Friday, February 24, 2012

Business Analysis in Content Management

Content management initiative starts with the analysis of the current situation and coming up with a solution and the strategy for this solution. This process is called business analysis. Business analysis can be defined as the discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems.

The usual problem in content management arena is that employees spend a lot of time searching for information, re-creating information and while they are doing it, they are not being efficient and productive, and so the company looses money. Employees also use obsolete documents in their work and so the integrity of work and compliance is at risk.

How is this problem solved? By implementing a content management initiative. The first step of it is business analysis. It involves requirements gathering and development process. During this process you identify the specific needs of the business and then develop and implement the solutions to meet them. This could be for example a new content management system deployment, modification of a current content management system, integrating few content management systems, designing a search solution, etc.

Business analysis techniques are applied to develop an appropriate plan and then put it in to action. One has to take the big picture and break it into smaller parts. Business analysis always focuses upon goals, but in a bi-directional fashion.

Business analysis can be implemented to both set goals, and to achieve them. These goals will cover strategic business practices encompassing IT, business processes, and corporate policies. For example, what support would IT provide to the project and if a CMS is implemented, would IT be able to support it? What vendors should be included in the selection list? What business processes need to be included in the system selection and deployment, and its governance? What corporate policies should be in place? What are legal and compliance policies? and etc.

The Three Phases of Business Analysis

Every time that business analysis techniques are applied, there is a natural three phase progression, which can be explained in this way:

Phase 1 - Why? - This phase is purely about fact finding. Normally, this will involve the formulation of a feasibility study to examine the business case put forward for changes.

Phase 2 - Work - In this phase the business analyst will develop a project or requirements plan, which will need to be agreed with all stakeholders, and then implemented.

Phase 3 - Working? - This is the final phase, where any changes implemented need to be proven as working. Additionally, at this phase the business analyst needs to confirm that all requirements have been met.

Business Analysis Techniques

Depending upon the market sector the enterprise sits within, different business analysis techniques will be applied. Different techniques may also be applied at project level. Some of the most common of these techniques are:

PESTLE - (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental) - it is a technique which is suitable for evaluating external factors and the effects they have upon the business.

SWOT - (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) - it is used to identify possible opportunities and any threats to the business by evaluating its strengths and weaknesses.

MOST - (Mission, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics) - it enables the organization to perform internal analysis and identify the best way to achieve its goals.

CATWOE - (Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner and Environmental Constraints) - it is used to identify the main processes and entities which may be affected by any changes the business makes.

MoSCoW - (Must or Should, Could or Would) - it is used to prioritize both proposed changes and business goals.

Methods used in business analysis are: focus groups, documentation analysis, surveys, user task analysis, process mapping, stakeholders interviews, use cases, user stories, personas, storyboards, etc.

As the result of this business analysis, you would have a clear picture of what your company needs and how to achieve this goal.

Based on gathered requirements, the business analyst would produce a document called either "Business Requirements Document for ABC Project" or "Project Requirements Document". This document should outline the background of the problem and the proposed solution. This document usually is being handed to major project sponsors for approval.

If the project is approved, the document becomes "Functional Specification" and handed to IT for the implementation. If the business analyst is a project manager and content manager, he/she would continue working with IT to put the project into action and complete it.

I will continue this subject in my future posts.

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