Business Analysis and Successful Outcomes

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In a previous post, I talked about the need for executive buy-in on business analysis activities and some ideas on how to facilitate it. As I mentioned, they are not our target audience for PMI’s foundational standard on business analysis, so we need to find other ways to win their support. In this post, I’ll explore another avenue to attract executive attention — delivering successful outcomes.

Executives care about the business outcomes they are funding with their projects. As business analysts, we have to show the link between our analysis and the project’s success.

First, we need to measure whether we’ve met project goals or delivered successful outcomes. But how do we measure that, and what should we even measure? Should we measure a reduction in missed requirements? Or whether our business analysis deliverables are done on time? No! (Well, at least not for the purpose of getting your executive team to buy into the value of the business analysis role.)

As I am known to say quite often, remember, requirements are just a means to an end.

At the end of the day, doing good business analysis work or producing perfect requirements is not actually useful if it doesn’t lead to successful outcomes. Launching successful products is a worthy end goal. Delivering business outcomes is a worthy end goal. Delivering the desired business value is a worthy end goal. Business analysis, I’m sorry to say, is not actually a worthy end goal.

That said, business analysis helps identify the business problems that need to be solved or the opportunities to capitalize on. Business analysis helps elicit the objectives the team is striving to deliver. We help identify the risks that will keep us from being successful, the assumptions about our objectives that might derail us, and the requirements that help ensure we construct the solution that delivers success. We work in lockstep with our business stakeholders and IT stakeholders every day to enable alignment between the organizations, so that the solutions delivered solve the business’ problems. (The Needs Assessment chapter of the Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide describes identifying problems and opportunities in more detail.)

So the good news is that business analysis is 100 percent necessary to deliver those aforementioned worthy end goals. And while executives don’t all value business analysis yet, they do in fact value business outcomes. And therein lies the key to their hearts … or minds at least! If we can help deliver successful projects, then we can be reassured that the business analysis we perform is successful, which hopefully leads executive support of our cause.

Achieving and measuring business analysis results

Some takeaway points to think about:

  • Define measurable business objectives: Do you have these defined for every project you work on? The only way you can deliver successful business outcomes is to understand what success actually is. Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide describes Goal Models and Business Objective Models as mechanisms to capture these objectives in Chapter 4.
  • Plan to measure: Surprisingly, most organizations don’t come back to measure objectives after the fact. So, make measurement part of your plan (including building in features to support measuring success if needed).
  • Go back and measure: When its time, measure whether the objectives or success metrics were achieved. Failure is OK as long as you grow from it. And you can’t grow if you don’t know you failed, so don’t be afraid to measure this.
  • Report on success (or lack thereof): Summarize the results and make sure they are reported to executives.

I’d love to hear what others’ experiences are with defining success measures and actually measuring them. I think this is one of the hardest things we do as business analysts, so please share with us your successes, failures, funny stories, horror stories, or questions you want to pose.

If you are interested in learning more about performance measurement you’ll want to take a look at PMI’s Foundational Standard on Business Analysis!

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