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Using Business Analysis to Increase Project Success

9 June 2016

Eduardo Hernández Rangel
Secretary of Education

It's well known at this point that a high percentage — some 60% to 75% — of all projects fail, or they finish with poor results. A study from the Standish Group holds that 25% of all started projects have serious quality problems, 40% finish with sub-par user satisfaction, and just 35% finish with good results and acceptable quality. Having clear business objectives for a given project is one of the most important factors one can start with; these objectives give certainty and feasibility to the projects so their success can be measured. Business analysis tasks allow the organization to identify "business needs, problems, and opportunities, and on determining the appropriate solutions to address them" (Weese and Wagner). This is why disciplined business analysis helps organizations reach their objectives, thus increasing the number of successful projects.

Business analysis is a set of best practices that helps the organizations set up successful projects. These practices support to the organization in meeting its objectives through alternative solutions for resolving problems or exploiting opportunities. This disciplined focus on the entire product life cycle is divided into six knowledge areas. Planning and monitoring allows planning what, who, and how to do the work. Elicitation helps the stakeholder gather the project requirements and document them. The focus of requirements management and communication is on informing the stakeholder about requirements changes. Enterprise analysis involves the work of getting business needs and proposing a solution. Requirements analysis consists of organizing, prioritizing, and specifying the requirement that the solution should fit. Finally, solution assessment and validation covers confirming the feasibility of the solution. Business analysis knowledge areas constitute structured work that does not guarantee a project's success but does decrease the risk of failure.

Another key factor for project success, besides the set of practices described, is the role played by the business analyst. "Business analysts must analyze and synthesize information provided by a large number of people who interact with the business, such as customers, staff, IT professionals, and executives"(IIBA). Also, the business analyst keeps communication alive between the stakeholders and the project team. He or she is responsible for keeping track of the requirement changes throughout the project and proposes approaches based on business needs, problems, and opportunities. Further, the business analyst selects the best solution to fit overall organizational goals. To summarize, this role aligns the proposed solution with the business objectives.

The business analyst is the "doctor and medicine" for the organization's survival. Such a doctor "diagnoses the problem and recommends the treatment" (Blais) for the organization. Like a doctor who prescribes medicine against sickness, the business analyst communicates recommendations to solve problems. And like a medical person looking for symptoms in the human body so as to select the best drugs, the business analyst observes strengths to exploit them in increasing the organizational value. In the manner that a doctor works with a patient to change bad behaviors, the business analyst (with the participation of project management) manages changes to keep away bad habits and keep good ones alive across the organization.

The business analyst and project manager should work together to increase project success. The roles work as a pair because the activities of each are useful for the other. First, “[t]he project manager focuses on the project and the business analyst focuses on the product produced by the project” (Blais). Second, the project manager is centered on building the product, and the business analyst is centered on the product itself. Third, the project manager is worried about quality, time, and cost; meanwhile, the business analyst is worried about getting the maximum value from the product. Fourth, the project manager works mainly with the project team and the business analyst works mainly with stakeholders. The business analyst and project manager roles are underlying ones that deliver maximum value to the organization.

There is no magical key for guaranteeing that a project will start and finish with good results. However, applying a business analyst's set of best practices during the project does provide a better opportunity to finish the project successfully. A business analyst helps select the best solution to resolve the problem or the need -- and helps ensure that the project finishes on time, on budget, with the expected level of quality.


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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