About Analyze

Analyze Consulting was founded in 2007 with the purpose to help businesses get to the bottom of and solve business inefficiencies. The cornerstone of this dream is a passion for quality business analysis and project management.

We are motivated and rewarded by helping businesses be more efficient and solve problems.

We believe that the best way for us to do this is to start with a deep and thorough understanding of the problem or opportunity. The discipline and insight that we apply to this enables us to be confident and truly objective about defining the best possible solution.

Our vision is to be the partner of choice in solving business challenges through the appropriate use of technology, process and people.

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Business process re-engineering

/Business process re-engineering

Is it really only a choice between waterfall and agile?

In today’s project world, you’re either waterfall or agile.  Never both.  Never something in between.  But why has it become such a big waterfall vs agile debate?  And do we fully understand the two extremes these two methodologies present? Over the past few years, waterfall as a project methodology has definitely taken a back seat in favour of the new, cool kid on the block – agile.  Throwing around terms like scrum, lean & extreme programming has certainly become very on trend.  Unfortunately, most companies don’t quite “get it”.  They like the thought of getting things done faster and being more flexible, but they don’t actually want to align with all the principles that go along with being fully agile. What companies should be asking themselves is:  What is waterfall not giving us? And what can we do to improve on those things?  Therefore, we’re no longer seeing waterfall as the enemy and agile as the magic wand, but instead taking a closer look at what it is we actually want to achieve and then making changes to help get there. We’ve found that most companies actually just want to be more adaptable, and in order to achieve this goal, an iterative approach has proven more likely to lead to success.  You want to be in a position where you can test a new product, service or concept as quickly as possible to confirm whether it’s going to work or not.  Prototyping, as an example, is a great way to test something quite quickly, then make changes & test it again.  In this way you’re also ensuring that you’re getting real customer input from very early on. We’re not saying that going agile is wrong in any way.  We’re just saying take a step back & try to understand why you feel you need to go agile.  The following questions should help to identify your main areas of concern: What makes your projects difficult to manage? Why do project end results miss the mark in terms of customer value? Are there processes that run up costs unnecessarily? How good is your quality assurance?  Have you considered using test automation to assist? What is the general feeling towards the project methodology currently in place? A full agile adoption requires a company-wide culture change.  By understanding your core issues, you can take smaller steps towards where you want to be without having to jump from one extreme to the next.  A project methodology on its own is not the be all and end all.  It’s purely a structure that can help shape your actions, but it’s not your only option for getting things done.  The key is to find the right fit for your specific company needs, be it a blend, a purist view, or something quite custom to you. Want to talk to us about how your company can become more adaptable? Get in touch.  Share this:

Creating context for The Context Diagram

Often, when business analysts start projects, they are required to define the scope of work that will be involved in implementing a new system. One way to do this, is to draw up a context diagram that graphically illustrates the full scope of the system. What is a context diagram? This is a simple but powerful tool that clearly shows the system under consideration and the various external entities that interact with it.  A context diagram shows at a very high level: The system boundaries The external enties – these could be people or other systems The information that flows between the system and these external entities External entities may include various stakeholders and systems that have direct interactions with the system under consideration. It is not to be confused with the use case diagram which is more detailed and includes detail down to the process level. Why is it important? This very useful tool is often overlooked by business analysts as they believe it does not add much value. The team at Analyze, however, believe that it is a critical step in the initiation phase of a project. The context diagram is a tool that will be a central reference point for scope. How to draw one up? The key is to ensure that the context diagram depicts the project scope simply but accurately. Here are our top tips on drawing the context diagram: Start by drawing the main system under consideration in the middle of the page. List all external entities around the system. NB. Only list those external entities that have direct contact with the system. Taking each external entity, describe the relationship it has with the system. This relationship includes – what kind of information the entity will require from the system and what their main interactions with the system will be. Represent this relationship with a line between the entity and the system. Use an arrow on each line to indicate the direction of the information flow, either towards the external entity or towards the system. Describe the information that moves between the entity and the system. Information may only flow in one direction. Follow step 3 and 4 again for the opposite relationship i.e. relationship between the system and the external entity. An example? Take for example a new e-commerce website being developed for a retail chain. The main system under consideration will be the e-commerce website. The various external entities may include customers, staff, management and payment system. Customers can register on the system, view different goods for sale, place orders, make payments, track orders etc. Staff can update inventory (prices and goods) on the system, view customer orders, track customer orders, process orders placed by customers etc. Management can access reports on goods sold, user statistics, stock levels etc. The payment system can process payments, send notification of successful/failed payments etc. Ecommerce Website Example You can see from the example above, that the context diagram is really valuable in defining the scope of a project at a high level. This ensures that all project stakeholders are on the same page from the get go. Having problems defining scope? Contact us today to find out how we can help you in defining the scope of your project. Share this:

