Laura provided A Glimpse at PMI’s Upcoming Business Analysis Standard in her last post. As we get closer to the SME and public review processes, I thought this week, we could discuss how to use the standard. I hear this quite often, “Our organization doesn’t follow the standard”. But…a standard is not prescriptive, so you can’t really “follow” it.
In this week’s post, I’ll demonstrate how to use PMI’s standard in business analysis by providing a cooking analogy (because I love to cook…and eat). A standard would describe what it means to cook, suggest cooking techniques and tools you could use to make a particular menu option, and indicate required ingredients to make that menu option. For instance, when making a pasta dish, at the bare minimum, you need pasta and water (inputs). You may use the following cooking techniques to make pasta: boiling, baking, stir-frying and maybe the following tools: pot, pasta strainer, and tongs. The standard can be used in conjunction with Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide (The Practice Guide) in case you need information on how to perform a technique or use a tool.
The standard will not provide the recipe to make the pasta dish—that’s up to you and your organization to create and tailor the recipe to your needs. There are many ways to perform the same process, as there are many recipes to make a pasta dish. You may also decide to make a simple pasta with tomato sauce one night and a multi-layered baked lasagna another night. Each of the business analysis processes in the standard can be performed with varying levels of formality dependent on multiple factors, like project life cycle, risk and complexity to name a few. The Practice Guide and standard will provide suggestions to tailor menu options if you’re looking for a simple vs. more complex recipe (i.e. adaptive vs. predictive considerations). Processes may also be tailored to accommodate stakeholder preferences, the same way a dish may be tailored to accommodate a customer’s request for alfredo instead of marinara sauce.
The methodology is like a multi-course prix fixe menu that the restaurant (organization) offers, from which the chefs (those who conduct business analysis) can pick and choose the menu options, and their associated, tools, techniques and ingredients. If the restaurant is striving for uniformity, the chefs can choose from among the recipes that the restaurant wants them to use. The menu (methodology) can also be tailored for similar reasons to why you may tailor a recipe (process). For instance, the prix fixe menu may provide the option to choose between a slice of cheesecake or the chocolate lava cake to top off your meal. Every process might not be used on every project, program or portfolio either, and that would be ok. It’s similar to how one wouldn’t order every item off the menu at a restaurant (although there have been occasions where I was tempted to test out the full dessert menu).
I was speaking with Liz Moore, another business analysis community member here at ProjectManagement.com, on how her organization adopted the business analysis framework described in The Practice Guide. First, when asked why it decided on PMI’s product, she replied, “The Practice Guide provided the inspiration for this internal framework primarily because it was practical and aligned to the project management framework while remaining true to the principles of business analysis.” Similar to how a chef cannot run a restaurant alone, a business analyst collaborates with many others to implement products and services. The Practice Guide and standard highlight the many collaboration points with other key players allowing for better alignment between professions.
Liz’s organization recognized that “there are various teams within the department who provide solutions for different stakeholders; we knew that each would apply the framework in a unique manner.” To accommodate this, they decided to define different use cases to reflect the various usages of the framework. I thought that was brilliant since use cases allow for flexibility on how a process may be implemented through alternate paths, while still ensuring consistent business analysis practices across the organization.
We would love to hear if there are other creative ways to implement a business analysis framework via the comments below! Or feel free to send me a direct message with any must-try recipes ;)