Poor requirements-definition equals ICT failure

Business analysis expert Glenn Brûle says internal centres of business excellence could help ICT deliver what the business wants

Poor requirements-definition is responsible for half of the failures when it comes to translating what users need into ICT reality, says business analysis expert Glenn Brûlé.

Citing figures to this effect from a 2005 survey by ESI International, Brûlé, who is a business analyst expert for Virginia-based ESI and the International Institute of Business Analysts, says business analysis “centres of excellence” need to be created to overcome this problem.

There is no “formal process for eliciting, documenting, organising, modelling, testing and tracking requirements [in many organisations],” he says. And this problem is compounded by there being no formal training for specialist business analysts, and a failure to properly define the competencies needed, he says.

In contrast, organisations whose ICT projects are successful usually score highly on both client involvement and executive management support. The need for both is oft-repeated, but, in practice, such are often considered only on a superficial level.

“The senior executive says he’s with you, but when you try to consult him, or get sign-off on a change, you’re told ‘he’s on a course’ — and that’s probably a golf course,” says Brûlé.

“Clear requirements” are another strength that shows up in good organisations. And those requirements are best assembled by a business analyst, or team of such analysts, who are in touch with management, the user and ICT, he says.

The business analysis discipline is quite specific, he says. “It’s not enough to sprinkle fairy dust on a subject-matter expert and call that person a BA.”

Nor should the project manager be asked to discharge the business analyst’s responsibilities. “You don’t hire an electrician to fix your toilet.”

The formation of a “centre of excellence” for business analysis starts with an awareness of existing BA practice.

From this a standard solution-development lifecycle should be developed, and a standard methodology adopted and implemented. Staff can then be recruited and “aligned” with company BA practice.

As the business analysis unit matures it becomes a distinct business unit — the “Business Analysis Bureau” — reporting to the project management office and the CIO.

Once such a bureau has been established a shift begins to occur as strategic business analysis takes over from tactical business analysis, establishing an overall architecture that relates ICT to business strategy.

This is the beginning of a true “centre of excellence”, which not only handles BA within the organisation but keeps an eye on industry BA best-practice, and conducts studies on how to best apply this to the organisation.

There will be attacks to fend off along the way, he says. BAs will be called “geeks” and the cliché “paralysis by analysis” will be trotted out.

“Sometimes you [also] need to fight off IT and let them know that you are part of the process, too,” says Brûlé.

A plan should set up to facilitate this evolution, Brûlé says.

“If you don’t, you will fail. You have to practise what you preach.”

As the process involves developing people’s skills the human resources department also has to be involved.

Lowering risk, increasing the value gained from ICT projects, better use of resources and ensuring a better fit between ICT and company strategies are the goals here.

While the first phase, involving developing a centre of excellence, can be run through in 18 months, the whole process can be expected to take “five years minimum” says Brûlé.

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