The Set Comes After the Script and the Solution Comes After the Business Need

Movie film on a spoolA few weeks ago in Cannes, France, the annual “Cannes Film Festival” was held.  This is a world-famous annual festival that dedicates itself to the development of the cinema and movie industries.  It’s an opportunity for filmmakers to compete, as well as enjoying the red carpet and the opportunity to hang out with other stars in a fantastic location!

When watching coverage of the festival on the news, it occurred to me that every film is essentially a project.  It has funding; there is a timeline, an end-deliverable and a whole range of constraints.  My mind wandered – “I wonder if they have business analysts in the film industry – or if they recognise the art and science of business analysis?”  Well, I’ve certainly never seen the title “business analyst” appear on the credits of a film, but there certainly seem to be similarities.  This probably sounds a little abstract, so let me explain one particular example….

You Wouldn’t Build the Set Before Knowing the Story Line

Just imagine if an impatient director chose the exact details of the set before the storyline and plot were decided.  Perhaps the director chooses to buy a Boeing 747 (as he’s heard they appear in a number of recent successful films) and decides to build a life-size replica of London Heathrow Terminal 5. Well, that would be no use if the film ends up being a period drama set in the 1900s!  You’d end up with massive waste and a solution that just doesn’t meet the actual needs of the movie.

Let’s transport ourselves back to the corporate world.  Unfortunately, a similar pattern does happen in organizations that run projects – and perhaps you’ve experienced it too.  Quite naturally, our sponsors and business experts think in terms of solution, so often they’ll choose a technology and then implement an “IT Project” to implement it.  Perhaps they might not even think they need requirements – after all, the vendor promised them “It’ll work right out of the box…”  However, how do we know that the IT system they are procuring will actually solve the underlying problem or meet the underlying need?

This is where enterprise analysis comes into play.  As business analysts, it’s our job to ensure that robust enterprise analysis is carried out to ensure that we solve the real business need and our organization doesn’t end up buying a 747 when what they actually need is a horse and cart!  We need to ensure that we do what we can to maximise the business and customer value that are delivered on projects.  Not only this, but we need to consider business change from the aspect of process, organization, people and IT.  I strongly believe there is no such thing as an IT project – just projects that involve or impact IT, all of which are likely to be more successful and deliver more value if they are managed more holistically.

Of course, we don’t need to know the full requirements before considering potential solutions; we might make recommendations after having a high level understanding.  Just in the same way that a set designer might take a calculated risk and start designing the set after the storyline and plot are decided, but before the detailed script is finalised.  We’ll help our business stakeholders understand the problem or opportunity they are facing, and the possible solution option(s) that might be available.  We can also help them assess the feasibility of each option and make a recommendation.

Being a BA is Often About Asking the Hard Questions

Having these discussions is tough.  It’s always easier to simply nod subserviently rather than question – but this ultimately helps no-one.  We can add so much value by sensitively challenging our colleagues, with rapport, to ensure that our organizations’ projects run smoothly and deliver the maximum amount of value.  By being transparent, honest, and encouraging our business stakeholders to review the cold-hard-facts, we can help them to make an informed decision.  The ultimate decision is, of course, theirs – but we can help them to make it.

Good luck! I hope you’ve found this article interesting.  Please feel free to contact me if you’ve had similar experiences or would like to discuss the blog post further.

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