How to achieve organisational agility

American businessman, hedge fund manager & billionaire, Paul Tudor Jones, once said: “You adapt, evolve, compete or die”. Very strong words indeed, but in today’s constantly evolving business market, this is a harsh reality that all businesses need to face up to. Organisational agility is defined as a company’s ability to rapidly change or adapt to market changes. The higher your degree of agility, the better your chances of successfully reacting to new competitors, new technologies and ideas, fundamental shifts in the market and changing customer demands. But to achieve organisational agility, you have to take a long, hard look at your business by answering the following key questions: Does your organisational structure allow for agility? Complex hierarchies and organisational silos typically do not promote agility. Agile organisations tend to have flatter more matrix style structures which encourage cross-organisational collaboration, improved transparency and more streamlined, direct & informal communication. Do you have the right change leaders in place? Fast and effective decision-making is critical within an agile environment. The right leadership will be able to drive change forward without any hesitation or attachment to the old. Great agile leaders are also able to foster trust, particularly in situations where there may be a relatively high level of uneasiness about a new direction a company is taking. How well is innovation encouraged and supported? The generation and execution of new ideas is a crucial part of staying competitive in an agile world. Employees should feel encouraged to constantly challenge the norms in order to find smarter and better ways of doing things. If an idea shows promise but there’s a certain level of risk involved, try to be a bit more courageous in your decision making. As the saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Is your company culture open to change? If your company culture is change averse, you’ve got a bit of an uphill battle on your hands. Most of the time this type of culture is the result of current policies and practices which do not promote change as something positive. If your company is averse to change, it’s time to do a deep dive, some reshuffling and perhaps even a bit of education in order to remove your organisation’s barriers to change. What’s your strategy around managing talent? Innovation is of course impossible without innovative people. Talent management is all about recruiting and grooming those who not only have the right skills to drive your organisation forward, but who are also flexible, mobile, strong collaborators and agents of change. Agility is as much about your ability to react to changing conditions as it is about being able to take proactive steps in order to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. It is important, therefore, to incorporate an agile way of thinking straight into you organisational core. Worried that your business may not be as agile as you’d like it to be? Contact Cathy at Analyze on 021 447 5696 or email her on cathy@analyze.co.za to discuss how our team can help to bring more flexibility and adaptability into your business operations. Share this:

Questions to ask when selecting a software vendor

With continuous improvement being the key to maintaining a competitive advantage, many companies are turning to software solutions to help streamline their business processes. But as much as software can help to reduce costs and improve productivity, selecting the wrong software vendor can have quite the opposite effect. Here are 7 questions we suggest you ask during your vendor selection process: 1. What are your credentials? It’s important to do a bit of background research on each vendor you’re considering. You want to be sure that the vendor is well-established with solid plans for future growth and development. New start-ups introduce a lot more risk, so be sure that’s something you’re willing to accept before proceeding. Also ensure that the vendor has all the necessary credentials and certifications relevant to the type of solution you are looking at implementing. If they are not able to provide these, back away immediately. 2. What do others have to say? Reference checks are an absolute must, just be sure that you’re getting a true reflection. Customer references from companies within the same industry are key. Also be sure to ask how long they’ve been a customer as new customers may not have hit any real issues just yet. Casting a wider net to online reviews, published articles and industry expert opinions can also be very telling. 3. What after-sales support do I get? Sales teams are notorious for telling you exactly what you want to hear in order to seal the deal. This is why a carefully considered project & post implementation Service Level Agreement (SLA) becomes crucial. You want to ensure that any issues or defects are dealt with timeously and with minimal impact to your business, and that the vendor’s maintenance & support teams are available exactly when & where you need them. 4. To what extent is the solution scalable/customisable? Predicting the future is a challenging task. This is exactly why the software you choose needs to have the ability to grow and adapt along with your business. You do not want to find yourself in a position where you have to change your software solution a couple of years down the line because it can no longer support your business needs. 5. Are there any hidden surprises? Be sure that you have the full picture when it comes to fees payable. Vendors do have a tendency to be less forthcoming about extra fees relating to items such as software modules that may carry an additional cost, onsite training or support costs, ongoing maintenance fees, etc. The rule of thumb is: When in doubt, ask more questions. 6. What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)? You have to consider all of the direct & indirect costs related to the software you’re purchasing. This includes not only the actual software cost but also the associated hardware & data centre costs, the implementation cost, end-user licencing, patch / enhancement / upgrade costs, as well as ongoing support & maintenance costs. 7. What if things don’t work out? Two things you have to be clear about up front are: 1) Who owns what? and 2) What are the costs & criteria related to cancelling the agreement? By getting these items out of the way early you can avoid lengthy & costly arguments later on. Is your business embarking on a Request For Proposal (RFP) process? We can assist with vendor selection and critical assessment. Contact Cathy at Analyze on 021 447 5696 or email her on cathy@analyze.co.za to find out more.   Share this:

