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How to make your projects take off without delay: why do you need business analysis?

  How to make your projects take off without delay: why do you need business analysis?

By Mathieu Beirlaen |Posted on 12 April, 2019

When construction started for the brand new Berlin Brandenburg Airport in 2006, the envisioned opening date for the airport was October 30th, 2011. In the course of 2010 it became clear that this deadline was not realistic. Opening was postponed until 2012. In 2012 opening was postponed until 2013, and so on. At the time of writing, the airport remains closed. Its current scheduled opening date is in 2020. The airport’s Wikipedia page reads a bit like the script of a slapstick movie, piling up production missteps, misunderstandings, and controversies.   

The repetive failures in the Brandenburg Airport project are striking in their size, extent, and geography (planning and construction efficiency gone bad in Germany, of all places!). Unfortunately, they are no exception. Smaller projects in all sectors and disciplines commonly suffer the same fate. Why do so many projects fail?

Why do projects fail?

The 2018 survey of the Project Management Institute (PMI) shows that the most prominent causes of failure involve defining a project’s priorities, its scope, and its objectives, as well as poor communication between those involved. The Brandenburg Airport project is a case in point. CIO magazine lists scope creep as a fundamental reason for the project’s failure. During construction, for instance, it was decided to dramatically enlarge the airport’s floor space, and to add a second level to the original plan. Bad communication is listed as well. Berlin’s mayor and chairman of the project’s supervisory board was accused of pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t. He was removed as chairman in 2013.

causes of project failures

The PMI data suggest that, when we  embark on a project, we need a crystal clear understanding of what we intend to achieve, and of how we want to achieve it. Moreover, we need to know who is involved and who isn’t, and we need to make sure all stakeholders’ needs are understood and well-communicated. Without such an understanding, our project is doomed to fail. But who are we gonna call to deliver all this?

The business analyst, of course! The business analyst is trained to swiftly gain a deep understanding of an organization’s structure and operations, and to uncover root causes underlying business problems. She has the soft skills needed to facilitate communication between stakeholders by creating a space where all voices can be heard, and where conflicts can be tackled when they surface. Moreover, she masters formal methods and techniques aimed at recommending appropriate solutions when needed.

What difference can a business analyst make?

Planning, developing, and testing a solution is of course vital and essential to any project’s success, but the data shows that we need more than this. To prevent things from going astray, we need someone who keeps the problem and its solution in focus so that we don’t end up solving the wrong problem or, as in the Brandenburg airport case, a problem that grew far beyond its original scope. To avoid miscommunication as much as possible, and to ensure that all stakeholders remain fully engaged with the project, we also need someone who adopts a holistic approach, covering all business aspects. As Debra Paul and Lynda Girvan point out in relation to IT projects,

The IT system may be at the heart of the solution, enabling the business improvement, but without consideration of the people, their processes, work practices and information needs – and the organisational structure and culture – the solution will not deliver the promised benefits 

(D. Paul & L. Girvan, Agile and Business Analysis, BCS Learning & Development, 2017, p.4)

The business analyst has no stake of her own in the project, which gives her the neutral perspective needed to approach the problem from all business sides. Her neutrality, her communication skills and her technical toolbox put her in a unique position that allows her to add great value. If you want your project to take off without delays, you’ll need her in your team.


Would you like a business analyst to take a look at your project? Get in touch here.

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