One way BAs add value is to find more cost-effective solutions to business problems, saving company time and resources in big projects where small changes might be just as effective. And even for larger projects, being sure the work that is being done actually adds value and eliminating a lot of the “fluff” that can make its way into a project…the kind of requirements we build “just in case.”
But how do you actually make sure your solutions are cost-effective? In this video, you’ll learn 3 ways to use your analysis skills to find more cost-effective solutions.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap, and we help business analysts start their careers.
One way that business analysts add value is by exploring and finding more cost-effective solutions to business problems which will save their companies time, and resources, and free up energy to work on other projects as well. A lot of times we think we need a really big solution where a small change might be just as effective.
Other times, we really do need to make very substantial systems updates or deploy new systems, but we kind of tend to lop on a bunch of fluff that doesn’t end up serving the business in the most impactful way.
And, so, in both of those situations, good business analysis can help reduce the overall cost of the project and find more cost-effective solutions to the true business problem.
I want to share three ways that we can find more cost-effective solutions as a business analyst.
#1 – Find Cost-Effective Solutions by Solving the Right Problem
One is by focusing on solving the right problem. We take time as business analysts to understand what the problem truly is. That gives us the information we need that sparks creative ideas to finding more effective solutions.
For example, we are updating our learning management system right now at Bridging the Gap. It’s the system we use to deliver course materials to our participants, and that we envision enabling more communication directly between our participants and instructors.
Right now, there’s a middle administrative piece to that that’s creating unnecessary time lags at times and, also, just unnecessary work from an administrative perspective in terms of funneling emails and forwarding them back and forth and assigning them to people. We know that there’s a more cost-effective solution out there, and also, that we can solve some key problems.
The main problem that I was focused on solving when we started this initiative was eliminating that administrative overhead because, honestly, the way that we’re scaling and growing and able to serve more people, we are at our limit for how far we can scale that system. It’s at its breaking point.
I’m sure you’ve seen processes that worked really well when the business was at one level, but then as you grow and expand, you realize this process doesn’t scale super well. That’s where we are with that process.
As we started exploring that problem, we realized there was also a huge opportunity to deliver more value to our customers. A lot of our instructors, because they’re full-time business analysts, actually do their coursework, support our participants over the weekend.
Our customer service team, because they’re customer service, is their full-time or their main job with Bridging the Gap. They work Monday-Friday. Requests would come in on Saturday morning, and the instructor would be checking in to answer them, but that email hadn’t been forwarded yet, so they didn’t know that work was there. There could have been an immediate response and feedback loop, if we didn’t have that manual step in place.
We realized we could solve both problems at once, both delivering more value to our customers, and eliminating an administrative process that wasn’t scalable.
That’s what I mean. Focus on, “What problem are we trying to solve?” That became the guiding light as we started this learning management system.
#2 – Find Cost-Effective Solutions by Exploring Business Process Changes
The second way that you explore more cost-effective solutions is to explore business process changes. You know your problem that you’re trying to solve. That often triggers new ideas. We had some brainstorming and came up with some ideas of how we could solve that problem.
Along the way, we explored business process changes as well. We knew it didn’t have to take a lot of technology, even though we started looking at how we could use technology to solve that problem.
Our customer service team had already implemented some spreadsheets to do some tracking and some ways that she adjusted the emails when she forwarded them to instructors to make that more streamlined.
We could have also gone down the road of hiring a different support person who would have checked the email box over the weekend to funnel along anything that came over the weekend. That would have been a manual solution to serve that goal of quicker turnaround time.
As we started exploring the features, it was interesting. We were talking through what the workflow would be and we ended up going down the road of a very customized solution on top of a course delivery platform. We were talking about, “Oh, we could do this,” “We could make this forwarding feature. We could do this.” We had to dial it back to what are the core things that we need. This is when you understand the problem that you’re solving, you can eliminate that fluff.
We took this big system and we made sure that we were honing in on just the requirements we needed from the beginning. That’s what we do as business analysts is focus on the problem we’re solving, and the business processes that can solve that problem. That meant, in some cases, that we were keeping manual processes even though we could “automate.”
One of the examples is issuing the certificate of completion. We’re still evaluating, to the degree to which that will be automated vs. manual. It might mean that an instructor has a task for the administrator to go in and check that off and deliver that certificate of completion.
It could mean there are ways that we could automate the whole process, but it’s pretty technically complex and it would cost a lot more money, and that’s not where the pain point is right now. We understand the problem that we’re trying to solve. That piece isn’t necessarily critical to solving our current problem.
It might be a problem we have to solve a year or two down the road as we scale even further. But right now, I could see how we could get around that through a manual business process.
And, so, being open to not having to have the technology solve every single part of the workflow in order to deliver value. That’s how you eliminate that extra fluff that weighs your project down and gets you off focus.
We’re doing that now, but I could see if we decided to do that, it could be months from now. We haven’t even implemented the solution because we’re still trying to figure out the certificate of completion requirement, or something like that.
That’s what happens to technology projects that just kind of go on and on and on.
#3 – Find Cost-Effective Solutions by Leveraging Available Tools
The third way is by leveraging available tools. Always want to look around in your business, like, do we have a tool that can do this now or even partially do this now?
It doesn’t always have to be building something new, and it doesn’t always have to be licensing or buying something new. Often, you can use the tools you have to add on.
One of the ways this is coming up for us in this same project is we realize after going down through all the different aspects of the project that, a help desk or a support ticketing system was going to be the best system to manage this instructor/participant interaction and help us manage that workflow in a more automated way.
We had been going down the road of a course delivery platform thinking that was going to give us those messaging capabilities, and it didn’t. So, we’re looking at how can we integrate that help desk system into our current course delivery platform to solve this very specific problem first while we simultaneously look at upgrading the course delivery platform as well.
It’s not to say we’re not going to do that, but we might be able to approach those two parts of the project separately. We’re going to leverage the existing tool we have in our way of communicating/add on a different way of communicating.
The other piece about the help desk is as I started looking at those tools, there is other functionality that they have like chat features and we can use them for all of our customer support, not just the course participant piece.
I started to see how this one investment in a tool now, even though we’re going to focus, still, on our main problem to be solved, will not work everywhere. But I could see how this one tool we could leverage it in the future to add additional value to our business and streamline other areas of our business.
And, so that got me excited thinking about this tool as being an investment that we could build upon. It makes projects in the future more cost-effective. Not because we’re implementing those requirements now, but because we’re thinking about them as we choose this tool.
Those are just some ways as business analysts, that we could explore more cost-effective solutions. That is going to help us achieve a better ROI in our project. It pays our salaries. If you can think of it that way.
Every time you eliminate a big chunk of software that’s needed, or a big chunk of solution implementation that’s needed, and replace that with something that’s more simple and elegant, that has just paid your salary and then some.
That’s how you establish your reputation as somebody everybody wants on their project because I know that they’re going to help me get the most possible value out of the investment I have to make.
We’re going to free up resources for the next set of changes, and the next project and be able to move more quickly and in more agile ways in the organization.
Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap. We help business analysts start their careers.
Be thinking about how you can explore more cost-effective solutions in your projects. I’d love to hear your suggestions. Go ahead and leave a comment below.