Part 2: Basic business analyst skills and concepts

Information gathering & Goal development techniques

In Part 2 of this six-part series of articles, we will continue to explore the basic skills and concepts of business analysis (BA). In this section, we will review and analyze the business analysis process of gathering data and setting proper project goals.

As we stated in Part 1, there are a variety of techniques and tools suggested by PMI that should be in your business analysis toolkit. In this article, we will describe seven of them and examine the pros and cons of each.

 1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming occurs in a group setting, headed by a facilitator, and is usually broken down into two parts: Idea generation and analysis.

The first part, idea generation, occurs as the facilitator introduces a topic or issue. A good facilitator will make sure all participants are taking an active role. The ideas or solutions expressed should be free form. As is the case in most group activities, the assembled group should feed off the ideas and solutions presented by the other group members. All the ideas and solutions should be recorded by the business analyst or a designated scribe so the entire group can see them and, in turn, invoke more ideas and solutions.

The second part, analysis, is designed to create a usable form of information from the initial list of ideas. The proper presentation of the ideas gathered in the idea generation part must be so that all parties have a clear and congruent vision of the landscape.

2. Document analysis

Simply stated, this is where the business analyst will review all available pertinent documents. The business analyst will extract the information that is relevant to the current initiative. The advantages of this form of elicitation include having access to hard data that others may not have. In addition, documentation tends to be more accurate than brain dumps from team members.

Lest you think that this is the easiest solution, the downside of document analysis is the danger that they are outdated, incorrect, difficult to access, or non-existent.

3. Focus groups

In this technique, the business analyst will assemble prequalified stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts (SME), ideally 8-12. The main objective is for the business analyst to learn about their expectations and attitudes towards a proposed product, service, or result.

The focus group facilitator will provide an outline of the team discussion. The facilitator will also be responsible for fostering a healthy team dynamic. Focus groups traditionally review completed work or prototypes.

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