Is this Sales or Enterprise Analysis?

Reader Question:

I have a background as a software engineer, but have been doing various business analysis activities throughout my career, as a team leader and project manager.  This is my first role with the actual BA title.  My company is in the health industry, specifically medical imaging (radiology).   We have a lot of difficulty getting input from our users who are mainly very busy radiologists who have little interest in taking time to talk about our software.  We manage this by talking mainly to user surrogates who work for us, but spend a lot of time on site interacting with the radiologists.

I have been talking to our product manager lately about how little proper user contact we have, and he gave me the details of a surgeon who has been talking to one of our partner company’s sales reps. The surgeon had some questions regarding imaging software so the sales rep passed his details on to us.  Now I have been tasked with calling him up to talk about his imaging requirements, so that we might gather some requirements regarding how a surgeon may need to use our software.  Now, I can see how we could elicit requirements from this type of meeting, but the surgeon is interested in how we could satisfy his imaging requirements with our existing solutions, but is not actually a client of ours.  We aren’t in the business of customizing our software for a single customer either.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable with this type of client meeting. It’s almost like a cold call.  Doesn’t this seem more like a sales call than business analysis?  Of course, on the one hand I think maybe I’m not doing my job properly by not doing this task, but then, I don’t think it’s really within my role either.  I’ll end up making the call to do what I think is “over and above” for this role. But I don’t want to get my employer into the mindset that this is what I should be doing in my current role.  Anyway, any advice would be appreciated. Maybe I’m just missing that this is a common elicitation situation for a BA!

Aaron’s reply:

Doesn’t this seem more like a sales call than business analysis? No, this seems like Enterprise Analysis to me.  Don’t shy away from this opportunity as a lot of BAs would relish it.  Look at your situation – most software companies have users within their company that use that software.  Your company does not, as it creates medical imaging software used by radiologists and medical professionals in hospitals and doctor offices throughout the region, country or world.  So to resolve the issue of lack of user interaction, your company goes and hires “user surrogates” (as you call them) to interact with your users (customers) to provide feedback on improvements in the software.  These user surrogates are performing Enterprise Analysis (i.e. market research).  So issue #1, don’t be concerned with lack of “true” user interaction, that is your “user surrogates” job, to fill the gap of that lack of “true” user interaction.

Now comes this surgeon who wants to discuss how he wishes to use your software.  Since a sales representative forwarded the surgeon’s information on to the IT team, I assume they are saying that the surgeon is asking technical questions that sales is unable to handle and that it requires someone more technical.  So now you are being asked to perform some market research.

I do have one recommendation for you: be sure to have one of those user surrogates with you when you call or visit the surgeon.  This task is more in line with the activities they perform on a daily basis.  They will also be able to tell you if what the surgeon is requesting is in conflict with the way radiologists use your software, and they will be able to share that with the surgeon.  They may also be able to integrate the surgeon’s requests into the requests from the radiologists and your other customers.  Thereby, future enhancements to your software may make that surgeon your customer and your company increases its market share.

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  1. Aaron, I think you’re spot on with your recommendation. Don’t go about this alone. Take a user surrogate with you and understand the recommendations.

    I view one of the roles of a BA is to help add substance or reality to a vision. Perhaps there may be some very usable ideas in this discovery that will truly help develop your product. Part of capturing this vision may require talking to those outside your “usual suspects.” I think the focus should be on the task – evaluate the requirements and find out if your product meets those requirements as it stands, and if it doesn’t help evaluate if it’s a good business decision to move in that direction.

  2. mike Lachapelle says

    Well this is a refreshing problem around Business Analysis. Aaron I agree with you this is in the realm of enterprise analysis, but allow me to throw a different take on the work. It could be taken from two other points of view.

    The first is that you are being asked to do a product development job. I wouldn’t necessarily choose a business analyst for this job. You would probably want someone with design experience. I certainly wouldn’t send marketing or sales to do such a job.

    The second view relates more to the role of a business analyst in strategic, enterprise analysis in the development of the company’s business model. As set out in the back story, this company’s prime customer segment is made up of radiologists. the value proposition is designed around their needs validated through the surrogates interaction with the clients. What you are being asked to do here is to investigate the potential for extending the business model by adding a new client segment of surgeons. To do that the company must to understand the job-to-be-done by this segment and the needs that have to be fulfilled from the surgeon’s perspective. Thus the desire to have a BA go and talk about and document business requirements for this client segment. The company then has to determine whether the current value proposition, designed for radiologists, can fill the need for surgeons or whether investment in a new product is warranted.

    This can get rather long here, but you see where i am going with this. Is it BA’s job – definitely. It is strategic enterprise analysis around business model and client segmentation. Your task is to understand the new segment and its requirements for the solution and recommend to your bosses whether the existing solution can meet the new requirements. Unfortunately you can’t base that on one surgeon’s view, you need to get out there are talk to a cross-segment of the community. Apply all the principles of customer development.

    Mike Lachapelle

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