Best practices from a business analysis telco project
GIANCARLO DURANTI, CBAP, IACCM, COBIT5, ITIL, PMI-PBA, PMP, PGMP
The case study presents the experience of a team of business analysts involved for five months in a project to determine the feasibility of a future program that would have been launched the following year after executive management approval. More than 55 people were involved, among them representatives of the business and technical communities. The key program objectives were:
- Provide one of the major Italian telecommunications operators with new capabilities for digital business transformation;
- Streamline current business processes;
- Define a new and more organic technical architecture decommissioning noncore applications and consequently the related hardware.
Keywords: business analysis, business analyst, elicitation, workshop, business case, vision, scope, requirements
WHAT IS BUSINESS ANALYSIS?
The influential PMI community of business analysts defines the business analysis as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to:
- Determine problems and identify business needs;
- Identify and recommend viable solutions for meeting those needs;
- Elicit, document, and manage stakeholder requirements in order to meet business and project objectives;
- Facilitate the successful implementation of the product, service, or end result of the program of project.
In short, business analysis is the set of activities performed to identify business needs and recommend relevant solutions; and to elicit document and manage requirements” (PMI, 2015, p. 3).
However, a broader understanding of business analysis is provided by the IIBA – International Institute of Business Analysis:
Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value. Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. It can be used to understand the current state, to define the future state, and to determine the activities required to move from the current to the future state. (IIBA, 2015, p. 2)
Exhibit 1 – Business analysis setting.
Business analysis aims to understand how an organization is working while achieving its strategic objectives and enabling the creation of those indispensable capabilities, allowing it to provide stakeholders with product and services required. Furthermore, business analysis principles and practices are used to assess the organization's current state (as is) and how it can be evolved toward a desired scenario (to be), projected through the application of solutions able to bring value and satisfy the organization's business needs (Exhibit 1).
THE BUSINESS ANALYST ROLE
It is natural to say that the business analyst is the professional who performs business analysis tasks. In the past, as well as recently in some organizations, business analyst activities have been performed by several professionals like system analysts, requirement engineers, process analysts, product managers, product owners, enterprise analysts, business architects, management consultants, in addition to performing their own tasks. Today, more mature organizations recognize the business analyst as a specific individual role.
Actually, many organizations are realizing that one of the reasons is because the expected added value that is supposed to be brought by the implemented solution, is in reality much lower than expected. That is because of the higher cost of ownership they have to bear in order to make the solution work properly. They think that this problem could be solved only by appointing somebody to be in charge of the solutions life cycle and able to have an end-to-end view from the origin of the business need until the satisfaction of it. As a matter of fact, the business analyst should be the star center of a triad of communities that share their lives within the organization: the business community, the management community, and the technical community (Exhibit 2).
Let's start with the first because it is at the heart of the whole organization, without the business community, in fact, there would be no reason for the other two to exist. Typically, the business community raises the e-business need (e.g., a new product or service or being compliant with regulatory prescriptions), or better, the business analyst offers to solve a business problem (e.g., business process improvement). Due to the strong technological impact, the business community engages the technical community to obtain a solution to their problem. In general, within the technical community, everything is managed by project and program management tactics and the focus is on budget and delivery constraints, and resources optimization; in short, it is taken for granted that the solution under implementation will bring the value expected by the involved stakeholders. On the other side, the business community thinks that the solution, sometimes suggested by technicians, is what is expected to solve the business problem.
Exhibit 2 – The BA as a star center (Blais, 2012, p. 35)
Both communities also believe that whomever makes decisions and/or gives authorization on actions, that is, the management community, is able to cover the gap between the business problem and the technical decisions necessary to solve it.
Looking at this picture, it comes evident that somebody has to fill this gap, performing a proficient reconciliation between business needs and technical constraints and providing the management proper information in a timely manner in order to make appropriate decisions. This is the role of a business analyst role.
THE CASE STUDY
Digital transformation is the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way. (i-scoop.eu, 2016) As the world's economy grows more dependent on the timely delivery of digital information, the telecommunications industry is challenged with providing new and innovative services while ensuring core capabilities are delivered in a stable, efficient manner. Any degradation in performance of the current services provided to the customers as mobile and fiber connections or failure to deliver content, affects the economic power of companies that provide telco services, and the consumers who use them.
