How to Select Analytical and Architectural Tooling

leaderteamcomputerstudyBPL052Tooling discussions are often driven by hype on the side of those pushing tool sales and adoption and by angst on the part of those who prefer working with a familiar platform. But this dynamic shouldn’t obscure the fact that a good toolset is key to getting the most value out of your analysts and architects.

There Is No One Tool
Unsurprisingly, there’s no single answer to an organization’s analytical and architectural tooling needs. Get comfortable not only with the multiplicity of options that are out there, but also with the fact that your organization is highly likely to use more than one application to support its project and enterprise modeling efforts.

Done well, this isn’t a bad thing—quite the contrary. Just make sure to keep your eyes open and keep the following in mind:

  1. Consider multiple solutions: Understand going in that you’re looking for a toolset, not a silver bullet. You won’t know it by gut; your modeling and analysis needs are more complex than that. Look at all the options and hone in on the ones that are most promising for you.
  2. Evaluate your current toolset along with others: When chasing a bright, shiny new tool, it’s easy to overlook or depreciate the set of tools you already have. Keep in mind that there’s at least some utility in your existing toolset, and use it as a baseline for evaluating other tools.
  3. Articulate a strategy and vision for tool usage: Even the best tool can’t roll itself out or facilitate its own adoption. That bit of heavy lifting falls to you. Work with the architects and analysts in your organization to articulate what you want your tooling solution to enable. Pay particular mind to difference in needs and usage patterns in different parts of the enterprise.

There Are Good Tools and Bad Tools
The quality of analysis and modeling tools varies widely. Not only that, but what’s a great tool for one organization may be thoroughly mediocre for another. As you select and re-evaluate your toolset, be sure that you’ve clearly articulated your organization’s requirements for that toolset. Otherwise, you run the risk of choosing a tool that undermines your practice rather than furthering it.

That being said, there are still key high-level capabilities that are desirable for most analyses and modeling tools in most organizations:

  1. Transparency: Look for a toolset that will make your models and requirements available throughout a broad swath of the enterprise or, ideally, enterprise-wide.
  2. Accessibility: The more easily grasped your tools and work products are, the more engaged the non-analyst/architect part of the organization will be in what you do.
  3. Intelligence: Organizations are terrifically complex. A good modeling tool will enable you to build wide-ranging representations of the enterprise, and then filter to a much more specific view based on capabilities, systems, or time frames.
  4. Integration: Discrete, one-off models die. Look for a solution that allows you to tie modeling work together across the enterprise on an ongoing basis.
  5. Flexibility: Shortly after you implement your new toolset, you’ll inevitably encounter a new modeling technique that you want to play around with. You’ll want your toolset to be able to accommodate it, along with other innovations that sprout up over time.

Note that this is a general outline of tool characteristics—not a free pass for avoiding the hard work of gathering requirements for your analysis tool. Keep in mind that the needs of your organization will determine the specifics around each capability as well as its priority.

This is an excerpt from the Global Knowledge white paper, Getting the Most out of Your Business Analysts and Business Architects.

Related Courses
Business Analysis Essentials
Effective Business Cases
Business Analysis Modeling Boot Camp

About The Author
Adam McClellan has over a decade of experience as a project professional, including multiple stints as a business architect as well as business analyst experience. As a Project Management Professional, Certified ScrumMaster, and Six Sigma Greenbelt, he brings a combined focus on high-quality solutions and timely delivery to his work and has experienced first-hand the valuable knowledge and enlightening conversations to be had at all levels of an organization.

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