How to Use Performance Objectives and Measures to Improve Requirements Processes

Author: Adriana Beal

Considering the benefits that a disciplined approach to business analysis can bring to organizations, it is hard to understand why so few of them spend the time and effort necessary to establish performance objectives for the BA work, and to develop a solid performance measurement system to monitor progress toward those objectives.

Organizations that push for higher quality analysis of needs early in their project life cycle and adopt a more disciplined approach to requirements discovery, typically find that they spend much less in persons week assigned to their projects, and reduce the probability of projects not meeting the expectations of their stakeholders. In order to be able to select the improvement initiatives that will provide the highest return for their BA practices, organizations should be measuring the performance of business analysts based on objectives that are outcome-oriented (related to the expected outcomes in terms of internal and external customer satisfaction, cost reduction, and other bottom-line results) and process-oriented (related to the quality of inputs and outputs, and the efficiency and effectiveness of processing steps, all of each affect the outcomes of the BA activities).

Here are some examples of performance objectives that real-life organizations have adopted as part of their effort for improving the quality of their business analysis practices:

  • Provide a centralized point of expertise of business analysis for the organization, to ensure that the BA work is done with the highest possible quality.
  • Improve on-time delivery of quality requirements artifacts to increase stakeholder satisfaction with the timeliness of the BA deliverables.
  • Improve the quality of the inputs of project-related BA work (e.g., outputs of enterprise analysis, stakeholder analysis, etc.).
  • Improve the efficacy of software requirements reviews to avoid sign-off delays and the cost of rework associated with defects being found at a later phase of the project.
  • Ensure that projects involving multiple business analysts have clear definitions of responsibility and effective coordination to promote cohesion and consistency among the group, and avoid duplicate work, inconsistencies, and inefficiencies.
  • Achieve better balance of requirements for COTS (commercial off the shelf) solutions, avoiding both over-specifying, which unnecessarily force a custom design, and under-specifying, which misses important business or user requirements.

Once an organization knows what it is set to accomplish in terms of improving its business analysis work, selecting meaningful measures to help monitor progress becomes a much easier task. After objectives and measures have been established, the next step is to develop action plans to move the needle in the desired direction. Objectives and measures don’t help an organization improve its process and results by themselves; they merely help managers understand where the organization is, which way it is going, and how far it is from where it wants to be. It wouldn’t make sense to keep measuring a business analysis performance factor if no steps are being taken to improve it. Achieving performance gains may require managers to conduct both short-term, transactional interventions (e.g., providing training and coaching for BAs to teach them relevant techniques) and proposing transformational ones (such as adjusting the organizational structure or changing processes to ensure that project requirements are completely and unambiguously defined before implementation starts).

Measuring the performance of business analysts helps organizations learn from its previous experiences and incorporate improvements into their next requirements definition model in order to achieve cost and risk reduction across the company’s whole project life-cycle. Measures will make it possible to confirm or dispel hypotheses about what is impeding high performance, and facilitate the determination of what is working (and BAs should be doing more of), and what is not working (and should be changed so performance can be improved).

>>Learn More About Measuring BA Performance

Adriana has put together a thoughtful e-book on how to create a BA measurement program. You’ll learn how to establish the right metrics and use this new information to improve the performance of your business analyst practice.

I’d recommend this book highly to anyone in a position to oversee the work of business analysts, including BA managers, IT managers, operational managers, or project managers. It’s also a great resource for the senior business analyst looking to showcase thought leadership around BA performance measurement within their organization.

Click here to learn more about Measuring the Performance of Business Analysts

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