Every business should conduct regular business process improvement – follow these 6 steps

Business processes, whether formal or informal, have a direct impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of your business. When business processes fail to deliver they not only waste time and money, they can also lead to poor service delivery and substandard product quality. Business process improvement focuses on improving the quality, productivity and responsiveness of business processes by removing activities that do not add value and implementing process changes that clear the way for various forms of enhancement. If you have a business process that’s raising some red flags, it’s time to take action.  Follow this simple 6 step guide to get back on track: Step 1:  Map it out Use information gathered from those who know the process best to document the steps and sub-steps of the process. Also consider using a mapping tool, like a flowchart, to create an easy to understand, visual representation of the process and its interdependencies. Step 2:  Identify the core issues Do this by asking the following questions: Where in the process do things start falling apart? Are there any bottlenecks or roadblocks? Is there any duplication or redundancy? Which of the process steps take the longest to complete and why? Where are the dips in quality? Which of the process steps are the most costly? And can things be done in a more cost-effective way? Without understanding the root cause, you run the risk of treating the symptoms of a problem instead of the problem itself. Step 3:  Change things up  Now that you know what the core issues are, you can redesign the process to eliminate them. However, you can’t do this alone. You need to collaborate with the people who are involved in the process. Conduct brainstorming sessions to come up with a list of ideas. Then, critically evaluate each idea by looking at the possible risks and issues, the up- and downstream impacts, and by assessing how realistic the idea is within your business context. Once you have a full understanding of each idea, choose the one that’s best suited to your needs. Step 4:  Define the resourcing requirements  Involve other departments to help you identify what you’ll need to bring this new process to life. HR will look at it from a people & skills perspective, while IT will confirm the technology changes that may be required.  The wider your reach, the better informed your recommendation will be. Then put all of your findings into a business case and use this to drive buy-in and support. Step 5:  Be the agent of change Implementing a new process can be challenging, even if you’ve involved the right people and secured senior buy-in and support. You have to accept that some people are just going to be resistant to change. Minimise the resistance with good planning and clear communication.  You want to ensure that everyone understands why the change is needed, how it will benefit them and what will be needed of them (and others) to achieve it. Step 6:  Don’t stop there… improve! Once you’ve finally managed to roll out your newly improved process, don’t just stop there.  Remember to check in on how things are going. Create a regular feedback forum where people can discuss challenges or suggest ideas to further improve, or consider implementing monitoring tools which can help you identify areas of ongoing concern. Analyze is also able to assist you in significantly improving your business processes.  Get in touch today to find out how.  Contact Cathy at Analyze on (0)21 447 5696 or email her on cathy@analyze.co.za. Share this:

