Business Analysis is Like a Roller Coaster!


Hello!! I am finally sharing my ideas through my very own grown up business analysis blog. It’s been a long time coming and I finally did it! Big deal, right? Well, because I am so grown up I want my first ever blog to explore the thrill ride of a roller coaster and being a business analyst.

I love amusement parks AND I love being a business analyst! What I love most about amusement parks is the energy and fun surrounding them. The business analysis process reminds me of the thrill of the roller coaster. As you wait to board the roller coaster people are excited anticipating the thrill. Some people are anxious never having ridden the ride. Some people are downright scared and dreading the ride. This reminds me of the beginning of a project assignment. Veterans in the project space may be excited for the thrill of another project. newbies are anxious and unsure of a project really is, and then the disgruntled project team members are not happy about the project; they know what is in store and are not happy about the ride they are starting.

Projects, like roller coasters, have a variety of starts, slow, slow, slow to lightening fast and everything in between. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith at DisneyWorld starts so fast you think your heart may stop, 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds! A project that goes from an idea to a production deadline in 30 days feels like this ride. This can be a thrill to work on and you can enjoy the ride along the way or be the passenger screaming the entire time. There is no slow build up climbing to the top of the steep drop. A project with a slow build up may be a similar thrill, however there is more time to stop and think about how really fast and steep that drop will be. The Mamba® at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City is this kind of project, slow building with a clear view of how very steep that drop will be. The anticipation and excitement builds and you know it’s going to be great. You reach the top and wham, you are cruising at lightening speed. Just when you think you are not going to live through the drop the car pulls into another climb, saved from sudden death! Then the cycle repeats until the ride is over.

Business analysis work can be like either of these thrill ride experiences. So how do you adjust and manage to these thrilling situations? How can you avoid screaming from absolute terror when you board the project roller coaster ride? Here are three things that strap you in to keep you safe and ensure you enjoy the project ride!

1. Define the scope for your project
One of the rides that truly terrifies me is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Why does it terrify me? Because the ride is not the same every time. There is a random nature to the ride. I don’t have the context for when it begins and ends. The ride is designed to be a unique number of drops and depth of drops. Projects that have no clear boundary are just as terrifying to me. Before I start a project I ask questions to understand the scope. I focus on what the boundary I need to work on is. I confirm this understanding with the project team so we are working with the same boundary understanding. Creating the context for the project work is a key to enjoying the ride. Changes to that boundary are managed, removing the terror that happens without a scope boundary. Without a clear scope it is never clear when the team is done.

2. Understand the problem
What is the real problem that caused the business to request a change? Many projects are implemented with a solution that doesn’t address the real problem. This critical thinking mistake is an expensive experiment for companies. As a business analyst, receiving a business case without a clear description of the problem is equivalent to a height requirement on a ride. Just like a rider that doesn’t meet a minimum height requirement to proceed, an unclear business problem stop a business analysis from moving forward with the project. Business leaders may not be able to articulate the problem without some elicitation to discover what really is going on. Help them discover the underlying problem through elicitation. Understanding the real problem is critical to take away the fear in the project ride.

3. Plan your business analysis
You know the scope and the business problem, the next safety step is to plan the business analysis. The tried and true ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’ applies to business analysis as much as it applies to project management. I equate a plan to an outline for a research paper. The outline is the framework that provides a guideline for the overall project. The plan is based on the project scope boundary and business problem. The plan is a series of questions to ask yourself what do you already know and discover what you need to learn about. Within that scope, who are the stakeholders? What are their roles? What is their viewpoint on the project? How will they be impacted? What elicitation techniques do you need to plan for to engage these stakeholders to solve this business problem? What analysis techniques are required to understand the business problem? What business processes are involved? Is there a current state or future state process documented? What are the gaps for the current and future state? What is the data impact? What interfaces are involved? What do we need to create that is new to the organization? What is the change impact? These questions continue to build until you have an outline for what is needed.

Focusing on these three things before you dive into the analysis creates a safety harness. Riding a roller coaster with a harness allow you to enjoy the project ride and avoid screaming in panic. These are steps that should be present in every analysis effort. Every effort will have a scope, a business problem and require a plan. Enjoy the ride, business analysis is FUN!

Heather, a BA Without Borders

1 Comment
  • Barb Allen

    July 23, 2015at12:02 am

    This will be the beginning of lots of great ideas, opinions, tips…
    Looking forward to m-o-r-e …,

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