What, why, who, when, where, resources, output, how…… ? These are the first bunch of questions I think of when starting a new piece of business analysis. Normally all at once ! I then relax and work through it one question at a time.
What: What is the brief ? from the brief what’s the rough scope? Is it big, small or something in between? Is it an area I am familiar with or something brand new. This will determine how I need to approach the analysis.
Why: Again from the brief I should get a good idea of what the project is aiming to achieve and as a result what areas of interest I should pay special attention to.
Who: From the what and the why I can determine the who, well at least a good starting point.
When: From the sponsor I’ll get a feel for when results are expected. This is really important, as from this you can get a feel for the detail expected. Obviously this is only a starting point, once I start the more detailed planning I can give feedback and discuss adjusting the timeframe, either in or out, depending on the level of business analysis required.
Where: Who is in scope for this analysis, where are the teams located. This becomes important when scheduling interviews with stakeholders or the teams in scope of the analysis. Travel or taking into account timezones may be important.
Resources: Is just me on this? Will I get some other business analysts or people from the business to help?
Output: What is required? I have had assignments that have ended at current state analysis, most work towards a proposal, sometimes it’s the business case, more recently the work I have been doing has involved going all the way through to solution development and implementation. Knowing the output required is critical to planning and working out timescales.
How: Everything above is now feeding into the “how”. Some tools are more suitable than others, I let experience and/or certain practicalities guide me.
Now the actual planning starts
From the answers above I will be able to work out a list of tasks, from the nature of the tasks I will be able to work out roughly how long they should take, now if an item is more than a two or three days effort then I will break it down into smaller pieces.
Once I have the list of things that need to be done I will put them into a plan. If it’s a big project, more than few weeks worth of work, then it is worth building the plan in a project planning tool, I am able to create dependencies, allocate resources, run reporting, etc but if it’s a smaller piece of work it’s not worth the effort so a spreadsheet is plenty good enough.
Once you have a plan stick to it !! However I often find small things change and the plan will need to be updated as I go, for example people are not available when you plan to meet them or your own work priorities change, but having a plan, even a basic one in a spreadsheet means you can see the impact of these changes and you can keep the relevant people informed.