Does your retail organization have Business Analysts?

If so, how effective are they at being a liaison between IT and stakeholders in Operations and Marketing?

Over the past 15 years serving major retailers, we’ve witnessed that Business Analysts typically lack the skills they need to be successful in their roles.

They are supposed to be able to translate the needs demanded by non-IT stakeholders into requirements that IT can work with.

They are supposed to understand the current systems and business processes, and how the new demands have to fit in without breaking anything.

As a project progresses, they are supposed to keep their finger on the pulse, input inevitable change requests, and keep all stakeholders in the loop every step of the way to hopefully foster project delivery that is on time, on budget and on spec.

But here’s the problem. As we wrote about in an earlier blog post, on average less than 40% of IT projects come in on time, on budget and on spec.

Now imagine if your Business Analysts could be instrumental in delivering a project on time, on budget and on spec. Wouldn’t that be amazing? They’d be sort of like IT superheroes, right?

At RedIron, we’ve been doing an experiment since the middle of 2014 to upgrade the skill sets of our Business Analysts to superhero status as “Traceability Engineers”. We talk more about this in our white paper, “How to Make Your Next Retail IT Project a Success”.

Here are two things that we’ve done, and you can also do these things with your Business Analysts:

1.  Better Equip Business Analysts For Requirements Elicitation

Most Business Analysts lack skills in requirements elicitation. Typically they receive a Word document or series of emails from several stakeholders with their requests. A few days later they receive more emails. Sometimes they receive requirements verbally. With an ad hoc elicitation process like this, it is no wonder that projects often get off to a bad start.

To solve this problem, start by developing a formal format for capturing requirements, and don’t launch a project until the requirements are captured in a way that makes sense for IT.

Next, to help the Business Analyst better communicate the format in which requirements need to stated in order to be actionable by IT, equip them with examples of requirements definitions and use cases from projects that you’ve successfully completed in the past.

For example, at RedIron, we now have an archive of more than 2,500 tried and true requirements definitions, use cases, test cases, project plans and issue logs that our Traceability Engineers can use as thought starters for our retail clients.

2.  Equip And Train Business Analysts To Implement Requirements Traceability

It is no secret that adding backwards and forwards traceability to each requirement can give retailers assurance that nothing has been missed, and that obviously greatly increases the chances of successful project delivery. Giving your Business Analysts the responsibility, tools and training to make this happen is what will ultimately qualify them to upgrade their status to “Traceability Engineer”.

The first step to accomplishing this is to get your requirements out of emails and Word documents and into one of the many UML software packages that are available like Enterprise Architect or Case Complete. It will take some time for your Business Analysts to become proficient using this software, but once they do it will become much easier for them to construct traceability matrices to provide end-to-end visibility into any given project and make sure that nothing is overlooked.

At RedIron, we’ve developed a Retail Traceability Engine, which is a set of custom tools and proprietary methodologies that our Traceability Engineers use to give our retail clients end-to-end visibility into their projects.

The results of our experiment to turn our Business Analysts into Traceability Engineer superheroes are documented in our white paper, “How to Make Your Next IT Project a Success”.

We invite you to download a complimentary copy by clicking on the graphic below.

Download our White Paper about fostering IT Project success