Defining Project Scope with the Context Diagram

One of the key Better Business Analysis Techniques & Approaches (from The Better Business Analysis Framework) is the Context Diagram.

A context diagram is a visual tool used in systems analysis and business analysis to depict the relationship between a system and its environment. It’s a high-level diagram that identifies the critical components of a system, the interfaces between those components, and the relationships between the system and its stakeholders.

This diagram is a great Business Analysis (BA) technique because it helps to clearly define the boundaries of the system under analysis, making it easier to identify the components in and out of scope. It also aids in identifying functional and non-functional requirements for a system, which simplifies the design and development of the solution. Furthermore, it effectively communicates the project, the issue, and the scope of a program or application, making it a powerful tool for stakeholder communication.

Here’s how to create a context diagram:

  1. Research: Understand the organization and its interactions with external entities. This can be done through intranet research, discussions with colleagues, or workshops with key business knowledge holders.
  2. Identify the Main Entity: Draw a circle in the middle of the page and write the name of the main entity (the system or process you’re analyzing) inside it. This represents what you have control over.
  3. Identify External Entities: From your research, identify all the external stakeholders that interact with the main entity. Draw them as boxes around the circle. Each box represents a single entity that interacts with the organization.
  4. Connect the Relationships: Draw one-directional arrows between the main entity and each external entity to represent the interactions. Label these arrows to indicate the type of interactions taking place and whether they are incoming or outgoing.
  5. Validate: Share the diagram with others in the organization to validate your analysis and ensure you’ve accurately represented all interactions and entities.

Remember, the goal is to keep the diagram simple yet comprehensive, providing enough detail to be useful without becoming overwhelming.

The following is an example Context Diagram template we work through in The Certified Better Business Analyst – Level 1 course

Context Diagram Template
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