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2011-05-26

Business Analysis made Easy

Business analysis can be very rewarding. Imagine pleasing your boss by solving the inventory problem? What would she say if you told her that you have performed a regression analysis and can predict sales for the next 2 years?

Business analysts can easily enter and determine what can be done by small business owners to expand his business. Small business owners can take advantage of the existence of a business analyst as practiced by large corporations. Because a business analyst see great potential that can be achieved when small business owners thought it was small and did not mean anything. Only the fear of additional charges when they have to use the services of a business analyst that cause small businesses to move cautiously.

 

Role wise 

A business analyst may wear many hats. Some of them are data analyst, system analyst, decision maker, financial analyst computer analyst and management analyst. The analyst's job can include such functions as determining the business requirements, analysing business intelligence, and conferring with management about business strategy.

 

Solutions

The six sigma continuous improvement methodology follows the DMAIC approach which involves:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

Define simply has to do with defining the problem. One can use problem statements to define this, we also typically scope a project from a business perspective where you may create a context level dataflow diagram. The purpose of this activity is to simply understand the problem and put some boundaries around what you are trying to solve.

 

Many times we present information based on hunches or previous experience whereas with measure, you focus on the facts. This is an extremely powerful aspect of the six sigma methodology. It says, ‘you think there is a problem, but let”s find out if there really is”. The six sigma methodology recommends things like the time series plot and pareto charts.

 

Analyse again provides power and I think this is an area we are still struggling with as business analysts. In this field, there continues to be this behaviour where a solution is decided before true analysis is even done. As an example, on a project I was on, the leadership team insisted the problem was the technology supporting a specific business area. Essentially, they said the technology was no good. After doing a root cause analysis, it was determined the real issues had to do with amount of time it took to make a request and receive a response from the IT team. The technology itself was not the problem, the process around it was.

 

Improve has to do with offering up solutions. Again, it is important to look at all possible solutions to a particular problem. From the example above, one solutions was to improve the process and response time for the business from the IT team.

 

At the very least, you may uncover some additional requirements through your detailed analysis. There are several benefits you will reap from this approach. As you begin to provide valuable information to your leadership, you will become the go-to person. Leadership typically wants a well rounded picture before they make decisions. You can help provide a view of all the possible solutions. In addition, you will be adding to your repertoire of skills and improve your own marketability. Control has to do with monitoring a project all the way through its lifecycle and evaluating the results at the end. This is yet another opportunity for business analysts to take it to the next level. In the last 10 years of my career, we continually fall down in this space. We don”t do a good job of measuring whether we were successful or not. When we don”t do a good job of measuring success, every project begins to look like a failure. If you look at the statistics, there are still a high number of IT projects seen as failures. What are we doing wrong? There are several pieces to the problem (which I will save for another article) but one piece most definitely is not establishing critical success factors up front (another six sigma trick) and then measuring against those at the end of the project.

 

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