On Stakeholder Observation

The next time you need to elicit a process, try this: Interview the subject matter expert and document the steps in the process. Then watch them perform the process. Chances are, you will pick up a lot more steps in the process than what they told you. They are not trying to be secretive, they are just being human. They make internal assumptions. By observing the process, you get to see each individual action they perform in order to complete the entire process. Only then can you question the reasons behind certain actions so you can truly understand it - Paul Mulvey

On The Importance of Data Migration

Data migration is typically the most overlooked component of a project that involves moving from an old system to a new system. While there can be many people involved in discovering the new business requirements or in designing a new UI, the data migration task itself tends to be either forgotten or delegated to one person. This perceived simplicity of data migration leads many project managers (and sometimes the business analyst) to think that data migration can be separated from the main body of tasks needed to deliver the system - Yvonne Harrison

On Avoiding Manual Workarounds

We should keep an eye out for “manual workarounds” creeping into our project.  We should challenge the view that “a few seconds here and there is fine” and ensure that our stakeholders have the right data on which to base the decision. Small numbers soon become big and can cripple a business case - Adrian Reed

On Shipping Products

How do you release on time? You fix scope. You have release criteria. You have shorter projects because they are easier to estimate and deliver. You use an incremental or an agile lifecycle so you have more predictability about your release - Johanna Rothman

On Building Trust

Trust is key to relationships. In fact, people often stay with a mechanic or garage that they trust for years – even if they know they can get a cheaper deal elsewhere. Trust helps build customer loyalty, which is extremely beneficial as it’s often stated that signing up a new customer costs on average 4-6 times more than keeping an existing one. A holistic view of the business, achieved through thorough business analysis will help to ensure a consistent level of service and quality are delivered, and this is one of the cornerstones to building trust with customers - Adrian Reed

On Communication

In reality, very few stakeholders value reports by weight. The trick is to write just enough… and that’s a challenge I’m sure we’ve all grappled with! By really thinking about the needs of the document consumers, we can edit it down, so it provides them even better value - Adrian Reed

On Eliciting Customer Needs

There is value in letting the customer drive the conversation—whether it be through the repertory grid approach, or by going to a place where the conversation naturally occurs itself, such as Amazon product reviews. More times than not, this approach can give companies a much better shot at really developing features the market wants, features they need, and ultimately features they will use - Kelly Burroughs

On the Power of Data Modelling

I do worry that too many projects nowadays concern themselves with process rather than content, and with slogans rather than techniques. Data modelling is a well-proven technique that is fundamental for successful business analysis - The Business Alchemist

On the Role of Business Analysts

We know that one of the first things lead business analysts need to do is to uncover the real issue, problem or business need. And then make sure that whatever requirements or ideas are suggested align with the thing we were trying to address in the first place - The Business Alchemist

On Requirements Management

Documenting requirements is an important part of any successful project, but at the end of the day, if we are spending our time and energy on managing the vehicle we use to communicate them instead of the requirements themselves, there is a large risk that requirements will be overlooked, be incomplete, and ultimately not clearly define what it is the business needs to be successful - Kelly Burroughs

On adding value

Without the soft skills we never will get beyond the mechanical work of being a BA and move on to adding value. That’s why I stress to the students I’ve taught that there’s far more to being a BA than the techniques, important as they are. You can be a BA without ever employing these techniques. I know, because I’ve done it. It might not be pretty, but we got to where we needed to go. And I’m sure that’s better than designing the best parking meter in the world, for a street that doesn’t need it - Julian Ostling

On BAs being the "Bridge"

You no longer have to focus as much on information gathering and sharing or simply being called the bridge. You need to focus on analyzing and being an advisor to your team and organization. If not, your consumers will be looking to someone else.

Early in my career, the view of the BA role was to just focus on the requirements, not the solution. There were BAs that would cringe when discussions of a solution were happening before the requirements were fully vetted. Discussing the solution should be part of your role. Your team and business partners are not looking for analysis, they need solutions. If you are not part of the solution the perception is you add less value.- Kupe Kupersmith

On Mistakes made when writing use cases

1. Using the language of the user interface to talk about the user behavior. For example, instead of  saying, ”Actor X selects to create a new account”, you state, “Actor X clicks the new account button (or tab).” 2. The use case is clear about all the steps the user needs to take, but is missing the corresponding system action that needs to happen in response to each user step. 3. Use case includes technical details that are not required to understand how the user interacts with the system. Common examples of technical details include: data elements or data tables, names of system components and system-triggered processes or procedures. - Laura Brandenburg

On Deadlines & Quality

The quality of the product, and the benefit it brings, will be remembered long after the project budget and deadlines have been forgotten about. - Adrian Reed

On Gaining Customer Insight

So often organisations miss the opportunity to gain insight from their customers. They spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars eliciting the views of strangers through market research… and they miss the insight that their own customers are giving them for free! They spend millions on change programs, delivering new IT systems and new processes and ‘bake in’ the inefficiencies in their existing processes, without considering what their existing customers are telling them. - Adrian Reed

