When we talk about Strategy Analysis, we are referencing the activities and analysis that is performed to ensure alignment with business goals and to address a business need. We ensure that the need has strategic or tactical importance to stakeholders and that proposed solutions meet the need and fit within the context of the organization’s capabilities.
According to BABOK v3, the following table represents the application of the Six Core Concepts to the Strategy Analysis Knowledge Area.
BABOK v3, Table 6.0.1: The Core Concept Model in Strategy Analysis
For this article, I’m going to take the BACCM items in a different order than what they are typically presented. For Strategy Analysis, there does tend to be a progression revolving between identifying the need, determining the scope and defining a solution. This progression could happen in an iterative fashion, or through stages depending on the chosen SDLC.
I know some will argue that the previous two statements are true for some SDLCs and not others. Waterfall advocates will say Agile does not have this progression. Yet, when you look at Agile literature, the feedback loops between Strategy, Initiative, and Delivery horizons are precisely what I described above.
Agilist, including myself, say that Waterfall does not adequately focus on the need. For me, the primary distinction is whether the result is as effective as needed when it comes to production. Forget whether it does what was intended – does it do what is needed now? Waterfall has too many instances where the need changed, but the project goes on as planned.
In Strategy Analysis, everything starts with the needs of the organization. Technically, you could say that for any of the Knowledge Areas, because they are all applied to meeting a need. But it is especially true here.
The need can affect a scope as broad as the enterprise, or as small as a department. Strategy Analysis will provide prioritization of all requirements.
There is a difference between knowing what is needed and knowing what has to change. I think of Change as it relates to Need as if it were an application of Newton’s 3rd law of motion – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every need, some items will change to meet the need.
Identifying those changes is another part of Strategy Analysis that works hand in hand with identifying the needs. Change, in this context, becomes the scope of the project, defining what must be different from the current state to address the need.
Understanding what has to change to address a need involves understanding the context. Nothing is done within a vacuum. The context includes existing capabilities held internally, technologies that can be leveraged, and external factors defining what would be acceptable.
Context can also include market factors that can shape how a solution is delivered. For example, an analysis may determine a new product must have certain features that will drive market adoption. These probably should be developed uniquely for the product.
Alternatively, other analysis may uncover necessary features that are expected to be there. These are candidates for outsourcing since there is not much gain for a uniquely developed solution.
At a basic level, the potential value is determined by the need. The project exists to make that potential become a reality.
Strategy Analysis will review the potential value of a project and weigh it against other initiatives to determine which projects move forward and which are delayed or scrapped. Additionally, the value of the various features is also prioritized.
I have seen development teams working on an enterprise-level backlog and pulling globally prioritized requirements from multiple initiatives. I was the Product Owner in that environment, and it was very challenging to negotiate a global perspective from all stakeholders. But it is doable.
Stakeholders touch everything we have discussed so far. Most often, stakeholders will be involved in identifying the need. Subject Matter Experts can be consulted to identify needed changes within the context of the organization. These factors will merge into one or several viable solution options.
Collaboration is necessary in order to ensure that priorities and functionality are clearly understood by all parties.
In my opinion, the quality of stakeholder engagement is as strong of a success indicator of the project as the quality of the project delivery team.
As solutions are identified to meet those needs, those will also be broken down into features and prioritized. Here, it’s not what must change to meet the need, but how. The proposed solution is described, reviewed, and approved.
Strategy Analysis will involve determining the best solution out of all viable options. From there, establishing the priorities of which features to build first is a critical function.
Back to the Agile side of things, these decisions will be revisited frequently to confirm they still hold, or determine what changes need to be made.