A structured approach to analysing the needs of a business results in cost effective outcomes for the client and consultancy for the advisor.
When a small business first opens its doors the business owner does everything and the organisation chart has his name all over it. In these initial stages a one-size fits all approach to the business software needs is often good enough.
Products like MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero fill the need of small business by automating the P&L, Balance Sheet, running payroll, preparing monthly tax and automating the bank reconciliation and with skilled book-keepers just a phone call away the owner can offload the accounting work. Because the business is small any functional gaps are of no consequence.
At least that is how things begin but as a business scales those bubbles in the org chart get filled with names of employees, contractors, processes, machinery and software.
Growth changes everything as the owner becomes involved in growing opportunities, setting strategy and managing staff to execute it. The owner no longer sees every invoice, or talks to each customer, or walks the stockroom so systems are needed for collecting debt, determining margin, minimising stock-outs and so on. Gaps start to form and well meaning staff fill them with manual processes, spreadsheets and access databases. These piecemeal solutions are not integrated and so they can create more work than they save. Processes take longer, deadlines slip, chaos prevails.
As a Business Advisor you may get the call for help or you may choose to step in and advise them on a better way. Accountants and bookkeepers are ahead of the game here because they experience many different businesses and see both best practice and poor practice. You know what is possible.
Often a simple discussion with the owner explaining the business challenges can result in recommendations on how to improve things.
However some businesses have many moving parts and a systematic approach to identify the business needs, determine the gap, triage the importance and an estimate of the cost to fix will result in the greatest benefit for the least cost.
A Requirements Analysis process
The Data Gathering
- Interview the business owner and the stake holder
- Identify what they feel is needed
- Question to understand
- Don't jump to a solution,instead listen for the problem
- Take really thorough notes
- Who you spoke to, when date and time
- Number each point for later reference
- Get copies of reports, charts, processes as exhibits
The Analysis & Documentation
- Go through the notes and exhibits
- Postulate on the Requirement
- Name the Requirement
- Describe the Requirement
- Assess the level of fit of the current products and process
- Describe an analysis of what needs to be done to bridge the gap and meet the need
- Re-assess the level of fit provided by each component
- Make an entry in the References for each note point and exhibit that substantiates the requirement
- Continue going through the notes and create a requirement as needed.
- You will find that the notes will repeat the need so just add the notes to the reference section of the repeated requirement
- You will know when you are finished because each note will have been 'ticked' by a matching requirement
A pro-forma of a Requirement Analysis
Example completed Requirement Analysis
Here is a sample Requirements Analysis requirement "Improve Profit on Item Sales" by using BI4Cloud to Reduce Cost, Increase Sales, Sell better margin Product.
This is a simple example - you will have several pages of requirements in real life situations
The Requirements Analysis (RA) process described above has been used on hundreds of projects and can be adapted to match the engagement size. It's key attributes are -
- It references the conversation and exhibit the user provided you
- It has analysis of the possible options - a process, a product, a facility
- It has an at a glance assessment of the current level of Fit : Full Fit, Partial Fit, No Fit
- It has a clear user determined disposition : Implement or Defer
Using the Requirement Analysis
This Requirement Analysis (RA) now becomes the reference point for your client engagement. It gives them control to decide what requirement to implement and it provides a clear consequence if it is deferred. It provides a justification of the services you will need to provide to implement it's recommendations.
Our experience with this process and BI4Cloud is that the implementor generates consultancy because they need to spend time sorting out the usage of Custom Lists, or devising the Sales Budgeting Structure or aligning GL Accounts for multi-company consolidation and so on.
Your proposals should include reference to the RA to support the reasons for need for improvement.
The ultimate pay-off of the Requirement Analysis process is to cover off your clients business needs with efficient processes and products to maximise their opportunities.
- Understand your clients needs
- Don’t force fit what you have
- Empathise and respond to their needs
- Document and Analyse and Investigate
- 300 Add-ons at MYOB alone
- Don’t jump to what looks good
- Choose what meets your clients needs
- Create proposals with Supporting Analysis
- Reinforces their original need
- Creates empathy between client and advisor