Business Analysis and Testing
Kevin Brennan
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Kevin,

Would you agree that the business itself is a system?

The IIBA speaks of a system as “A set of interdependent components that interact in various ways to produce a set of desired outcomes” (IIBA, 2015, p. 1206).

I read that statement as the function of a system, not a definition. Within the context of this post, a “system” is any portion of the organization chosen for analysis. This mindset is aligned with the study of physics; which, along with maths, philosophy and behavioral physiology are the domains I bring to our profession.

Systems are either closed or open. We define these types depending on the context. In keeping with our topic, let’s agree that an open system is any part of an organization, under study, which attempts to adapt and change by interacting with itself and its external environment by taking inputs from itself and its environment, transforming them and sending the results of the transformation back to itself as organizational-stakeholders’ purpose and the environment as customers-stakeholders’ value. Everything outside the system under study is known as the environment. We ignore the system, except for its effects on the system and the system’s effects on the environment. If this transformation is done perfectly the organization avoids entropy and, as an extension, waste. Naturally, this state of equilibrium is not possible, consequently, entropy eventually pollutes the system. This phenomenon is seldom tracked or understood.

This redefinition requires us to accept that a business system contains all aspects of a solution, which by extension includes people, process, culture, the technology, and everything in between. The solution and all of its components, as I like to say.

Having realigned the concept and nature of a “system” within an organizational context, let us reexamine Kevin’s excellent post. Respectfully, I disagree.

I believe business analysts should conduct systems analysis, but not in the way traditionally conceived by organizations and put forth by this post. Business analysts are “systems” analysts, rather, business-systems analysts. My worldview promotes our profession as “Business-Systems Analysis” Utilizing a hyphen “-” between the words creates a new model for our profession. As Kevin points out, he does not expect his comments to change anything nor do I, for mine. I do expect, however, that business professionals begin to accept business analysis as more than meets the eye. We are more than requirements gatherers, document writers, and sometime-testers. We have a unique ability to focus on the many perspectives of business systems and the myriad components within. Our depth of analysis may be qualitative, quantitative, logical, physical, behavioral, or structural. Our perspective of focus may be on interactions between the people and the processes, the policies and the culture, or the customer’s perceived value and the organizations intended purpose. Regardless, I strongly hold that we must abandon our current ideas of what a business system is and let our BAs hypothesize, test, and experiment with the true nature of busines-systems (and all of the combinations and permutations therein) for the objective of reducing entropy, and increasing customer value and organizational purpose.

So the long and short of it is this: BAs should do systems analysis, in fact, that’s what we do! Organizations have short-sightedly defined “systems” in the “machine sense” limiting a BAs exposure and wholly underestimating the value they bring. Perhaps PMI will help us elevate this mindset with the release of its business analysis body of knowledge due in the fall of 2017.

Citation

IIBA. (2015). A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide) (3 ed.). International Institute of Business Analysis.

Perry J. McLeod, PMP, CBAP, SMC, SCAC, PMI-PBA, PMI-ACP

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