The Countdown: Two weeks until #BA2020

Time really does fly! I can’t quite believe it’s just over two weeks until the start of the virtual Business Analysis Conference Europe 2020 (#BA2020). I am speaking at the event with a presentation entitled “Systems Thinking: Practical BA Techniques for Business Agility.“, and so I can’t help but get a little excited about the event. It’s always a… 

Perhaps We Should Welcome ‘Process Saboteurs’?

Burglar
Image Credit: © Denis_Kavyar — stock.adobe.com #231355635

As anyone who has implemented a business process will tell you, whenever humans are involved there will be variation.  It doesn’t matter how well-documented or well-drawn a process model is, people will put their own interpretation and their own ‘flair’ onto a process.  This can lead to a temptation to continue specifying the process in increasing levels of detail until almost every movement and every keystroke are documented.  It can lead to a temptation to rigidly enforce standardisation, to ensure that all processes are consistently followed irrespective of who is undertaking them. 

There might be specific contexts when this level of control is necessary, particularly in safety critical applications.  Yet in many others it is overkill, and this level of rigidity can act as handcuffs that constrain staff from actually meeting real customer needs.  However many personas we create, however much data we collect, we will never uncover every customer need.  There will be circumstances that we couldn’t have predicted, and this might involve us needing or wanting to service customer needs that we can’t easily predict in advance. These tricky situations might be ‘moments of truth’ from the customer’s perspective.

This is when our customer-facing colleagues are faced with a dilemma: should they do what the process (and by implication the organisation) is dictating that they should do? Or should they find an option that is more suitable for the context that they find themselves in.  Should they use their own judgement to balance the customer’s needs against those of the organisation?

BA Conference Europe 2020 – Going Virtual

As many of you know, I enthusiastically believe in the value that good quality Business Analysis can bring, and I love speaking, writing and presenting on this and many other topics! In a break from my normal ‘blog’ style, I have a very quick update for you.

It’s been a somewhat ‘unusual’ year for events and conferences, hasn’t it? I was very pleased to see that the BA Conference Europe is going virtual, meaning that it’s possible to attend from anywhere in the world. I’m really excited to announce I’ll be speaking, with a session entitled: Systems Thinking: Practical BA Techniques for Business Agility. I can’t wait!

The Obviousness Trap: Double Yellow Lines And The Danger Of Unrecognised Misunderstandings

Progressing change is an inherently human endeavour.  It doesn’t really matter how slick a change ‘process’ is, if people aren’t on-board with a common understanding of what needs to change then the initiative is unlikely to be as successful as it otherwise could have been. One challenge that we face when working with others is… 

A Fireside Chat: Martial Arts, Magic and Business Analysis

When people think of business analysis, they think of many things, but they probably don’t think of martial arts or magic.  In this article, Paula Bell and Adrian Reed talk about these seemingly curve-ball topics, and their relevance to business analysis.

When people think about business analysis, they probably don’t think about magic or martial arts.  Are there really similarities?

The “Solution” Is Simple, Isn’t It?

Organisational change is hard at the best of times, and one ‘warning sign’ I’ve learned to look out for is when people position a chosen ‘solution’ as logical, straightforward and somehow ‘easy’ to implement.  This is typified by the following statement:

 “But we’re just <<insert nature of change here>>, how hard can that be. It’s not rocket science is it?!”

These types of statements are often hard to rebut because they are built on logic, from the perspective of the person that expresses them.  However, they rarely embrace the complexity of the situation and environment that is being changed.  Let me explain, with a bit of a curve-ball example… the tricky issue of weight loss.

Ever Tried To Lose Weight?

One thing you probably don’t know about me (unless you’ve known me for a very long time), is I used to look quite different to the way I do now.  Going back a few decades, I was somewhat overweight.  If you saw a picture of me from back then you almost certainly wouldn’t recognise me.

The Tricky Question of “Purpose”

When creating or ‘improving’ some kind of product, business process or service, a question that will often crop up is that of purpose.  We might (quite logically) ask what the underlying purpose of the thing is, and we might even be tempted to define some kind of measures around what ‘success’ looks like.

As outlined in my previous article, what ‘success looks like’ is very likely to vary depending on who we ask.  It stands to reason that the perceived purpose (i.e. what ‘ought’ to be) is likely to vary too.  Ask ten people what an insurance company’s primary purpose ought to be and you’ll get ten different answers—probably all of which are valid.  (“Make money”, “protect policyholders”, “provide information so as to reduce risk” might be three possibilities).  If the insurance company is to be successful an ‘accommodation’ 1 between a range of possible and valid perspectives is likely to emerge.  Lurch too far to one extreme and the viability of the organisation comes into question.  The challenge is understanding which perspectives are key—which form environmental constraints (e.g. regulation) and which others lead to strategic choices (e.g. which markets or customer segments to focus on).

