How to Prepare Design Options in Business Analysis

The purpose of defining design options is to identify solutions approach, allocate requirements across solution components and present potential design options that could meet the desired outcome. When designing a solution, there might be more than one design option fitting into solution scope. While each design option projects a way of meeting a set of requirements, they may also present trade-offs as the solution is developed. Business analysts will need to evaluate the impact of the trade-offs on project stakeholders if implementing a certain design option and also recommend the course of action.

Major inputs to create the design options include the validated and prioritised requirements, requirements architecture, solution scope, change strategies, infrastructure analysis results and organisation analysis results. Allocating validated and prioritised requirements allows design options to be focused on satisfying solution elements and stakeholders’ expectation. Requirements architecture effectively reflects the interrelation between requirements and the information attached to each stakeholder to address their concerns. Both change strategies and solution scope set the boundaries and flag consideration when business analysts transform requirements into design options. The infrastructure and organisation analysis provide measures and insights into implementation capabilities when creating design options.

Four Steps to Prepare Design Options in Software Development

1. Research on solution approaches 

When defining solution approaches, business analysts always look into three options, including purchase off-the-shelf software, create bespoke software, or a combination of both. The off-the-shelf software or some of the solution components are usually products and services owned and maintained by third parties. Creating solution components means that the solutions are developed, assembled, tested and deployed by experts to satisfy a set of requirements. Given the nature of requirements, the organisation’s technical capabilities, the implementation difficulties, the cost and resources’ availability, business analysts may also search for a “hybrid” solution – to both purchase part of solution components whilst developing some by experts. Benchmarking and market analysis can be used to identify market trends and vendor assessment ensures that third-party solution is viable to deliver the desired outcome. Once the solution approach is defined, the business analysis shall start identifying the improvement opportunities.

2. Identify improvement opportunities and assess organisational readiness 

Proposed design options reflect the way of achieving a number of identified improvement opportunities. The type of improvement opportunities usually falls into three categories: to increase efficiency by automating or simplifying the operation process; to improve the access to information so that users who interact with the system are able to gain a wider range of information; to map out additional capabilities, adding value to the business in both short term and long term. Improvement opportunities can be identified with the assistance of lessons learned, interviews, and surveys.

3. Assign requirements to solution components 

With the guidance of defined solution approaches, requirements should be allocated to solution components to match the identified improvement opportunities. Weighing the trade-offs presented by solution components and outlets, business analysts assess the cost, benefit, value and constraints when allocating requirements to units, parties, stakeholders, features and solution releases in order to maximise the value. Requirements allocation typically continues throughout the design definition phase and solution evaluation as well as the implementation phase.

4. Create design options

A comprehensive design option usually starts with a description of business objectives and opportunities. Other design elements may include:

  • Diagram and workflow describing how the solution works.
  • The business process to be performed by leveraging the solution.
  • Software and application components used in this solution.
  • People who operate and maintain the solution, including use case, user journey and their responsibilities.
  • The price and the potential value of this design option to business.

Given the nature of the readers or audience, it’s important to use the right format to present design options. Mind mapping, presentation and workshops are the most frequently used to deliver design options to your audience.