Business Planning Process: Role of Business Analyst
The business analyst role is increasingly playing an integral role in business planning and success. Planning is as crucial to the business as its life. It involves setting the mission, strategies, goals, and objectives of the business to keep it going and growing through a specified timeline and the BA plays an active role throughout this process.
Business planning also involves identification of improvement areas, allocation of resources, and a framework through which the organization maps and tracks the achievement of its goals. Planning will include allocation of resources because resources will ever be limited therefore business owners are required to allocate resources equitably to requirements and demands of the business to achieve optimum ROI from net worth.
Importance of business planning
It is important for the business analyst to have an overview of the entire business. This is because during the formulation of the business plan, research, and prioritize requirements for projects before committing any cost to them will be based on this knowledge. For this reason, a business analyst certification should be part of BAs arsenal as it offers proof of the skills he/she possesses and the ability to execute business analysis related tasks.
Here are other reasons why business planning is important.
- The overall purpose of business planning is to bring all stakeholders in the organization to constant awareness and understanding of the objectives of the organization and create processes through which these objectives will be achieved
- It helps the management and the business analyst to coordinate input from different disciplines within the organization effectively. This ensures that strategy building involves staff at all levels while at the same time bridging them with the management
- Planning creates a platform for data-driven deliberation from different departmental managers, of strategies that will create the most value to the business.
- Planning helps the business focus on strategies that keep the business ahead of the competition by maximizing returns, increasing customer satisfaction, and ensuring optimal use of resources
- Within the business plan are control measures and KPIs that enable the management to track and evaluate the achievement of the goals and objectives it has set.
Business planning process
For an existing business, a strategic plan would cover the next three to five years. However, for some particularly larger organizations and multinationals, this plan would determine the direction of the business over a span of 20 years or more. The strategic planning process addresses 4 crucial questions prior to the implementation of the strategy as discussed below.
- Where are we now?
It is crucial to assess the current position of the business to develop a roadmap that will take it to the future. This involves evaluating the business’ current operations, identifying areas of improvement along with specific courses of action to be taken, and their timelines.
It is at this stage that the business comes up with key performance indicators for the business goals. Indicators can be measured in terms of revenue, service volume, customer feedback, reduced operation cost, or even service downtimes.
- Where do we want to go?
This question addresses the future of the business. At this point, goals and objectives together with the roadmaps to achieve them are formed. In other words, what would the ideal state of your business be like and what can be done to try and achieve this state.
- What do we do to get there?
This critical question looks at the strategy that the business will come up with to try and attain its ideal while at the same time staying ahead of the competition. The current status analysis is used as the basis for forming the strategy to achieve the set goals and objectives. Resources, both human and financial, are allocated at this point.
In answering this question, the business should give resource priority to initiatives that will add the greatest value to the business and those that are urgent. This means that the strategy should be as detailed as possible for effective resource allocation to be achieved.
- For whom are we doing it?
These include both the end customer and internal customers i.e the employees. Both these customers are success factors in the implementation of the business plan and will also factor in the business analysis process.
While the internal customer determines the implementation success of a strategic plan, external customers determine the value that the business should aim at delivering to increase customer satisfaction and ultimately market share.
- Implementation and monitoring
This step is an indication that after thorough research, deliberation, and preparation, a plan is in place and ready for implementation. It is the action-phase of the planning process and communication and engagement of all stakeholders is vital. During implementation, it is important to
- Allocate tasks in a way that execution will be done within the required timeline without overwhelming those involved in the implementation
- Monitor the implementation progress as well as the individual performance of those involved in the implementation
- Evaluate implementation progress against the objectives and the budget and adjust the requirements accordingly were needed to achieve the ultimate goal
The key to the implementation of both the strategic and business plan is the role of the business analyst. They are part of decision making and also steer the implementation process.
The role of business analysts in the business planning process
With technology advancement and the adoption of data-driven planning today, there is a need for well-coordinated involvement of various stakeholders in the planning process with the business analyst taking the leadership role. The business analyst, as an agent of change, takes the important role of knowing and understanding the goal of the business or the project and driving others to achieve it. In essence, businesses are relying more on business analysts for success in the achievement of organizational strategy.
Some crucial roles that business analysts play in strategic and business planning include:
- They are the bridge between business and IT in the organization. They possess both technical skills and business acumen to align the management and the technical team in achieving business goals.
- A business analyst identifies issues, proposes solutions, and provides an explanation of how the proposed solutions will address the issues and improve the organization’s operations. He makes sure that practical requirements for these issues are arrived at and well communicated and coordinated at both ends and that these requirements align with the business goals.
- It is the role of the analyst to perform analysis using various business analysis techniques and document the requirements including the scope, objectives, expected results, and value to the business. Typically, he will translate the objectives in a business plan to requirements for projects.
- The business analyst conducts external analysis for customer needs, gathers customer feedback, performs competition analysis and benchmarking, as well as analysis for market drivers. This information is vital when coming up with objectives during business planning.
- The business analyst is a communication agent. He liaises with stakeholders, communicates requirements for changes in systems and processes, and facilitates these changes while monitoring them to ensure that they are executed within the timelines and the budget set.
- In general, the business analyst keeps track of the overall direction of the business in line with the implementation of the objectives in the business plan. He evaluates progress against expectations and makes changes as necessary.
The BA role has over time evolved to a more strategic and leadership role that is relied on to initiate change and improvement in business operations. This requires them to possess technical, leadership, and analytical skills. As businesses grow into large complex corporations or multinationals, the role of the business analyst in development will be indispensable.
BAs assume roles like business systems analyst, business system planner, requirements engineers, principal solutions architect, and product manager among others. To get to these positions, a BA must keep updating his/her skills. As such, taking a course in business analysis should be the first step in their career journey.