Those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I recently published an article entitled “Using Data to drive Sustainability”, where I referred to the Desert Mountain Golf community. Desert Mountain is a mid-size business located in Arizona, USA that is using analytics to drive sustainability and drive business efficiencies.
I recently had the opportunity to reach out and interview a senior leader from Desert Mountain about the business, the challenges the organisation faces and the analytics solution that has been implemented. I found this case-study really interesting because it’s a very different and innovative business facing some unique challenges.
Successful projects start with a good and clear understanding of the organisation’s goals and objectives and over time develop a clear understanding of the project’s requirements.
One significant challenge with projects can be the gap between what the stakeholders ask for, what they need, and what they can afford. There can be a further gap between what the stakeholder expects and what is actually delivered. Good quality business analysis helps to plug this gap.
Although the discipline of business analysis is young, it isn’t new. Requirements engineering is older still—yet history is still littered with examples of expensive IT project failures and projects where the users haven’t received what they expected. How can this be? And how can these types of project failure be avoided?
Environmental sustainability is a dilemma for today’s organisations and consumers. Organisations generally want to maximise profits—but there’s increasing attention and interest into corporate responsibility and sustainability. Consumers too, are considering environmental and ethical decisions when making purchasing decisions. However, with each of us making hundreds of micro-decisions each day in our business lives, what practical steps can be taken to keep sustainability on the radar?
Appropriate application of “Lean” philosophies and techniques can pay dividends in this area. A key guiding principle of the Lean philosophy is to focus, study and understand demand and reduce waste. In sustainability terms, this can be translated into understanding what is consumed during the production of the goods or services that your organisation offers, and whether that consumption could be reduced. Clearly, particular attention should be paid to the consumption of scarce resources (such as water, oil, electricity etc), or processes which may cause additional environmental or social issues–for example, environmental pollution caused by the processing (burning) of fossil fuels.
A key skill within business analysis is the ability to define and set goals and objectives. It might not always be referred to as “goal setting,” but every time you help the business determine the business value that would be achieved for a particular initiative, you’re really helping them to define goals and objectives. When defining acceptance criteria and non-functional requirements, you’re also setting quantifiable objectives that a solution should meet.
A common way of approaching business and project goal setting is to use the SMART technique. This technique encourages the setting of goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bounded. The SMART approach has many uses within projects and beyond. But is SMART enough?
I was recently fortunate to attend a useful and inspirational training course where I was introduced to a new technique (and acronym) for goal setting. This technique, designed for setting personal goals and objectives, is designed to be used in coaching. However, with some subtle adjustments, it works equally well in a project or business environment.
I’m pleased to say that my most recent blog article has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.
“While core business analysis techniques work irrespective of the industry or organisation you’re working in (and working in a new area can be an effective way of broadening your experience, exposure, and expertise), moving between domains can seem daunting—particularly if you’ve been working in a specific industry for a while. Even moving within the same domain can be disorienting. Knowledge and terminology you’ve taken for granted for years may suddenly be less relevant, and there may be a new lexicon of jargon, acronyms and abbreviations.
The good news is that the challenges certainly aren’t insurmountable! Here are five ideas to draw from when you find yourself working in unfamiliar territory:
Few would argue that in today’s competitive environment, organizations need to innovate to stay alive. We no longer live in an environment where we can ‘switch the machines to auto and take five’. This innovation inevitably involves progressing and running with innovative projects.
The problem comes when organizations take less care over the projects they are progressing than the business they are running. Projects certainly require decisive decision making and action, but there’s a fine line between ‘getting it done’ and ‘being reckless’.
It’s all too easy to separate out change projects from the operational impacts that they have. You’ll often hear and read about ‘Project failure’—but what does this really mean? Perhaps I’m going to sound like a maverick here, but I believe that the distinction between Project Failure and Business Failure is slight. One can very easy lead to the other.
Take UK Broadband Internet Provider “Talk Talk” as a case study: Following a merger and a migration of customer data (which will have undoubtedly involved a project or programme of work), it billed 62,000 customers for services they hadn’t received. Wow—imagine being one of those customers. As a customer, you’re not going to care that the cause of the failure was a project—all that matters is the organization’s systems and processes failed.
The net result of this error was a reported 25,000 subscribers leaving within months of error. In fact, the company has lost 170,000 customers in the last two years, and was fined £3 million by the UK telecoms regulator for its inaccuracies. Lost revenue, damaged reputation, and a fine from the regulator. An outcome I’m sure it would have preferred to avoid.
The key to avoiding downstream issues on any project is to ensure that projects receive the same attention and focus that you give your business. In particular, ensure that there is sufficient project management and business analysis resource assigned. Ask questions like:
What systems and processes am I changing?
What data will I create/migrate/change?
Which users will be affected?
Which customers might be affected?
What is our plan if it goes wrong?
How will we test it?
Having professional business analysts on board, and giving them sufficient scope and authority to do their job will undoubtedly help. Good BAs help projects to mitigate risk, ensure the requirements are fully understood and ensure that organizations’ projects deliver the benefits they want and expect.
The bottom line is ensure that you’re paying as much attention to your projects as you do to your core business.
This article was originally published on StickyMinds.com on 18 September 2012