by Kathy Martucci, PMP

“Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. The Business Analyst is an agent of change. Business Analysis is a disciplined approach for introducing and managing change to organizations, whether they are for-profit businesses, governments, or non-profits.” (IIBA Website)

These words only hint at the value of good business analysis and stellar business analysts (BA). In my last article, I explored four major competencies of the BA. While these “4 C’s” greatly contribute to what it takes to be a good analyst, we need to go a step further and add planning and organizational skills to the list.

The first knowledge area in the BABOK® (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge) is Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. This area covers how business analysts determine the activities necessary in order to complete the business analysis effort: identification of stakeholders, selection of business analysis techniques, the process that will be used to manage requirements, and how to assess the progress of the work.

Important? I daresay critical – these activities lay a solid foundation and set both the course and tone for all other business analysis tasks. Without thoughtful planning and the ability to envision a successful future in a strategic manner, processes and products suffer which can easily lead to project failure.

How can the BA build this foundation?

Identify the stakeholders: differing levels of participation play a role in achieving a successful project outcome. Participation requirements, as we know, aren’t the same for everyone associated with the project. Instead, participation expectations depend on the degree of a project stakeholder’s involvement and influence. Because of this, it’s vital to a project’s success to accurately identify project stakeholders, set participation expectations and communicate accordingly.

Business analysis techniques: Designing how to elicit, document and track requirements is the cornerstone of the effort. The biggest mistake BA’s can make is the “one size fits all”. The approach will be different for different stakeholders, methodologies and frameworks. It is a primary responsibility of the BA to ensure that it’s defined early and communicated to all stakeholders and that they are fully onboard.

Managing requirements: It’s too often that the BA thinks of a requirements management plan as a traceability matrix and a change control process. In fact, it may serve the project well to think of the plan as a collection of the plans that are used to manage all aspects of business analysis. Much like the overall project management plan, it can be a formal document with many subsidiary plans, such as a business analysis communication plan, business analysis risk plan, estimates for the business analysis work effort, and more.

Monitor and assess progress: Tracking activities and monitoring progress can consume a lot of the time otherwise allocated for business analysis. If not done properly, these activities can cause the BA to spend more time working in an oversight capacity and neglecting the requirements gathering activities that are the prime responsibility of the business analyst role.

Performance indicators must be well-defined and, of course, able to be measured. Some good examples include: % of rework attributable to requirements, % of requirements fully implemented, and % of approved requirements not implemented- a test of the likelihood of user satisfaction with the final result.

Let’s head to project success with a “ready, aim, fire!” strategy, not…well, you know.