You Are Here - Mapping an Organization

“Half the Time I’m Lost…and the Other Half, I just Don’t Know Where I’m Going.”

Part of knowing where you’re going, is in knowing where you currently are and how you got there. As a business analyst, whether you’ve been tasked with improving a team, process, product or policy, you need to do a little research to get the lay of the land.  

Getting the Lay of the Land

Did you ever think what it would be like to be part archaeologist, social worker, designer, air traffic controller, or what it takes to herd cats? If you have, the role of business analyst lets you live out your wanderings by employing skill sets found in these and many other disciplines.    

For example, let’s take cartography, the study and practice of making maps. Cartography combines several disciplines such as art, science, cultural aspects, politics and technology all of which have lead to increasingly dynamic, interactive maps.

With a little observation a map can tell you where you are, where you’ve been and how to get to where you’re going. It also, provides multiple routes and options that allow you to discover new routes that could change the map itself. 

So what’s the point? Before you can confidently change anything, you need to fully understand it. You need to create a map that will, in part, produce a catalog of resources that can be updated and used over and over again. A little traveling music please…

You Are Here – Mapping an Organization

Whether you’re an existing BA working for an organization for many years or you’ve just transitioned to a new role or project, mapping and maintaining an organizational profile will enable you to make informed decisions and is the start of your resource catalog.  

Step 1 – Create an Organizational Profile

  • How does your organization market itself to its external customers? For this step it’s easiest to work from the outside in.  
    • Review the organization’s web site, marketing materials, sales kits, etc. 
    • Create a list of their products and/or services and the key features of each.
    • Try to identify the target audience of the organization’s product/services e.g. certain age groups, male/female, pet owners, political party, people with a certain medical condition, etc.
    • Note any global and/or high-level process/data flows or how the products interact with each other.
    • Does the material reference any inputs, outputs?
    • Do they list anything that differentiates themselves from their competitors?

Step 2 – Create an External Client List

  • Who are your external clients? This information can be gathered from your organization’s sales team, client representative or financial team.
    • What types of products have they purchased, licensed, or contracted for?
    • Note any expiration dates for contracts and/or licenses.
    • Are there Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) in place, what are they?
    • Are the clients satisfied and if not in what areas are there opportunities for improvement?

Step 3 – Create a Competitor List

  • Identifying and understanding competitors to your organization may provide you with a strategic edge when designing potential improvements/solutions. This information can be gathered from your own research on the Internet, your organization’s marketing team, sales team and other relevant departments.
    • How do these competitors market themselves?
    • How do these competitors differentiate themselves from your organization?
    • What do they seem to be doing better than your organization? 
    • What does your organization do better?

Your level of access to some of this information may be dependent on it’s availability and your position, but obtaining and documenting as much as you can will give you a strategic leg up in identifying and navigating new routes.  Happy Trails!