To be considered a digital telco, an operator must provide a consistent experience across all customer interaction channels, ranging from mall-based service centers to the internet. Digital telcos should also be capable of seamless sales, upselling, and customer retention, and they must provide subscribers with the highest possible levels of self-care. Other prerequisites include near real-time service delivery and activation processes, effective and integrated management of data assets from both within the company and external channels, and the ability to deliver the highest levels of customer experience.
One of the major Italian telecommunications operators embraced the challenge to launch an innovation program in order to acquire the required capabilities, simplify its business processes, and make more effective its operations. The strategic goals of this initiative were:
1) Convergent company. Being excellent with integrated customer experience.
2) Online Telco: Customer digital management
3) Architecture for tomorrow: Being an agile asset for sales, post-sales, and customer care activities
BUSINESS NEEDS ASSESSMENT
Business needs assessment is a key business analysis task performed by the business analysis team and aims to identify the performance gap, comparing the current state (as is) versus the expected situation (to be). The business needs identified during this phase will be the foundation for all the future business analysis work until the declaration in the business case. Once the last will be approved they will drive the generation of program/project objectives in the implementation phase. The analysis conducted at this stage helps the organization to understand the business problem to be solved and provides detailed information to ensure the right business problem is being solved. Missing this phase would mean performing an insufficient analysis to understand the business need completely. Very often this results in a solution that fails to address the business problem completely or results in a partial solution of it. In both cases, several solution implementation cycles may be needed in order to have the problem solved. It is easy to understand the impact that brings to the total cost of ownership of the initiative and the extra effort the organization needs to bear.
Exhibit 3 – Problem statement.
The problem statement chartered in this case study focused on the following issues: lack of an integrated customer management, lack of a structured portfolio of offers, lack of cross channel upselling and cross-selling capabilities, intricate and redundant business processes, and high total cost of ownership in the solution life cycle.
Several business analysis techniques were applied to understand the business problem and draft the problem statement (Exhibit 3): organizational goals and objective assessment, it provides the context and drives the direction for any change that addresses the business need; Benchmarking, referring to external organizations was helpful to determine new capabilities needed; process flows analysis, discovering several nonoptimal processes existing in the current state (as is); root cause analysis, to discover underlining causes of the problem to be addressed by the solution.
For the application of the business analysis techniques, a careful stakeholder identification and analysis was performed to identify key stakeholders, roles and responsibilities, and keep them engaged for the whole activity duration. Among the objectives of this initiative were also: business process streamlining, operational costs reduction, processes consistency and cross-channels data integrity, technical obsolescence overcoming through systems decommissioning, company resources skills enhancements, and competency model transformation.
VISION AND SOLUTION SCOPE DEFINITION
According to Wikipedia, a vision is a foresight. that is, the capacity to envisage a future scenario typically used in economics to represent market trends and plan accordingly. A vision statement is “a declaration of an organization's objectives, ideally based on economic foresight, intended to guide its internal decision-making” (Vision, n. d.).
For an organization, a vision statement describes what it wants to become in the long term, setting a specific direction, including transformational initiatives with the aim of foreseeing its growth. The key purpose of a vision statement is to capture the attention of all stakeholders involved in the organization and work for them as a reminder during the coming years about the organization's achievements and the direction toward them. In history, we can recall some popular examples of vision statements:
- Bill Gates: “One personal computer over each desk and a Microsoft software installed on each one of them.”
- Home Depot: “One-stop shopping for the do-it-yourselfer.”
- Nokia: “Voice goes mobile.”
- Google: “To provide access to the world's information in one click.”
Without any doubt, a vision statement describes a future scenario shaped by an organization and sets the expectations and goals that the organization establishes to achieve. For that reason, one of the key traits of a vision statement is that it can be updated but not radically changed. A vision statement is formally written and represented in official organization's documents. It is advertised outside the organization but also inside. A colored picture hanging on the wall of a corridor or in a meeting room captured our attention many times. The purpose of that is to bring everybody involved in the organization—employees, consultants, middle managers, managers, and so on—with all of them looking toward the same direction and always having a clear picture of the direction to be undertaken in order to achieve organization's goals and objectives.
