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Solution Assessment and Validation

This is one of the knowledge areas for the business analysts as described in BABOK. This knowledge area deals with the solutions provided against the requirements. The solution should add a value and it is the duty of a business analyst to select, review and finalize the solution for the set of requirement. In this area the business analyst plays a very vital role as sometimes it’s his call to select the most appropriate from the list of the solutions. The solution selected by the business analyst should ensure that it meets the agreements between the stakeholders, enhance the business values and also do not contradict the organizational structures. So this knowledge area sometimes becomes more critical as the accepted solutions should meet the requirements of the business and the stakeholders should be able to understand the same. A business analyst should be able to explain the details of the most appropriate solution to all the stakeholders, so there may be some scenarios that he has to explain it to the people with minimum technical expertise.

Difference between Verification and Validation

Before moving further to learn more on solution assessment, let’s check out the difference between Verification and validation. On the first instance they both look almost similar, but there is a slight difference in the understanding.

Verification: To ensure that the selected work meets the specified requirements and the work is being done rightly on the product

Validation: To ensure that the selected work is on the track and it is being done on right product.

John E. Parker in his presentation defines the both as below:

Verification: Are we building the product right?

Validation: Are we building the right product?

The business analyst has to deal with the solution validation and he has to ensure that the selected solution supports the development of right product. The business analyst has to assure that the suggested solution is well explained to all the stakeholders and they all understand the same.

  1. Assess Proposed Solution

Once the solution to the requirements are proposed or finalized, they are assessed in order to determine their credibility with the requirements. The assessment is done to determine how closely the solutions meet the stakeholders’ requirements and in case of multiple proposals the best suited is finalized. This solution assessment needs complete information on each proposed solution to limit the scope of assumptions and constraints. To assess the proposed solutions, sometimes business analysts have to take strict decisions and thus s/he should know how to analyze the decisions in order to convince the other stakeholders on the same. The anticipated stakeholders who are involved in this technique are: Subject Matter Experts, Project managers, 3rd Party suppliers or vendors and business sponsors. The tips for business analysts are:

  • Understand the vision of the organization to determine whether the solution will deliver the value to the organization or not.
  • Understand the processes, rules, organizational changes and  functionalities
  • Evaluate the solutions against the business requirements and understand the vendor offerings and limitations.

  1. Allocate Requirements

Requirements and bundling of the same for a particular release is the ongoing process. The demand is to analyze the requirements and allocate them to the releases in order to get the maximum benefits. The business is dependent on the profits and to maximize the same the bundling and allocations of requirements is of utmost importance. The business value of a solution depends on how the requirements are classified and when the same are available to the stakeholders. The techniques which help in allocating the requirements may include the design of the use cases with external flows, functional decomposition of the requirements into smaller chunks and effective process modeling. The skilled business analysts know how to prioritize the requirements and allocate them to releases in order to get maximum benefits. The stakeholders who are involved in this technique are: customers and suppliers, domain experts, business owners, requirements analysts, project managers and others. The few tips to allocate requirements can be listed as below:

  • Break down the requirements and functionalities to smaller chunks
  • Work closely with design teams so that the proper analysis of the requirements and process models can be done to define the importance of the requirements
  • Consider the architectural design, implementation approach, business values, risk, complexity and other factors while defining the requirements
  1. Assess Organizational Readiness

The proposed solution once finalized should pass its credibility in the current organizational structure. That means the business analysts have to analyze whether the new solution is effective and the organization is ready for the organizational change. The need is to communicate the requirements and the solutions to all the stakeholders with all the pros and cons of the solutions and then the effective and majority accepted solution should be implemented. If the solution is affecting any other business unit within the organization, the stakeholders from those units should also be consulted or informed about the changes. Sometimes the organizations are not ready at the time of solution implementation but the business owners believe that the processes may get change with the future prospects thus the business analysts and other stakeholders should think of transitions and incremental development. The key stakeholders who are involved in verifying the organization readiness are: technical SMEs, Project managers, business sponsors and support team mates.

