Four reasons why to start with analysis before implementing a new information management system
The following four aspects explain why investing in business requirements analysis is worthwhile before developing a new system.
The examples given in the article are from the project of a non-IT customer who wanted to implement a new intranet based on Confluence.
Finding the right problem
The problems of the current situation are often felt in many departments and through different roles. Collecting subjective input from the organization’s members is necessary to map them accurately.
At the same time, it is crucial that a person feels relaxed and safe when sharing their thoughts.
By communicating the purpose of the activity, it is possible to create a pleasant atmosphere — the idea is not to point fingers but to find potential areas for improvement and to act more effectively in the future.
There are many ways to conduct a problem-mapping stage, and the most optimal methodology depends on the specific project and the company’s size.
We have observed that a workshop led by a specialist (service designer, analyst, or both) helps to create an unbiased and free working environment.
The involvement of an external partner frees the client from the obligation to find a person from within the company to map the problems. It ensures a systematic, impartial, and experiential approach.
A thorough mapping of problems, their categorization, and concise framing helps better understand the bottlenecks and their possible scope and influence.
In the case of our customer’s example, it turned out that the pain points were:
- Information silos (too many different applications, lack of coherence in information exchange).
- lack of knowledge of the company’s values and culture (ethics, responsible involvement of colleagues in internal programs);
- in processes (processes influenced by legislation that needed to be digitized).
As a result of framing the problem, it was possible to formulate the problem: the digitalization of communication was insufficient.
Acknowledging and relating to the right problem allows you to move forward and set the goal.
A solid goal — what and for whom we want to change
Defining short- and long-term goals helps frame expectations for the to-be solution and guides us to create such a solution that supports the company’s processes most efficiently.
The right problem (in the case of our customer, incomplete digitalization of communication) in turn, helps to formulate the goal of the project:
“Create an intranet customized for our company using Confluence to digitize internal communication and document management.”
But to fulfil the goal, we need to distinguish user roles who will use the solution.
In our customer example, typical users were warehouse workers, customer service specialists, IT specialists, unit managers, a CEO, and potential employees.
In addition to standard activities — e.g. getting to know the company’s values, searching for contacts, quickly finding, and sharing current information, viewing the calendar of events — each user type also performs activities specific to their role in the intranet.
Linking activities to user roles requires prior description and categorization of activity mapping and categorization. For example, submitting a leave request may be classified under the leave management category.
An activity category can have multiple user roles associated, but the specific activity and user role determine the exact relationships. Let’s take, for example, the “occupational safety” category and activities related to filling out a related document:
- A department head changes an occupational safety manual.
- Following the change, a user must be notified that the occupational safety manual related to his position has been changed.
- Following the change, a notification about a work task will appear on a user’s dashboard (task to read the updated manual and take the test)
- The user reads the manual by the specified deadline and confirms that they got the new information.
- The user completes the test (control of understanding the instructions) by the specified deadline for a positive result.
- The registry entry of the positive performance of the test will automatically appear on the user’s profile.
- Following the positive performance of the test, the user signs a document that they understood the updated manual, which is saved in the digital archive of the intranet (requirement comes from the legislation).
The activities above are described broadly and from the “best case scenario” perspective. However, such a list of stages does not give us an overview of other possible scenarios, for example, if:
- The user does not read the manual by the specified deadline,
- The user does not complete the test for a positive result by the deadline set.
- The user performs the test on paper (how to create a digital copy of the result).
A process model helps to understand complex processes involving multiple parties.
A common understanding of processes and requirements
Classically — the bigger the organization, the more different processes are involved.
Creating a process model helps to see the process as a whole and minimizes the chance that a variable with a significant impact is overlooked.
Depicting a process as a model helps us to identify functional requirements that didn’t become apparent beforehand and therefore allows us to identify desired functionalities and think about technical solutions.
Possible limitations must be considered if the intranet is implemented on top of an existing product (Confluence in this example).
Specific requirements — for example, automatic actions or certain restrictions (e.g. restriction to open the document before the test is completed) — can only be implemented with the help of additional applications.
Thinking about potential technical solutions in parallel with process mapping facilitates managing expectations and helps evaluate the balance of cost and reward.
The rapidly growing organization is like an extreme sport in today’s agile world. To stay competitive and achieve results, we need intelligent and innovative solutions.
The analysis phase helps to identify the right problem, set a goal, think about the user and create a detailed overview of the processes and possible technical solutions.
Unlike the initial vision, implementing specific processes and automation may require more custom developments than initially thought.
In summary, we can rule out solutions that do not fulfil the goal nor create a valuable (support) system that is thoughtfully designed and meets the company’s actual needs.