Five reasons why you need a business analyst as you move to the cloud

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Many organizations in the last year moved to Agile and eliminated the business analyst role. With the migration to the cloud the role of the business analyst is still being questioned. If you want to know what a business analyst can offer in this fast changing IT world as you migrate to the cloud; here are the answers.

1. Architecture

You start a small cake shop with a few specialty cupcakes. As your client base grows, you open shops in different locations; you engage working partners; you upgrade your inventory and start selling birthday cakes, wedding cakes, party decorations and even party favors (might as well). You grow and along with you - your applications and data. At this point you have a design that works for you but probably will not be categorized by an industry expert as "well-architected". Before you know it, you are ready to now move everything to the cloud - the biggest question is do you want to lift-and-shift this structure that has grown organically over a period of time or should you re-architect. A good business analyst can work with other stakeholders (system designers, SME’s , architects, business owners) to identify the different factors such as application stability, organizational policies and processes, performance factors, cloud native features, business needs etc and help evaluate the pros and cons of either of the approaches. He/she will be able to use one or a combination of the below listed techniques (in addition to others) in order to provide you with an idealistic view:
  • Decision Analysis
  • Estimation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Risk Analysis and Management

While re-architecting will cost you time and money, it will allow you to get the most out of the native cloud features. Lift-and-shift will get you a big thumbs-up from your stakeholders; have a comparatively quicker time to market and involve minimal rework. The output your BA produces can be used to draft a strategic roadmap for a successful migration and allow you to choose either one of these approaches or a combination of both.

2. Transition Requirements

The BABOK describes the transition requirements as - "the capabilities that the solution must have and the conditions the solution must meet to facilitate transition from the current state to the future state, but which are not needed once the change is complete." The transition requirement is a frequently overlooked requirement as it is most often seen as wastage. They are

  1. Temporary in nature;
  2. Can most probably not be elicited directly
  3. And is not the "shining star" among requirements unlike a NFR or a FR.

But transition requirements are critical as they provide a sense of comfort to the users and more importantly ensures that business continuity remains. In many organizations the business stakeholders continue to see the move to the cloud as a technological advancement with little or no business benefits. Identifying the right set of requirements and fulfilling them will ensure that the short term and long term needs of the customer has been addressed; and make the move to the cloud an enjoyable collaborative effort. Your BA will use one or a combination of the below listed BA techniques (in addition to others) in order to gather the transition requirements:

  • Data Flow Diagrams
  • Document Analysis
  • Interface Analysis
  • Interviews
  • Prioritization

With the right transition requirements you will be able to maintain

  • Interoperability between your systems
  • Seamless Integration between the old and new system

Both of these will enable you to continue treating your business needs as a priority and gain their trust and partnership.

3. Non-functional requirements

Hosting applications in the cloud adds a different layer of complexity. It is important to understand that the applications are not hosted by you at your home ground and that the "ilities" like reliability, usability, interoperability etc. could make or break the success of your migration project. Defining the non-functional requirements and seeking the help of your cloud service provider to continuously monitor them at a much affordable cost are some the benefits that the cloud migration brings to your table. As more and more nonfunctional requirements are being directly controlled by the service provider one would think that there is little in the scope of work for the internal teams. But there are still a lot of factors that organizations will need to control/provide internally. For example if you are a bank; security would probably be one of the biggest things in your mind; a social media company would look at availability as a key factor and a registration website would look for usability or performance. Your BA can help drill into each of these and draft specific needs for them across the different cloud infrastructure (on-prim, public, private, hybrid). A good business analyst will use one or a combination of the below listed BA techniques (in addition to others) in order to gather the NFR's
  • Non Functional requirement analysis
  • Use Cases
  • Brainstorming

Having the right set of requirements drafted will enable your organization's architect's to start working with your cloud provider on what requirements they can fulfill vs what the internal teams will need to work on. It will also allow them to define SLA's, establish contingency plans, discuss potential pitfalls and cost benefits with the stakeholder among other things.

4. Communication

The move to the cloud as easy as it is portrayed is one that requires a substantial amount of work. How did you want to host your application? Will it be a public cloud or private? How are your security protocols going to be established? Between your IT, security, infrastructure and architects; the business teams are often neglected. During backlog reviews and prioritization meetings, your business stakeholders are constantly getting the message that the IT teams are “migrating” the applications to the cloud and hence the current requirements will need to wait. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes organizations do. The more your stakeholders understand the why and the benefits, the more they will be a valuable partner to this effort. It is hence very important to create a communication plan that clearly identifies:
  • Who should the communication be directed too?
  • What is the channel of communication?
  • How often should you communicate?
  • What is the level of formality?
  • Where are the stakeholders located?

To arrive at a fool-proof communication plan your BA will use one or a combination of the below listed BA techniques (in addition to others)

  • Brainstorming
  • Organizational modelling
  • Interviews
  • Stakeholder list
  • Workshops

Your Business analysts will review the communication plan with all the stakeholders and ensure that their individual needs are met with. An effective communication plan is a critical piece to a successful cloud migration project.

5. Solution Evaluation

Evaluation is another critical element that does not get the right visibility in organizations. Having the right evaluation will not only ensure that you are engaging your stakeholders and getting constant feedback, but will also ensure that you are gathering the right metrics and focusing on setting yourself up for success in the oncoming migrations. Solution evaluation can be performed at various stages; some of which are listed below:
  • Proofs of Concept
  • Pilot or Beta releases
  • Pre-Production Releases

Evaluation could include analyzing the actual value being delivered, identifying the limitations which may be preventing value from being realized, and making recommendations to increase the value of the solution. A good BA can use one or a combination of the below listed BA techniques (in addition to others) to assess the performance, identify the value delivered by a solution and to recommend removal of barriers.

  • Acceptance and Evaluation Criteria
  • Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Observation
  • Use Cases and Scenarios

With the output from this exercise; an organization should be able to learn and grow effectively investing in avoiding wastage, eliminating redundancy, reducing complexity of interfaces or just know that you have deployed the best possible solution out there. The recommended pattern is to perform evaluation during certain logical points of the lifecycle of your project so that you are learning fast but not so fast that you don’t have enough data to learn from.

Happy Migrating!!


Author: Kavitha Narayanan, CBAP

Kavitha Narayanan is a certified business analyst professional with over 10+ years of experience. Currently working as a business analyst in a leading financial organization; she is passionate about doing things the first time right and seeing successful software being built out of the requirements gathered.
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COMMENTS

ryanmilligan posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 1:54 PM
Do you have any statistics to back up the claim that "many" organizations eliminated the business analyst role during a transition to Agile? I've read similar articles for a couple of years now but never see any evidence that it's true. Agile doesn't explicitly state the need for a BA but it also doesn't mention the need for DBA, technical architects, UX designers, or testers. Seems to me that Agile oversimplifies things and as a result people are misinterpreting what its true goal is.
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