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The Business Analysis Process: 1. Investigating a Situation

One of the Analyst’s key activities will be to understand the context/situation in which a project sits, in order to gain a better understanding of what implications and impact the project will have. The analyst is responsible for gathering all requirements of the project that are (a) relevant to the project and (b) meet the deliverables of the project, which could typically be defined by any or all of the stakeholders ranging from, shareholders, employees to customers. The requirements document will then form the basis of the project.

In order to create a  requirements catalogue for the project, a couple of activities within the process need to be conducted; the first of which is:

1. Investigating a Situation

This is the stage in which you gather high level information about the problem, issue or gap that needs addressing. This data is important because it will provide a good reference point on which to build upon. The situation will contextualise the problem and the potential solution’s practical application within the business.

This can typically done through gathering details on the following:

Context:

  • Speaking with stakeholders on the issues, gaps, problems they are facing, that the project will help  to achieve
  • Consider company strategy and strategic objectives
  • Consider the Project Initiation documentation (if there is one) to gather further details on who the stakeholders are, who will be using the system, risks, costs controls, business case 
  • Consider the terms of reference (if there is one) which will provide details on Objectives, Scope, Constraints, Authority and Resources (OSCAR)
  • Stakeholder analysis

Input:

  • Understand documentation that is related to the project
  • Review process maps
  • Review non-documented processes with actors
  • Speak with relevant stakeholders

Output:

At this point it is worth considering what problems, issues, gaps etc the output is facing. You might want to refer to the following to gain a better understanding of this.

  • Quality control documentation
  • Issues Log
  • Complaints received
  • Performance management reports; KPI’s etc
  • Speaking with relevant stakeholders

Techniques:

Some of the techniques you might use to gather the above information are:

  • Interviews
  • Workshops
  • Activity Sampling
  • Document Analysis
  • Updating/creating draft Business Needs Log

This above gathered information can be documented under the following headings:

  • Summary of information gathered
  • Data gathered
  • Draft business needs
  • Draft world view 
  • Mind maps
  • Use case (as-is)
  • Rich picture diagrams
  • Create a draft business needs log, documenting the high level business requirements based on the stakeholders you have spoken with; this may need revising based on subsequent activities
  • Fishbone diagrams
  • Knowledge on structure, management, policy and change processes
  • Any other details that may come in handy for later stages to help support with questions, interviews, workshops analysis etc
  • The input vs output analysis would be equip you to create a draft gap analysis

With the above information you would be able to document the very high level requirements you will be able to review for the compilation of your business needs log and consider when doing further analysis; you may alternatively encapsulate gathered thoughts, comments etc in to a general “world” view. You will also have good information on the organisational structure, divisions, policies, strategy and more to have a better understanding of the process of change and management within the company when doing further analysis, which is always useful, for context.

And there you have it; you’re now ready to move on to your second activity; considering the perspectives of your stakeholders. The next stage is concerned with analysing stakeholders and their perspectives on the situation/project, to get a better understanding of their values and beliefs for the project. 

The end result of the complete business analysis process will be a clear, non-ambiguous, relevant, reasonable and testable requirements document. The document will take the company’s internal structure, management and policies in to consideration, meeting all relevant requirements and deliverables of the project and your stakeholders, hopefully getting them to buy you a drink at the end of it. Or in my case a can of Dr Pepper; I love that stuff.

The Business Analysis Process: 2. Considering Perspectives

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Here’s why you should switch off sometimes

Is not ‘switching off’ after work a good or bad thing? And will it affect my health?

I’ve noticed that more and more nowadays, I am constantly busy doing something – this is usually something of value of course to myself or the people around me. Now this could be working on a side project at home, such as the family business which allows me to dip in and out based on the business requirements at the time, or I might be reading up on a topic that may be relevant to something that I have an interest in either personally or for work purposes. Conversely, if i’m not doing any of the above, i’m thinking about stuff and/or reflecting. I simply keep the mind active, doing something. And what I mean by ‘switching off’ is basically doing an activity that allows your brain to recharge. This could be watching TV, reading a book, yoga etc.

After a bit of research, I came across two personality types that you have probably heard of, namely, personality Type A and personality Type B. This is basically a theory mind you that was hypothesised by two Cardiologists (not Psychologists or Neuroscientists), Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman. They talked about the two most common personality types among humans, Type A and Type B personalities and the break down is as follows:

Type A:
Ambitious, rigidly organised, highly status conscious, can be sensitive, care for other people, are truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management.

Type B:
Work steadily, enjoying achievements but not becoming stressed when they are not achieved. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing and either enjoy the game or back down. They may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts. They are often reflective, thinking about the outer and inner worlds.

But from the above traits, which is the general consensus based on other sources looked at, you can guess which personality type I think I generally fit in to (type A). I say generally because, I don’t think I tick all of the boxes for Type A’s traits. I reflect and think a lot, i’m not always in a hurry, I don’t have road rage, I enjoy exploring ideas and concepts; I trained as an Architect after all and that’s what their job is! Maybe i’m a type C or A-B?

Although you can’t necessarily say one is better than the other, as they both have their own merits, what you can say however is that, each personality type has repercussions just as everything else does in this world. These repercussions you should take more notice of, because they could prove to be serious if not considered. An article on the Daily Mail (2012) website writes that;

“It found that having a ‘type A personality’ […] could raise the risk of stroke as much as smoking.”

While an article on the US News (2010) website wrote that;

“Personality traits play a distinct role in determining how healthy we are, psychologists say. “Everything is related to everything else. How stressed or angry you are, and how you interact with the world, is contingent in large part on your personality style…”

It’s clear that personality type can have a direct effect on your health and I agree with that. Where I work, at New Horizons, the health team always say, “there is no health without mental health”, and indeed this is probably true, based on statistics related to stress related health problems, anxiety and other mental health related problems.

However apparent the results of personalities may be, conversely, an article on the HeartHealthyWomen (no date) site writes;

“While some earlier studies suggested that type A personality doubled your risk of heart disease and made you 5 times more likely to have a recurrent heart attack, other studies have found no association between type A personality and heart disease risk. It is now thought that the component of type A behaviour that is in some way bad for your heart is hostility.”

So my advice would be this; work hard and achieve what you want. Think all you want and indeed reflect all you want. BUT. Make some time for yourself to recharge and revitalise your mind. Our minds are muscles that need exercise of course, but at the same time, they require rest too. So sometimes, just take it easy.