Author: Adriana Beal
John Davis writes:
We’ve been looking at IAG’s BA Benchmark 2009 that deals with the impact of poor requirements practices on project and organisational success. Short of hiring a company such as IAG, how can we as BAs best help our organisation – or a client organisation for those of us in IT Services – develop more maturity in requirements definition and management?
Speaking from my experience working as a consultant for large organizations which frequently lack structure and discipline in requirements definition and management, making the case for a stronger business analysis practice is not as easy as one would expect. With the number of studies demonstrating how flawed requirements development processes generates all sorts of problems in software development projects (from scope creep to defects found at later stages compromising product quality and resulting in ballooning costs), it is somewhat surprising to see so many business leaders failing to recognize the value of consistently following a mature, disciplined business analysis process in their organizations.
One of the main reasons for this lack of understanding is that it’s not a simple task to connect improved process capability with better results in IT projects. Skepticism about the value of investing in process improvement remains not only for business analysis, but for other disciplines as well (software development, user experience, testing, etc.). Such resistance is understandable in light of the fact that many problems, from requirements volatility to implementation issues, can cause project failure even in organizations with excellent processes in place.
What can a BA do to help overcome the resistance to change? A conversation with senior management about current project issues is a good starting point. Is your company missing commitments? Suffering from late delivery of software products to the market? Experiencing last-minute crunches, or too much rework? By focusing on existing project shortcomings, and the range of expected results that can be achieved by following a better requirements process in terms of cost, schedule, functionality and product/service quality, it is possible to raise awareness, obtain the necessary support in the form of sponsorship, and secure the resources needed to start a process improvement effort.
Once the initial resistance is overcome, what should be done next? A good first step would be to get management and the BA group thinking of what needs to change. A reference guide such as the BABOK can be used to facilitate the process of answering the question: “What is the real situation here?”. In order to improve its requirements practices, organizations may need to work in several directions: processes, planning, training, technology, relationships and coordination with other disciplines, measurement. Disciplined change is important, as well as approaching the problem iteratively, like a series of projects that break the work down into smaller, more manageable pieces, so that inefficient or defect-prone BA activities are identified and replaced or revised in a consistent, effective manner.
There is a lot to be discussed about developing a true business analysis discipline and establishing an effective BA practice that supports the need for both stability and continued improvement. I hope to continue to develop this topic in future articles.