Business Analysis Techniques was first published in 2007. Recently updated, it now contains 99 techniques used by BAs around the world. Here we take a brief look at six ‘must haves’ for a BA’s toolkit.
So often in organisations problems are caused by differences of perspectives between key stakeholders. Unless these differences are brought out into the open and discussed explicitly, they will bubble away under the surface and undermine any efforts by business analysts to introduce new and better processes. The BAM developed from CATWOE analysis enables management to see how the differing perspectives would pan out as alternative conceptual models.
Business process modelling (swimlane diagrams)
The only real way to understand how business processes work is to model them. Models reveal the inconsistencies, loops, delays and bottlenecks involved in a process and also show how many ‘fingers are in the pie’. A systematic analysis of ‘as is’ process models provides a business analyst with the opportunity to think analytically and creatively about what the organisation really needs to do to achieve a better ‘to be’ situation.
Use case diagrams
Use case diagrams can model an entire business system or can show the boundary of a proposed IT system. They can be created quickly and easily in a workshop, and if even the term ‘use case’ is thought off-putting to the users, then don’t say it; just tell them you’re creating a rough picture of what the new system will look like and what it will do.
Aside from all the ‘hard’ techniques, a business analyst needs well-developed interpersonal skills - listening, communication, empathy, persuasiveness and so forth. A good interview requires all of these, and, properly prepared for and conducted, may well reveal details and ‘political’ issues that might not come out in a workshop.
All business analysis work is carried out in order that an organisation can secure business benefits. It is vital, therefore, that a business analyst is able to identify benefits and costs and classify them correctly as tangible or intangible. Where they are tangible, analysts need to be able to work out credible values for them; and where they are intangible, to put the case for them as persuasively as possible.
You could say that business analysis is all about SWOT: helping an organisation to exploit its strengths and overcome its weaknesses, seize opportunities and stave off threats. Don’t forget, too, the techniques that feed into SWOT - Resource Audit to uncover strengths and weaknesses and PESTLE for the external opportunities and threats.
Some techniques tend to be used over and over again, others not so much. What’s your experience ... do you use the same techniques all the time, or does it depend on the project you’re working on?
About the authors
James Cadle, Paul Turner and Debra Paul are the author team behind Business Analysis Techniques.
James has been involved in business systems for 35 years and is now a director of AssistKD. Debra is MD of AssistKD and was a founder member of the BA Manager Forum. Paul is a director of Business and IS Skills and of AssistKD, specialising in training and consultancy.