How do you gain an understanding of an industry in which you previously had no experience?

To gain a quick yet sufficient understanding of a new industry the business analyst must choose tools and techniques that generate a high-level, overarching view of the space with the least amount of time investment possible.  

The first, and possibly most effective, tool for this purpose is the business entity model.   The business entity model (or logical data model) documents the “things” or “nouns” that the business uses or interacts with in order to accomplish their work.  Examples might be a bond, a loan, a borrower, a stock, a savings account, etc. 

After the entities of the business are identified, attributes which describe each entity are also identified. So a “Borrower” may have attributes such as Name, SSN, Date of Birth, etc.  In this way, the attributes further refine our understanding of the "things" within our domain.

Finally, the relationships between entities are identified.  For example, a Borrower can have a Loan, and a Loan can have Collateral. 

As attributes and relationships are identified for each entity, the business analyst and the rest of the project team can quickly understand the details of the business domain regardless of the level of previous domain knowledge.  While a business entity model will continue to be updated and refined over time, creating a basic business entity model early on does not require a great deal of time.

Another great tool is the context diagram.  The Context Diagram (a specialized version of a data flow diagram) shows a system under consideration as a single high-level process and then shows the relationship that the system has with other external entities (systems, organizational groups, external data stores, etc.)  So it maps the domain in terms of processes, the data used by those processes, and the movement of data throughout an organization. In this way, the Context Diagram works hand-in-hand with the Business Entity Model using the information already documented.

Chris Adams
LinkedIn Profile

posted @ Sunday, December 7, 2014 4:21 PM by Chris Adams