Business analysis techniques

Business analysts spend a lot of time reviewing business systems and processes, ensuring they’re implemented in the most efficient manner possible.

Business analysts must collect all information regarding product development in a process called requirements analysis. The purpose of business requirements analysis is to identify what a product will do and to understand what users want the product to do, then making sure everyone involved in development understand this.

Requirements analysis involves a lot of communication. Business analysts must work with users to determine what they expect of a product. They must also work with development teams to ensure that there’s no ambiguity in what requirements are demanded by users.

It’s hardly a simple task but adopting a systematic approach increases the chance of getting it right the first time. The following business analysis techniques are all examples of some methods a business analyst might use.

SWOT analysis

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique used in the preliminary stages of product development. It can be used to gauge the current landscape of your business before making any changes to policy.

SWOT analysis can help an organisation identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to project planning.

Strengths and weaknesses refer to internal factors. These are the resources and experience – or lack thereof – available to an organization. These might include offices and equipment, employees and experience or funding

Opportunities and threats are external factors that we can’t control but might still affect a project. These might include economic trends, new technology or even natural disasters.

SWOT analysis must start with a clearly defined end-goal, it then helps determine how practical it will be to achieve. Looking at a combination of weaknesses and threats for example, might reveal an overlooked flaw in your design.

Always look for potential connections in the SWOT matrix. Can your strengths overcome external threats? Are your weaknesses perhaps offset by an external opportunity?  

SWOT can be used in combination with other analysis techniques to methodically and objectively analyse what an organisation can do within the wider economic context.

MOST analysis

MOST analysis is a technique used in strategy planning to help achieve long-term goals.

There are 4 aspects to MOST: Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics.

The mission defines what your long-term goals may be. This mission statement should be as specific as possible rather than an arbitrary statement of your values. For example, “I want to be the best barber in London” works much better than “I want to be the best barber I can be.”

Objectives are the list of steps you want to take to achieve your mission goal. A few examples of possible objectives may be to attract ‘x’ number of customers from other competitors or grow sales by ‘x’% each month. These should all have measurable outcomes to evaluate how successful your strategy is.

Strategy includes the things you might do to achieve your objectives. Continuing from the previous example, if your objective is to attract ‘x’ number of customers from other competitors, a complementing strategy might be to offer a discount to first-time customers.

The final asset in your MOST toolset are tactics. These are thing things you might do to implement your strategies. So, if you want to offer new customers a discount, one tactic may be to design and print coupons. Tactics define what you do on a day-to-day basis, ensuring your they align with your strategy will guide you in the right direction towards your mission.

Each step of MOST analysis builds onto the next. MOST analysis helps ensure consistency, making sure you don’t get lost in all the steps between mission and tactics. So long as you plan each phase logically, keeping in mind how each step will feed into the next, MOST helps align your own personal input with overall business goals.

PEST analysis

PEST analysis is a widely used strategic planning tool. While SWOT and MOST analysis can be applied to organizations of varying size, PEST is primarily used by large enterprises who must pay close attention to a wide array of external factors.

PEST accounts for: Political factors – such as employment laws or trade restrictions. Economic factors – inflation rates or government fiscal policy. Social factors – like age demographics or cultural aspects, and Technological factors – including infrastructure or technological innovation.

Occasionally a PEST analysis may be expanded to a PESTLE analysis to include legal and environmental factors.

PEST can help provide a crucial overview of external influences and how these might affect an organization’s strategy in the future. PEST analysis should be repeated at regular intervals to remain aware of changes in the external environment and plan accordingly.

PEST helps determine whether a chosen strategy will be effective in a wider macro-economic context.

CATWOE analysis

The CATWOE analysis process is designed to solve problems involving multiple conflicting interests in product development. It aims to holistically solve problems by looking at issues from a variety of viewpoints.

CATWOE accounts for the following stakeholder perspectives: Customers, Actors, Transformation, World-view, Owners and Environment.

Customers are the end-users and stakeholders of a product or service. The first step in CATWOE is to determine what problems customers face, whether they will benefit from change and how they might react to change.

Actors refers to employees. They ‘act out’ their roles within an organization and enact change. Understanding their interests helps you understand how they will affect – and be affected by – change within an organization.

Transformation is the process by which input – work-hours and resources – is transformed into an output – a product or solution to a problem. Its important to consider the steps of transformation and how this process might affect employees. For example, a change in strategy might require employees to work over-time, which may lead to delays in successive projects while tired workers recuperate.

World-view is arguably the most important step in a CATWOE analysis, it is definitely the most complex. This step requires an appreciation of all external stakeholders and third-parties who might be influenced by a decision. There are likely to be a multitude of conflicting interests and opinions that must be considered depending on geography, industry, culture etc.

Owners are the stakeholders who can instigate or stop change.

Environmental constraints refer to environmental laws, ethics and limited resources that can restrict an organization. It’s important to pay attention to any long-term effects your business might have on the external environment and how these factors might necessitate changes in the future.

CATWOE functions much like a checklist. The more stakeholders giving input, the more complete your list will be and the less likely it is that unexpected problems might develop in the future to which you have no solution.

POPIT model

While other business analysis techniques consider both internal and external factors, POPIT focuses exclusively on internal factors that influence product development. POPIT is also useful when deploying changes to business practice to determine where changes are needed and will be most effective.

The POPIT model looks at the following areas of internal corporate structure: Process, Organization, People, Information & Technology.

POPIT does not resolve issues, nor does it provide a guide for implementing strategy. Rather, it provides a framework that accounts for the interlinking aspects of internal business structure – most importantly the people that make these systems work – upon which you can base your decisions. Think of it as a method of troubleshooting.

POPIT can be used multiple times over the course of a project and can be referred to each time a strategy-changing decision is made.