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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Views of Risk


Risk is uncertainty. To reduce risk must remove uncertainty. To remove risk faster you must attack uncertainty earlier, quicker, and with continuing consistency. In linear approaches the uncertainty is attacked on a slow but steady basis. During requirements we confirm as many as we can along with as much confirmation of the problem domain as we can which of course removes uncertainty. We do the same thing during design and coding. Where most of the risk of failure of the application occurs is in the testing which in the linear approach is typically at the end. The uncertainty in terms of whether the final product can be successful, that is generate the business anticipated, reduce cost as projected, be easy enough for those who need the solution to actually use it to solve the problem, generally does not come until after the delivery. Thus we have a continuing level of uncertainty and risk which must be dealt with through artificial means such as risk registers and contingency plans.
In an agile we attack the uncertainty immediately. We get parts of the complete solution done, tested, and demonstrated in a short timeframe. As both the developers and the business see what is being developed, and how it will work, the uncertainty of application failure is removed through the continuous testing, and the uncertainty of appropriate business use and achievement of business objectives is removed by the business inspecting and verifying little pieces as it goes so that at any time the product can be modified, adjusted, changed, or even discarded if it does not seem to be in alignment with meeting the business objectives. As long as it is, uncertainty has been diminished, and thereby so has the risk of product failure or implementation failure.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Considering value both good and bad


If we consider that the ultimate goal of the business analyst is to add value to the organization, and we accept that as our basic premise, then it would seem that our primary job is to define value, and especially the value that we are intending to deliver.
And if we are "adding" value to the organization then clearly we have to have a mechanism to measure the value as it is before we make a change and again afterwards so that we can determine what has been added.
Since "value" is somewhat nebulous and what is valuable to one person may not be valuable to another, being very specific about the value we are adding becomes important both in terms of goal achievement, and also general politics.
Where is value derived? Lower cost of operation without reduction in productivity. Increased sales without additional costs to achieve those sales. Increased market share. Clearly the common "value" for an organization revolves around the bottom line. The value received from the project or program can be measured with ROI or other financial assessment.
However there are other value assessments: increasing the morale of the employees through various programs which makes the organization a more valuable place to work and attracts high-value employees. Successful programs that enhance the reputation of the organization which increases the value of that organization. Projects and programs that are cognizant of the community and the environment which also enhance the organization's reputation with the general public.
And sometimes these different value assessments are in conflict. For example a project that is intended ultimately to reduce cost thus providing a significant ROI, might cause workplace unrest and lower the value of the organization as a destination for new employees and in fact might cause current ways to leave thus reducing the value of the organization by each employee that departs.
What would be the ratio of bottom-line value lost employee value? Clearly there is some kind of relationship, and decisions need to be made based on the increase in value on one side of the scale and the decrease on the other.
What is the business analysts role in all this? Impact analysis. Not only do we have to examine what is impacted, both positively and negatively, as a result of any value increasing project, but also the measurements of the impact on the organization so that management can do a valid comparison. In other words if there is a 3% increase in sales, that value can be clearly understood. But if there is a loss of seven employees as a result of changes be made to increase the sales, what numbers can we use to compare?
Perhaps we need some kind of analysis called "Value on Investment (VOI)"
as the business and mostly would also have to take into consideration the long-term effect of a change to the organization. The ROI or Cost Benefit Analysis or other assessments focus primarily on the initial project or program cost and the benefits that are accrued, without much concern with the long view. Costs are certainly factored in, such as long-term costs of a new facility, but what about the continuing erosion of value over time?
For example if the program has a negative effect on the employees that negative effect may not be noticeable immediately since most employees will take time before they actually depart, and it will take time to find a new place, however the dissatisfaction will continue to grow and increased turnover rate will be the result perhaps some time down the line, and it will continue. Then the organization is in a vicious cycle of trying to deal with the turnover rate, making various employee related changes which do nothing to address the original issues that occurred when the programmer project was executed.
Employee retention is not the only value item that they deteriorate over time such that it may not be related directly in the corporate find to a specific project. The organization's reputation may take an immediate hit and then recover, but then we see that the reputation deteriorates over time as the lingering memory of the ill advised project stays with the general public.
Clearly this is not an easy job to do: prognosticate what the impact will be immediately and then over the course of time. However, just the exercise of stepping back and evaluating all of the impacts of a given project or program both now and in the future adds value to the organization by making the decision process that much more rational. And remember, if the results turn out that the project will generate a negative value in excess of the positive value and the project or program is canceled, the business analyst adds value to the organization in terms of saving money which can be redirected to something more valuable.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Decision Making and the Business Analyst

While business analysts do have to make decisions about what they are going to do and how they are going to do it, they don't generally make decisions about the problem, the solution, or what is going to be done. Those decisions are left to those roles with authority: the project manager, the problem owner, upper-level management, and others. That being said, the business analyst is almost always intricately involved with any decisions that are made about solving the business problem.
It is good to remember the three roles that are necessary in any decision to be made. First of all there is the decision-maker, the one who has the authority to make the final decision. Then there are those who are advisors and provide advice and counsel to the decision-maker. And the third role is that of informer, the one who provides the information to the decision-maker and the advisors.
These are roles, rather than individuals, and all three roles could be played by the same person. For example you are deciding what movie to see. You are the decision-maker, making the decision on which one to choose, you are also the information gatherer checking the start time of the movies and the location they are playing, and you are the advisor checking on reviews and watching trailers.
In a business decision making context, it is highly unlikely that the business analyst will play the role of decision-maker, but in most business decisions business analysts play the roles of advisor or information gatherer or both.
The important aspect of business decision-making for the business analyst is to recognize which of the roles the business analyst is playing so that they played the appropriate role: offering advice and suggestions when playing the advisor, and offering unbiased, objective information when playing the information provider.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Introducing Doctor BA to a larger audience

For those of you who have been reading the blog here, you are probably also familiar with the column on the Website "Ask Doctor BA".  I am expanding the venue of Doctor BA's answers at the behest of Modern Analyst (modernanalyst.com).  They have published two Doctor BA articles providing a more in-depth look at some of the questions business analysts have.  The first published in March, is on BA tools (

http://modernanalyst.com/Resources/Articles/tabid/115/ID/4963/categoryId/90/Doctor-BA-and-the-Tools-of-the-Trade.aspx ).  The second which was published April 1 is on BA decision making. (

http://www.modernanalyst.com/Resources/Articles/tabid/115/ID/4962/Doctor-BA-and-Making-Decisions-as-a-Business-Analyst.aspx).
Check them out and comment on what you like or don't like or disagree with.  Also post some more questions for Doctor BA to answer.  I'm sure he will be willing to respond.