Demystifying the LEAN approach to business process improvement

In today’s business age customers are expecting more value from products and services without having to pay more or wait longer. In order to support this expectation of a continuously improving value proposition, businesses have to take a long, hard look at their processes in order to identify ways in which they can be improved. LEAN is a customer-centric methodology which is used to improve business processes by identifying what it refers to as “waste”. Waste in this context can be seen as anything that creates the need for extra time, effort, resources and/or materials which in turn leads to increased costs and longer lead times. A common misconception is that LEAN only applies to the manufacturing industry due to its link to the Toyota Production System back in the late 80s, but the truth is that LEAN can be used across all industries and by businesses both big and small. This is because waste can be found everywhere, ensuring that no business is immune. LEAN identifies 3 main forms of waste: “Mura” i.e. waste related to variation “Muri” i.e. waste related to overworking your people or equipment. “Muda” i.e. the almighty 7 LEAN wastes: Defects, overproduction, unnecessary transportation, waiting and more waiting, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary/excess motion & extra processing To help you identify areas of waste, the LEAN process requires you to break down each business process into 3 categories of activities: Value-added activities Activities are value-added when: 1) The activity changes/transforms the product or service in some way 2) It must be done “right the first time” 3) Customers are willing to pay for it Business value-added activities With business value-added activities, the customer wouldn’t necessarily be willing to pay for them (because they likely don’t even know that they exist), but they are still required to fulfil a regulatory, administration or organisational requirement. Non-value added activities These are activities the customer is not willing to pay for and are not required for any other reason. Non-value add activities need to go straight into the waste basket (so to speak). Value Stream Mapping and process improvement are two techniques used within LEAN for understanding and highlighting the different steps of a process in order to identify those non-value or potentially wasteful activities. The process involves creating a visual map of all activities, materials, resources & information flows required to provide a customer with a specific product or service. It is important, however, to gather as much supporting detail as possible and to also cover the business process from beginning to end. Without details regarding resources, processing time, manpower, outputs and associated cost, your wastages may not be as easy to spot. Once non-value add activities have been identified, process improvement allows you to make process refinements and monitor the results. If total efficiency isn’t achieved after the first round, further refinements can be made until you’ve fine-tuned everything to perfection. Do you think the LEAN approach to business improvement can add value to your business? We can help you figure it out. Contact Cathy at Analyze on (0)21 447 5696 or email her on cathy@analyze.co.za to discuss the details. Share this:

5 Ways in which consultants can help your business

A consultant is defined as a person who provides expert advice professionally. But when does it make sense to hire one? Many businesses struggle with this question. Cost usually plays a factor, as well as the concern that hiring an external party will create the impression that your own skills are lacking. But the advantages of using consultants far outweigh these types of concerns. If you’re currently struggling with a business problem or embarking on a new initiative, consider these 5 ways in which consultants can help your business: Get an outsider’s perspective Sometimes you’re just too close to a problem to see it clearly. Personal feelings, company culture and staff dynamics can also impact on a company’s ability to solve a particular problem. A consultant is able to come in with a fresh perspective and an impartial position. They are therefore able to provide objective advice based purely on their experience and observations. Gain access to specialised skills Projects often require specialised skills that are either scarce or non-existent within your own company. Consultants not only fill these gaps, but can also transfer knowledge and skill to your team in order for your business to benefit long after the consultant’s contract has come to an end. Supplement your staff compliment to reach short to medium term goals A full-time employee is a long term investment which includes having to think about employee benefits, ongoing training and development and career management. Consultants do not require any of these considerations. Therefore, even if consultants come with a higher hourly rate, over the long term it’s still more cost effective to employ their services as and when needed. Focus on your core business Projects tend to add additional pressure on employees who are already functioning at full capacity. Consultants free up your team to focus on their day-to-day responsibilities, ensuring that your business can still operate as needed. Consultants also do not have any distractions. They are engaged to focus on a specific task at hand and are therefore able to deliver within shorter timeframes. Consultants can be agents of change Due to a consultant’s independent and objective position, they are normally best placed to drive change throughout an organisation. This is because they are not influenced by how things have been done historically or affected by pre-existing employee dynamics or emotions. At Analyze, we’ve seen the impact that our consultants have on the growth and development of our clients’ businesses. We also have the added benefit of having a multi-skilled team with experience across a variety of industries. This ensures that we’re able to place the best fit consultant for every specific client need. If you’d like to get more information about the consulting services we offer at Analyze, do give Cathy a call on 021 447 5696 or email her on cathy@analyze.co.za. Share this:

