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8 Steps to Being an Effective Business Analyst


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The Business Analysis Process:

Being assigned to a new project is an exciting time as a business analyst, but it can also be nerve-wracking. You might be wondering what exactly is expected of you, what deliverables you should be creating, and how to guarantee success on your project.
In this article, you'll learn about the 8-step business analysis process that you can apply whether you are in an agile environment or a traditional one, whether you are purchasing off-the-shelf software or building custom code, whether you are responsible for a multi-million dollar project or a one-week project.
Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you can go through these steps quickly or slowly, but to get to a successful outcome you must go through them.
(We cover each of the 8 steps in even more detail in our BA Essentials Master Class – in fact, each step gets an entire lesson in this virtual, self-study course.)
First, take a look at this process flow below which shows how the 8 steps fit together and how you might iterate through them on a typical business analyst project.
business-analysis-process-8-steps
Now let's look at each of the 8 steps in more detail.

Step 1 – Get Oriented

Often as business analysts we are expected to dive in to a project and start contributing as quickly as possible to make a positive impact. Sometimes the project is already underway. Other times there are vague notions about what the project is or why it exists. We face a lot of ambiguity as business analysts and it's our job to clarify the scope, requirements, and business objectives as quickly as possible.
But that doesn't mean that it makes sense to get ourselves knee-deep into the detailed requirements right away. Doing so very likely means a quick start in the wrong direction.
Taking some time, whether that's a few hours, few days, or at the very most a few weeks, to get oriented will ensure you are not only moving quickly, but also able to be an effective and confident contributor on the project.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Clarifying your role as the business analyst so that you are sure to create deliverables that meet stakeholder needs.
  • Determining the primary stakeholders to engage in defining the project's business objectives and scope, as well as any subject matter experts to be consulted early in the project.
  • Understanding the project history so that you don't inadvertently repeat work that's already been done or rehash previously made decisions.
  • Understanding the existing systems and business processes so you have a reasonably clear picture of the current state that needs to change.
This is where you learn how to learn what you don't know you don't know, so to speak. This step gets you the information you need to be successful and effective in the context of this particular project.

Step 2 – Discover the Primary Business Objectives

It's very common for business analysts and project managers to jump right in to defining the scope of the project. However, this can lead to unnecessary headaches. Uncovering and getting agreement on the business needs early in a project and before scope is defined is the quickest path forward to a successful project.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Discovering expectations from your primary stakeholders – essentially discovering the "why" behind the project. (Our BA Essentials Master Class covers 7 different business analysis techniques that can be used as part of this discovery.)
  • Reconciling conflicting expectations so that the business community begins the project with a shared understanding of the business objectives and are not unique to one person's perspective.
  • Ensuring the business objectives are clear and actionable to provide the project team with momentum and context while defining scope and, later on, the detailed requirements.
Discovering the primary business objectives sets the stage for defining scope, ensuring that you don't end up with a solution that solves the wrong problem or, even worse, with a solution that no one can even determine is successful or not.

Step 3 – Define Scope

A clear and complete statement of scope provides your project team the go-forward concept to realize the business needs. Scope makes the business needs tangible in such a way that multiple project team participants can envision their contribution to the project and the implementation. 
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Defining a solution approach to determine the nature and extent of technology and business process changes to be made as part of implementing the solution to the primary business objectives.
  • Drafting a scope statement and reviewing it with your key business and technology stakeholders until they are prepared to sign-off or buy-in to the document.
  • Confirming the business case to ensure that it still makes sense for your organization to invest in the project.
Scope is not an implementation plan, but it is a touchstone guiding all of the subsequent steps of the business analysis process and tasks by other project participants.

Step 4 – Formulate Your Business Analysis Plan

Your business analysis plan will bring clarity to the business analysis process that will be used to successfully define the detailed requirements for this project. Your business analysis plan is going to answer many questions for you and your project team.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Choosing the most appropriate types of business analysis deliverables, given the project scope, project methodology, and other key aspects of the project context.
  • Defining the specific list of business analysis deliverables that will completely cover the scope of the project and identifying the stakeholders who will be part of the creation and validation of each deliverable.
  • Identifying the timelines for completing the business analysis deliverables.
In the absence of defining a credible and realistic plan, a set of expectations may be defined for you, and often those expectations are unrealistic as they do not fully appreciate everything that goes into defining detailed requirements.

