Delivering technology solutions with architectural precision

Ina HeadshotWhat does an IT Business Analyst have in common with an architect?  According to Ina Percival, a senior Business Analyst with King County Information Technology, it comes down to the planning.

“It’s probably not the best idea to build a house without an architect, and in the same way, we shouldn’t tackle an IT project without the help of a Business Analyst,” Percival said.

KCIT Junior and Senior Business Analysts are now available to provide services Countywide on IT projects. If a department or agency knows there’s an upcoming IT or technology project, it can submit a request to procure Business Analysis Services for assistance.

When people hear the title “Business Analyst,” sometimes their minds jump to finance, but what Percival does has more to do with facilitating better communication and helping to ensure that IT projects run more smoothly from beginning to end.

Percival believes that it’s best if a business analyst gets involved at the beginning stages of a project – and that can be before an organization is actually ready to start the IT portion of their effort. In fact, it’s valuable to use the service even before the concept development stage, when a Business Analyst can help the organization articulate its high level business goals, assist it in determining its project readiness state,  and then work with the organization to write the concept paper and business case for any specific project.

“As a project gets underway, we put together a business analysis work plan that includes a robust requirements gathering process.  This is critical for ensuring that any IT project remains aligned to business goals and objectives,” says Percival. “When this process is skipped, organizations pay for it in the end because it costs more money to fix things that are broken than to build it right the first time.”

A business analyst can also be a bridge between a project developer and a client. Percival finds people from different disciplines use different lingo, making it sometimes difficult to communicate.

“Often, if you put a business person and a developer in a room, the conversation will go straight to ‘I want this function or I want that function, can you build it?’ but they may not be speaking the same language,” Percival said. “The developer wants to deliver the right solution for their customer but they might not understand what their customer is trying to achieve, while the customer might not realize that a specific function is not be the best way achieve their goal.”  Percival said that this situation can lead to delivery of an IT project that technically “works,” according to how a development team understands it,  yet doesn’t satisfy the customer because it doesn’t actually solve their problem.

This situation can lead to costly rework and redevelopment, but tapping the business analysis process significantly mitigates these unexpected costs that otherwise result later on in the project or after deployment. And it just leads to happier customers who have a better outcome.

With tight budgets, not all clients’ needs can always be met in a single project. However, a Business Analyst’s job is to pull together information during the requirements gathering process that helps a customer better prioritize their needs and carefully decide what should be in scope for a project given the budget.

“The idea is that at the end of the day, when that IT solution is delivered, it really feels like a solution for the customer. It may not meet all their needs, but it has met their priority needs,” Percival said.

As an example of one of her projects, Percival was called in to help the newly formed King County Department of Public Defense deploy a standardized case management system across its four divisions.  That process has included adopting a consistent language to use in their legal practice areas, the use of common documents across the organization, and adapting a single case management system that will meet each of their daily operational needs.

“As the system gets up and running, they’ll have achieved an important consistency of operation and data collection within and across their divisions,” Percival said. “It has been very rewarding to watch them contribute so much to such a big change effort and come together over this project in service of their mission”.