Business Analysis Life Cycle
Business analysis is a research to identify the business needs and to determine the solutions for the Business problems. The solution could be a software system development but it also consists of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development and the person who carries out this task is called a Business Analyst.
Business analysis includes requirements analysis, also known as requirements engineering which focuses on ensuring that the changes made to an organisation are aligned with its strategic goals. Al these changes include changes to strategies, structures, policies, business rules, processes, and information systems.
The concept of the business analysis lifecycle (BA lifecycle) can be applied to business analysis as it represents a structured and repeatable approach in solving a business problem. Let’s explore the business analysis lifecycle.
The Business Analysis Life cycle consists of below mentioned areas which governs the project and help the project to keep on the right track:
1. Enterprise Analysis : The core of the BA lifecycle as it deals with the current state of an organization and existing capabilities.
2. Requirements elicitation
3. Requirements analysis
4. Solution assessment and validation
Enterprise Analysis closely interacts with Requirements Elicitation, Requirements Analysis and Solution Assessment and Validation where required. The goal of these interactions is to specify the business need, define the gaps and the required capabilities, and determine reusable components of the existing environment.
5. Planning and monitoring
6. Requirements management and Communication
Planning and monitoring & Requirements management and Communication support all the above mentioned areas throughout the project.
7. Iterative Improvements
As a business analyst executes tasks within the mentioned areas, she/he learns lessons and applies the obtained knowledge to improve execution of the tasks in the next iteration. This is the moment where Iterative Improvements comes into play which completes the BA lifecycle.
The moto of lifecycle is to work on improvement of business analysis all the time. This concept delivers the following benefits:
– Proved and effective approaches are used from the first project day
– Planning of business analysis activities become more effective
– Communication with stakeholders is effective and has fewer surprises
– None of the Requirements are missed
– Proved procedures, reports and templates are the norm
– Business analysis function continuously increases its value to the business
Let us illustrate on how the Business Analysis Life cycle works on real situations and how a business analyst can apply the BA Life cycle.
The business sent a memo to the Project Management Office about the need to satisfy new compliance requirements imposed on the company by a market regulation body. The PMO made a rough estimation (at a very high level) of the project scope and assigned a project manager to the project. The project manager engaged a BA to help refine project scope and determine how much the project may cost and how long it may take to complete. The project manager allocated the following tasks to the business analyst; they are
-To analyse the current state of the information landscape within the organizational unit that initiated the project
-To determine project dependencies with ongoing projects
-To specify high-level requirements based on the new market rules
-To develop Project Vision and Solution Vision artifacts to support the development of a Business Case.
The business analyst started work on the assigned tasks by having short and informal meetings with the key business users. The objective is to get a clear picture of the newly required capabilities, the imposed market deadline, the length of the transition period and the financial impact non-compliance would have on the organization. These facts help in defining the project scope and outline possible changes to the current state.
The business analyst uses the collected information to develop the BA Plan, which included the approach to business analysis, business analysis deliverables, initial assumptions and constraints, effort estimations for the specified tasks, a list of key stakeholders and a communication matrix with preliminary details of communication patterns.
To complete the first task (analysis of the current state), the BA applies the techniques recommended in the EA knowledge area. At the same time, to speed up the task execution, the techniques from RE and RA are utilized. SA&V tasks and techniques are used to get the full picture of the current state. All the resulting information are presented in the Current State Analysis document. The document is used to refine the original project scope and the time estimates made earlier. The next step is to specify the high level requirements. Again, RE, RA and RM&C are at play and help complete the analysis at the enterprise level and do the groundwork for developing the Project Vision and Solution Vision artifacts. The described tasks are completed in a short period of time because of the flexible combination of techniques.
Engagement of stakeholders are really good because of early communication of the identified needs, existing capabilities and discovered constraints. So, as the business analyst appllies lessons learned (II) from each completed iteration, to be able to refine the plan of BA activities and to improve approach to business analysis.
Once the Business Case is approved, the business analyst starts working on business requirements to a solution. The high level requirements specified earlier are translated into business requirements which encompass both the changes to the current business processes as well as the changes to the information systems enabling these processes. SA&V serves well for getting a good understanding of the existing issues with the information systems, their performance and limitations. RE and RA are used concurrently to shorten the duration of the phase in order to meet the tight deadline. RM&C are used to keep all stakeholders in the loop. The specified requirements are packaged into Use Cases to facilitate engagement of stakeholders, speed up peer and business reviews and simplify communication with software developers and testers down the track. The Use Cases contained traceability of the requirements from functional requirements back to market rules. The Use Cases are also allocated to specified functional areas of the solution. This approach gives the business analyst full control over the requirements and make management of the requirements and communication of changes an easy task. The progress of delivering the artifacts is monitored through weekly reports.
Iterations with different stakeholders highlighted weaknesses in communication with a project sponsor and technical SMEs. The Iterative Improvements help fix the issues and establish a proper means and schedule of communication. SA&V is used to specify the transition requirements because the solution has to be connected to the external systems. The gathered information is fed back to EA to correct project scope and make changes to some specified requirements. RM&C is invoked again to communicate these changes back to the stakeholders
The BA deliveres a few more artifacts in addition to those mentioned in the beginning. These are Business Requirements, Functional and Non-Functional requirements, Business Process Design and Glossary of terms used within the business domain. As a good organizational practice, a post-implementation review is completed a month after the go-live. It allowed the business analyst to go through the lessons learned from each phase and identify weaknesses and what worked well. This information is reported to the project manager and it is also used to improve business analysis planning and business analysis activities for future projects. The business analysis artifacts from the project are stored in a central repository. They are currently used as references in other projects. The requirements can be re-used where required.
The BA lifecycle introduced in this article is a structured and repeatable approach to identifying business needs, analyzing current and required capabilities, managing and communicating the identified requirements, as well as selecting and validating a solution which meets the business objectives. The steps mentioned above on a project illustrates how the BA lifecycle works in real situations. The tasks of business analysis are used in an orchestrated manner with a constant aim to improve their execution where required. Lessons learned in one project are then re-used in other projects to improve business analysts’ performance, improve the quality of business analysis artifacts and the BA function at large. Continuous learning also ensures delivery of greater value to the business in a consistent manner.