Now, why do we need a vision in business analysis and why do we use it to solve a business problem? Because similarly, the vision statement will describe the ideal situation, representing the business problem solved. At this point in time, no reference has to be made to what kind of tool or technology will be used to implement the solution. Instead, the focus has to be on capturing and documenting what stakeholders would expect to see in their future operational environment. It is their interpretation of the solution and it is essential to deeply comprehend it from the very beginning of each initiative since it sets their expectations. Everybody looking at the vision statement will be able to stay focused on stakeholders’ expectations. Moreover, assessing the vision statement accomplishment is criteria to know when the business need is fulfilled. The business analysis team derives from the vision statement the acceptance criteria for the solution (Exhibit 4).
Exhibit 4 – Vision and solution scope.
The problem statement and the vision statement are the key inputs to the solution scope definition. The “solution scope is the set of capabilities a solution must deliver in order to meet the business need” (IIBA, 2015, p. 453). The solution scope clearly documents the boundary of the solution and the rational for setting those boundaries. It defines the solution components needed, like business rules, business process, application systems, training, and so forth (Exhibit 4). The solution components can be imagined as key streams logically interconnected representing the first level of a functional decomposition of the solution.
Each solution component encompasses a number of business capabilities. The whole set of business capabilities identified for each solution component determines the solution scope.
Usually, business stakeholders consider everything a top priority, it is up to the business analyst in shaping the solution scope to manage stakeholders’ expectations through the use a solution road map (Exhibit 4) and to ensure that they understand the justification for scope decisions. This will ensure stakeholders buy-in from the beginning.
In the case represented in this paper, a series of brainstorming sessions and workshops were organized to capture the solution vision statements:
- “Enabling a unique integrated customer management as well as a set of multichannel commercial offers.”
This refers to strategic goal n. 1, and creates the following expected benefits: full support of cross-selling capabilities, increased customer satisfaction through the end-to-end customer experience process management.
- “Enabling all current capabilities already implemented on the traditional channels on the brand new digital channels (web, app, social, etc.).”
This refers to strategic goal n. 2, and creates the following expected benefits: increased competitiveness ensuring a significant “lower cost-to-serve”, and enables operations model transformation toward a “social online company.”
- “Leveraging SOA, service-oriented architecture, reducing complexity and allowing decommissioning of obsolete IT systems.”
This refers to strategic goal n. 3, and creates the following expected benefits: simplifies service creation and product commercialization (time to market + CAPEX (capital expenditures reduction), reduces complexity and number of IT systems to manage OPEX (operational expenditures reduction).
It is worth noting that vision statement and solutions scope definition need to be defined in separate specifically dedicated sessions. A specific output of this task is the vision and scope report. Through it, the problem statement, defining the “as is” scenario, and the vision statement, identifying the “to be” scenario, are carefully described. It is worth noting that only after the agreement on the problem statement and the vision statement will it be possible to work on the solution scope to define the solution features (Exhibit 5).
Exhibit 5 – Case study solution scope.
It is recommended, above all when the schedule is tight, to ask the technical community to take part of this task to collect their opinions and to ensure that the solution scope includes features that were technically feasible. Be careful, sometimes there is a tendency to cut corners and rush to the “how” to solve the business problem even before having a clear understanding of the “what” that is needed to cover the vision statement. The business analyst team has a great responsibility in managing this potential conflict.
REQUIREMENT WORK PLAN DEFINITION
The requirement work plan is the project plan for the business analysis activities. The business analysis team does this in strict collaboration with the project/program manager. It ensures that all requirements activities are captured, appropriate elicitation and analysis method are selected, expectations with stakeholders are set, the whole project team has a common understanding of the requirements elicitation process, resources are available when needed, risk strategies are in place, and elicitation is coordinated with other project tasks.
Additionally, the requirement work plan is a tool for communication and negotiation of resources with the sponsor; as part of the project plan, it represents the baseline for requirements management activities and its execution is monitored and controlled. It is also a powerful tool for risk analysis and management.
Exhibit 6 – Case study requirement work plan.
