Are you getting the complete view of your IT projects?

13 September 2016

What do IT projects and houses have in common? They’re both big investments, something that you’ll have to live with for an extended period of time, and with the potential to cost more than it’s worth if not investigated properly.

Many a person has walked into an open home and been blinded by love. The ambiance and homely feel has masked the borer holes in the floorboards, the rot under the window sills and the draft in the living room. The flaws are dismissed as ‘character’ and the hunger for possession overtakes even the most sensible of people. And then there’s the things you don’t see. What’s the land like? Is it structurally sound? What’s the property actually worth? These are things that the everyday person is unlikely to know and therefore needs to call in external experts – lawyers, building inspectors, property valuers, and mortgage brokers.

It’s common knowledge that when evaluating a property, you always get a second, third and even fourth independent opinion before purchasing to bring assurance that you’re making a practical investment. So why should it be any different when developing a significant IT project?

A high performing team of Business Analysts (BAs) is required for carrying out substantial IT projects, but getting the balance right between internal and external judgements is key to project success. Too much emphasis on external analysis and you may lose sight of the in depth understanding of the company’s needs - just like you wouldn’t purchase a home you’ve never visited, but had had all the external evaluations completed. On the flip side, only having internal analysis completed may result in missing certain issues due to having a narrower view - like buying a house without having it inspected by a qualified builder.

Internal BAs can have very strong domain expertise developed from working in your environment, but sometimes lack a wider picture of best practice across the industry. Business analysis is a dynamic discipline involving regular innovation in practice and tools. Remaining ‘methodology agnostic’, i.e. being aware of a range of best practices and applying the appropriate approach in a particular situation, is important to the success of projects.

Injecting independent, external BAs into the mix can make a significant difference, providing insights and neutral opinions and findings that are hard for internal or vendor BAs to provide.

Externally resourced BAs also give you an “on demand” resource that can scale with your projects, helping reduce overhead costs but also enabling you to respond quickly. You also get access to a broad range of practical experience across different domains and industry sectors, and also a wide and current awareness of best practice methodologies.

The outcome is a more independent analysis process, but also a more pragmatic one as external BAs aren’t restricted by being on-staff or allied with a vendor. They also tend to be focussed on quality from the early stages of the project, resulting in requirements that are inherently more testable, and the process of tracing faults found in testing back to requirements is made easier.

Just like buying a house, engaging with independent analysts who can view the situation without being blinded by love or ulterior motives is crucial to bringing assurance that you’re on the right track to making a good IT investment that will bring value to the company.

Qual IT have published a white paper that discusses the role of the BA in an IT project’s success and ways they can be better utilised. Download the white paper Creating more BA superheroes to learn more.