What Every Business Analyst Should Know About Analyzing Complex Projects

The relentless pace of technological progress and market changes drives businesses to work on increasingly more complex projects. With this increased complexity comes new challenges and roadblocks that business analysts must learn to overcome.

The complexity of a project can be determined by factors such as project size, time, cost, team composition, project methodology, scope, budget, to mention a few. To add to this complexity, business needs never stay the same for long. Business analysts often accurately identify requirements upfront only to find out that some requirements have changed dramatically by the time the project solution is close to implementation. This can however, be managed by interacting closely and continuously with stakeholders throughout the course of the project. Constant interaction can help to anticipate changes, respond early enough to them or postpone their implementation, where possible.

In the face of competing deadlines and the inherent complexities of software projects, prioritizing project information is key. BAs should focus on separating key information from the minutiae. It is rather unproductive to focus on each and every elusive detail as one can easily get lost in the details. The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, indicates that 80 percent of outcomes come from 20 percent of the possible causes. These “20 percents” are the most pressing issues which BAs need to focus on identifying—not insignificant details that are of lesser importance to the success of the project.

Another major roadblock to avoid on complex projects is analysis paralysis, a situation where an analyst enters a recursive cycle of analyzing information iteratively without any visible value-add. BAs can effectively combat this by setting concrete deadlines for analysis work. When set correctly, such deadlines encourage and enforce a certain level of consciousness that helps to focus on important information and relegate less important information to the background. By adopting an agile/lean philosophy, less can indeed become more.

With effective planning and strategizing, complexity on software projects can be managed. This does not however, negate the need for business analysts to be flexible enough to respond to business needs with agility.