Five Fatal Errors For Business Analysts

Good business analysis can bring untold benefits to an enterprise by bring power through simplicity and enabling quality information systems to be built to support and accelerate business success.

Bad business analysis can bring untold misery to an enterprise and can lock the staff inside complicated and inefficient procedures supported by poor information systems that severely restrict enterprise growth or can even bring about the demise of the enterprise.

In fact, good analysis is easier to do than bad analysis, so why do so many analysts choose to do bad analysis?

I have listed the five errors below that cause most business analysis projects to go wrong from day one.

Fatal Error 1: Starting Requirements Gathering at Too Low a Level.

Most business analysis projects fail right at the start.

For any major project to be successful the enterprise requirements must be defined by the most senior executives within the enterprise. Sadly, this is rarely done, or done so ineffectively that it is a total waste of time.

The are three main reasons why this is not done:

  1. Novice analysts do not know how to do it
  2. Older analysts think they don’t need to do it
  3. Senior executives abdicate their responsibilities

The Novice Analyst

Novice and inexperienced analysts often feel intimidated with the thought of interviewing senior members of the enterprise. They are afraid of getting it wrong and wasting the time of these busy people. So they try to avoid doing it and try to gather information wherever else they can across the enterprise.

Being inexperienced, they usually go to people in the enterprise who operate the current systems and are doing the hands on day-to-day activities within the enterprise, believing that these people will surely know what is required. Wrong!

People who are dealing day-to-day with the existing systems will definitely be fully aware of their inefficiencies and some will be full of bright and imaginative ideas of how to overcome these inefficiencies. The novice analyst will then gather a list of these bright ideas and, understandably, think that these represent the true enterprise requirements. Quite Wrong!

The Older Analyst

Analysts who have been around the enterprise for a long time, “know” what is needed. They have seen it all before. They have become business “experts” they do not need to ask senior management; indeed they have been around longer than any of the managers.

So, they take over the role of senior executives and put together yet another list of requirements like they have done so many times before. Wrong!

Senior Executives

Senior Executives, whether they are directors or managers, are busy people. They have more things to worry about than what a computer screen should look like or how best to tune a business process. This is why the business has business analysts and an IT department.

If asked for time for an interview they will often reply “You are the systems experts. That’s what we pay you for. Get on with it. We trust you.” Flattered by being given such trust, the IT department gets on with it. Wrong!

What’s Wrong With That?

All of the above approaches start the project off in entirely the wrong place.

The novice analyst’s list of suggested improvements for the existing systems may well improve the performance of the existing systems in doing whatever it is they are doing, but is what they are doing what the enterprise requires?

Legacy systems, are far too often doing something that might have fitted the bill at one time but is now far from what is needed. Making them more efficient is, in a perverse way, accelerating the enterprise to the wrong place.

The older analyst needs to learn that age is not experience and longevity is not learning.

If the older analyst is so good at analysis and such an expert on what the enterprise needs, how come the systems need changing yet again?

Analysts are not and ought never see themselves as business experts. Analysts are analysis experts – well good analysts are.

A good analyst will always ensure that the enterprise requirements of any project have been clearly defined by senior executives before proceeding further.

What do you do if senior executives are not willing to give their time to make clear what their requirements are? Simple – Stop the project!

It would be foolhardy and irresponsible to do anything else. If the captain of the ship is not willing to take time to tell the crew what the ship is meant to be doing and where it is meant to be bound then it is not up to the crew to set sail and hope for the best.

Neither can analysts or senior executives use “confidentiality” as an excuse for not eliciting or giving the necessary information. It is better for the business to stop the project than to waste time, effort and money heading blindly forward with the illusion that doing something will benefit the enterprise more than doing nothing.

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