Business Analysis Technique: Document Analysis

According to the BABOK® Guide, performing document analysis is one of the 16 required techniques in the fundamental knowledge base of an effective business analyst.   Wow, document analysis.  It sounds so … well… simple. Why would this technique be a required competency for a business analyst?  Let’s have a look.  

Document analysis allows the business analyst to analysts to elicit, confirm or cross-check project requirements information by studying existing documentation and other relevant information.  These secondary sources of information allow the business analyst to gather details of existing solutions (the ‘as is’ situation) to see if they have components that can be used or should be changed for the new solution that is being proposed (the ‘to be’ situation).  

Document analysis assumes that the existing documentation is easily available and up-to-date.  If the information is not up-to-date and valid, it will be of little help to the business analyst in eliciting or confirming the requirements.  The “existing stuff” is information prepared for another project or purpose but relevant to your requirements development efforts. This type of secondary data can be quite helpful during requirements elicitation.

In order to conduct document analysis, the business analyst steps through three stages – preparation, the actual document review and wrap-up.  Preparation involves locating and evaluating the relevant system and business documentation.  Given the amount of information that is available to everyone these days, I think that business analysts (me included!) should school themselves to take advantage of the trend and look for the good stuff. Document review is when we study the material, identify the relevant details (technical and business) and document them along with any questions we might have to follow-up on with the SMEs. Wrap up is the “get answers review and confirm” step.

I have my own checklist of secondary information sources that I use as a reminder when I am doing document analysis work or even just basic research about something.  The “existing stuff” may include:

  • Project and system documentation
  • Corporate-level documents
  • Annual reports, strategic plans
  • Books and other publications
  • Information out on the company intranet
  • The company website
  • Web sites of competitors
  • Organization charts, seating diagrams, phone lists
  • White papers
  • Technical standards and guidelines
  • Informal and casual sources
  • Internet research
  • Competitor demos and evaluations
  • Benchmarking studies
  • Trade journals
  • Issue registers
  • Quality registers
  • Demographic surveys
  • User guides
  • Market research information
  • Change requests
  • Problem reports
  • Help desk reports
  • Help desk logs
  • Newsletters
  • Meeting minutes
  • Information about related projects

Well, that is our closer look at one of the 16 recommended techniques used by business analysts, document analysis.  I have found the ”existing stuff” to be of great help on many projects, how about you? Sometimes it’s the informal, people-based information that is really helpful – kind of like a water cooler view of secondary information. I hope you find the checklist to be of assistance! Give a shout if you have another BABOK® technique you would like to explore in more detail!

Susan Weese

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