Visual Models Will Make You A More Successful Business Analyst

Visual models are images and contextual descriptions enabling business needs and requirements to come to life.  They are extremely powerful, and are among the most essential tools for Business Analysts to elicit and document accurate and complete requirements. 

Let’s take a look at the top 3 reasons visual models assist in the requirements process.

1. Removes Complexity

Visual models allow you to avoid potentially confusing verbiage and long blocks of text, and instead, use something everyone understands, pictures.  

As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  And while that statement is overused, it is the truth.  It is much easier to understand complex thoughts and processes when you can visualize how it will work.

Using a very simple example, I can illustrate the point (no pun intended).  Without a visual model, receiving driving directions would end up as a list format.  Surely, this would work and would assist you in getting to your destination.  The challenge is, it can be confusing.

Let’s compare the list based requirements to a visual depiction of the same thing.  The visual of the map with the route highlighted is not only easier to understand, but it also provides additional context about the layout and distance of the various roads.

This visual model helps to structure the information in a way that is easy for anyone to understand, regardless of their experience in receiving directions.  

This same logic applies to your project requirements.  Not everyone has been engaged in projects in the past.  Providing them with visuals can greatly reduce the perceived complexity, which will increase requirement accuracy, and therefore lead to more successful projects.

2. Reduces Misconceptions

Having a project team member who doesn’t fully grasp the whats or the whys of requirements or the potential design, is actually more dangerous than a project team member who doesn’t show up for any of the discussions.

When people don’t recognize what they are hearing or seeing, they tend to keep quiet.  Even worse, some feign understanding by nodding their heads as things are being explained.  This can give the Business Analyst the misconception that the project team member is agreeing with the requirement details or the design that being explained.  As expected, the results can be catastrophic to your project’s end result.

To help avoid this mishap, visual models should also be utilized to allow everyone to grasp the concepts and fully understand the ideas being portrayed.  This will allow people to feel more comfortable questioning requirement or design details, thus preventing issues before they occur.

3. Identifies Requirement Gaps

Missed requirements are one of the leading causes of project failure.  The challenge becomes, how do you know if a requirement is missing if you aren’t aware of the requirement?  

Visual models can help to identify and uncover some of those elusive requirements.  When a process, such as our driving directions, is written in text format, it is very difficult to identify if anything is missing.

In this list of directions, I unfortunately missed a requirement and spotting the mistake can be rather difficult.  But when creating the visual model of the map, I would quickly realize that I cannot turn left onto Scholars Drive N from La Jolla Village Drive and I must have missed something.

Now with this issue identified I can request clarification from the project team and it should be quickly recognized that I missed the step of “Turn right onto Pangea Dr.”  If we hadn’t completed the visual model, the chance of someone catching the issue in the project’s requirement phase would have been unlikely.

In the end, visual models are invaluable tools for removing complexity, reducing misconceptions, and identifying gaps in your requirements.  Now that you understand how visual models can aid in the success of your projects, the next step is to break down and understand what visual models Business Analysts most commonly use.

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide


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