Let’s do a little thought experiment.
Think about a transformational IT project your organization recently completed, in which you were a team member or stakeholder, and ask yourself these questions:
- Were your project’s goals clearly defined from the start?
- Could a clear connection be made between the project and your company’s mission, vision, values and goals?
- Were the features and functionality identified at the outset or discovered later in the process?
- Were the requirements prioritized based on needs, or was everything a “top priority?”
- How often did the solution team ask for clarification during the development process?
- Was the success of the project measured by assessing the value that was ultimately delivered to the business?
If you could answer “yes” to these questions, then you are fortunate enough to be working in an organization with high business analysis maturity, or that has at least one rock star practitioner.
Everyone wants their project to be successful, but in the search to hit budgets and meet deadlines, too many organizations have based their success on hitting metrics instead of attaining project outcomes that deliver business value. Getting done on time and within budget are clearly important, but hitting the deadline begins to lose value when tradeoffs in the form of missed business requirements are made along the way. Project success should ultimately be based on business outcomes, since that is why a project is kicked off in the first place. One way to ensure that this happens is to refocus attention on getting requirements right the first time by bringing business analysis best practices to your organization.
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with the Project Management Institute (PMI) on a research paper titled Business Analysis: Leading Organizations to Better Outcomes. For this paper, PMI surveyed more than 730 senior business analysis professionals to examine how developing and applying strong business analysis practices impacts business outcomes on projects within their organizations. The study clearly indicated something that we at NTT DATA have known all along: business analysis maturity is crucial to the successful delivery of projects and programs. In fact, those organizations that apply business analysis best practices to their projects routinely deliver solutions that address business needs and provide their intended value. Of the companies studied, those that have a mature business analysis discipline within their organization—and the right person to occupy the role—attain a project delivery success rate nearly double that of those with low business analysis maturity.
Let’s shine a light on a few more of the survey’s revelations to fully understand the value of business analysis:
- Collaboration is King: The study found that mature organizations encourage high levels of collaboration among project, program or portfolio managers and the business analyst. This is the high-performing team that needs to work together to understand business needs and manage execution to ensure those needs are met. Having this team in place should be mandatory for every project.
- Productive Engagement Creates Happy Stakeholders: 91 percent of respondents at organizations with mature business analysis practices stated that their organization’s management, sponsors and stakeholders value the business analyst’s role, whereas only 53 percent of respondents at low-maturity organizations agreed. When stakeholders are expertly engaged and have the opportunity to contribute to business needs and solution definition, they become project champions.
- Business Alignment Connects Strategy to Execution: High-functioning organizations that closely align projects to their company’s strategic initiatives using mature business analysis practices were almost twice as successful (with an 88 percent success rate) in implementing their strategies than were their low-maturity counterparts (with a 48 percent success rate). This is not surprising when you consider that a connection to strategic imperatives will ensure that project execution stays aligned to the goals of the organization.
- Return on Your Capability Investment: Organizations with high business analysis maturity also reported above average performance across all key organizational success metrics—including a 69 percent success rate with financial performance, versus a 45 percent success rate on the part of lower-maturity organizations. Highly capable business analysis organizations convert project success into an improvement in business by lowering the cost of solution delivery and maintaining a focus on what matters to the organization.
Further comparison revealed the following significant differences between the success rates of high-maturity and low-maturity organizations:
- Strategy implementation: 66 percent versus 21 percent
- Organizational agility: 40 percent versus 14 percent
- Management of individual projects: 62 percent versus 29 percent
Investing in developing a mature business analysis capability is a force multiplier that not only improves disciplines but also better enables the entire delivery team by getting the right solution into their hands. A mature business analysis capability obviously enhances project success, but to derive the most benefit from this function, it’s important to clearly define expectations and support the role. Typically, this includes:
- Adopting a single methodology across the organization
- Establishing training and coaching opportunities for business analysts
- Managing the quality of business analysis deliverables
- Providing tools and accelerators that facilitate business analysis work
- Providing executive level support for the discipline
We are all striving for better business outcomes. Every project has the potential to make an impact, but this can only occur if we focus on identifying business needs, aligning goals with strategy and understanding the value that is being delivered. For many organizations, an effective business analysis capability is the missing piece in this puzzle. However, just assigning a business analyst to a project is not enough. It is imperative that we create the support structure and environment that will enable our business analysts to succeed if we want to achieve similar success in our projects.
NTT DATA Services is one of the few global systems integrators with a dedicated horizontal business analysis practice that is focused on providing a high-performing business analysis team to our clients. We partner with our clients to understand their business needs and translate their requirements into solutions that ensure the delivery of business value.