As a business analyst, I’m focused on creating positive change for my organization, and ensuring my work adds value and increases the return on investment for projects.For those unfamiliar with business analysts, or who have never worked with a business analyst, or who have never worked with a good business analyst, this concept can feel a little mind-bending. Don’t business analysts slow things down, add more costs, and create unnecessary documentation?
Of course not! Business analysts add a tremendous amount of value to projects. This video takes a look at the specific ways business analysis increases the return on investment.
(If you are a business analyst, this would be a good post to share with your manager or project team too.)
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. We help business analysts start their careers.
Today, I want to talk about how you, as a business analyst, are adding value to your organization. We’re going to use the concept of return on investment. We’re going to break down, specifically, how business analysis and business analysts create a better return on investment when they’re assigned to critical projects in their organization. Let’s dive right in.
Quick Introduction to ROI (Return on Investment)
First, return on investment. What does that mean? The acronym for that is ROI. It’s the weight or the value of the return on a project, or what benefit the organization receives vs. the investment that the organization makes in that project.
If an organization invests in software development team to build or customize or implement a new software solution in all the business stakeholder time that goes into figuring out what that system should do, that’s the investment. The time, the money, the energy that gets invested in creating that solution.
The return is the benefit that organization receives from that solution once it’s in place in the business. It could be more efficient turnaround time, more customers, more revenue, more efficiency, relieving staff that can be re-used on other projects, or being able to eliminate exterior staffing or redundant staffing. Lots of ways to measure the return on that project.
Business analysts, we impact both sides of that equation. We help streamline the investment – minimize the investment in the project actually is – and, also, maximize the return. Maximize the value we’re getting out of that process. That probably sounds counter-intuitive at first. I want to dig into the specific ways that business analysts do this and give you a few examples as well.
Business Analysts Add Value Through Reducing Project Costs
Let’s talk about how business analysts reduce the investment, or the cost, of a project. This probably does feel counterintuitive if you’re thinking…you’re a hiring manager and you’re like, “Well, should I add a business analyst to my team? Isn’t that an additional cost? Aren’t I expanding how much this project is going to cost? Why don’t we just get starting coding, because that’s what we really need? We need that code, or we need that configured system into our business user’s hands. Why don’t we just skip the analysis and go right to coding?”
Well, we know it doesn’t always work that way, but some specific ways that business analysts help reduce costs, even though, of course, their salary is a line item on your budget for the project, is that they’re going to reduce re-work. So, when you just start coding and start figuring things out, and then you put that into the hands of a business user, they’re going to be like, “Oh, no. I didn’t really want this. I wanted that.”
All of a sudden, something that maybe seemed simple, gets complex as like stakeholder requests come in, defects come in, change requests come in, and you have this re-work where you’re going back and revisiting the same code, the same implementation again, again, and again. That is, obviously, you know, your costs go from here to here. You add some analysis up front to figure out what is needed, and that re-work time should go down.
The other place that business analysts have an effect on project costs is in the reduction of what I like to call requirements churn, or the time it takes for the business community to figure out what it is they actually want.
A lot of times, that isn’t like a line item cost on a budget. But if you think about a requirements meeting, especially one that might have high-level stakeholders in the room, there’s a definite cost to that meeting. If you’re having duplicate meetings again, and again, and again to discuss essentially the same issue and never getting to a solution, that’s an expense that your organization is taking on that’s bloating the impact, or cost, of what needs to be invested to figure out those requirements.
Good business analysis is going to help present solutions, create a logical decision-making process, remind people that we went down that road before, we don’t need to go down that rabbit hole again, and plug those communication gaps, and help facilitate communication across departments, across different levels of the organization.
Yes, that process takes time. It’s not like you put a business analyst in and, snap, they come up with the requirements. But it’s going to take less time and less churn than if you didn’t have somebody who was in charge facilitating that part of the process.
Finally, when it comes to the investment side of the equation, the other way that business analysts can help is helping find more cost-effective solutions. When you dial into what problem are we solving – you’ll hear me say that again and again – what problem are we solving? Why is this project being implemented in the first place? Sometimes creative solutions just pop up.
They don’t even have to be big technology solutions. Maybe there are tools that you can use that you already have. Maybe there’s a business process change that can get you a certain amount of the way there. That’s where we can take what maybe was a big investment and reduce that by half and still get that same return. It doesn’t always happen. But if it is possible, your business analyst is going to help you find it.
This topic of saving time through improved communication and effective requirements processes was a big theme in this live panel discussion on How Business Analysts Add Value – you can watch the entire video here below.
