Business Analyst’s Mission: Advocate for Your Stakeholders’ Requirements

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Aug 26, 2018
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Business Requirements Advocacy is neglected in the business analysis practice!

Once considered to be an essential part of IT teams, the business analyst has become an integral position in any successful, market-driven organisation. Rightly said to be the change agents for any business, business analysts help organisations adapt to the changing environment while meeting the needs and demands of all their stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers.

In our article, “The Missions of a Business Analyst,” we explained how a business analyst helps organisations transition from the current state to a new and better state that offers greater opportunities. To achieve this objective, business analysts are required to perform three mandatory tasks, which can also be termed as the missions of a business analyst.

  1. To bridge the organisation’s core function with other support departments
  2. To elicit and advocate the needs and expectations of all stakeholders
  3. To deliver and add sustainable value to the organisation

When done the right way, these three tasks can put any organisation on the path to success.

Why Advocacy Is Important for a Business Analyst? One of the core missions of a business analyst is to advocate the needs and requirements of all stakeholders of a business. To understand why advocacy is a vital component of effective business analysis, let’s take a look at the definition of advocacy.

What Is Advocacy?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines advocacy as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” In business terms, advocacy can be described as “the act of defending business needs.”

Business advocacy can be of different types, such as customer advocacy, policy advocacy, systems advocacy, or owner’s self-advocacy. Since business advocacy necessarily protects the interests and needs of individuals and groups that may influence or be influenced by changes in business operations, strategies, and systems, we can safely say that ‘business advocacy’ is synonymous with ‘stakeholders’ advocacy’.

Why Do We Need Business Requirements Advocacy?

It is a common misconception that advocacy is for individuals who cannot raise their voice for their own rights. In the corporate world, advocacy is viewed from an entirely different perspective. The aim of business advocacy is to reach a solution that enables each party to retain as much control as possible.

The need for business requirements advocacy arises from gaps in the levels of understanding of different business functions. For example, during the implementation of a new technological solution, non-tech departments, such as marketing, HR, and administration, are often considered to be at a disadvantage because of their lack of understanding of new technologies. In such instances, the business needs an advocate who can provide information and advice to the stakeholders and assist them to take an action to resolve their concerns or queries.

Elicitation of Stakeholders’ Requirements – A Key Component of Business Analysis

We have already discussed in previous articles that elicitation of stakeholders’ requirements is an important component of effective business analysis. But why is it necessary? What value does it add to business analysis?

Requirements serve as the foundation for any business. When a company initiates its operations, it offers products or services that not only fulfil customers’ needs and requirements but also offer a good profit margin—one of the needs of any business owner. Similarly, as a company continues to operate in a particular industry, the number of individuals associated with the company increase, and now the company is required to take care of the requirements of all stakeholders. The inability to address the needs of stakeholders may affect the reputation and profitability of a business.

To address the needs of stakeholders, a company must first understand them. A company may have more than a dozen stakeholders, all of them with varying needs. This is where the role of a business analyst comes in. An organisation needs a third-party individual who can evaluate these requirements and prioritise them in an unbiased manner.

The job of a business analyst is to elicit all the latent and visible requirements and craft an all-in-one solution to them. To fulfil this responsibility, a business analyst may use different elicitation tools and techniques, such as brainstorming, focus group meetings, interviews, document analysis, etc.

By eliciting and documenting stakeholders’ requirements, a business analyst makes a promise to them that the final deliverable will be a complete and accurate solution to all their needs. No matter the nature and size of the project, a business analyst is responsible to get approval of all the supporting functions that may be influenced by a solution. To achieve a consensus across all impacted function, business requirements advocacy becomes essential.

Another important consideration is the understanding that for a business analyst, stakeholders are like internal clients. A business analyst must serve them in the same way a company serves its clients. He or she must use the best available tools to provide them with high-quality services. The term ‘service’ here means elicitation of requirements and development and implementation of a solution that addresses them.

Organisations Today Are in Dire Need of a Business Advocate

With business specialisation and technology advancement, organisations have become much more complex. Today every organisation, big or small, has multiple departments or business functions, each of which has a say in a business decision. Put simply, organisations are structured in core business functions and enabling functions.

Core business functions are the functions that are closely related to a firm’s strategy or core activity. For example, for a pharmaceutical industry, production and research and development departments would be considered core business functions. On the contrary, enabling functions are responsible for supporting the organisation’s core function. For example, administration and the HR department are the enabling functions of a pharmaceutical industry.

The following table summarises some enabling functions of a modern organisation and their objectives.

Enabling Function
Objective
Human Resource Management
Maintain best practices in HR management, such as training and development, orientation, recruitment, etc.
Risk Management
Identify, assess, and manage business risks
Information Technology
Support IT infrastructure, telecommunication network, data management, etc.
Finance
Manage the accounting and treasury functions
Legal and Compliance Services
Ensure that the organisation’s processes, functions, and products/services are in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations
Office and Facilities Management
Provide support services to the organisation staff for effective functioning in the office environment

Ideally, the relationship between core business function and support business functions is service-oriented. The core function is responsible to provide the company’s offerings to the external customers, while the support departments or enabling departments provide support services to the core function, which is considered to be the internal customer here.

In reality, gaps exist between core functions and enabling functions. At times, enabling functions might have limited capabilities to provide the essential support to core functions, which may lead to compromised delivery and the quality of products or services. Apart from insufficient resources, enabling functions might fail to provide services to the core function due to a conflict in priorities. In such instances, a business analyst can serve the role of an advocate and develop a solution that satisfies the needs and demands of all stakeholders.

When there are conflicting priorities, a business analyst serves the role of negotiator and helps the stakeholders reach a solution that delivers maximum value to each party involved in the process. It is important for a business analyst to understand that not all conflicts are bad. Conflicts can be an indication of a stakeholder’s dissatisfaction with the solution presented. In such conditions, a business analyst should use their elicitation and analytical skills to gauge the situation and develop a strategy for successful resolution of the issue.

Business requirements advocacy might look like an easy job, but it demands great skills, knowledge, and experience. Elicitation of stakeholders’ requirements is fundamental to effective business analysis, and this can only be done by an individual who has a grasp on all enabling functions and the core function of an organisation.

The role of business analyst is a leadership role, and moving into a leadership role requires energy and effort. Do you aspire to take the role of a business analyst? If you do, keep reading our articles to learn more about this key business job position.


Author: Adam Alami, PhD Fellow, IT University of Copenhagen

Adam Alami is a PhD fellow at the IT University of Copenhagen. Adam has a wealth of experience in information technology practices. He started his career as a software developer, then moved to business analysis and project management. His 20 years’ experience revolves around major business transformation projects and process improvement. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.

He has a track of academic achievements. He holds a Bachelor degree on Software Engineering from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) and a Master degree on Computing from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

Email: adamalami2016@gmail.com

 





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