The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use and benefits of Mind Maps for business analysis.
The 5W mind map uses the journalists’ five questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why) plus How to provide a template for a business analysis guide that can be used through the project lifecycle.
This technique is the first action I take for every new project, giving me a project overview that is then used as a checklist and visual reminder during the course of the project. I use a free download version, but there are many mind mapping tools available and the paid versions offer more sophistication for presentations and integration with other project tools. (The mind map tools provide the ability to embellish your view with markers, images, colors, and labels, but beware of drowning your big picture in a pool of emoji’s).
The diagram below shows the 6 major topics, and the initial round of sub-topics for each. The choice of sub-topic may vary with your project or your own area of responsibility.
USAGE BY KNOWLEDGE AREA
- At the start of each project, create a new mind map to organize and coordinate plans for the analysis tasks
- Add information from the project proposal to each topic
- Use the mind map tool to expand the sub-topics as knowledge is gathered
- Identify stakeholders and project partners under Who
- Record the high-level business case under Why
- As requirements are gathered, add the high-level business requirements and business rules under the What topic
- Record sizing and usage estimates against Who, How or What
- Use the mind map during the course of the project to maintain focus on the high-level requirements and to reinforce relationships between and justifications for requirements
- Use to analyze proposed changes
- Print out the mind map and pin to your wall or the project war room for all to see, especially during team discussions when members need to be anchored
- Refer to the mind map when developing presentations to stakeholders and project teams to maintain consistency over long projects
- Update the mind map during the course of the project, maintaining version numbers
- Validate the requirements against the other project topics
- Identify key aspects of the solutions and delivery methods under How
- Record implementation locations and delivery sites under Where
USAGE BY TOPIC
Each topic provides an opportunity for the BA to start shallow and take deep dives. Add all findings as you go – but do not hesitate to remove or edit as new facts or requirements are discovered.
Who – Stakeholders and Project Partners
The key stakeholders of the proposed system should be identified in the project proposal, but stakeholders are also uncovered during the life of the project. An example is downstream consumers of the product or data being delivered. User estimates can be noted against active and downstream users.
Making a note of the executive sponsors and influencers serves as a flag to follow up when there is an organization change or an executive mind shift. How will that affect your requirements? The BA should be aware of other partners such as Finance, delivery team, and the planned support team as potential influencers of the system requirements.
What – Requirements and Business Rules
Detailed requirements and user stories should be left out of the mind map, but they should map back from your requirements management tool to the mind map. The requirements in the What topic serve as a guide and constraint on the detailed requirements. There should be sufficient information so that the mind map is a stand-alone overview for when you are faced with an executive in the elevator asking what this project is about.
Where – Locations
The Where may prove to be not significant for a particular project, but including this in your initial template provides the opportunity to consider first then ignore – rather than ignoring first. Will the infrastructure be hosted in a public cloud or in-house servers? Will there be international users? Will the support be local or outsourced. The requirements must cover these variables. The delivery variables
When – Project Timelines
Making a note of the high-level project timelines at minimum completes the overview of the project, but this branch may also include requirements analysis plans, sprint plans, and/or key business event dates.
The Business Analyst is not responsible for technical solutions or project methodologies, but these may have an impact on requirements, and therefore the BA should be aware early of technical decisions such as COTS or Build, In-house, or Outsourced, Agile or Waterfall. Record just enough information to show how the technical project decisions support the requirements. Sizing estimates should be recorded here because the technical solution should be compatible with the expected traffic and data volume on the system.
Recording the high-level justification for the project provides another guideline reference for the business analysis work, and red flags during requirements analysis.
- Generate discussion and ideas. The loose structure of the visual and the flexibility of the software work together to open minds and to overcome reluctance to offer ideas and changes.
- Multiple perspectives. The mind map shows horizontal and vertical perspectives. The drill-down design allows viewers to see big pictures and their underlying details in a single view. Discussions can go down rabbit holes into the detail but the presenter has a tool to bring them back to the shared big picture.
- Highlight relationships. The central positioning of the major topics in the 5W template provides a horizontal perspective and makes the viewer think about the relationships between topics. How does the project methodology impact the delivery of the requirements? Do the requirements match the business case? Do the requirements reflect all locations and stakeholders?
- Easy to recall. Mind maps create a visual representation of your project, and the picture really can be worth a thousand words. Visuals are easier for memory retention than pages of words.
- Enable change. Today’s software development environment is short and agile. The BA operates in an environment driven by change, disruption, and transformation. The 5W mind map enables free-thinking within defined boundaries, and also provides an impact map to assess shifts and changes.
A 5W mind map is a useful tool for requirements planning and management. The starting topics of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How provide a checklist when collecting requirements and a reference during the life of the project.
The attached file presents an example of a 5W mind map for a hypothetical project to provide digital signage at local swimming pools.
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