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21 May 2011

Defining Success for Business Analysts

Congratulations. Now we know we have incomplete, potentially (certainly?) changing requirements, and a lousy ability to estimate the work anyway.

“So what?” I hear you ask.

Remember that discussion we had earlier about how you are a lynchpin of project success?

Remember how we – together as an industry (not just analysts) are changing the world? No? You don't remember this bit?  Well, take it as given that we are part of a bigger picture and that we are - in fact - part of the human journey into the future.

You are right in the middle of all this planning and estimating. You need to help.

What do I mean by Success? Why are we even talking about project success when talking about requirements management?  Aren't there  too many other factors that come into play?  Yes, there are many factors that contribute to a team's ability to meet success criteria, but few people are in the position that the business analyst is to shape the discussion around what success looks like.

Some research was done recently and the researchers came up with some aspects to why projects are considered successful. Here is an abbreviated version their list. What ones are most important to your client? Which are important to you? Write down your top three for the work you are doing at the moment. And now write down why these three?

  • Budget compliance
  • Scope compliance
  • Schedule compliance
  • Quality compliance
  • Value generated
  • People learning from the process
  • Simply getting it finished

Now, whichever of these aspects you picked consider for a moment how they are defined in a measurable and tangible way. Think of all the work that is done to try to set people’s expectations about how much a project will cost, how quickly it can get done, and how it will revolutionise the company with the fancy new features you are bringing to them.

Ask yourself to what degree people are listening when you talk to them about the cost/risk/benefits trade-offs you are dealing with. How much of their expectation comes from the facts you present versus a combination of their past experiences and their fantasies.

For me, what is most important about managing for success is the relationship between what they expect, and what they get. Or even more precisely, how they perceive what they get.

It can even be described in a little diagram;