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Considerations for outsourcing Business Analysis

12 Oct 2012
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Outsourcing is probably one of the most debated topics within the software industry. There are some clear advantages and disadvantage; in this article, outsourcing from the business analysis perspective shall be considered.

Among of the key questions which we shall endeavour to address are these: ‘Can the organisation outsource its business analysis?’ and, if so, ‘Should it?’

Outsourcing business analysis is a viable option if the conditions are right. Having said that, outsourcing technical skills is a lot easier than outsourcing business analysis.

That’s because business analysts tend to sit very close to the business and/or its customers; constant interaction is necessary due to the nature of the job they do.

As the needs of a business change regularly, so do their goals, visions and priorities. The business analyst needs to keep his or her finger on the pulse to be in a position to respond quickly to change in a timely manner. S/he also needs to thoroughly understand the software solution they are working on - and the best way to do that is to live with and be part of the business.

Let’s look at the advantages of outsourcing business analysis:

• You have worked with the outsourcer in the past and enjoy an existing sound working relationship.• The outsourcer has demonstrable knowledge of your business and/or your industry.• The outsourcer excels at their profession, and thus guarantees better quality than what could be sourced in-house.• You do not have the resources or skills within your current organisation.• You do not have the long term capacity or need to hire a full time business analyst

And the cons:

• If outsourcing to a foreign location where the first language (or culture) of that nation is different than yours, this may lead to ambiguous and/or unclear requirements.• If your project requires a lot of interaction with business users and/or customers. Interacting with an outsourced business analyst could be very challenging especially when the cultural, language and time zone barriers are considered.• Your project is an upgrade or extension of current capabilities (or solution), and very little or no current state is documented.• Business knowledge or IP is no longer held in-house.• Outsourcing organisations may be more interested in delivering a solution than in analysing the business.

Outsourcing locally may be an option as the business analysts are able to travel to the customer for face to face engagements such as requirements gathering, walkthroughs, verification and validation.

You may also consider partial outsourcing to mitigate some of the risk which comes with complete outsourcing.

By striking a balance, you can:

• Get best in the industry to support the internal staff and help define or improve the business analysis framework within the organisation.• Have the outsourcer ‘soft train’ any under-skilled internal staff members.• Gain access to capacity.• Keep competitive business knowledge and intellectual property in-house.

One of the best ways to mitigate the risk that outsourcing may bring is to have a properly defined and agreed project management framework. Additionally, those organisations planning to outsource should define a set of long-term goals before starting slowly with pilot projects .

Ultimately, however, the question is not whether you should outsource business analysis at all; rather, you should be asking how to get the best results from this discipline. The sourcing model should then flow from that answer.

By Jayesh Jaubm CBAO CSPO (Agilist and Senior Business Analyst)