Resilience and the Softer Side of Business Analysis

I’m pleased to say that my most recent article has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

 

Excerpt:

Resilience -- person on a small island surrounded by a stormy sea and rain holding an umberellaBusiness analysis is a wide and varied discipline that relies on the practitioner’s honing and developing skills in a number of areas.

 

Laura Brandenburg recently described more than a dozen skills in her article “What Business Analyst Skills Are Important for a New BA?”. In Laura’s article, she mentions a number of technical skills, but she also highlights some of the softer behavioral skills that we analysts need.

 

It’s certainly true that on bigger projects and when working in more political environments, softer skills such as stakeholder managementnetworking, and conflict resolution become even more important. However, there is one important business analysis attribute that is rarely talked about—resilience.

 

Click on the link below to read more:

http://www.techwell.com/2013/03/resilience-and-softer-side-business-analysis

Clean Language in Business Analysis

I’m pleased to say that one of my recent blog articles has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

A short excerpt is shown below:

 

Excerpt:

Blue Speech Bubbles“One of the challenges that business analysts face is getting into business and project stakeholders’ heads so that an accurate understanding of goals, objectives, and needs can be defined. As anyone who has undertaken this activity will attest, this simple sounding exercise can be deceptively difficult.

 

Stakeholders are often so knowledgeable that they aren’t even aware of the tacit knowledge that they are privy to—there might be some things that seem so obvious that the stakeholder doesn’t mention them. There’s also a real danger that a stakeholder might have pre-supposed a solution and might inadvertently and unconsciously guide the project in a certain direction.

 

Throw in the fact that a user who has operated a process the same way for twenty years might find it very difficult to articulate the bigger-picture improvements that they need— focusing instead on the smaller pain-points—and you have the potential for a perfect storm.

 

We know that successful projects need a firm understanding of the underlying objective or improvement that the stakeholders and users need. Balancing these challenges is part of the day-to-day business analyst role.

 

Surmounting this challenge involves asking probing and open questions, and perhaps employing a combination of elicitation techniques such as interviews, workshops, and observation. It’s often said that the quality of the answers we receive will be in direct proportion to the quality of the questions we ask.

 

As such, I’m always interested in finding ways to ask better questions. One technique I’ve started learning more about is Clean Language…”

 

Click on the link below to read the rest of this article

http://www.techwell.com/2013/03/clean-language-business-analysis

Management Information: Lifeblood or waste paper?

Trash CanInformation is often said to be the lifeblood of organisations.  Certainly, timely access to appropriate reports and Management Information (often traditionally referred to as “MI”) helps managers and stakeholders at all levels in the organisation to understand trends and make decisions.  However, how much MI is too much?

 

I remember, early in my career, working for a Financial Services organisation that relied on regular reporting from its mainframe system.  Every night, the mainframe would spew out pages and pages of reports and lists of data on continuous tractor-feed paper – each with a header page showing who the report was for.  The mail-room would collate and sort these reports, and within a few hours the report would be directed to the relevant person.  At least that was the theory…

Continue reading Management Information: Lifeblood or waste paper?

Helping Stakeholders to See the Wood for the Trees

I’m pleased to say that my most recent blog article has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

Excerpt:

 

Trees in front of evergreensOne of the real challenges associated with business analysis is drilling down to the real business need and requirements.  Often stakeholders will come to us with a preconceived idea of what the solution might be, and through a range of elicitation and questioning techniques we help crystallize an understanding of what they really need.

 

Ironically, this challenge can be even more prevalent when speaking to the most experienced end-users.  Often, large organizations benefit from having extremely skilled and knowledgeable staff who have worked in their roles for decades.  They can provide a mine of information and can really help us to understand the context of the organization and the role they undertake.  Often, these stakeholders know a huge amount about what customers really think about the organization and where the organization’s processes aren’t working as efficiently as they could.

 

However, in some cases they may struggle to “see the wood for the trees”…

 

Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/helping-stakeholders-to-see-the-wood-for-the-trees/

Broken printers and the importance of end-to-end processes…

A maze with a blue arrow exitingI remember in the dim and distant past, technical commentators painting a euphoric picture of how offices would work in the 2000s – paper would be obsolete, and information would be passed around electronically.  Well, I know I certainly use less paper now than I did even 10 years ago, but I still rely heavily on a trusty laser printer in my home-office.  As much as I try to read documents on my PC or tablet, sometimes it’s just far more convenient to print them out.  I was therefore rather unsettled when my printer started to make worrying whirring and clunking sounds a couple of weeks ago and eventually ceased working completely, accompanied by several warning lights flashing and a slight smell of electrical solder.  Of course, this happened immediately before I was due to meet a client – a true case of “Murphy’s law”!

 

Having searched for the printer receipt, I noticed that it was less than a year old and still under warranty. “Fantastic”, I thought, and I rang the manufacturer’s warranty helpline.  A rather long phone-call ensued… I’m sure we’ve all experienced these types of phone call when trying to deal with some organisations.  Whilst the phone call ended in a good outcome, it reminded me of the importance of understanding business processes from end-to-end, and the pitfalls that can happen when organisations compartmentalise their processes and focus on silos.  Here’s a summary of what happened:

 

Continue reading Broken printers and the importance of end-to-end processes…

The Importance of Consistent Business Rules

I’m pleased to say that my most recent article has been published on “Techwell.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site.

 

Excerpt:

A stack of foldersHere in the UK, we’ve recently seen some very high profile companies receive some extremely bad publicity. A number of large organisations are alleged to have dodged paying tax on their earnings and have faced a tough grilling from the UK Government and Public Accounts Committee.

In fact, a recent report cited in The Economist alleges that ninety-eight of the companies in the FTSE100 used offshore havens to avoid tax. That’s a staggering statistic and in a time of austerity and recession represents a significant loss of national income.

Putting all moral arguments aside, this is an interesting case study in policy, procedures, and most importantly what we business analysts would call business rules. One of the inherent aspects of tax avoidance is that companies can choose to operate globally and locate subsidiaries anywhere in the world…

 

Click on the link below to read more:

http://www.techwell.com/2013/03/importance-consistent-business-rules