It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. For people, it is much easier to comprehend abstract information by looking at it, visualizing it in their mind, and thus, seeing the whole picture.
According to Statista, the value of the global data visualization market is projected to reach $7.76 billion in 2023, growing by about 9% yearly. This fact alone proves data visualization tools are an effective means for providing better perception and cognition of information.
In this piece, Andersen’s experts in business analysis will describe the types of visual documents prepared by a Business Analyst, as well as the contributions of analyzing business requirements and their subsequent graphical representation to a project’s success.
A brief recap
In the previous part of this article, Andersen’s experts in business analysis have already discussed one of the key responsibilities of a Business Analyst on a project, namely analyzing business requirements and documenting them.
Statistics and research findings prove the key role of properly documented requirements for meeting customers’ expectations regarding software functionality. If you want to avoid a costly and time-consuming redesign and rework, you must ensure that the expert who draws up and maintains business analysis documentation is present on your project.
Analyzing business requirements and documenting them is crucial for successful software delivery and offers you the following benefits:
- better project traceability;
- efficient troubleshooting;
- consistency of requirements.
The major Business Analyst’s artifacts that this specialist delivers and that we have covered so far are a meeting agenda, follow-up email, Vision & Scope document, Software Requirements Specification, user stories, user story maps, and use cases.
In this piece, Andersen’s Business Analysts would like to dig into the topic of requirements visualization. Read on to learn what visualization artifacts Business Analysts deliver to customers and the project team, and why visualizing software functionality is crucial for your project’s success.
Three reasons why you should visualize the requirements
A rule of thumb states that the more complicated software architecture is, the more detailed and structured the visualization of every part of the system should be. Functional requirements in business analysis that are presented graphically communicate some types of information more efficiently than text. For example, it’s easier to describe a system’s data flow with diagrams and the interface details with wireframes and prototypes, rather than writing dozens of text documents for this purpose.
Below are several benefits that proper visualization of requirements brings to a project:
A holistic view of the system’s functionality
Indivisible software requirements contained in a Business Analyst’s documents that describe the system’s design, the testing process, and work management are called atomic requirements. Along with the undeniable benefits that well-documented requirements bring to a project they have a serious drawback. Namely, they prevent shareholders from embracing the system as a whole and understanding the designed business logic and software functionality clearly. All that customers see is a broad to-do list with no idea how everything is going to be implemented.
The requirements visualized by a Business Analyst allow customers to see the scale and complexity of a product and its functionality. This is extremely important for accurate estimation of budget and timelines. Additionally, the product’s graphic representation marks the first step in transforming rough requirements into a well-designed solution with a detailed plan for its implementation.
By visualizing requirements, Business Analysts are able to identify errors, missing requirements, and lacking coverage of the designed functionality with use cases.
There always exists a strong temptation to start the development process right after the requirements are elicited and documented. However, in the early stages of a project lifecycle, the concept that is being designed is full of flaws and inaccuracies due to the lack of user and customer feedback. In addition, the development team might not understand the product goals clearly.
The aim of visualizing the Business Analyst’s functional requirements is to construct a completed piece of business/user flow with all possible scenarios involved. This helps a Business Analyst identify unaccounted aspects of the functionality, ensure logical consistency of the designed model and the exhaustive nature of the documentation where all the requirements and use cases are described.
Quick feedback from stakeholders
According to the Agile approach toward custom software development, the customer and the development team need to interact closely so that efficient cooperation can be ensured and a valuable product can thus be delivered. Agile projects necessitate constant communication between the project members, frequent demo meetings, elicitation of valuable insights, and gathering user feedback.
Visualized documents created by a Business Analyst are easily reviewed by the customer who can give feedback quickly. Thus, the product is updated according to new guidelines. As a result, projects develop in a flexible manner, new solutions and approaches are implemented, and shareholders can even be involved in the designing process which adds to the collaboration.
What artifacts in software development do Business Analysts create by means of visualization?
Generally, there are five groups of software engineering artifacts provided by a Business Analyst that help companies reduce project costs. They are the following:
A diagram is a schematic representation of particular processes in a system. Diagrams vary depending on:
- their level of abstraction: high-level vs. detailed diagrams;
- language or notation used for modeling: diagrams are either based on the Unified Modeling Language (UML) or on Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN);
- the types of system representation: structural, behavioral, and interaction diagrams.
