Enterprise-analysis-Definition-and-application

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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Article by

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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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicki James February 7, 2012 at 12:21 am

What a great article on Enterprise Analysis that hits the nail on the head for why I have been chosen the route I have for my independent consulting business. In addition to speaking and writing, I seek projects close to home that I can be involved in to help the community (and my ability to keep food on the table). I have focused my local marketing on small business instead of pursuing government or big business contacts. This angle will not be as lucrative, but I will definitely get more job satisfaction. I want to help small business find and implement solutions that will bring greater value to their business. Seeing even small changes with big benefits is what I call a great day at work.

In regards to pursing opportunities for Enterprise Analysis, I would add make your own. You need a good business case with compelling data and an advocate who has the attention of the right people. Look for opportunities to start small and build up to farther reaching success. Find a quick win in your work unit, promote the success as yours (don’t be shy), and then look for opportunities with more impact throughout the organization. Eventually executives will come asking for your help in finding solutions to specific areas of concern.

One skill that a great EA needs is the ability to market and sell an solution. It is often not enough to be able to provide that a solution is correct. The decision makers need to feel passion in order to take the effort to implement changes. Think about the advertising pitches you have seen in movies or on TV where a team works day and night coming up with creative ways to sell their advertising idea. They then give this powerful presentation doing whatever it takes to land the sale. We need this energy and dedication with our improvement solutions. Storyboard the “to be”, arrange a demo, anything to go beyond words and invoke emotion.

The story of John Stegner’s Glove Shrine in Switch (Heath and Heath) is an excellent example of this. “What they say was a large expensive table, normally clean or with a few papers, now stacked high with gloves. Each of our executives stared at this display for a minutes. Then each said something like ‘we really buy all these different kinds of gloves?’ …They looked at two gloves that seemed exactly alike, yet one was marked $3.22 and the other $10.55.”

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: how to change things when change is hard. 1st. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2010.

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Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo February 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for this thought provoking comment, Vicki. It is indeed a pleasure to see your preference to work with small businesses, in order to have a greater impact and more job satisfaction. I think we all reach a point in our careers, where we know that money is not the primary intent of what we do (although a necessary one).

At the heart of every sales process, there is a well crafted persuasion and influencing process. I have been reading Robert Caldini’s “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion” and very inspired by his ideas and research. I couldn’t agree more on using the sales pitches to sell your point, when one can in their projects.

Thanks for for your thoughts and additional tips.

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Jonathan Nituch February 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Great comments Vicki! You are not the first BA who has mentioned to me the need for sales competency. Some have even suggested including sales in the underlying competencies of the BABOK. We are certainly on the same page in terms of the job satisfaction that EA work can produce.

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@JeffreyGoodReq February 10, 2012 at 4:56 am

Great post, Jonathan. This is a good outline for putting us in the position to change our projects for the better. Reading this, it is easy to see why Vicki compares this to consulting, because to do our job well we must become more impactful and do so at higher levels of the organization.

It’s not enough to be a good analyst, we need to be in a position to make a difference on your projects. As Gojko Adzic talks about in _Specification by Example_, we want to do more than build products right. We want to build the right products.

In order to build the right products, Business Analysts need to grow ourselves and our position. We must move up the food chain. Work with executives. Help with the strategy. Make a difference on the projects we touch and capitalize on our successes.

Thanks again, I hope the ideas here start to infect our discipline.

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Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo February 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I like the premise of your comment, Jeff. We should certainly aspire to help organizations work on the right change (products, projects, etc.); we can do this by helping our own project do some ‘soul-searching’ when we can initiate this within our team or try to extend beyond it when possible.

You are absolutely right about the need to grow ourselves and our position. We cannot grow ourselves if we stay in our own project cocoon and not be social enough to extend our reach and influence.

Thanks for the insightful comment.

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Anurag Mishra February 16, 2012 at 3:34 am

Good one!

One size does not fit all. Developing organization requires experience & specialization, where as small organization needs generalists and hybrids. So it is time for BAs to transform from tactical to strategic and also in hybrid mode.

Will not say that opportunity is not there…there is a strong demand and BAs have to prove themselves with the competency, functional and industrial knowledge.
There is a right saying by Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

When everyone else sees problems,Business Analysts should see opportunities.

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Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo February 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for the comment, Mishra. You are absolutely right about being a hybrid BA when the situation demands so. We need to be adaptive to the situation of the organization and try and put our best foot forward. In this post Jonathan has given some great tips on advancing into the strategy through some valuable tips that business analysts could employ.

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Katie Metcalfe February 26, 2012 at 12:23 am

Thanks for the article Jonathan. I like the “do your homework” and volunteer tips. I have just completed my first large enterprise strategy type project and can really relate to the comments about sales competency. Recommendations to change or improve the way an organization does what is does needs to be backed with strong and creative ways to sell these type of change ideas.

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Jonathan Nituch February 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks Katie, I also recently held a webinar titled Leading Innovation through Enterprise Analysis. This webinar includes an EA methodology that we have been using successfully at Fortress for many years. Free Webinar: http://bit.ly/wPMg1q

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Girish Naiak July 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

Great article, Thanks Jobathan!!

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