Step 5 – Define the Detailed Requirements

Detailed requirements provide your implementation team with the information they need to implement the solution. They make scope implementable.
Without clear, concise, and actionable detailed requirements, implementation teams often flounder and fail to connect the dots in such a way that delivers on the original business case for the project.  
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Eliciting the information necessary to understand what the business community wants from a specific feature or process change.
  • Analyzing the information you've discovered and using it to create a first draft of one or more business analysis deliverables containing the detailed requirements for the project.
  • Reviewing and validating each deliverable with appropriate business and technology stakeholders and asking questions to fill in any gaps.
Effective business analysts consciously sequence your deliverables to be as effective as possible in driving the momentum of the project forward. Paying attention to the project's critical path, reducing ambiguity and complexity, and generating quick wins are all factors to consider when sequencing your deliverables.

Step 6 – Support the Technical Implementation

On a typical project employing a business analyst, a significant part of the solution involves a technical implementation team building, customizing, and/or deploying software. During the technical implementation, there are many worthwhile support tasks for you to engage in that will help drive the success of the project and ensure the business objectives are met.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Reviewing the solution design to ensure it fulfills all of the requirements and looking for opportunities to meet additional business needs without increasing the technical scope of the project.
  • Updating and/or repackaging requirements documentation to make it useful for the technology design and implementation process.
  • Engaging with quality assurance professionals to ensure they understand the business context for the technical requirements. This responsibility may include reviewing test plans and/or test cases to ensure they represent a clear understanding of the functional requirements.
  • Making yourself available to answer questions and help resolve any issues that surface during the technical design, technical implementation, or testing phases of the project.
  • Managing requirements changes to ensure that everyone is working from up-to-date documentation and that appropriate stakeholders are involved in all decisions about change.
  • When appropriate, leading user acceptance testing efforts completed by the business community to ensure that the software implementation meets the needs of business end users.
All of these efforts help the implementation team fulfill the intended benefits of the project and ensure the investment made realizes a positive return.

Step 7 – Help the Business Implement the Solution

Your technology team can deliver a beautiful shiny new solution that theoretically meets the business objectives, but if your business users don't use it as intended and go back to business-as-usual, your project won't have delivered on the original objectives. Business analysts are increasingly getting involved in this final phase of the project to support the business.
Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
  • Analyzing and developing interim and future state business process documentation that articulates exactly what changes need to be made to the business process.
  • Training end users to ensure they understand all process and procedural changes or collaborating with training staff so they can create appropriate training materials and deliver the training.
  • Collaborating with business users to update other organizational assets impacted by the business process and technology changes.
This step is all about ensuring all members of the business community are prepared to embrace the changes that have been specified as part of the project.

Step 8 – Assess Value Created by the Solution

A lot happens throughout the course of a project. Business outcomes are discussed. Details are worked through. Problems, big and small, are solved. Relationships are built. Change is managed. Technology is implemented. Business users are trained to change the way they work.
In this flurry of activity and a focus on delivery, it's easy to lose track of the big picture. Why are we making all these changes and what value do they deliver for the organization? And even more importantly, are we still on track? Meaning, is the solution we're delivering actually delivering the value we originally anticipated?
Nothing creates more positive momentum within an organization than a track record of successful projects. But if we don't stop and assess the value created by the solution, how do we know if we are actually operating from a track record of success?
Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
  • Evaluating the actual progress made against the business objectives for the project to show the extent to which the original objectives have been fulfilled.
  • Communicating the results to the project sponsor, and if appropriate, to the project team and all members of the organization.
  • Suggesting follow-up projects and initiatives to fully realize the intended business objectives of the project or to solve new problems that are discovered while evaluating the impact of this project.
After completing this step, it's likely you'll uncover more opportunities to improve the business which will lead you to additional projects. And so the cycle begins again!
Source: bridging-the-gap

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