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Gathering Stakeholder Perspectives for Analysis

CATWOE

Ever wished there was a tool or framework that would help you to gather details on project stakeholders thoughts and perspectives on where a project or system should go in terms or direction or where it should be focused? Well, here’s some good news; there is one; it’s called the CATWOE framework. ‘CATWOE’ is a good methodology/framework to help get a good understanding on what peoples priorities, values, opinions, beliefs are on a system change, addition or closure. The framework frames their perspective, who, from their perspective, the customer is, owner is and who should be involved. This information comes in handy when reviewing and analysing what kind of need a system should fulfill – you will have detailed information on stakeholders thinking behind the project and its objectives.

The CATWOE methodology was developed by Peter Checkland and was a part of his Soft Systems research; a research study that seems to have been going on for a long time, trying to deal with and manage issues and problems that may lack proper, formal problem definition.

Findings from the analysis is typically used to synthesise with findings from other stakeholders or gather the needs of the key stakeholder that are responsible for setting the objectives of the system.

The framework is a good one and equips you with the tools to gain a good understanding on why a stakeholder of a potential system might want it a certain way and why another may want it another way. CATWOE will also give you good understanding of where the general consensus lies for the system; where the conflicts are; where overlapping occurs and more. The ‘CATWOE’ acronym is as follows:

  • Customer
  • Actor(s)
  • Transformation
  • World View
  • Owner
  • Environment

NOTE: The reason it is presented as ‘CATWOE’ is so it is pronounceable. The proper format of the framework is as below. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it in this way; you can do it however you want! This methodology is a guideline because it is simply, logical. 

  1. World View
    • Here is where you ask the stakeholder why the new system is needed or why it should be changed; you could ask questions like; ‘in your opinion, why…”; “what made you come to that conclusion…”.
    • It is important to remain tactful, a good listener and a good listener at this point; as the more information you have, the better off you are.
    • An answer might be something as simple as, ‘market research has shown there’s a growing demand for plimsole type footwear at cheap prices’
  2. Transformation
    • Transformation is concerned with what process is to be transformed – changed or created.
    • This would typically be in response to the world view and thus comes consecutively
    • Could be something as simple as, ‘sell plimsole type footwear at cheap prices’
  3. Customer
    • Who is the customer that is affected by the process or system change?
    • In the context of our scenario, it would be a consumer wanting to buy plimsole type footwear at cheap prices
    • There may be scope to go in to further detail that might incorporate any analysis the stakeholder has done related to the market
  4. Actor(s)
    • ‘Actor’ is concerned with who will be involved in the process and who will perform the transformation
    • This cold be someone along the lines of in-house footwear designers, sales staff, marketing staff and store managers
  5. Owner
    • Who has authority to close this bad mama jama system?
    • Typically the commissioning authority; project board or board of directors
    • If the owner of the system is the retail department; the retail director may have authority to further change, stop or close down the system
  6. Environment
    • What’s the environment like in which the business system operates? 
    • A good framework to use for this is ‘PESTLE‘, which looks at the macro-economic forces at play, that may potentially have an impact on your system
    • It may even be worth considering some of the internal business processes related to system implementation; items related to the scope of actual implementation, constraints of doing so, any assumptions that are made and what risks there may be. A good framework for this is the ‘BOSCARD‘ framework – the ‘B’ stands for background for a little context; the ‘O’ stands for objective; the objective in this context would be to implement the new system and ‘D’ is deliverables.

So this exercise is what one would typically conduct with project related stakeholders, in order to gather information on where they think the system should go in terms of direction and focus. There is no reason why this framework cannot be used informally. I use it a lot in my day-to-day life when trying to understand reasoning behind decisions.

The CATWOE analysis can then be translated in to a business activity model (BAM), which is a conceptual model of the system as envisaged or imagined by the stakeholder, that was interviewed. You will notice that, for the most part, the CATWOE analysis is simply common sense. You probably already ask the questions and consider the environment etc. All this framework does is add a little structure to that process. Have fun.

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The Business Analysis Process: 2. Considering Perspectives

You’ve now completed step 1 and you’ve now got a good understanding of the situation and are ready to progress your business analysis activities. The second activity within the business analysis process is to consider the perspectives of your stakeholders.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find out who your stakeholders are. You can typically do or should have done this this by gathering details on the situation, from the first activity within the process. With this information you can then decide how to manage your stakeholders by conducting stakeholder analysis. A good way to do this is by using the power-interest matrix; the power-interest matrix will give you a framework for management.
  2. Once you have considered who your stakeholders are, it would be important to conduct the CATWOE analysis to understand what the stakeholders thoughts, feelings and values are with relation to the system/process addition/update/closure. The CATWOE analysis gives the analyst good details on the system from the users perspective; it takes in to consideration, why the stakeholder thinks the system should be implemented, what the definition of the system is, who the customer is, who plays a part within the system implementation, the owner and the environmental factors that need to be considered in which the proposed system will sit. You will conduct the CATWOE analysis with your stakeholders that you have identified as value-adding.
  3. Each perspective that you gather from a stakeholder, would be documented in a business activity model that outlines the main activities within the system, from the individual stakeholder’s perspective.
  4. Once you have gathered the above details and produced the business activity models, the next step is to determine one unified business activity model that synthesises all business activity models gathered. Now, naturally it may not be possible to create a synthesised model that incorporates every single requirement of all stakeholders. BA’s must recognise that stakeholder play a part in systems development because they have good context and understanding of user requirements; naturally people will have different opinions, however it is up to the BA to understand which activities within the documented business activity models that add most value, while meeting each stakeholders requirements. Often negotiations will need to take place, as it may not always ben feasible to deliver all requirements as outlined by the stakeholders. The way negotiation facilitation is highly personal and for that reason I won’t discuss this much.
  5. Compile all information gathered and document all of the details including the business activity models for reference, if required.

This will then take you on the next stage of analysing the needs within that one business activity model that you have now created, amalgamating most, if not all of the activities outlined in all stakeholder business activity models.

The Business Analysis Process: 3. Analysing Needs