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Focus on Value


Lost Along the Way

We all want to be a part of high-value solutions that are loved by the users - nothing is quite as satisfying. But all too often, something goes wrong along the way - and nothing is quite as frustrating.

See if this sounds like a project you've seen (or participated in): Important stakeholders express critical issues that need to be addressed and the technical team jumps into action, crafting a solution. Next, the testers ensure it is a high-quality solution that doesn't have errors. Finally, eager users get their hands on the solution...but end up confused - how is this supposed to solve their problem?

It's not always a failure with the project plan, the quality of the software, or the configuration. Simply put, the wrong solution was that doesn't add the value that is needed.

So, how do we make sure we are not only building solutions the right way, but we are building the right solutions?


The Proposition of Value

In short, the answer lies in focusing on value, and the Business/Systems Analyst (BA) is core to making sure this happens. In general, BAs are curious people who are not afraid to ask questions in order to understand the situation - a key component to ensure the delivery of high-value solutions.

Here are some of the key questions to be asked:

Elicitation: What are the underlying needs, problems, and opportunities?

BAs ask questions and facilitate discussions that uncover the business requirements. Ideally, this is done before solutions are identified, but it is equally important to ask these questions when a solution has already been proposed.

Analysis: How do these needs and solutions impact other organizations, functions, and systems?

Knowledge of relevant industry, systems, and organizations enable BAs to break down big problems into smaller pieces and then "connect the dots" to ensure impacts are carefully considered.

Solution Selection: How can we address the identified needs, problems, and opportunities?

BAs work with the stakeholders and project team to identify, design, and select solutions that will address the problems/opportunities identified. It is important to ensure all viable solutions are considered including new custom software, configurations and customizations to existing software, and process changes.

Confirmation: Do we share a common understanding of the value?

Facilitating collaborative discussions and creating documents and models ensures the stakeholders and project team share a common understanding of the value that is being added.

Ongoing Communication: Is the value kept in focus throughout the project?

Rather than just throwing requirements over the wall and walking away, BAs ensure there is continued dialogue with the stakeholders and the project team about the value, the timeframe, and any trade-offs to consider along the way. In other words, keep the value in focus while the solution is being crafted.


Relentless Focus on Value

This is what good requirements and Business Analysis do - ensure that we produce high-value solutions that help users and organizations work more efficiently and effectively. Without this relentless focus on the needs, problems, and opportunities that our solutions should address, it is all too easy to miss the mark, wasting valuable time, effort, and money.


About The Author

Agile Solution Manager

Mark is an experienced Agile coach and Professional Scrum Trainer for Cardinal Solutions. He has created and delivered training and presentations at companies, industry groups, meetups, and regional conferences along with the international Agile 2014 convention.