Getting Started with Enterprise Analysis

by Jonathan Nituch12

As a business analyst, how important are opportunities to perform enterprise analysis to you?  For most BAs this work is highly coveted.  Who wouldn’t want to ascend beyond the tactical project requirements and become involved in the strategic decisions?  Moreover, there is also a sense that you can contribute value at that level.  This is probably the truer driver.

In this blog, I’ll take a look at the reasons why you should be interested in enterprise analysis and some tips on how you can become involved in this exciting aspect of business analysis.

Why you want to do Enterprise Analysis

Help the project before it starts.

Have you ever worked on a project that was not well-aligned to the organizations strategic goals?  If so, you have a sad story to share.  No matter how well you did your job as the BA for that project, success was out of your reach.  At the end of the project, you have produced a solution that works well, but it does not solve the right business need.  This is demoralizing.  It’s painful.  It is hard to go to work every day to make progress in the wrong direction.  Worst of all, you have a skillset that could have prevented this situation!  If only you had been called upon before the project started, you could have helped to avoid this mess.  Now you are stuck in a dead-end project and feel under-utilized.

Advance your career

This is pretty obvious.  If you are working on goals, objectives, and business cases that determine which projects will be undertaken, you are working at a higher level.  You will have more clout, respect, responsibility, and compensation.  You will be working with senior stakeholders within the organization.  All of these things increase your value as a professional and open more doors for you.

This is fun!

Let’s be honest, working at the strategic level is more fun than the tactical level.  Your role as a BA is to help organizations understand and reach their to be state.  It is very fulfilling when you see that to be become the as is.  The vision that you helped to define is now a reality.  Working at the enterprise level allows you to do this with more business needs.  Seeing to be states implemented where you were involved in defining the need, selecting the approach, and recommending the solution brings a great deal of pride and sense of accomplishment.

How do I get there?

Ok great, it seems pretty clear that enterprise analysis is something we should all be trying to get involved with.  How can you get there?  One thing is certain, you are not going to receive a call from the CEO asking if you have any spare time tomorrow.  You have to act.  Luckily, you are a BA who has strong communication skills and business knowledge.  You will need both.

Reach for the top

The idea here is to sell the concept of enterprise analysis all the way to the top of the organization.  Camp out in the executive lobby with a copy of the BABOK?  If you have the guts and are a great salesperson, you might get lucky.  Alternately, you could pitch the idea to your manager and climb the ladder all the way to boardroom.  You will need a lot of support and success at each point to succeed with this approach.  The problem is that you are missing two things: credibility and experience.  Why should the middle managers and executives listen to you?  Enterprise analysis might be a great idea, but you also don’t have the experience with it to instill confidence in your ability to deliver.  You are better off buying lotto tickets than choosing this approach.

Find some friends

There is a community of people that you do have credibility with: your past and current stakeholders.  These are individuals that you worked very hard to establish positive rapport with.  You know them and they know you.  You understand how they communicate and how they operate.  They are your greatest single asset to effect organizational change.  You can, and should, leverage these relationships to help bring enterprise analysis into your organization and into your work duties.

Build on a win

From that stakeholder group, choose some higher ranking individuals that you have a strong track record with.  I am talking about people who are happy to see you in the hallway: the stakeholders who thanked you for your project efforts.  Buy some coffees, pay for some lunches, and tell these supporters about enterprise analysis.  Explain to them that you can help them with their strategic work.  All managers have strategic work to do.  Do not think for one moment that strategy is limited only to the top-level executives.  Each layer of the organization has to develop strategies to reach the goals of the level above.  Ask to be involved with this activity.  If you have delivered for this stakeholder before, there is a good possibility they will give you a chance.

Make sure you deliver

Do your homework!  When this opportunity comes along, don’t blow it.  Get help and use your resources: contact your mentors, talk to your peers, engage the IIBA, consult books and watch webinars.  Be as prepared as you can be.  Do your best work and don’t hold anything back.  You will have a positive result.  You are a BA, and doing enterprise analysis still relies on elicitation, planning and monitoring, and requirements management and communication.  These are all skills you already possess.  You can and will add value and you willhelp your stakeholder.

Volunteer Your Time

What if you can’t find any support in your organization?  There could be a number of reasons for this, especially political ones.   You still have another option: non-profit organizations.  These organizations support some wonderful causes and are always low on financial resources.  Volunteering your professional skills here can be a great way to get Enterprise Analysis experience.  This work goes on your resume, adds to your capabilities, counts for CDUs, and helps a worthy cause.  In return, the not-for-profit can provide you with a real-world endorsement of the value you created for them by doing Enterprise Analysis.

Your stakeholder’s boss

Once you get this first engagement under your belt, you can now turn this into a campaign.  Your first EA success will lead to other assignments.  Here is the key: when a middle manager does their strategic work well, the person who benefits the most is their boss.  The layers of management map directly to higher and higher levels of strategy.  Your enterprise analysis success can build to another EA opportunity: one at the next higher level.

Keep on building

Congratulations!  You are on your way to making Enterprise Analysis a part of your regular duties.  Don’t forget that this isn’t all about you.  As I mentioned above, the real reason you want to do Enterprise Analysis is to contribute more.  You want your organization to be more effective and successful.  You care.  If you feel this way, you can’t stop when your own career goals are met.  You have to keep going.  Get other BAs involved in this work.  Let more managers experience the benefits of having a BA at the strategic table.  Keep on generating more wins. If you can create enough grassroots activity, sooner or later, that call from the executives will come.

Additional Information

Please join me on Wednesday, February 15th at Requirements Cafe for a free webinar titled Leading Innovation through Enterprise Analysis.

Have you tried any of the steps above in pursuit of doing some strategic BA work? or Do you have any additional ways or tips that you would like to share with the community? Please use the space below to  leave your comments, suggestions and tips.

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Jonathan is a bilingual Senior IT Manager with 17 years of technical experience and 12 years of management experience. He is the VP of Operations at Fortress Technology Planners, an IT consulting firm in Canada. His career is focused on using strategic planning to align systems with business needs and thereby create structural capital. A Project Management Professional and Certified Business Analysis Professional, he uses several tools and techniques to develop a clear and formal understanding of how businesses work and what they need from technology to be most effective and profitable. Jonathan has managed several large implementation projects of both IT infrastructure and ERP applications. Jonathan also teaches business analysis and project management at Sheridan and Conestoga Colleges. He enjoys travel, international food, and is an avid music fan.

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