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Why Defining the Business Need is Critical


In order for any project or initiative to be successful, an agreed upon business need must be determined. This need may present itself as a problem or an opportunity. Business Analysts must be able to guide the business in articulating which of these is the catalyst for the initiative prior to starting any BA work. Projects without a clearly defined business need get drawn out due to issues such as increased stakeholder conflict, poorly defined requirements, and excessive rework. So, to save you some pain and effort, below are some reasons why defining the business need is a critical starting point for any organizational change.


Gives Purpose

Understanding the business need early in the process gives a clear understanding of why the change is being initiated. The process of defining a desired future state uses the identified business needs to evaluate potential solutions to ensure that each potential solution satisfies the need and choose the solution that BEST satisfies those needs. Any solution option that does not satisfy the business needs should be eliminated from consideration because it serves no purpose.

Identifying the business need is also necessary in order to understand the current state. Business needs related to the current state help to reveal existing constraints that need to be taken into consideration when evaluating potential solutions. Having this additional context upfront will lead to fewer problems and revisions as the project matures. Addressing business needs from a current state perspective helps present why the existing process is no longer viable.

Increases Motivation

Goals and objects are the core of any project or initiative. The ability to effectively communicate these can aid in getting buy-in from stakeholders and the project team. Understanding how the project's goals and objectives satisfy a business need can motivate participants to put their best foot forward as they will be able to see how their efforts have a positive impact on the organization. 

Reduces Conflict

Initiatives with undefined business needs can be plagued with conflicts of interest due to unaligned motives and competing priorities. Obtaining agreed upon business needs provide a source of truth for project decisions to be based upon. Prioritizing requirements and assessing change requests can be a source of contention when the business needs are not clear. Once identified, business needs help to facilitate prioritization as the basis of which the activity is derived. Key stakeholders determine a weighing for the prioritization criteria based on their relevance to the business needs. When stakeholders value different things, having criteria based prioritization allows for more objective evaluation of requirement ranking.

When changes to requirements are proposed an assessment must be made of the change’s relevance and value. Clearly communicated business needs allow the business analyst to quickly weed out change requests that are not in scope and more effectively determine requirement changes that sufficiently address a need. Denied change requests are better received by stakeholders when the business analyst can explain that the requested change does not address the agreed upon business needs. 

Satisfaction Guaranteed!

There is nothing worse than spending time and effort on a project only to end up with stakeholders that are not satisfied with the end result. Projects that lose sight of the business need that initiated the change are destined to result in wasted time as changes are made that do not adequately solve a problem or seize an opportunity the way the stakeholders had envisioned. Business Analysts can increase the likelihood of stakeholder satisfaction by validating requirements, designs and change requests against the business need throughout the life of the project to ensure that needs are being met.

Final Thoughts

In closing, some of the benefits of defining business needs at the beginning of a change, project or initiative include presenting the purpose of the initiative as well as motivating stakeholders to buy-into the change. In addition, a clearly identified and communicated business need reduces conflict and greatly increase the likelihood that stakeholders are satisfied with the change. Business Analysts can assist organizations in identifying business needs by performing a strategy analysis using tools such a Business Case, Balanced Scorecard, Market Analysis or SWOT Analysis.


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About the Author

Michael F. White, CBAP Founder of The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC has an extensive background in business analysis, project management, and coaching. He has driven innovation at some of the top financial institutions in the nation, holds a Doctorate in Business Administration and is a CBAP. To learn more about The Business Analysis Doctor, LLC visit