It is clear that the requirement work plan is done during business analysis planning activities. The magnitude and the complexity of the case represented in this paper required creating a detailed WBS (work breakdown structure) (Exhibit 6) and the tight schedule required by the management needed that elicitation activities were performed in parallel streams raising the complexity and therefore the risk. Customer, offer, selling, and post-selling streams were planned and for each one of them a set of use cases was determined.
The involvement of a large number of delegates from the business communities also required an extensive use of the workshop technique as a first elicitation step, and a set of interviews and focus group as a follow up.
PERFORMING ELICITATION ACTIVITIES
Elicitation activity is the key activity of the whole business analysis process. Requirements are the key outcome; they depict the path between the “as is” state and the “to be” state. They describe the solution and drive the application architecture, processes, and the final product. The quality of the solution depends completely on the elicitation activities and the subsequent requirements analysis and validation. The basis for elicitation activities is the exploration already accomplished and described in the vision and scope report and the planned actions defined in the requirements work plan. Elicitation activity is an iterative process in which the business analysis team helps stakeholders involved uncovering the information needed to draft, structure, document business requirements, and validate them.
In the case presented in this paper, a strategy for stakeholders’ engagement was applied. The approach to elicitation activities was shared and agreed among key stakeholders: use-case objectives, framing, and elicitation process were defined.
- Use-case objectives: sharing the use-case scenario with the aim of streamlining the user and customer experience; gather requirements information helpful to define functional requirements; gather KPI (key performance indicator) information to define metrics to validate the solution.
- Use-case framing: each use case had the aim of highlighting the processes’ weakness and proposes the necessary improvements creating the set of capabilities helpful to fulfill the business needs. At the same time, each use case framed the perimeter of action in terms of capabilities, business processes, and business rules involved.
- Standard elicitation process: mainly based on workshops, it encompassed three steps—prepare for elicitation, conduct elicitation activities, and confirm elicitation results. The first step of the process was between the business analysis team and representatives of the technical community. Here, system analysts together with project managers analyzed use-case pain points and charted a draft of the use case flow as a proposal to the business community. The results of the first step were presented in a workshop to the delegates of the business community. In this half-day meeting business process weaknesses were shared and improvements were identified and discussed. Helpful information to model and analyze functional requirements was collected. Representatives from the technical community also took part in the workshop in order to understand stakeholders’ sentiments about the potential solution. The third meeting was to document elicitation results and draft the functional requirements in the requirement matrix (Exhibit 7) and issue a final version of the use case.
Exhibit 7 – Case study requirement matrix.
Occasionally, a supplementary meeting was organized to discuss in depth some aspects that may have arisen conducting the workshop. Dedicated interview and focus group techniques were scheduled for that purpose.
REQUIREMENTS DEFINITION AND ANALYSIS
The row information collected during the elicitation activities (requirement matrix) is the input to requirements organization and analysis. Consistent with the level of abstraction, requirements were clustered according to the following schema presented in Exhibit 8.
Exhibit 8 – Requirement types.
- Business requirements. Describe the higher-level needs of the organization as a whole.
- Stakeholder requirements. Describe the needs of a stakeholder or stakeholder group.
- Solution requirements. Describe the features, functions, and characteristics of a solution.
In this framework, requirements were analyzed, prioritized, and modeled. Modeling requirements means using a model to represent requirement description. This practice turns out to be helpful for stakeholders’ understanding of requirements purposes and how they fit in the broad picture of the solution. It is up to the business analysis team to identify the appropriate model that is helpful for all of the stakeholders involved.
Requirements analysis includes also the definition of requirements traceability. It allows creating the link between the single requirement and the feature of the solution component defined in the solution scope and from there to the business need. This ensures and justifies that each implemented requirement serves to fulfill the business need.
The synthesis of all information elicited and documented to date, together with assumptions, constraints, and elements of risk analysis forms a new output, the business requirement document. It becomes the foundation of the solution design activities and, once approved by stakeholders, the baseline against which to perform the change control process.
In the case under consideration, the business requirement document was undertaken by the technical community to draft the high level architecture design and perform solution design options in order to assess the most appropriate solution option for the context. Estimations for each use case were made and different commercial solution packages were evaluated. A feasibility study was performed and the results were presented in the business case.
