Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Importance of Analysis

By day I’m a business analyst. By night, a college instructor. Part-time, that is, I only teach one class per semester, one night a week. This semester it’s a business communications class with emphasis on planning and creating effective, professional communication messages within a business environment. Last week we reviewed the material for the final exam and an interesting thought occurred to me as I listened to my students’ recollection of the three-step process, start to finish, of how to create a good communication message – Planning, Writing and Delivering the missive. It suddenly struck me that this process begins exactly the same way that any business analysis effort should begin – with planning and analysis! Regardless of what you’re setting out to do, you should always begin with planning, and the first step in planning is to analyze the situation. How will you know what to do if you don’t know what you’re dealing with? This is why analysis is so important.

In business analysis this first step is called Planning (and Monitoring) the Business Analysis Approach. While this is comprised of several components, the first three are highlighted below and for the purpose of this blog we’re only going to focus on these:

  1. An analyst must have a thorough understanding of the project itself

    a. What is the ultimate goal?

    b. What are the perceived benefits upon project completion and for whom?

  2. An analyst must also have a thorough understanding of the key stakeholders

    a. Who are they?

    b. What are their roles and responsibilities as they relate to this project?

    c. What are their thoughts or feelings about this project?

  3. An analyst must create a communication plan

    a. One that delivers the right kind and amount of information to key stakeholders throughout the project

Careful and thoughtful analysis of the first two areas is imperative to successfully delivering the third - a communication plan that works for everyone. For example, a key stakeholder who is part of senior management will likely have very different communication needs/requirements than a key stakeholder who may be an end user.

Circling back to my business communications class, the first step in the planning process is also to analyze the situation. And this is where the connection between business analysis work and corporate communications comes into play. It is this very important step - analyzing the situation - that most people are inclined to skip! Too often we want to jump right into the ‘doing’ before we take the time to think and reflect on what actually needs to be done. Time and again I’ve seen this negatively impact not only the project, but the communication process as well. Projects fail and intended messages are either communicated inaccurately or they do not deliver the desired impact or achieve the desired result.

Analysis then, as part of the planning process, is the key to measuring success. Fully understanding the situation at hand (including the people or stakeholders involved), provides the holistic view necessary to move into the next steps: Writing and Delivering. We’ll cover these topics as they relate to better business analysis work in the next few blogs.