The most popular diagrams include but are not limited to:
- Activity diagrams modeling business workflows as a list of actions and their consequences;
- Entity-relationship diagrams illustrating the interaction of different entities, e.g. objects, concepts, and people, with each other within a system;
- Use case diagrams illustrating possible interactions of a user with a system;
- Class diagrams describing the system’s structure by showing its classes, their attributes, operations, and relationships between objects;
- Statechart diagrams describing transitions between the states of an entity when a specific event happens;
- Sequence diagrams showing process interactions arranged in time sequence;
- End-to-end diagrams describing the entire business process with all possible alternative scenarios and being used for high-level modeling or when onboarding new members of a dedicated software development team;
- BPMN diagrams describing processes by means of a frequently used language, which helps project participants avoid communication gaps.
Value. Each diagram has its purpose helping Business Analysts conceptualize the requirements at the necessary level of abstraction and identify where information is missing.
Average preparation time: from one to three days.
An analysis model is an efficient tool developed to show all the aspects of a problem and determine the best way to meet a specific set of user needs. It consists of the most important concepts, dimensions, and indicators used to characterize a research area. This artifact provides a Business Analyst with a template of issues and insights to pay attention to when analyzing a specific requirement.
The most popular analysis models include but are not limited to:
A product roadmap outlining the product’s development, features, and evolution;
The business analysis approach describing the approach toward the planning of activities in business analysis and the ways of achieving desired outcomes;
The SWOT analysis model evaluating the merits and flaws of a business and identifying opportunities and threats;
The PESTLE analysis model evaluating different groups of factors, their possible impact on the product, duration of effect, type of impact, i.e. negative or positive, and level of importance;
Requirements prioritization models, e.g. Kano model and Pareto chart, helping Business Analysts deconstruct and prioritize requirements by specific metrics and based on dedicated criteria;
A persona describing common interests, needs, behavioral patterns, and expectations of a particular group of end-users who interact with the product in a similar way;
Benchmarking charts, graphs, and dashboards visualizing the results of market analysis and comparison of the designed product with the alternatives offered by competitors in an intuitive format convenient for the customer;
A conceptual data model structurizing the data related to business processes and performance indicators.
Value. Analysis models allow project participants to conceptualize information about the designed product and extract valuable insights using helpful templates. These documents prepared by a Business Analyst help those involved in the project identify product needs, opportunities for growth, and problem areas that require careful attention.
Average preparation time: from one to three days.
The most popular types of matrices include but are not limited to:
The requirements traceability matrix links product requirements in different stages of their existence, from the time when they were identified up to the time when they are fulfilled. The matrix ensures that the documented requirements will be delivered as requested by stakeholders. It shows the requirements coverage in terms of the number of test cases and their execution statuses.
The RACI matrix illustrates the goal of a task and the actions required from each involved person to complete it, helping to define the areas of responsibility and assign team members to perform the work.
Value. Matrices allow the team to analyze changes in the requirements and make informed decisions regarding product development. In addition, they ensure efficient communication between team members and with shareholders as everybody is informed about their areas of responsibility and shares a common vision of threats and opportunities related to the project.
Average preparation time: up to two days.
Wireframes and mock-ups
A wireframe is a schematic representation of a designed software structure. It is a blueprint of the interface that focuses on the prioritization of content, functionalities available, space allocation, and intended behaviors.
A mock-up is a high-fidelity render of the design that showcases what the finished product will look like. Mock-ups are more detailed than wireframes and require more time to create.
Value. The above artifacts in software development help programmers and designers think through the software structure and interface and efficiently communicate with each other when working on web solutions or mobile apps. These documents created by a Business Analyst before the product’s visual design is finalized and the code is written will save you from costly rework.
Average preparation time: from several days to a week.
A prototype is an elementary working model of a product or information system usually built for demonstration purposes. It serves as a basis for future software development. Prototyping allows Business Analysts to research new alternatives to the existing design and test it to finalize the product’s functionality prior to its development.
Value. Prototypes help the project participants grasp the project’s concept and exchange ideas with the customer. They also ensure valuable feedback from the customer and end-users even before the code is written. Thus, the solution’s design can be modified in a timely manner to achieve the best possible results.
Average preparation time: from several days to a week.
The visual artifacts prepared by Business Analysts bring substantial value to both the customer and the development team. Graphical representations of the Business Analyst’s documents ensure that the product development runs smoothly and help customers avoid costly and time-consuming rework.
By adding Andersen’s experienced Business Analysts to your team, you will get software that is designed and developed to meet customer expectations, satisfy end-users’ needs, and drastically improve the performance of your entire team. Contact us if you need help with analyzing business requirements and drawing up exhaustive documentation for the successful implementation of your project.