8 Questions Every Business Analyst Should Ask
It doesn't matter what project you are going to undertake or what industry you are going to assess. What is important is that you know what you are going to do. You must ask questions and find out what the client wants. Presented here is a list of obvious questions that every good business analyst should know the answer to when starting a project.
What problem is this business having that you hope to solve by developing this project? It should be obvious why you would ask that question. If you don't understand the problem, you can't help solve it. Also, when reading the project program, it may not be clear what the client actually wants. The scope may only tell you what they would like to see happen, but it may not focus on the true issues.
What is the business currently doing to alleviate or solve the issue? What has been tried in the past? You must understand what the client is doing in order to understand what needs to be done. You don't want to develop a project plan overview only to have someone tell you it has already been tried. Listen to the customer and find out what they have done. Ask questions while you are listening and brainstorm ideas. Also, listen to what hasn't worked.
What internal resources will this project be utilizing? What external resources will be necessary? You will want to determine where your help and team players are coming from. You may be familiar with most of the IT, but if the client wants to outsource, it is a different game. You may have to make a list of external interactions and define the company's strengths and weaknesses. This can be very advantageous.
Have you determined a vision for the project? The business analyst will compare this scope with the one they will develop to ensure consistency and alignment. In other words, make sure you are on the same page. This is sometimes easier said than done, but communication is the key to success with this question.
What risks do you foresee and are you willing to take them? A conservative client may not be inclined to take large risks. Getting them to be specific can help when generating the project program. You may also be able to overcome some of their fears or doubts by explaining the risk factor more thoroughly.
Are you under any time constraints? There has to be a set time frame for the outcome. A goal can be reached for any project if time is not a factor. Most clients have time constraints that affect every aspect of the business. You will want to know what these are and plan accordingly.
What is the projected cost of the program? An aggressive business analyst may be blunt and honest by asking, "What is the projected budget and can it be deviated from?" Sometimes certain steps must be taken that can cause a project to go over budget. Other plans of action may not need to be implemented because management was not fully aware of certain available assets. It is best to know exactly what is going into this project for the project program to succeed.
Who is the end user? What support will they have? You will need to know this in order for the program to fulfill its purpose. Marketing data must also be collected to incorporate what the end user is asking for. The goal is to reach the objective with everyone satisfied. A business analyst cannot do this without talking to and listening to everyone involved.