8 Tips for Choosing Business Analysis Techniques
The first time you became aware of the number of business analysis techniques, what was your reaction? Was it shock and awe, or a feeling that you would never be able to master all of them? Or were you familiar with many of the techniques, but not sure if you were using the most suitable ones in your business analysis work?
Business analysts need a toolkit with a range of options that will enable them to perform tasks effectively and consistently. Challenges both inside and outside of project work—including figuring out how you can best elicit, document, manage, and communicate requirements—require robust and flexible techniques. The business analysis techniques outlined in the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) and in the image below are widely used across industries, as they provide solutions to meet these challenges. But it can be difficult to find hard data about which techniques work best, in part because these techniques are being used across a wide range of industries and projects. In addition, when choosing a technique, you need to consider numerous factors like time, cost, usage potential, business analysis competency, stakeholder preference, user knowledge, level of documentation, project environment, and company culture, to name a few!
Let’s look at some tips that can help you get started to pick the most appropriate techniques for your project or initiative.
1. Categorize the business analysis techniques that you currently use. Just as we categorize requirements to make them more digestible, useful, and focused, we can do so with business analysis techniques. The categories you decide on will depend on your work and industry. You can categorize by business analysis knowledge areas, or by the business analysis tasks you plan to perform to create results and outputs. For example, you may want to create a category for eliciting requirements. You can also create categories for types of interactions you have with stakeholder groups, or based on your stakeholders’ preferences. There may be techniques you use that work best with developers or clients, for example. You may want to have a category for visual diagrams and another for text-based techniques. Categorization can also be based on other constraints, such as number of stakeholders, project complexity, time, or cost.
2. Add a few techniques from the BABOK® Guide to your list. Now that you have the categories for your existing techniques, take a look at the techniques from the BABOK® Guide and other sources and place the ones that interest you in these categories. This may require you to read up on some of them.
3. Talk to other business analysts in your company. Find out what techniques they use, and update your list. Also look for examples and templates that exist at your company.
Now that you have created your own quick reference chart, let’s talk about how you can choose the most appropriate business analysis techniques for your project or initiative:
4. Target a project that has been less than successful and try a new technique. Considering your current projects, think about where you have issues such as unclear or incomplete requirements and other challenges. The techniques you are using may not be providing you with the best results. Ask yourself if the root cause of the problem could be the techniques themselves. Talk to your stakeholders; ask for their thoughts and gauge their willingness to try something new. For example: Your requirements have not been clearly defined, and you have been eliciting requirements through interviews only. You may want to try interface analysis, observations, bench marking, or a requirements workshop.
5. Try a new technique that will challenge you! Look at your list of new techniques, and pick one that you feel would be a challenge. It could be something you have never done before. Maybe process modeling is new to you. In fact, maybe you’ve never created a diagram before. Take an existing process that has already been mapped or modeled. Try to create your own model and compare it to the existing model, you may gain a better understanding of the process. Then look for an opportunity to create a process model for an existing process that has not been modeled. You’ll be learning and adding value at the same time.
6. Ask your stakeholders what techniques they would prefer to use, and then pick one to try on a new project. This can help you if you are having issues with stakeholder engagement or communication. The technique doesn’t have to replace an existing one; it could instead be used in conjunction with what you are doing now.
7. Consider the risks of using the techniques. The BABOK® Guide has a great section at the end of each technique description that outlines usage considerations. Before proceeding with any new technique, consider the disadvantages and weigh the risks. Each technique has at least one disadvantage that imposes limitations and can create associated risk. Selecting the most suitable technique for business analysis tasks involves a trade-off between advantages and disadvantages. For example, bench marking can identify opportunities for improvement, but it can be time-consuming, requires expertise in analysis, and does not typically result in innovative solutions. Business analysts can improve their understanding of the techniques by determining which disadvantages could become critical issues.
8. Use decision analysis. Select your techniques in the same way you would choose a vendor or assess a solution. You could create a decision analysis flowchart to select the techniques, or score each technique using evaluation criteria.
In their search for suitable techniques, business analysts often find it difficult to obtain hard data on which techniques work best in which applications. As a result, many business analysts rely on what they know and what has been used in their organizations. But this means they may be missing out on techniques that can add value to projects and initiatives.
Having a basic knowledge of the techniques, as well as creating a personal categorization of the techniques, can help you objectively choose the most suitable technique for a specific project or initiative. Engaging stakeholders when you try out new techniques may provide additional unanticipated rewards as you grow your skill set as a business analysts.
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