On Managing Customers

Whether or not an organisation has a Chief Customer Officer, it’s crucial that someone is responsible for championing the ‘voice of the customer’. This needs to be considered in just about every aspect of the organisation at just about every time... When considering changes, great questions to ask can include “Who is the customer here?”, What would our customers say about what we’re about to do?” and “Does what we’re about to do mean we’re appealing to new (or different) customers?” - Adrian Reed

On Business Value

Years later, studies show that projects are not doing much better. Why? Kevin says it’s because business value lies outside the project. It comes before the project – in deciding why to make an investment – and after the project – in helping transition project implementations into operations - Laura Brandenburg

On Solving the Right Problem

How many projects are initiated in response to the acute pain of a “burning platform” where the only option seems to be both drastic and urgent? Yet if the organisation is in pain, has it inadvertently opted for an invasive procedure that might not even be necessary? Knee-jerk reactions lead to unnecessary surgery on our processes, systems and IT; surgery that might even make the problem worse. An extracted tooth will never grow back  - Adrian Reed

On the Importance of communication

Project and organisational change can be scary for some stakeholders — particularly if they think they might be negatively impacted. When there’s no communication, people (completely understandably) fill that void with informed guesses, rumour and suggestions. They draw conclusions based on what they can observe. Inadequate communication on the other hand, can be just as damaging.  The communication has to be appropriate for the audience whilst also being appropriately timed - Adrian Reed

On Being a Good BA

Oftentimes we get so excited about our own ideas and those of our customer that we forget to get the implementation team involved early enough. So by the time we’ve got it all worked out, they feel like all the intellectual challenge is gone. They push back because it’s easy to find issues with another person’s solutions when you have no ownership in them - Laura Brandenburg

On Liaising with Developers

Oftentimes we get so excited about our own ideas and those of our customer that we forget to get the implementation team involved early enough. So, by the time we’ve got it all worked out, they feel like all the intellectual challenge is gone. They push back because it’s easy to find issues with another person’s solutions when you have no ownership in them  - Laura Brandenburg

On Process Initiatives
“People who can think in ‘process’ really well tend to be perfectionists. They want everything to be perfect – they want to see every little piece of the business and how it fits together like a big puzzle. Senior leaders don’t really think that way – for them it’s more like a chess game. And as long as you have people putting together a puzzle talking to people playing a chess game, it will never work. It’s too big a divide.” It can be taken as fact that technical people and managers think different: both in terms of how they think and what they think about. And unless you’re speaking a language they understand, getting your executives on board will always be a challenge. So the key is understanding what outcomes your organization cares about and reframing what you’re doing as a strategic advantage - Diana Davis

On Benchmarking:

If you benchmark against other competitors you will, at best, only ever be as good as them, no better, most of the time worse and you will always be one step behind the trend. Rather than focusing on what your competitors are doing, focus on what the real need of the customer is and deliver that, innovate the customer experience, there is no easier way to become a market leader…let your competitors benchmark you - Steve Towers and James Dodkins

On Being a successful BA

The successful business analyst follows through with the commitment to solve the business problem by making sure that the solution works well in operation and continues to work well. The successful business analyst assumes that the solution may not be perfect and seeks out ways to improve the solution once it is in operation - Steve Blais 

 

On Data Analysis

If you have data analysis skills, I encourage you to apply them during requirements gathering. If you are light on data modelling skills, I encourage you to learn more about the subject. Regardless, I encourage you to keep these skills hidden from your business users and let them think you have magical abilities to ask ‘good’ questions - Dan Tasker

On Aligning business objectives with requirements

We cut 80% of features from scope that didn’t align with the stated business objectives, and still managed to deliver a $14 million increase in revenue. By closely considering the business value of each feature and its associated requirements, you can ensure that, not only is the project itself aligned with corporate business strategy, but also that the features of the project are aligned with the project’s business objectives - David Reinhardt

On Predictive Personalization

How do you determine what your clients’ customer wants without being reactive? Quick answer: Data Analysis. Gather the data on your client’s customer satisfaction surveys, user testing comments and customer usage data - Christine Wollmuth 

On Organizing Requirements

The key is to have a logical structure that works for the project team and the wider stakeholder community. It’s important to avoid creating an uncontrolled  ‘junk shop’ set of requirements where everything is present, but nobody can find it. Version control and maintaining some form of central repository is also important. It’s key to consider these things early on so that the requirements can be built and structured in the right way - Adrian Reed

On Achieving Project Success

A student in a project management class I taught once said, “Our project has a fixed budget, we can’t add any people, all of the features are critical, there can’t be any defects, and we have to finish on time.” This project isn’t likely to succeed. For each project, we need to decide which dimensions (Schedule, Cost, Staff, Quality and features) are most critical and how to balance the others so we can achieve the key project objectives - Karl Wiegers

The manager’s challenge, then, is to adjust the degrees of freedom to make the project succeed in meeting its success drivers within the limits imposed by the constraints. Constraints define restrictions within which the project manager must operate; the project manager has no flexibility around a constraint dimension. The project manager has a little flexibility around the drivers. A specified feature set might be the primary driver of the project, but features are a constraint if the feature set is not negotiable. Any project dimension that is neither a driver nor a constraint is a degree of freedom - Karl Wiegers