operates.
The technology to be used will continue to be available and supported by its manufacturer.
Demand for the organization’s product will continue as forecasted.
Competition won’t install a similar automated system.
How to document risk in your business analysis
Just like assumptions, any estimate for costs/benefit analysis should include details about any risks. Which risks to document depends on their likelihood and the potential impact the occurrence of such risks would have on the business case. The intent is to provide guidance for the reader to make the most well-informed decision possible based on all information available at the time of writing.
Some assumptions are actually risks, whether they do or don’t occur. For example, an assumption is that laws won’t change the way the business operates. If an opportunity is related to the implementation of tax changes for the next fiscal year, the laws may change such that the system would need to be updated again.
In this example, the risk would be “If the laws do change, the potential financial impact realized is $15,000.”
You have to do an estimate for a given point in time based on what information is available at that time. However, you should make the readers aware of all potential implications that may impact their decision.
Never leave out known risks that may have a significant impact just to win approval. Although doing so may achieve the immediate goal for the opportunity, it may put the business in serious jeopardy and will surely destroy your credibility.