Determine Solution Approach - Business Analyst

Purpose

To determine the most viable solution approach to meet the business need in enough detail to allow for definition of solution scope and prepare the business case.

Description

Solution Approach Definition

The solution approach describes the general approach that will be taken to create or acquire the new capabilities required to meet the business need. To determine the solution approach, it is necessary to identify possible approaches, determine the means by which the solution may be delivered (including the methodology and lifecycle to be used) and assess whether the organization is capable of implementing and effectively using a solution of that nature.

Some possible approaches include:

  • Utilize additional capabilities of existing software / hardware that already is available within the organization
  • Purchase or lease software / hardware from a supplier
  • Design and develop custom software
  • Add resources to the business or make organizational changes
  • Change the business procedures/processes
  • Partner with other organizations, or outsource work to suppliers

Input

Business Need: Possible solutions will be evaluated against the business need to ensure that it can be met by the selected approach.

Organizational Process Assets: The organization may require that specific approaches be taken to solutions of a given type (such as specific methodologies).

Required Capabilities: Identifies the new capabilities that any solution must support.

Elements

1. Alternative Generation

Identify as many potential options as possible to meet the business objectives and fill identified gaps in capabilities. The list of possible alternatives should include the option of doing nothing, as well as investigating alternatives that may allow the organization to buy time.

While there is no hard and fast rule that can be used to determine when enough alternatives have been investigated, some indicators are:

  • At least one of the alternative approaches is acceptable to key stakeholders;
  • At least some of the approaches are distinctly different from one another;
  • The effort to investigate alternatives is producing diminishing returns.

2. Assumptions and Constraints

Assumptions that may affect the chosen solution should be identified. Certain solutions may be ruled out because they are believed not to be viable technically or for cost reasons, while other approaches may be believed to be easier to execute than they really are. Similarly, the organization may be constrained from pursuing certain solution options for contractual reasons or because they do not fit with the infrastructure of the organization. Assumptions and constraints should be questioned to ensure that they are valid.

3. Ranking and Selection of Approaches

In order to assess an approach, record available information and analyze the operational, economic, technical, schedule - based, organizational, cultural, legal and marketing feasibility. Capture consistent information for each option to make it easier to compare them and review results to ensure accuracy and completeness.

In some cases, a particular solution approach may prove to be self - evidently superior to the alternatives. If this is not the case, solution approaches must be assessed and ranked. If there are only a few critical differences between solution options, it may be possible to make a qualitative assessment of those differences in order to make a selection. For more complex decision problems, a scoring system must be used, with sets of related requirements assigned a weighting to reflect their relative importance to the organization. Each solution is scored and the top-rated solution or solutions are then investigated in greater detail.

Techniques

1. General Techniques

Benchmarking : Identify solution approaches that have proven effective in other organizations.

Brainstorming : Used as a method of generating alternatives.

Decision Analysis : Rank and select possible solution approaches.

Estimation : Develop initial cost comparisons of possible solution approaches.

SWOT Analysis : Useful method of comparing possible approaches.

2. Feasibility Analysis

For small, relatively straightforward efforts, the solution approach can be determined by the business analyst alone or with a small team of experts examining the approaches in an informal working session. For larger change initiatives requiring significant investment, a more formal feasibility study may assist with determining the most viable solution option.

A feasibility study is a preliminary analysis of solution alternatives or options to determine whether and how each option can provide an expected business benefit to meet the business need. A feasibility study may address either a business problem to be resolved or a business opportunity to be exploited. Formal feasibility studies use reliable data and apply statistics and market research to identify and analyze potential solution options.

The feasibility analysis is an integral part of formulating a major business transformation project, e.g.re-engineering a core business process and supporting technology, establishing a new line of business, increasing market share through acquisition, or developing a new product or service. Abbreviated studies may also be conducted for change initiatives requiring lower investments.

Stakeholders

Customer, Domain SME, End User and Supplier: May be able to provide suggested approaches and identify assumptions and constraints.

Implementation SME: Will be needed to assess the feasibility of possible approaches.

Sponsor: May be the source of constraints on the solution options and will likely be required to approve the recommended approach.

Output

Solution Approach: A description of the approach that will be taken to implement a new set of capabilities. Solution approaches describe the types of solution components that will be delivered (new processes, a new software application, etc.) and may also describe the methodology that will be used to deliver those components.

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