Business Analyst: Everything I do, I do it for you...
You know it’s true, everything I do, I do it for you…
(or to be less poetic about it: why it is important for business analysts to understand a business process)
When I took on this assignment – to write a little bit more about business analysis and business analysts, no time has passed until I realized that at Croz, this is a job with a bar raised very high. Not only that this blog has to meet the expectations set by the one written by my colleague, Mr Vuk, but that a task of surpassing that great piece of memorable analytics blogging would be virtually impossible.
Even though I feel like an English major student going against Byron or Shelley, or a cookbook author trying to compete with Stephen King (feel free to resume…), I will at least try to live up to some expectations and prove worthy of the mission taken upon me.
Ivan did a really nice job naming all the knowledge and competence that sum up to a good business analyst, and I will try to dig a little bit deeper to explain the “why”. Why some of the main characteristics (apart from a standard borderline OCD) of a good analyst are – a deep understanding of the matter he/she has taken into hands and an awareness on how important business process management really is.
Imagine all the people
Try to imagine a following situation: you have been hired to be a business analyst in a team set to develop a software solution for a major client. This software will implement automation to some existing business process and shorten the time needed for some paperwork to be issued, completed and/or exchanged within departments.
A process is to some extent defined; employees know what part of the process to cover and whom to forward the paperwork after completing their bit.
However, it is somewhat unclear who is really responsible for every process step in particular, or as they would describe the process: “Martina is the one that is usually sending this to Darko, but if Darko is not working, then Goran can step in..”
They will be very persuasive making an argument that nothing can go wrong because “if Goran is away, Katarina from another department used to do it and can do it again”. Deadline for completion and final document issue in their words is: “usually when we get around doing it, sometimes it can take longer it there is more work to be done”.
So what would be a business analyst task here? They need to translate “Martina, Darko and Gorancan step in, if necessary”.
To answer this questions correctly, we might need to “zoom out” from this situation and tackle the way a business analyst can fine tune the process to be covered with the new software and align it with organization mission in general.
Our house, in the middle of our street
Let us assume that we have some knowledge on an approximate way a process of building a house looks like. Before we can even consider laying a brick, we have to produce some kind of a blueprint. This way we know what we want a final result to be.
There is actually, no significant difference in building or improving a business. Sometimes, managers believe that they have communicated the business strategy so clearly – that every single piece of an operational chain is aware of its assignments and that they all clearly follow the same mission. This would be similar to building a house with no blueprint and leads to one common issue – business vision being out of sync with measurable actions/tasks completed.
Business architecture is here to provide us with a holistic approach translating a business strategy into a successful end result. The mission of Darko’s and Martina’s organization was: “to outdo the competition in providing our customers with a quick and efficient service”, not the lack of a blueprint version of it: “we will do it, when we get around to it”.
Knowing me, knowing you (…ahaa)
Business process is the key component of a business architecture. To understand how business analysis fits into a broader context, we need to define what a business process actually is.
Business process is identified within a business context, and are formed keeping business strategies in mind. A business process implements sets of business rules, information, data and concepts. Process activities can be preformed by certain roles within organizational structure, or can be automated. Business opportunities can become clearer through a business process preforming a certain task. There is no clear way to set the success criteria of an organization or a business if the performance can not be measured either in qualitative or quantitative way.
The role of a business analyst is the one bridging the gaps that occur between business strategy, organizational architecture and business processes. In this case it would be the gap between what the management of the major client wants, Darko’s and Martina’s positions within organization and a business process (a clear definition on who should do what and when). The change can be implemented though a new software (such as in this case), but it can also mean a reorganization of work within the company.
In my head, in my heead…
Let us go back to the starting premises, on how important for a business analyst is to – understand.
The mindset here is of vital importance. This being a mindset that is capable of both strategic and operational thinking enabling to focus on the “bigger picture” (such as vision or strategy), but at the same time pay attention to details. That also means having a possibility to holistically re-examine the business process through mapping, be effective in recognizing opportunities for improvement, have a creative approach to tackling a valid business issue and be critical to estimate the ratio of invested and gained in the business transaction.
Business analyst sometimes takes part as an observer – they will observe, deduct and look for leads or will practice the discipline of an “active-passive” listening during conversations with Darko and Martina, Goga and Katarina, in short they will mimic inspector Barnaby from “Midsomer Murders”.
The other times, business analyst is a simulation of Gary Kasparov – they will deal with strategy, planning, recognizing the patterns and adjusting to newly created situation.
The wheels turning inside a business analyst mind, are the wheels that need to correctly map the business process – thus enabling our crew of mentioned employees a happier and more relaxed workday, making their management one step closer to desired business goal.
The winner takes it all
What is it that, precisely you, business analyst need to know to closely understand this vast topic of business process analysis and the techniques included? What is it that you need to understand to help Darko tomorrow? In order to be really successful, do not forget to stay flexible and allow the possibility of change to occur in any iteration.
Apart from that, never forget:
- Always try to simplify. The best process design is simple and elegant. The flow is clear and IS NOT represented by spaghetti diagram ☺
- Identify and eliminate duplicates. Duplication is when both Darko and Martina think they need to click on the same button or ask the client for identical data
- If a process step has no function, this step is obsolete
- Decrease the quantity of “decision points”. There is no need for every process step to be blessed by the superior, but all participants should know what steps need to be.
- The chain is as strong its weakest link – do not underestimate and do not forget to inquire what is the job of even the smallest role in existing process (I assure it takes less time and is cheaper than additional software changes)
- Two rules of any technology; 1. automation applied to effective organization, will improve efficiency 2. automation applied to inefficient organization will magnify inefficiency of it: avoid automating a bad process, what you will get is only a bad process automated
- Your inner Sherlock should always ask this 4 important questions: 1. Who is involved? 2. What are they doing and in which order? 3. What is changing as a result of this work? 4. Are other impacted by what they do and in what way?
This is it for now, my dear analyst friend. If you still do not understand why a business analyst has to understand the business process, come to Croz. We love talking about it, we will talk some more.