How to Add Value to Organizations through Business Analysis Utilization

By Sergio Luiz Conte, Ph.D., PMP

I will try to synthetize in a few lines the main course of action every person who embraces business analysis as a profession should follow to add value using business analysis practices. The person who carries out this work is the Professional Business Analyst (PBA).

Change is inevitable, constant and permanent. The actual world is characterized by uncertainty and change. Organizations must continually change to evolve and adapt to environmental changes in order to achieve their main objective:  to survive. Change generates the need for transformation in organizational structures and their relations. When needs arise, a problem/situation arises because a need is an uncomfortable situation to solve. To determine the best course of action to take (problem / situation / solution) organizations must pay careful attention to strategy formulation because the strategy is the coherent pattern of action that consciously intervenes in the ongoing evolution of the organization. The key word is “evolution” because the transformation should be implemented as an “evolution” instead of as a “revolution”.

The PBA is the host of change. As a host, he/she must welcome the change and must make all necessary arrangements to understand and manage all the needs this change generates at all organizational levels. The PBA acts as the bridge to allow organizations to walk through an uncomfortable state (needs) to a comfortable state (needs satisfaction); from problem state to solution state.

From the beginning, the PBA must perform Elicitation activities facing up to the needs. The needs bring with them much ambiguity because they are reflections of the problem/situation. Because of that, needs are absolutely solution independent. As an archaeologist the PBA must search into the needs, finding the “Undiscovered Ruins”: features, services and functions required to satisfy the needs. To do that he/she must prepare for elicitation very carefully, understanding the application domain (terms, process, people, etc.), understanding the business context (field of operation), understanding other stakeholders’ needs in the same business context, and understanding the problems other organizations have in the same business context.

A “golden rule” must lead Elicitation: the PBA is responsible for diagnosing not prescribing. To prescribe, he/she will engage the right people in order to design, construct and implement the solution. The solution is comprised of “the things and the work” the transformation demands must be done. Because the PBA is a “solution facilitator” and a “project manager work provider” all needs must be transformed into requirements to allow Subject Matter Experts to clearly define “the things and the work” (“the things” determine “the work”). Please let me make a recommendation: I have used “non-traditional” methods to do highly effective, highly efficient Elicitation. One “non-traditional” method I love to use is the “Solution Selling” method (Keith M. Eades, McGraw-Hill, ISBN:0071435395).

While performing Enterprise Analysis activities, the PBA must remember that to add value he/she must evaluate the transformation impacts within the framework of the strategy because it will prevent throwing the organization´s money “into the trash”. To evaluate the impacts successfully the PBA’s focus must be “to see” the organization as a complex, adaptive system. If the PBA sees the organization as a system, then he/she is aware that to change a component or to change a relation between components will generate an impact in other components and their relations. It does not matter the size of the change; it will generate an impact inside the organizational architecture.

After the change is in place the PBA must be aware that to insert the change into the environment will generate new changes and a new cycle starts. To add value the PBA must be proactive in helping the organization to continuously regenerate itself. He/she is responsible for evaluating the solution performance to help organizations achieve differentiation through continuous improvement.

Besides Elicitation the PBA must perform Communication activities from the beginning as well. Every engaged stakeholder must feel that “he gets what he needs” because, as my professor Dr. Alan M. Davis said “stakeholders do not ‘buy’ the product or the project, they are ‘buying’ the certainty that their needs will be satisfied with the product or the project”. The PBA must be aware that it is the people who define success or failure for each transformation undertaken by the organization. Learning, trustworthiness, integrity, and teaching are key underlying competencies to be successful. I will add two more (I think they have to be added to A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) active listening and empathy.

Because above all, sometimes I think business analysis work is 80% art and 20% science. Do you?

Sergio Luis Conte