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What Is CATWOE Analysis?

by Business Change Team · Updated on Nov 10, 2020

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CATWOE Analysis is a technique for understanding a stakeholders perspective and the impact that this view will have on the direction of the business change.

One of the primary reasons for managing stakeholder relationships is to understand their viewpoint before putting forward any recommendations, or, worse still, implementing business change. Uncovering the direction each stakeholder believes the organisation should take and understanding what the key stakeholders want is crucial if the business change is to go in the right direction.

CATWOE Analysis is one of many techniques that a business analyst uses to identify the what it is that the business is trying to achieve, what the problem areas are and how stakeholder perspectives affects the people involved in it.

CATWOE stands for:

  • Customer: the recipient of the outputs from the business system
  • Actor: the roles that perform the business system processes
  • Transformation: the core process that delivers the outputs to the customer
  • Weltanschauung: the underlying world-view for the transformation
  • Owner: the stakeholder with the overall authority for the business system
  • Environment: the rules and constraints surrounding the business system

Defined by Peter Checkland as a part of his Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), CATWOE Analysis is a simple technique which can be used for stimulating thinking regarding business problems and solutions.

Why use CATWOE Analysis?

Usually business stakeholders will have ideas about the direction the organisation should take, the requirements to be addressed, the options for improvement and the solutions that should be implemented. However, these views stem from their personal concerns, beliefs, values and priorities, and it is this lens that often forms the basis for strongly held opinions from which deviation is challenging.

A failure to consider these perspectives can result in serious challenges later in the project, as any differences of opinion develop into conflicts. This may be seen in conflicting priorities placed upon business requirements, or even the emergence of conflicting requirements.

How do you use CATWOE Analysis?

Here are the six crucial elements, which should be rounded-up in a well-formulated root definition – a structured description of a system.

Customer(s)

The stakeholder beneficiaries (or victims) of the outputs from the business system.

  • Who is on the receiving end?
  • What problem do they have now?
  • How will they react to what you are proposing?
  • Who are the winners and losers?

Actor(s)

The stakeholder roles that carry out the tasks and activities within the transformation.

  • Who are the people who will ‘do the doing’, carrying out your solution?
  • What is the impact on them?
  • How might they react?

Transformation

The main business activity that delivers the (defined) services to the customer.

  • What is the process for transforming inputs into outputs?
  • What are the inputs? Where do they come from?
  • What are the outputs? Where do they go to?
  • What are all the steps in between?

Weltanschauung (or World-View)

The underlying beliefs and meaning that explains why the business activity exists.

  • What is the bigger picture into which the situation fits?
  • What is the real problem you are working on?
  • What is the wider impact of any solution?

Owner

The stakeholder role who could instigate change (or cause the system to cease to exist).

  • Who is the real owner(s) of the process or situation you are changing?
  • Can they help you or block you?
  • What would cause them to get in your way?
  • What would lead them to help you?

Environment

The constraints imposed within the environment surrounding the business activity.

  • What are the broader constraints that act on the situation and your ideas?
  • What are the ethical limits, laws, financial constraints, limited resources, regulations, and so on?
  • How might these constrain your solution? How can you get around them?

In summary, CATWOE Analysis is a simple checklist for thinking, and, like many checklists, it can be surprisingly useful when used appropriately to stimulate open thought.

Would you like some help with this?

Business Change Management Group (BCMG) helps you build your business analyst career by teaching you the knowledge, skills and abilities needed, with an emphasis throughout on practical learning and real-life case studies.

BCMG’s Strategic Business Analysis course introduces you to all the essential skills of business analysis, including strategic analysis, stakeholder management, business activity modelling, gap analysis and making a business case.

Find out more about Strategic Business Analysis

Where do you use CATWOE Analysis?

CATWOE Analysis can be used at various stages of the business change life-cycle and for many purposes during a project, especially as a means of:

  • Understanding a stakeholders perspective of a business system
  • Analysing the source or actual conflict between stakeholders
  • Considering different priorities assigned by stakeholders to options, needs or requirements
  • Developing a business activity model from which to perform gap analysis

Using CATWOE in its bullet-point form is best for the actual analysis of the stakeholders’ perspectives, but turn the results into a root definition to present the perspective back to the stakeholder to check that it does, in fact, reflect their view of the situation.

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