A colleague of mine was in a group discussion where another business analysts said that understanding business value was not their job; their job was to do what their business partner wanted. My colleague was nonplused and asked how I would respond.
I came down pretty strongly—they should ask because asking questions about value is their job, it is part of a business analyst’s professional responsibility. Asking your business partner about value is not second-guessing them, it is looking out for them. Further, when the business partner and business analyst work for the same organization, it’s the business analyst’s responsibility to act in the best interest of the organization. I’m not saying this is easy, just that it is important. (I do realize organizations vary; some business analysts work in organizations that have a strict division of responsibilities and they can’t pursue value.)
The first step to successful IT projects is making sure we are not wasting time on the wrong projects or features. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious, but how many of us have worked on projects that get cancelled or significantly de-scoped? What if all of that time had been spent on something of value? One very small study showed 19% of features are rarely used and 45% are never used. While the actual percentages vary for organizations and situations, this is enough of a cautionary tale to make sure we do focus on value.
And, yes, sometimes business value is hard to determine. If you’re having trouble the business objectives model is a great place to start. An organizational shift to understanding business value can take time. But, if you don’t start, you’ll never get there.