In our projects we continuously deliver value by implementing new software features. This can be a complete new implementation or enhancing existing software to add value to business processes and operations. When you work in an agile way you often find yourself at some point defining features and user stories before realization of the solution even starts. In this business analysis phase it is helpful if you have a business analyst on board who is tasked to elicit the actual needs of stakeholders which frequently involves investigating and clarifying their expressed desires, in order to determine underlying issues and causes. Personally I found it very useful to follow the guidelines as set by the International Institute of Business Analysis. (IIBA). I will try to summarize how you can use this knowledge in your projects.
The BABOK guide®
The Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM) is described in IIBA’s BABOK guide® (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge). It describes a framework for the business analyst. The BABOK guide® contains six knowledge areas of specific business analysis expertise that encompass several tasks. The underlying key concept is the Business Analysis Core Concept Model (BACCM) and consists of Change, Need, Solution, Stakeholder, Value and Context.
When asking the question: What is Business Analysis? The answer includes these exact core concepts. In one sentence: “The practice of enabling change in an organization by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders“.
In short the business analyst should raise the following questions:
- What are the kinds of changes we are doing?
- What are the needs we are trying to satisfy?
- What are the solutions we are creating or changing?
- Who are the stakeholders involved?
- What do stakeholders consider to be of value?
- What are the contexts that we and the solution are in?
I find it useful to use these concepts in a practical manner in the Agile context. When defining features I set about to address these six core concepts. It is important to understand that these core concepts interact and are of equal importance. A need for example can be described as a problem or opportunity that has to be addressed but can lead to a change in response of a need. The solution describes how a specific need will be satisfied by solving a problem or enabling stakeholders to take advantage of an opportunity. Speaking of stakeholders, The BABOK guide defines specific groups of stakeholders. Common stakeholders are Business analyst, Customer, Project Manager, Sponsor and Tester. In our projects, we as a supplier, often interact with the Domain Subject Matter Expert on the customer side, usually key users, end users or process experts who have in depth knowledge of the solution or process.
Applying the six core concepts
To understand the bigger picture. Usually our consultants operate in the (stakeholder) role of Implementation Subject Matter Expert. When detailing the feature consider to use these concepts as follows
- Need: Describe the actual need in terms of problem or opportunity. Is there a problem that requires a solution or are there opportunities in the market or organization that bring value?
- Change: What is needed to fulfil the need, this can be a change in process, organization or technical solution?
- Stakeholders: Summarize the most important stakeholders that benefit from the change or are impacted by the change. You don’t have to name the person but at least include the stakeholder role. These stakeholders play an important role later in the project, to communicate with, test solutions, verify requirements etcetera.
- Solution: Describe the solution in general terms. Details of the solution will be described in the various user story’s.
- Value: The value of the change is often overlooked. Value can be used to prioritize different features but can also be used to describe how the change adds value in terms of benefits for stakeholders by improving quality, realizing goals such as to comply to regulatory and legal policy. Value can be determined as an outcome of a cost-benefit analysis expressed in euros but can also be less tangible such as to prevent loss of reputation. Also not implementing a feature can have serious impact for example an underperforming customer service, negatively impacts the customer experience.
When you describe the feature capabilities you often include acceptance criteria. Although acceptance criteria are in detail described in the underlying user story’s, in line with the BABOK guide®, I tend to structure the acceptance criteria as follows:
- Business requirements: Describe the goals, objectives and outcomes and why the change is needed.
- Stakeholder requirements: Describe the needs of stakeholders that must be met in order to achieve the business requirements.
- Solution requirements: Describe the capabilities and qualities of a solution that meets the stakeholder requirements. They provide the appropriate level of detail to allow for the development and implementation of the solution. Solution requirements can be divided into two sub-categories:
- Functional: Describe the capabilities that a solution must have in terms of the behaviour and information that the solution will manage.
- Non-functional: Describe conditions under which a solution must remain effective or qualities that a solution must have.
- Transition requirements: Describe the capabilities that the solution must have and the conditions the solution must meet to facilitate transition from the current state to the future state, but which are not needed once the change is complete. They are differentiated from other requirements types because they are of a temporary nature. Transition requirements address topics such as data conversion and training.
The IIBA BABOK guide® is very extensive and this is only an attempt to use part of the methodology in everyday practice. You don’t have to be a business analyst because your job title says so. If you perform the tasks or some of the tasks in the BABOK guide® you’re doing business analysis. So…. are you a business analist? For more information, have a look at the website of the International Institute of Business Analysis.