If there’s one thing that acts as a ‘leveller’ it’s time. However ‘successful’ or ‘rich’ a person is, there is still only 24 hours in their day. And time really does seem to fly by at a rate of knots. I can’t quite believe it’s been ten years—a decade—since I started this blog. You can read the first ever article ‘Taking the Customer’s Viewpoint’ here, although to be honest I wouldn’t bother—it’s pretty awful :). As with any skill, blog writing takes time to develop, and some of my early work is—well—a bit cringe-worthy. It does, however, show a journey.
I am what I sometimes like to describe as a somewhat “reluctant” driver. I have never really enjoyed driving, and since I live in a very congested city it is something that I’ll avoid doing if at all possible.
One thing that I find particularly curious is the seemingly ubiquitous phenomenon of “road rage”. We’ve probably all seen instances of this play out on the road, for a whole variety of reasons. One particular pattern that seems to play out time and time again is:
One thing I find about being a BA is that I can’t switch the analysis off. I am forever analysing situations and interactions, well outside of the “day job”. I suspect many of us have this trait, and it may well be at least mildly irritating to those around us. 🙂
I recently went into “analysis mode” having checked into a hotel, exhausted after running a workshop. I went to put my clothes in the wardrobe, and I noticed two all-too-common minor irritations that regular travels will recognise:
- There were fewer hangers than I needed
- The hangers were of the “anti-theft” type, where the hanging loop is permanently attached to the rail
Unfortunately, these particular hangers were old and worn, meaning that they didn’t fit well and whenever weight was applied to them (e.g. by adding a shirt) they fell to the ground. As I sighed looking at a wardrobe full of crumpled shirts now neatly scrunched into a pile on the very bottom of the wardrobe, I couldn’t help wonder why hotels use these weird hangers. Even a few ten pence wire coat-hangers would be better than this nonsense….
What’s The Actual Risk? And What Message Does It Send?
Time really does fly! I can’t quite believe it’s just over two weeks until the start of the Business Analysis Conference Europe 2019 (#BA2019) in London. As I plan the final practice runs of my presentation which is entitled “Whose Perspective Is It Anyway? Practical Analysis Techniques for Understanding Tricky Stakeholders”, I can’t help but get a…
As anyone who has ever worked with me will know, I’m somewhat of an advocate of Non-Functional Requirements (NFR) Analysis. I’ve found that in some projects, sadly, the NFRs are left unexamined, with the Functional Requirements taking the lime-light. This is understandable, after all it’s far easier to talk about what needs to change, and far harder to talk about the quality attributes and other non-functional elements of that same change. Yet get the NFRs wrong, and you end up building a very shiny and expensive system that nobody actually uses. If you are in the UK and have been to a Post Office recently you may have experienced the ‘self-service’ booths. As Roland Hesz observed on Twitter, these are so complicated to use that they have a member of staff guiding people through the process….
For a whole variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about NFRs a lot recently, and I came across three articles that really resonated with me, and made me think it’s about time we revisited the ‘standard lists’ of NFRs that we use. In particular, I think there are two sets of categories that we ought to add.
As I’m sure many readers will be aware, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) recently launched the IIBA®-AAC. AAC stands for “Agile Analysis Certificate” and as you’d expect this is a certification program aimed at BAs working in an agile environment. I recently sat (and passed!) the exam, and since then a number of people have asked me if I have any tips. With this in mind, I thought I’d put together a blog post whilst the experience of studying was fresh in my mind. I hope that you find this useful.
Imagine the scene: You’re just about to start the analysis for a project which involves a large contact centre employing hundreds of people. The call centre manager hands you a dusty folder marked Procedure Guide. “Here you go, this is exactly how we do things here.” says the manager, “this will save you interviewing our busy front-line workers!”.
I suspect many of us have experienced this situation (although it’s far more likely to be some kind of electronic repository rather than a dusty manual) and when it happens we try and hold back a wry smile. Procedure guides are extremely useful artefacts, but so often they are not properly managed and maintained and they quickly fall into disrepair. In some cases, the work that is conducted on the shop floor often bares only a passing resemblance to the ‘official’ processes, and in many cases there are unofficial ‘enhancements’, ‘interpretations’ and ‘workarounds’ that have crept in over the years.
With this in mind, when we are carrying out business analysis and improvement work it’s important that we understand how the work really works. Elicitation techniques such as observation, apprenticing, scenario analysis and many others can help here. If the process hasn’t been well-managed and well-maintained it’s highly likely that we’ll find variation. Differences between teams, and even individual workers may have emerged. There may be entire new ‘steps’ in the process that have been created, or steps might have been removed, re-ordered or changed in some other way.
Standardisation Isn’t (Always) Our Friend
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. I’m really excited to announce I’ll be speaking at…
Like most folks I know, I have a whole range of mixed memories from my years at school. Some fantastically ecstatic, others scary and traumatic, but I suppose the sum of those experiences were all ‘character building’. If you had met me as a school-age child, you would have found someone who had very strong ideological views, but who so often lacked the ability to express them clearly. Some would argue that little has changed 🙂
I did fairly well at school, but was also seen as a bit feisty at times—my strong views and beliefs weren’t always compatible with the power structures that existed in schools (those power structures, by the way, extend way beyond the teachers and well into the playground). One phrase that I remember people who perceived that they had power over me told me time and time again was:
“You’ll think differently when you’re older“
Within some organisations there seems to be a management mantra of “pursuing ruthless efficiency”. On the face of it, other than sounding like something that ought to appear on a “buzzword bingo” sheet, this seems like a sensible thing to aim for—I mean if we can hit the “sweet spot” of being more efficient (i.e. incurring less costs) whilst also being effective and delivering what our customers want, that has to be a good thing, right?
Well yes, this statement is probably true—to an extent—but there are some important nuances that are easily overlooked. Efficiency is crucial, but like most things in life, it becomes problematic when taken to an extreme. Balanced efficiency can be an excellent thing to aim for—it can actually mean you exceed customers’ expectations (“You can deliver quicker than I expected? Awesome!”). Ruthless efficiency, on the other hand, where an organisation cuts, cuts, cuts without looking and thinking holistically at the impact is far more problematic.
An example of Ruthless Efficiency: A Gym
I was mulling this over recently when working out at my gym. I’ve been a member of this particular gym for over 15 years, and I’ve seen managers and gym staff come and go. The gym itself has changed ownership in that time, and in the past five years it’s pretty obvious that they have been cost cutting presumably with the aim of being “ruthlessly efficient”. In fact, a few years ago they even lowered their monthly subscription charges, to make them more in line with their competitors. Something that is pretty rare! So how has the drive for ruthless efficiency affected them (and their stakeholders)? Read on….