The techniques which help in identifying the organizational readiness are: Enterprise Analysis, Risk Analysis, SWOT analysis, operational planning, service design and transition. The few tips for BAs to prepare themselves to identify the organizational readiness are listed as below:

  • Understand the vision of the organization and verify the need of change with the organization’s current work and beliefs.
  • Understand the impact of the solution on the current roles and responsibilities of the key personnel and learn to convince the leaders and managers with the profits of the new solution.
  • Understand the current architecture and try to implement the solution within the scope of that. In case of need of increase of infrastructure, BA should be ready with the details.
  • Should be ready to explain to all the stakeholders with the changes and its impact in the current flow. The change in the process model and the work-flow should be well explained to key users with appropriate trainings.
  1. Define Transition Requirements

The new solutions within the enterprise are developed on the top of the old solutions and there are most cases when the organization has to maintain both new and old solutions running in parallel. This is to make the personnel and key users comfortable with the new functionalities and the requirements. During this phase there are certain capabilities which are to be developed by the implementation team in order to not only enable the stakeholders to accept the new solution but also make them comfortable with the newly proposed solutions. These capabilities are known as transition requirements and they are different from the actual requirements as they are only elicited, analyzed, communicated or defined once the solutions for the actual requirements are designed. They are more into helping in transition of AS-IS model to TO-BE and the key stakeholders involved here are: customer, end users, operation support, project manager, business sponsor, quality analysts. The tips for a BA to deal with transition requirements are listed as below:

  • Understand the data-flow and migrations including the interfaces via which the flow executes
  • Always keep the business owners and technical SMEs in loop while proposing the solutions so that the technical aspects of the flow can be discussed and analyzed well in advance
  • Work closely with QA team in order to understand the flow in test environments so that the better transition planning can be done.
  1. Validate Solutions

Once the solution is in place, the validation of the same is required in order to ensure that the delivered solution fits the business needs and in case of any variance in the flow, the same should be raised immediately. The issues or defects identified during validating the solutions should be treated on priority and the business analysts should know how to handle such situations. He on one hand should raise the issue with appropriate team and on the other hand the stakeholders should be informed about the known defects. This technique helps in identifying the defects in the process, the actions taken to mitigate those risks and help in assessing the solutions. The stakeholders involved in this technique are: SMEs, project owners, quality analysts and development representative. The tips for business analysts are:

  • Focus on strategic alignment and determine the credibility of the solution against the requirement.
  • Work closely with QA to check the test results and if required act as a virtual customer or end user.
  • Understand the user experience and escalation matrix.
  • Try to fix the defect as soon as it’s noted to avoid unnecessary costs and expenses in future as it’s accepted that the cost of fixing defects during operations is 150 times than the same determined and mitigated during requirement management.
  1. Evaluate Solution Performance

Solution once deployed should also be evaluated immediately in order to determine any post deployment affects on the existing functionality. This evaluation determines whether the solution is working as per the expectations and needs or not. In order to assess the solution and understand the issues, it’s important to understand the 3Ws around it. The 3Ws refer to when, where and why and the business analyst should immediately act in order to determine when the issue was reported, where it was reported and why the same is occurring. This helps in taking appropriate actions on time. The techniques involved in evaluating the solutions performance are: full understanding of the business requirements, knowledge of known defects or issues and the other related criteria for the assessment of the solution performance. The stakeholders involved are: Customers, end users, SMEs, operational support, development representative, business sponsor. This assessment helps in determining the relation between the solution and the business goals and objectives. The tips to business analysts are:

  • Understand the business requirements and in case of variations in the requirements the other responsible stakeholders should be informed.
  • Solution performance evaluation is the continuous process of envisioning results and implementation and thus the coordination with responsible stakeholders should be proper.

Thus with the above discussion we can determine that the two key components for solution assessment and validation are:

  • What is needed as the end result and whether the proposed solution fulfills the business requirements?
  •  When and how the solutions should be implemented in order to gain the maximum profit?

Happy Reading!!

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