How a minimum viable product can help you test new product ideas

Silicon Valley entrepreneur, author and pioneer of the Lean Startup movement, Eric Ries, defines a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as “the version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”. In product development, a MVP is seen as a product with just enough features to gather learning which can then support the product’s ongoing development. It has become a popular approach for its ability to reduce product build cost & associated risk. This is because it allows you to test assumptions early on and in an iterative way. Imagine for example you spent the last 2 years building what you thought was going to be the next big thing. During these 2 years various assumptions would have been made about your customers and how they will be using your product. Now, come launch day, nobody’s buying. But why? It almost always comes down to incorrect assumptions which end up becoming a true product killer. With an MVP you’re able to get something to market much quicker which in turn allows you to start testing and learning before further money is invested. It is important, however, to understand that a MVP is not just a product with fewer features. It’s whatever you can present to customers to convey your idea while also testing a predetermined set of feature or usage assumptions. The basic process comes down to 3 steps: build, measure and learn. These 3 steps are then repeated again and again, each time with a clearer understanding of what changes or additions will bring you closer to that final product which will truly fulfil your customer needs. When organisations are presented with the MVP approach for the first time, two questions usually crop up: 1. Isn’t a MVP the same as a prototype? While both are used to test viability of a product, they’re used at different stages of a product lifecycle and also aimed at different audiences. A prototype is a model which is typically presented to a small group of people to prove viability of a planned product. It’s usually a throw away piece of work not intended for deployment to customers. A MVP on the other hand is the first version of a product that’s fit for release. 2. Can’t you also test a product idea using focus groups and market research? While these methods still have their place for collecting customer data, they don’t quite match up to a MVP’s ability to get real insights from customers actually using your product. Of course, a MVP approach is not the only approach to product development, and your company may prefer to go a more traditional route. All we’re saying is that we’ve seen how it has assisted businesses in achieving a higher product hit rate with less money spent. The key is to ask yourself: What are the core functions that we need to build in order to prove this solution? If you go into product design with this hat on, you’ll save a lot of time and money by not focusing on non-essential items that can be added and tested at a later stage. Are you embarking on a new product journey, but not quite sure where to start? We can help guide you through the MVP process.  Contact Cathy on (0)21 447 5696 or cathy@analyze.co.za Share this:

Effective business problem solving – how is it achieved?

Every problem is unique, this is true, but problem solving doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Effective business problem solving is something that can be mastered by following a simple, methodical approach. At Analyze, we have a proven 5 step process for effective problem solving: Understand the problem We’ve seen many examples where businesses have jumped straight into solution mode without any success. It boils down to one key consideration: If you can’t explain what the problem is, you can’t begin to solve it.Let’s take a practical example: Sales figures are unusually low. Some questions you may want to kick off with include: How long has this been a problem? How was the problem identified? Who are the key players? And what are the downstream impacts? Define the root cause You’ve probably heard the saying: “treat the problem, not the symptom”. Doctors like to use that line a lot, but it’s actually very solid advice. Once you’ve identified the problem and you understand its symptoms, take a few steps back to identify the root cause.If we take our example from step 1, you’ll find that the root cause for low sales figures could be anything from competitor behaviour, to team morale/low incentive, or even technology factors which are hindering the sales process. Identify possible solutions Don’t settle for the first solution that’s identified. The more solutions you consider, the better your chances of finding the right fit.We believe that business solutions must always consider the people, process and technology aspects of solving the problem. It is seldom that technology alone can solve a business problem. Brainstorming is a powerful technique for generating ideas as it provides a platform for your team to apply their specific skills and knowledge to the problem. It’s important, however, to try and include people with different functional expertise and from different levels within the business to ensure that you’re tackling the problem from all possible angles. Implement the solution that gives you the most “bang for your buck” It’s tempting to go for the cheapest or quickest option, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best one for your business. On the flipside, it’s also important not to overcomplicate things.Weigh up the pros and cons of each option identified during your brainstorming session, then rank them according to how well it addresses the root cause. Discuss and agree on the best option and ensure that you get complete buy-in from all relevant parties. Define success & monitor results You need to be clear about how you’ll identify whether the problem has been resolved. Then monitor results on an ongoing basis to ensure that you’re on track.If at any time you realise that your chosen solution has resulted in unexpected issues, or is not meeting your desired results, stop work immediately and go back to the drawing board. In summary: Take enough time to properly evaluate a problem before taking any action. Careful consideration is the key to avoiding unnecessary spend and ensuring better results. Would you like to connect with us to discuss a business problem you need assistance with? Contact Cathy on (0)21 447 5696 or cathy@analyze.co.za Share this: