5 easy-to-learn but powerful business analysis tools
There are a myriad of tools and techniques that can be used for analyzing the performance of a business. Some business analysis tools are more useful than others and knowing which tool to use in what situation adds an additional complication. Put all this together and for someone just starting out in consulting, contracting, advisory or business analysis it can be overwhelming. The most important thing to do here is to not get caught in an analysis-paralysis trap.
Seek out those with more experience, those you have seen operate effectively, do some research, use some judgement, pick a few and start trying them out, even if you do it “behind the scenes where no-one can see you”. Practice, try them out, see what happens. You will surely make some mistakes - but you will learn from these mistakes and they will make you more proficient and better educated.
To make things easier, the team at Expert Toolkit have put their heads together to agree on 5 “simple but disproportionately powerful” business analysis tools that every analyst worth their salt should know and know how to use proficiently. These business analysis tools are versatile, powerful, easy to learn and easy to use. Learn these, use them, master them and we are confident you’ll come back to them again and again. And yes, you will make a greater impact!
The Five Whys
One of our favorites. Five Whys helps to get beyond the superficial into the heart of what’s really going on. Pick a business problem and take a handful of people who have unique perspectives on the problem and walk through the Five Whys with them. It will be a rare situation that you don’t come out of that process with a sound understanding of what’s really causing the problem. From here you can start developing ideas for remedial solutions and business improvement strategies.
We love the SIPOC method not for its power in diagnosing problems but framing them. Problems quite often manifest in business due to misunderstandings between distinct “siloed” parts of a business. One part of the business doesn’t realize what role they play in the process and how their piece of the puzzle fits into delivering what the customer needs. Leverage SIPOC to bring people together and drive clarity around a business situation that’s performing sub-optimally.
Root Cause Analysis
Also known as the Fishbone Method. This is a very complementary business analysis method to Five Whys and similarly it is aimed at getting beneath the apparent problem (the symptom). One of the best applications of the Fishbone Root Cause Analysis method is in a group setting – which is different to Five Whys which tends to be more powerful when performed in one-on-one focused interviews. Use the Fishbone in a workshop and start brainstorming deeper into problems and sub-problems – from here you can prioritize problems (based on impact they are having) and solutions (based on their ability to address the business problem without introducing new ones).
A tool that brings value at the more strategic level, SWOT Analysis is powerful but often not understood or poorly used. There really are 3 parts to doing SWOT Analysis effectively – most people only do the first two. Step 1 – identify the internal strengths and weaknesses. This could be for a business unit, product line, organization. Step 2 – identify the external market opportunities and threats that apply to everyone in the market (not just the company you are analyzing). Step 3 – hypothesize the potential strategies that can be utilized by matching strength + opportunity (offensive), strength + threat (utilization), weakness + opportunity (conversion) and weakness + threat (defensive). Step 3 is the harder, more valuable and often neglected part of SWOT analysis.
Specifically, Brown Paper Process Mapping. It’s a simple, powerful and incredibly impactful business analysis tool. It has the power of SIPOC for framing and driving shared understanding, but it goes to a deeper level and facilitates problem identification and solution development. Get comfortable with process mapping in general before running a brown paper process mapping session – and start in a small group for your first venture. You’ll be amazed at the engagement from participants and the opportunities that emerge from an effective brown paper process mapping session.
Business Process Mapping
There you have it. 5 powerful business analysis tools that more people need to know about, need to know how to use and need to have the confidence to use!
Go make a greater impact!
The team at Expert Toolkit