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Creating Bulletproof Business Cases - Part 3: Solution Analysis

By Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, Watermark Learning and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, Watermark Learning

The previous portions of this series on business cases presented an overview of the main components and the first two stages that we call Situation Analysis: the S and A. To recap, the SARIE process is a framework for solving problems and works as an excellent way to develop bulletproof business cases. It stands for: Situation, Analysis, Recommendation, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Now we explore the Recommendation and Implementation steps of SARIE. Final articles cover the cost-benefit analysis stage and wrap up the series.

SARIE: R – Recommendation

Once we have confidently determined the root cause(s) of a problem, we can then find the right solution scope and approach to address the business need. The solution scope and approach described in A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) map to the “R” and “I” parts of SARIE, namely the scope of what is being recommended, and the approach to implementing it.

What is Solution Scope?

We will use the term “solution” as the BABOK® Guide does to mean the deliverables that must be produced and how they will be produced. The solution may also include scope of the analysis, any enabling capabilities, and the chunks of how it will be released (IIBA®, 2009, p. 232).

Determining Recommendations

A good recommendation to resolve a business situation will address the business need and root cause(s) uncovered in the previous SARIE steps, S and A. Typically, the act of defining a situation and the work to discover the underlying cause(s) will suggest one or more recommendations. Any potential solutions should be further refined by examining the approach to implementing them (covered below in the "I" phase).

Techniques to Define Scope

To ensure your business case includes the proper scope and all relevant costs, make sure you decompose the solution in enough detail to discover the dependencies and enablers needed. There are various ways to do this, and a few standard techniques are usually sufficient. Details are beyond the space for this article.
  • Functional Decomposition 
  • Scope Diagrams
  • User Stories
SARIE: I – Implementation

The “I” in SARIE is the Implementation stage, describing at a high level how the solution is to be delivered. Think of it as the approach for delivering the solution, including the type and number of projects proposed in the Recommendation part of the business case.

The approach covers high-level considerations like buy vs. build, in-sourcing or out-sourcing, modifying existing systems and processes or not, and includes analyzing which alternative approach is the most feasible one to address the business need. We will return to feasibility shortly.

Solution Analysis

To prevent the problem of “jumping to a solution,” it is important to carefully examine and understand both the recommended deliverables and their implementation. We will use the term solution analysis for short to refer to this. To analyze the best solution scope and approach, we have found two techniques especially helpful:
  • Decision trees
  • Weighted Ranking Matrices
Feasibility Studies

Another technique that helps to solidify a proposed Recommendation and Implementation is a Feasibility Study. Feasibility analysis helps generate and analyze potential solutions and approaches. A major benefit of them is to save the money and trouble of a full cost-justification of a project that may not be feasible. In other words, we perform feasibility analysis before expending more time and energy on the business case, especially the rigors of researching costs and benefits.

These studies may generate additional approaches to analyze and rank order, so the R and I stages of SARIE are often performed iteratively and concurrently. Here are some major factors to consider when conducting feasibility analysis. It is called the TELOS framework (Feasibility Study, 2011), referencing the first letters of the mnemonic:
  • Technology Feasibility
  • Economic Feasibility 
  • Legal Feasibility
  • Operational Feasibility
  • Schedule Feasibility.
Summary

This article outlined the steps to formulating recommendations, and how they could be implemented. We call this solution analysis because it details how a recommendation matches the business need, and explores alternatives for accomplishing the solution the most feasible way. We also saw how feasibility analysis is an important component in a business case. It helps to put the recommended solution and approach to an early test, and for non-feasible solutions, can save time by not doing a detailed cost-benefit analysis. Even better, effective solution analysis can help stop a project that should never be born.



References

Feasibility Study. (2011, May 25). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved June 17, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feasibility_study
International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). (2009). A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) Version 2.0. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. International Institute of Business Analysis.