Is Your Organization Ready?
In this chapter we discuss the need for developing a business case to propose an enterprise-wide BA practice that is value-based and strategically focused. Do not be tempted to eliminate or truncate this important step. The business case development process will help you make the tough decisions and will enable you to customize the practice to your organization’s needs. A business case will be your invaluable tool for proposing a breakthrough BA practice.
The Standish Group has been alerting us for decades that businesses are dependent on complex, technology-enabled business transformation projects for their success, yet we have been extremely challenged to perform projects satisfactorily. The focus has all too often been exclusively on requirements for IT solutions and then on managing (most often, limiting) changes to those requirements (generally regarded as scope creep).
The relatively new discipline of business analysis rethinks the change initiative context and shifts the focus from IT to the business, from technology to business value. BA shows us that business value should be at the heart of our efforts and that business benefits should drive our decisions. After all is said and done, it is about the business value that new solutions bring, not about the features and functions we think the technology should perform.
Despite the application of some world-class practices, far too many attempts to implement value-based BA practices have been only marginally successful. Too often the improvements to BA practices have been driven from the bottom up. While support is needed from all levels of the organization, grassroots efforts tend to be project-specific and therefore disappear gradually as project teams are disbanded.
It is through the business case for implementing a new, value-based BA practice that you can elicit high-level, top-down support. And it is through the effort you invest in building the business case that you will begin to gauge your organization’s readiness to implement strategy-level BA practices.
ASSESSING THE CULTURE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
Before you initiate the effort to build a business case for implementing a value-based BA practice, you will need to identify your organization’s key issues and consider how business cases are used to drive change initiatives.
Projects are essential to the growth and survival of organizations today. Projects create value through capability-building business processes and through new products and services, responding to competition and changes in the marketplace. Make no mistake: Your effort to implement a value-based BA practice is a major project, and it will likely compete with other project ideas for resources and funding. Your organization is not going to support you simply because you think it is the right thing to do. The business case is your vehicle for eliciting support for investing in the effort.
In many organizations today, the business case is treated more as a formality than as a critical component of strategy execution and value creation. Far too many projects do not even have a business case. If there is one, it is typically created as quickly as possible and is used simply to secure resourcing and funding.
If your organization is currently not optimizing its use of business cases to help make strategic decisions about investments, this is your opportunity to model best practices for using the business case. The purpose of the business case is not only to secure funding, but also to drive value-based decision-making throughout all levels of the organization.
BUILDING THE BUSINESS CASE FOR THE BA PRACTICE
The life of every important change initiative should begin and end with a business case. Unless a change initiative results in value to the customer and wealth to the bottom line, it is a failed venture—even if it is delivered on time and on budget. The business case presents the expected costs and benefits of the proposed venture. Without it, you are steering a rudderless vessel. The BA practice manager/lead can demonstrate the value of business analysis through execution and management of the business case.
GATHER THE EXPERTS
Implementation of a new business process such as business analysis is a major cultural change effort. You will not get the organizational support you need unless you make a convincing case. During the readiness phase of the effort, engage a small but influential team of business and technology experts to work with you to build the business case for implementing a value-based BA practice. It is imperative that you not build the business case in isolation. Involving experts who are notable leaders in the organization is critical. By involving influential experts, you will be building your team of high-level supporters.
MAKE THE CASE
You need to lead the group of experts through a discovery period to examine the value of the new/advanced BA practice. Walking through the business case elements will provide a solid structure for your deliberations.
Building a business case is fundamentally a developmental, creative endeavor. The effort requires adequate time, a skilled facilitator (the BA practice manager/lead), a strategic focus, and creative expert resources. You need to drive the effort so that you will begin to enhance your credibility as the BA lead. You own the business case—you develop and maintain the business case in collaboration with the organization’s business and technology thought leaders. You subsequently must defend and report against the cost and benefit projections contained in the business case. Be sure to capture the names and titles of the experts engaged to create the business case. They will lend credibility and authority to the proposal.
The first step in building a solid business case is for the team of experts to arrive at consensus on the vision and purpose of the BA practice. The business case accomplishes the following:
• States the vision, mission, purpose, values, strategic goals, business objectives, and measures of success for the BA practice
• Outlines the expected total costs and quantifiable business benefits
• Describes the change management and communication approaches
• Presents the complexities, risks, and issues, and addresses how they will be managed
• Sets the course for how you will take the BA practice from good to great.
DETERMINE YOUR VISION
A sample vision is: Business analysis practices are transformed into a value-based management tool, business analysts are viewed as respected consultants, technology is used as a competitive advantage to bring about innovation, and critical change initiatives produce the forecast business benefits as documented in the business case.
DEFINE THE PURPOSE
A sample purpose is: The purpose of a value-based BA practice is to enable our company to build a world-class business analysis practice that delivers real business value.
DEFINE THE OBJECTIVES
The following are some sample objectives:
• Integrate the practices of business analysis with business architecture, business process, business rules and decisions, and business strategy and transformation to build and sustain an aligned organization that drives business transformation and innovation.
• Build the capabilities to optimize or transform our business practices and strategize a new business direction.
• Transition our IT-enabled business projects from a focus on technology to a focus on business value.
• Ensure that adequate enterprise/strategy analysis is conducted prior to building a business case for a proposed new project to ensure that the business need is understood and the optimal, innovative solution is proposed.
• Increase our capability to elicit, analyze, prioritize, specify, and validate business requirements.
• Validate the assumptions and forecasts made in the business case throughout the solution development phases to continuously confirm the case for investment in projects.
• Measure the business benefits of newly deployed business solutions.
