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Five Stages of Business Analysis (1)

Stage 1: Information Gathering

This stage consists of finding identifying the key people or other sources within the business that can tell you:

  • What the business OUGHT to be doing.
  • The order in which it ought to be done.
  • The information required to do it.
  • What this business modelling / systems development project ought to achieve.
  • Whether or not they support the project.
  • Who else you ought to be interviewing.

Information gathering can be done in three main ways:

  1. Using existing documents.
  2. Running strategic interviews.
  3. Running modelling workshops.

These methods are not mutually exclusive!  In a well run business modelling project each of them will be used as appropriate.

Existing Documents

In order to avoid unnecessarily repeating the work previously done by other analysts or business managers the first thing you should do is to identify all relevant existing documents that will help you to build up a meaningful “picture” of the business before you go into one-to-one strategic interviews.  Such documents would include:

  • Business strategy document for the business as a whole or for that part of the business being modelled.
  • Previous analysis documents produced by business managers or by the Information Systems departments as part of previous systems development.
  • Strategy documents produced by outside consultants as part of recent work.

The main reason for using existing documentation is to avoid wasting the time of busy people during one-to-one interviews; they are not to be used instead of one-to-one interviews.  They allow you to go to the interview properly prepared.

Using existing documents can be fraught with danger for many reasons:

  • The documents can be out of date, with little relevance to what the business ought to be doing now and in the future.
  • They can be vague.  Strategy documents are all too often written in vague “mission statement” terms with the real business strategy locked in the heads of directors and senior executives.
  • Documents written by outside consultants can be also be vague and written in such a manner that, without having the consultant who wrote the document present to explain what they mean, could be open to several interpretations.
  • Analysis documents produced by the Information Systems / Computing Department are all too often written in jargon or in terms of perceived or existing system solutions as opposed to meaningful business terms.

So, before getting too embroiled in existing documents, you should evaluate their quality and, if they pass evaluation, use them to prepare for one-to-one interviews.

You must also make sure that the documents and models that you produce during this business modelling project do not end up joining the rest of the unused and unusable documents produced up until now.

Using the elements of IMM in the way that I recommend, plus your skills as an analyst and some common sense will ensure that the likelihood of that happening is very, very low!

In my next post I will describe, step-by-step, how to guarantee success from strategic interviews.

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