Live from BA World Seattle: Business Objectives Talk

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I just presented our talk at BA World Seattle titled “If You Build It, Will They Use It: Leveraging Business Objectives to Deliver Successful Projects”. I particularly enjoy giving this talk for some reason, maybe because the concept is so simple yet so new to most folks. I had some interesting questions from the group during this talk:

What if your project manager has already gotten your business objectives, do you still do it as BA?

Answer: First you should interview your project manager to determine whether he/she has gotten good Business Objectives. If they appear to be well written and thought out, then you need to determine who they came from and when they were elicited to make your judgment call. Typically I would still suggest quickly checking them with your stakeholder. Not to question your PM’s capabilities, but simply to hear it directly yourself.

What if you have a business case already, isn’t it presumptuous as a BA to question the accuracy of it and elicit the business objectives again?

Answer: When was the last time you saw a clear well written business case? Need I say more? Ok, well, just in case, my thought is that it’s rare to see one that clearly articulates the Business Objectives. But if you do have one, I would still double check them and at minimum have them articulated from the stakeholder directly so you can hear them.

What if you are in the government sector, do your objectives really relate to money?

Answer: This question comes up almost every time I give this presentation and the answer I want to give is “Well shouldn’t they since they use tax payer’s money to fund projects?” And people often make the argument that their objectives are about service, so perhaps that’s more accurate. Here’s the deal though, they may not always relate to money 100% of the time. But even in the government sector, there is some goal to deliver service at the least cost possible, so the relationship is often still there.

What kind of business objectives would you have if you are told to just build a sexy site?

Answer: Well if these are your business objectives, I’d say you don’t have very good ones! Seriously though, some organizations do have this goal (think Apple). But really this is a Guiding Principle, not a Business Objective. Instead, you should repeatedly ask “Why” such as “Why do we want to build a sexy site?” until you can uncover a Business Problem worthy of solving. Typically it does relate to money, so in this case, maybe there is evidence that a sexy site will bring more customers to the site, which will increase revenue.

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