These types of considerations apply at a more granular level also.  Not only can we ask ‘what is the purpose of this company’ we can also ask ‘what is the purpose of this product/service/process’.  Almost certainly the same types of differences in perspective will occur.  Don’t believe me?  Ask three people what the underlying purpose of the “Issue parking ticket when someone has parked illegally” process is (i.e. why it is done).  You’ll likely get a range of opinions from “make money”, “increase safety” or “to ensure the rule of law is respected”. 

Thanks For Following My Blog. You Might Also Be Interested In ‘BA Digest’ And Our #BACommunity Webinars

Hi there,

Adrian Reed

Thanks so much for being a subscriber/reader of my blog, I really appreciate it. 🙂  I hope that you’re finding the content useful and interesting.  In a break from my regular ‘blog style’, I just wanted to let you know about some other resources that might be of interest to you.


BA Digest: A regular round-up of BA related articles

I’ve been creating the BA Digest newsletter for a few years now.  I send this out every 4-8 weeks, and it is a round-up of a whole range of articles/videos/interesting content from around the web.  I recently realised that not everyone who reads my blog might be aware of this 🙂

You can check out the May/June Edition Here

If you’d like to receive a copy direct to your inbox, just sign up (for free) at www.badigest.co.uk


Gulls, Shellfish and Change: The Change Profession Needs More Empathy

A few days ago I was walking around Canoe lake in Southsea, lost in my own thoughts.  I felt a sudden adrenaline rush as I involuntarily slowed down and swerved to avoid a small object that had dropped from above, followed by a bird (a gull) that swooped down to retrieve it.  I was taken aback; I’d probably walked past gulls doing this hundreds of times before but had never consciously thought about what they were doing and why.  It was only because I nearly collided with one of them that my attention was drawn to it!

Gull next to a shellfish
Gull eating a shellfish

I paused for a second and watched from the side-lines.  There are at least two varieties of gulls that swoop down into the water and retrieve shellfish (some sort of clam or muscle). The shellfish, understandably, aren’t keen on this encounter so tend to have their shells in the ‘closed’ protective position.  The gulls have figured out that the concrete besides the lake can be used as a tool for opening the shells.  A shell dropped from high enough will open or shatter, leaving a tasty morsel for the gull to enjoy.

Perspectives and Evaluation: Important for Change

Is ‘The App That Chimes The Loudest’ Robbing Your Attention?

One of the first jobs I had was in an insurance broker’s office.  This was back in the day when (believe it or not) people used to buy home and motor insurance face-to-face or over the phone from a local broker.  I sat in front of a monochrome ‘green-screen’ monitor in an office full of folders, secure filing cabinets and a lot of physical paperwork.  Many of the “information systems” we used were entirely manual, including a ‘date file’ that was nothing more complex than an expanding folder with 31 pockets.  If you wanted to remind yourself to review a particular item on the 28th, you’d put it in the pocket marked ‘28’…

Image Credit: © stokkete — stock.adobe.com #297320833

A lot of my work was administrative and customer facing.  It was a small office, and work was triggered by information or requests arriving. When I started work, we didn’t have e-mail, so the primary ways that information got in or out of the office were by:

  • Post (delivered daily, batched and sent daily)
  • Fax
  • Phone call
  • Face-to-face
  • Occasional courier/urgent document delivery

Since many of the processes were manual, work was very tangible and visible.  Motor policies were applied for via a ‘Proposal Form’, at which point a handwritten ‘Cover Note’ was written. The proposal form was then sent to the insurance company by post. They then sent a ‘Certificate’ back a few days later.  I am aware of how frighteningly archaic this all sounds, but it really wasn’t that long ago…

This tangibility somehow meant that there was an inherent hierarchy of attention.  Let’s imagine it was first thing in the morning and I’ve sorted the post and I’m working through it (based on the urgency of the items).  The phone rings, I’ll pick that up because it requires an urgent response, it’s synchronous and somebody is there waiting for attention.  If somebody walks in, I certainly won’t hang up the phone, but I’d gesture to the person to take a seat so they know I’ll be with them as soon as I can.  If a fax came, or if a second bundle of mail arrived whilst I was on the phone or speaking face-to-face with someone, so what? It’s asynchronous, it can (probably) wait.  I certainly wouldn’t let a newly-arrived fax or letter interrupt a face-to-face conversation with a customer (unless there was a very, very good reason to do so).

Technology and Intangibility Disrupts the Perceived Hierarchy