Why IT projects need BAs just like buildings need architects

Business Analysts ensure you get a solution that works for your people and processes, and gives the business the best possible return on investment.

IT projects fail when business processes aren’t taken into account and stakeholders’ needs aren’t met. This blew up spectacularly for Lidl when they abandoned a €500m seven year project to introduce SAP and went back to using their old inventory system.

Lots of businesses experience this on a smaller scale, a new system gets bought, doesn’t get used properly and eventually gets shelved. The business carries on with the old ways of working until someone buys another new system to fix the issues again. But the problem isn’t the system. What you need is good business analysis, done up front.

The house analogy - builder as solution provider

Let’s say you’d decided to invest in building your own home. Your friend had one built recently and they love it. You did some research and their builder is established and well-respected. You didn’t find any negative reviews about them and their quote is in your price range. That’s all the boxes ticked, so you are good to go. Right? Not quite. If you simply asked them to use their expertise to build you a house how likely is it you would get what you want, or more importantly what you need now and in the future?

The only thing you can be sure of is that you’ll get a well-built house. Say your friend’s family is smaller than yours, their children are different ages, they don’t have dogs, they have different interests and abilities, you work from home and you’ve got more cars. All of these things are your requirements that need to inform the house design, and these need to be understood before the build starts.

BAs help you understand the impact of decisions

Sticking with the house scenario, you – the client – needs someone they can explain their requirements to, someone who is able to challenge your requirements to ensure you’ve understood the impact of them. You might want off-street parking for four cars, but do you want that at the expense of your garden? You also need someone to bring you essential information about important areas you don’t know much about, planning, legal, health and safety. And there are requirements that other stakeholders have, in this analogy they are your family members who’ll be living in the house with you. Are you going to manage all of this on top of your day job, or get someone in who’s done it before?

A good BA is a people person as well as a tech person 

I’ve worked as a BA in a number of different industries and I’ve built up a toolkit of theory and experience. I know how to ask questions in the right way, and adapt my approach in order to get to your requirements. I’ll come and observe where you live now, and map out what works and what doesn’t. I might ask you to complete a questionnaire, or get you and your family together to put on your ideas on post-its. I might have a one to one interview with a quiet family member who knows a lot but doesn’t like to speak up in front of others.

Business analysts will generally produce a similar set of documents for each client: process maps, requirement documents, catalogues and user stories. It’s how you elicit the information that changes. A good BA will recognise what will, won’t and isn’t working and change their approach to get the best of all their stakeholders.

Back to the build and a house you'll love now and in five years

So you’ve told someone all your requirements, you now need them to ensure that all of that information is captured in a way that can be passed to someone else who has the skills and tools to design the right house, or solution. Your BA can then assess the design against the requirements and spot any shortfalls before the build begins and they are literally set in stone.

Armed with all this information your builder, or solution provider, is now in a position to build you a house that you’ll be very happy with, now and in five years.

Identifying problems late is costly

In the house build scenario it’s like realising you need a downstairs bedroom with en suite after the builder has laid the foundations, built the walls and had a third party supplier put the plumbing in.

A good BA helps the business get the best possible return on their investment and the earlier they are involved the more value they can add. In the build scenario, if you involved a BA before you decided to build your own house they could have helped you realise there was a ready made house in the right location that had everything you needed, that was cheaper and available immediately. Or that there was a cheaper supplier who’s specialism is building houses with all your requirements.

A good BA won't tell you what your solution is straightaway

And that’s a good thing. By taking a solution-agnostic, unbiased approach they will ensure all your business requirements are met.


Lindsay Cahill

Senior Business Analyst



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