• Ensure that business benefits are achieved and technology is used as a competitive advantage.
THE ANATOMY OF A BUSINESS CASE
The business case is the capstone document for the BA practice. It puts forward the rationale—the business need—for a value-based BA practice and describes how you will demonstrate results in business benefits. If you are unable to demonstrate results, your venture will be perceived as a failure.
Typically, a business case to create a value-based business analysis practice will include the following elements:
1. Executive Summary
2. Business Vision
a. Core purpose
b. Core values
c. Envisioned future (10–30 year goal)
d. Vivid description of what the business will look like
3. Strategic Goals
4. Yearly Objectives
a. Year 1
b. Year 2
c. Year 3
5. Alignment to Corporate Strategies
7. Opportunity Analysis
a. Business problem
b. Business opportunity
c. Desired outcome
a. Current capabilities
b. Capability gaps
9. Solution Approach
a. Year 1
b. Year 2
c. Year 3
10. The Journey from Good to Great
a. Risk management
b. Change management
c. Communication management
11. Return on Investment
a. Total costs
b. Business benefits
Appendix A provides a sample of a value-based business case.
Innovation experts are advising us to use a short and concise presentation approach to propose the value-based BA practice in the context of the customer and the innovative product. Some suggest no more than seven slides (assuming you are using PowerPoint for your executive presentation). Build the presentation to include these critical elements:
1. Breakthrough Business Analysis: The Path to Value
• Tactical BA practices defined
• Strategic, value-based BA practices defined
• How did we get here?
• Who participated in the proposal?
2. Customers of the BA Practice: Who Will Benefit?
• Stakeholder/customer list
• Customer situation
• Customer need
• Customer problem/challenge
3. BA Practice Concept: Why Do We Need to Change?
• Practice vision
• Practice goals and objectives
• Strategic alignment
4. Discriminator: Why Now?
• Current solutions and competitors
• Competitive positioning
• If we don’t do it, then….
5. Feasibility: What Will It Take?
• Technical feasibility
• Cultural feasibility
• Process feasibility
• Economic feasibility
• Marketing feasibility
• Project feasibility
6. Value: What Are the Benefits?
• Value to our customers
• Wealth to our bottom line
• Further effort to implement and sustain the practice
• Further effort to manage uncertainties, risks, and complexities
ESTABLISH THE BA PRACTICE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE
Once you have developed the business case to implement your BA practice, the next step is to formally establish your governance process.
SECURE AN EXECUTIVE SPONSOR
First enlist an executive sponsor to guide the effort, to own the budget for the BA practice, and to commit to the cost and benefit projections. Usually, the executive sponsor is a senior-level executive, such as the CIO or CSO. The higher the sponsor is in the organization, the more prestigious your BA practice will be regarded. Ideally, the BA practice manager/lead should report directly to the sponsor.
ESTABLISH THE EXECUTIVE STEERING COMMITTEE
It is ideal to secure the experts who helped build the business case to serve on the BA practice steering committee. Facilitated by the BA practice lead and chaired by the executive sponsor, the steering committee will provide political cover, decision support, budget, and legitimacy to the BA practice. In smaller organizations, this may be an advisory group.
A View from on the Ground
ANALYST ADVISORY GROUP
Associate Director, Business Analysis
Rather than the program management office (PMO) rolling out initiatives to the entire organization in a one-size-fits-all method, our PMO established an analyst advisory group to provide perspective, transparency, and clarity in implementing BA initiatives:
MANAGE TO THE BUSINESS CASE
After assessing your influence and capabilities, you are ready to transition to implementation planning. Design the BA practice to meet the business need, scaled to the size of your organization, and ensure that you realize the benefits forecasted in the business case.
Typically, the business case is no longer used once the practice has been approved, resourced, and funded, and implementation is underway. However, as you elicit detailed business requirements and the value-based BA practice design emerges, continue to validate expected costs and benefits, updating the business case. Alert your executive sponsor and steering committee if the original assumptions or projections are at risk, and recommend a course correction. This validation/update cycle is essential to keep the business case alive and to keep everyone’s focus on the business benefits. Remember, the business case is developed when we know the least about the endeavor, so it will lose its validity unless it is updated as more is learned.
After the BA practice is deployed, measure the value of the practice. If the value does not measure up to the original benefit projections, make adjustments and improvements. Manage so that the worth of the BA practice is directly related to value to the customer and benefits to the business, both of which lead directly to wealth to the bottom line.
FIRMLY ESTABLISH THE BA PRACTICE LEAD ROLE
Building a new business process such as strategic-level business analysis is a difficult endeavor that is riddled with obstacles. Your initial challenge is to gain executive confidence and organizational alignment. It is important to accomplish this up front. Do you have the power and influence skills to take a comprehensive view that is aligned with your environment, your culture, your strategies, and decision-making practices? Chapter 2 will help you assess whether you are ready.
As you make decisions and build the business case with your expert team, design compelling communication graphics for you all to use to begin to tell your story consistently.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE BUSINESS ANALYST?
If you are working to implement BA best practices, methodologies, frameworks, and enabling technologies on your project, consider a wider implementation to other projects. This will help build momentum for a more value-based BA practice.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE BA MANAGER/PRACTICE LEAD?
This chapter argues for the need to develop a business case for a value-based, strategically focused BA practice implementation. Do not be tempted to eliminate or truncate this important step. The decision-making and risk review that will take place during the business case development will be invaluable to you going forward.
Now that you have assessed your organization’s readiness to support a new or advanced BA practice, in Chapter 2 we explore whether you have an influential BA practice lead who is capable of implementing an effective value-based BA practice.