Understanding Business Requirements Are Essential For Analytics Projects

Analytics projects and the associated data preparation, storage, and management require continual effort. Sometimes mid-market organizations have a good sense of what they want to achieve and how they need to get there, but overlook the value of gathering in-depth business and technical requirements before diving into software and hardware selection. Many companies I have worked with base their choices on which solution provider is making the most noise in the market, their previous experience, or what their friends are doing within their respective organizations. Although a potential good first step, some of these organizations forego any additional evaluation to identify what would fit best based on the organization’s needs. Not evaluating requirements increases risk. Organizations may end up selecting a platform that can’t meet SLAs, doesn’t scale, or simply doesn’t offer essential product capabilities. This in turn can lead to longer implementation times, greater expenditures, lack of adoption, and the inability to meet changing requirements over time, just to name a few.

However, in some cases these risks are not enough for project sponsors to take a step back and evaluate business users’ needs, what the real questions are, and what type of technology will best meet these needs in the long run. Many think it is too time consuming or feel that they are already in tune with what analytics related issues exist, not understanding that high level requirements are no substitute for understanding the challenges people face on a daily basis. Consequently, successful analytics initiatives require an in-depth understanding of the business challenges being faced to ensure that tools selected address ongoing business needs, while ensuring security and scalability.

Proper requirements gathering requires time built in to the project plan to allow business analysts and project managers the time to adequately assess existing gaps and business challenges being faced by future users and those affected by the outcome of the analytics initiative. Understanding what gaps currently exist, people’s expectations of use, how often they will be interacting with information, how not having valid and reliable data affects their roles, and what they feel could enhance their jobs are all topics that need to be addressed. Once an organization understands how business challenges being faced and data overlap, they can work to translate those requirements into technical requirements used to identify specifications for the platform required. This choice will differ within each organization, meaning that leveraging knowledge from previous roles at other companies may or may not be the best fit moving forward. Understanding in-depth business requirements helps organizations identify the best fit technology requirements and provides support for the justifications needed for additional hardware and software acquisitions.

Although more time consuming, organizations willing to understand the challenges of their business users are more likely to ensure adoption as well, and help achieve a quicker time to value as users can access what they need out of the gate and not have to make requests for requirements that were never gathered.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.