Business Analysts Add Value through Increasing the Potential Return, or Benefits
Let’s talk about the other side of the equation and how business analysts help you increase the potential return, or what the benefits are from that project. Remember, we’ve made an investment in a solution, and now it’s out in the business. How does that actually have more benefit?
The first thing is we talked about how a business analyst is always going to go try to find the problem to be solved. Not try; will find the problem to be solved. As part of that, we often discover new business benefits. While we’re looking at this part, is there something here that we can do as well?
I remember early on in my career meeting with an end user who was showing me how they were copying and pasting documents into this field. They had to edit it, too, because it wasn’t copying right. It ended up being a simple change to enable the workflow and save them tons of time. As a business analyst, I could see there was a possibility of as we were touching the system to add on a piece that would save them a lot of time in their workflow.
Until I saw their work environment, I would have never known that. It would have never made it into the requirements for that project if we hadn’t analyzed their current business process and understood how their work flowed. There were lots of ways we could have solved that problem. It ended up being a small technology tweak that added a lot of value. That’s an example of discovering new business needs that can be easily included in the investment that’s already being made to deliver even more value to the business.
Another way that business analysts support that increase of value is through prioritization. Typically, it would be like we want all the things, the list of all these requirements and let’s just say it’s 100 things. We hand that to our development team. They start going through them in order. Maybe they group them by technical component or area of the system and implement them that way.
When you do that, and you say all these things are required, maybe the first 10 things aren’t the most important things. Maybe they’re not the most valuable. Maybe we start working on an area of the system, and three of those things are really important and another five of them are just nice-to-haves that complicate the system more than it needs to be and don’t deliver the value that needs to be.
Relentless focus on that prioritization in making sure the most important requirements get dealt with first in the project that we know what the most important ones are, which ones are going to add the most value, and then make sure those are clearly communicated as part of building the solution.
Another way that business analysts increase that return is the way that they facilitate this communication with the business community. I have this story I love to share where I walked into a contract as a consultant and they had implemented a document management system. There were business users printing the document twice. The goal of that system was to reduce paper and make the process more efficient. After the system, they were printing and writing, and uploading and writing, and uploading and printing. Multiple steps, additional steps, in order to use the system that IT said they needed to use in a way that was going to work with what they understood their business process to be.
As a business analyst, we don’t stop when the solution is built. We stop when the business has accepted that solution and understands what their updated business process is going to be. That’s where the real business value gets realized. (Before I forget, be sure to download our free business process template which incorporates a host of best practices on process modeling.)
One final way that we help increase the return is providing a framework where IT can scale. If you’re a small organization, or with a smaller team, you can communicate well, and you can have a tight-knit team where everybody knows what each other does and who to ask what questions.
As you start scaling your capabilities and scaling your team and growing your organization, that informal kind of “everybody knows each other” communication tends not to scale. And you need somebody in the middle of engaging the new business stakeholders, helping educate the new business stakeholders, figuring out who knows what in technology to facilitate that as well.
Think of your business analyst as a role that’s going to help that IT team scale to deliver even more value to the business and help your business scale as well.
How Will You Expand Your Value?
Those are my immediate takeaways on how business analysts add value on projects. It’s just scratching the surface. There’s a lot more that we could cover here. I’m going to challenge you, if you’re a business analyst listening in, think about it.
Are you adding value in all of these ways in your organization? If not, where could you be adjusting how you approach your work to add more value? This is what’s going to increase your reputation, get you on the interesting projects, be the person that everybody wants to work with because they know when they work with you, they’re going to have a value-added resource on their team.
If you’re a hiring manager or a technology leader, or a business leader who’s wondering if you should start a business analyst team, think about where you’re experiencing some of the pain points that we just talked about and who in your organization could start doing these activities, essentially stepping in to this business analyst role, and creating a more predictable project lifecycle and development process. It’s going to help your projects be more successful, and it’s also going to help people on those projects be happier because they know that they’re contributing to a successful project as well.
Those are my tips for you. Leave a comment below. Let me know how you add value as a business analyst or anything you’re going to change as a result of listening to today’s video.
Again, I’m Laura Brandenburg from Bridging the Gap.
>>Download Your Free Business Process Template
One way to expand your value right away is by analyzing a business process. Get started analyzing a business process today, with our complimentary business process template.
- Help business users from multiple departments clarify their actual step-by-step workflow;
- Avoid wasting money on software solutions that don’t solve the right business problems;
- And even helping new business analysts figure out what questions to ask when starting on a new project or domain.
Business process analysis is often the very first technique used by business analysts when we start learning a new domain or analyze the scope of a project.