6 Feb 2014
“Business analysts don't get the glamour, and they don't get the glory. For some reason, we always think that should go just to the people who write the code, even though they wouldn't know what code to write in the first place if it weren't for the business analysts.”
Carey Schwaber, a former senior analyst of application development at Forrester Research
There are two key roles that determine a project’s fate: those of the business analyst and the project manager. While generally no one questions the necessity of a project manager on a team, there are frequently attempts to cut down expenses on business analysts.
Staffordshire University estimates that most projects dedicate the least amount of time and effort to analysis – around 10% on average. Additionally, IBM states that around 75% of its total project re-work costs are spent on fixing analysis errors.
That’s the paradox: The stage where the mistakes are the most widespread is often also the most neglected for the purposes of reducing costs.
We believe this happens because few enterprises understand the significance of the role that business analysts play in the success or failure of a project. That’s why here today we are shedding light on this often misunderstood yet critical stage of the mobile development process, the core of which is found in balancing IT resources with business demands.
Your guarantee of reaching business objectives
In short, the role of business analysis is to ensure that your product meets its business goals. While a project manager controls the scheduling, aiming to deliver results on time and budget, a business analyst makes sure that the project manager’s efforts are delivering the “right” project – meaning they are achieving the business objectives.
Without a business analysis, even though a product still may or may not be delivered on time, there’s a high probability that what is delivered won’t meet the intended business needs.
A good business analysis can practically guarantee that the development team implements the right solution. And strangely, because it is an effective solution, no one ever sees all the cost, time and effort saved, and therefore can’t appreciate the value of this stage to the full extent.
Below are just a few of the benefits of a business analysis:
- Translates vague business objectives into clear product initiatives
- Balances development resources with business demands
- Provides a fresh look on the entire concept
- Discovers hidden pitfalls
While all serious mobile development projects need analysis, it doesn't imply that all companies need an analyst. In small companies or startups, the CIO or project manager may be doing the job. However, it is unrealistic to expect even high-level managers to be experts in every aspect of mobile development, so for important and complex projects organizations often turn to analysis experts.
The focus of business analysis
Regardless of who is doing the analysis, the average mobile development project requires the following activities:
1. Envisioning the stakeholders’ objectives
- Communicating the business vision with the stakeholders and transforming it into a well-defined, realistic project
- Formulating and negotiating initial requirements
- Validating the requirements
- Documenting the requirements and business domain details
- Prototyping the future project
- Identifying potential areas of automation
2. Translating stakeholders’ objectives to the dev team
- Distilling project stakeholders' requirements into a single, consistent vision
- Making sure the developers see the objective clearly
3. Maintaining communication between these two parties
- Translating technical issues to the stakeholders, explaining developer schedules and estimates
- Communicating developer questions to stakeholders and vice versa
How does it work
As you can see, business analysis streamlines complex interaction processes and helps to avoid costly pitfalls.
Let's use stakeholders' unrealistic expectations, one of the most common problems, to see how business analysis works. The problem of unrealistic expectations for project deliverables starts at the stage of communicating and clarifying the objectives for the project. A good business analyst would not move to the next stage until all objectives are:
- Specific and well-defined, e.g., can't be interpreted in a way that would lead to unrealistic expectations about what the project will deliver
- Measurable and achievable
- Directly relevant to what the project will deliver
- Fundamentally important to the business goals and suitable for their purposes
"No fixed direction remains valid for long," says Kent Beck, the creator of Extreme Programming. And the same goes for the details of mobile development and the business environment. That's why we’d like to warn against overly planning in detail as these environments can be highly subject to change. Staying flexible and open to new opportunities is another important aspect of creating the appropriate situation to achieve successful results – delivering the “right” project – using business analysis.
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