Join Haydn Thomas for an in-depth discussion in this video Defining the business problem or opportunity, part of Business Analysis Foundations.
- Imagine that your child is playing Little League Baseball and asks for help because he's having trouble hitting. Being anxious to help, what is the first thing you're likely to do? I suspect you'd want to watch your little slugger take a few swings. It's hard to find opportunities to improve when you can't see what's happening today. So it goes with business problems. You need to see what is going on in order to find ways to improve. Although it isn't always easy as looking a one simple thing, like a baseball swing, there are straightforward approaches to defining business problems and opportunities.
First, use multiple techniques for information collection. Like viewing that baseball swing from different angles, using different methods for viewing the business can help you gain valuable perspectives on what's happening. Common and easy-to-implement information collection techniques include individual and group interviews with the executives of the business processes, job observation: literally watching people execute their business processes, review of existing process documentation: see how things are done now, review information technology systems for process and information flows, and finally, checking in with people at multiple locations.
If there are people who execute the same business process in different locations, checking with people at each of those locations, you may find the same process is not always that similar. The perspectives you gain from using different information collection approaches and contrasting the results can be revealing, surfacing possibilities for business improvement. The second approach to surface business problems or opportunities is to determine the perceptions of your project's sponsor, as they own the project. After working with your son's baseball swing, you might want to check in with his coach to see if you share a common view of the problem.
The same is true in a project. As project sponsors seek business improvement, their perceptions are important. Take the information you have collected using the techniques I have described here and contrast them with the perspectives of your sponsor. It can be a great way to adjust and focus your findings. My last recommendation: look for the most common areas for improvement. They can jump out at you if you're looking for them. Here are the improvement areas I see most frequently. First, look for manual steps in a process. Whenever there are possibilities for automating a process, there are usually opportunities to increase speed and productivitity and increase accuracy and consistency.
All of these can translate to better business outcomes. Second, look for what I call Swivel technology. This is when a computer user looks up information in one computer system, swivels in their chair, and enters the same information in a different computer system. Errors in enter lies abound in these instances. Third, check for conflicts or inconsistencies in process execution. As I mentioned earlier, this occurs most often when people in different locations are trying to apply the same business process. However, it can also happen in the same office, so check for consistency across users.
Lastly, look for processes without a purpose. I'm surprised how often business processes create an output that is never used by another process, or produce reports that are never referenced. The are great opportunities for cost and effort reduction. It takes a bit of diligence and patience to view processes from different perspectives, however the effort usually pays for itself quite easily. Do this well, and soon your business is likely to start hitting that baseball out of the park.
Discover where business analysis lives in the project life cycle, how to initiate a project, the best way to gather requirements, and smart strategies to monitor results and test outcomes.
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- Understanding what business analysts do
- Defining business opportunities and objectives
- Identifying stakeholders
- Gathering requirements through observation and brainstorming
- Validating requirements
- Developing project acceptance criteria
- Implementing, testing, and closing your project<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.