BUSINESS CASE PREPARATION
A business case provides a justification for a course of action based on the benefits to be realized by using the proposed solution, as compared to the cost, effort, risk, and other considerations to acquire and live with that solution.
The business case reports the relevant elements of the business evaluation starting from the business needs; vision and solution scope information; evaluation of benefits expected according to the roadmap chartered; evaluation of costs for solution implementation, transition, operation, and if needed, dismissal. In the business case, the results of a risk analysis are carefully stated as well as the recommendations to stakeholders about the solution to be undertaken. The business case wants to be a tool for wise decisions, providing information to decision makers, typically representatives of the management community.
In the case under discussion, costs for different solution options were reported in the business case and recommendations from the business analysis team were provided for each option. The cost model adopted encompassed the following elements:
- Developing costs for solution implementation (solution core);
- Developing costs for solution integration with other legacy systems
- Costs for integration tests and performance test
- Costs for technical architecture, PMO (project management office), business analysis team, training for technical resources
- Costs for hardware and infrastructure setup (development, test and production environments)
- Costs for licensing
- Costs solution transition management (training, etc.)
The benefits model adopted encompassed the following elements:
- Business benefits related to the new central view of the customer entity, new selling channels and the opportunity of up-selling and cross-selling, and efficiency toward customers’ needs and interactions
- Savings of costs related to operational efficiency, service creation, and systems integration
- Savings of costs related to systems decommissioning (hardware and licensing) because of applications architecture simplification
- Savings of costs related to planned functionality replaced by the new solution
CONCLUSIONS: THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A BUSINESS ANALYSIS TEAM
In many organizations today representatives from business and ICT (information communication technology) communities try to make do as best they can. On the contrary, this role needs to be played by a professional who is well-recognized within the whole organization. The business analyst will be able to understand how the business evolves outside the organization and within it, understanding the strategies applied. In this way, he or she will gain a broader and deeper picture of the organization and its context, will be able to support the problem identification, quickly and correctly, and will define the appropriate solution for it according to organization's peculiarities, considering also the historic moment in which the organization lives.
First of all, for a business analysis team it is essential to be able to assess how the proposed solution impacts the organization. The business analyst role is central; it is the only one owning a cross view across the three communities (business, technical, management) during the whole solution life-cycle—starting from the problem boundaries definition to the solution identification—providing support to technicians during solution implementation, strategizing the appropriate change management operations, until solution validation in production to confirm if what is implemented is correctly perceived and really brings added value to the organization as expected. And if it does not, the business analyst role identifies variances and actions to put in place to bring results back to the planned expectations. As you probably have already understood, while the project is done, the business analysis work is still running in order to validate if and how much the business needs have been fulfilled.
Ultimately, even though the business analyst plays a central role among the three communities he/she acts as a representative of the business community. In those organizations fully absorbed in the economic context and that need to quickly interact with it, the business analyst becomes the orchestrator of all relations between the three communities; that's why today it is not recommended to ask project and program managers to perform the business analyst role; from their side instead, they need to keep the focus on the effective realization and delivery of what is agreed in the solution scope.
As per the case of this paper, having a business analysis team helped the organization to be concentrated on the business problem and define the appropriate solution. All discussions focused on the capabilities needed having in mind the vision statements shared before. Once the solution scope was defined, all the capabilities were traced back to the strategic objectives to ensure they were part of the solution scope. The technical community perceived the added value of this new approach, supporting the business analysis team with effective solution options. After several refinements, the governance board finally approved the business case and the program was launched last year. By the time of the writing of this paper, some capability related to digital channels had been released according to the program road map and the benefits created and exploited by the business community as well as the customers. It is still ongoing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Giancarlo Duranti is CBAP, IACCM, COBIT, ITIL, PMI-PBA, PMP, and PgMP certified, and a practitioner. He has been working in the ICT industry for over 25 years and he is experienced in managing projects in different international and national business contexts. Giancarlo is also a trainer on project management, business analysis, and soft skills. An active member of PMI's Rome Italy chapter, he is currently involved in the PMI community, attending congresses, volunteering, and participating in the community of practice.
Giancarlo has given numerous talks on various project management topics at PMI and IPMA Congresses as well as other professional events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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© 2016, Giancarlo Duranti
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain