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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Recalcitrant stakeholders

Recently I was asked what could be done about stakeholders who refused to participate in information gathering.  They don't attend scheduled meetings or are resistant to getting together for interviews, even by phone. And they have important information about the product. Or they might suddenly appear when the product is ready to go into production with all their objections.
I offered four possibilities, as follows:

1.   1.  Make sure you have a compelling problem that will help the person when solved.  Define the product stakeholders and when asking for an appointment or a meeting start with the problem. If the problem is compelling and affects the person, they will want to provide information for solution. If not, they will not want to spend their time
2.   2/  Make sure they are affected (or impacted) by the problem or solution. If they don’t want to talk to you it may be because the person who told you to “go talk to them” gave you an erroneous name.  3. The person really doesn’t have information for you and is trying to avoid having a political situation where their boss says they have information they don’t have
3.   3.  If they are resistant to a face to face, define the information you want and let them know what information you are looking for. Sometimes people are hesitant to talk to you because they don’t think they have answers and don’t want to appear stupid.  Or they are afraid they will be asked a question they would prefer not answering, such as about how things are going in the process.  Giving them the information you want in advance may put them at ease and give them a chance to prepare a bit. It also might be beneficial if they don’t have that information. They can then tell you they don’t have it and maybe reference someone who does.
4.    4. Go back to the problem owner and ask for the information. If the problem owner refers to the person who is being resistant, tactfully relate that you cannot get with that person.  At that point one of three things will happen: 1) the problem owner will get that person to talk to you or give you the information, 2) the problem owner will refer you to someone else with the information, 3) the problem owner will get you the information him or herself. In any case, you get the information.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stupid questions

 I know that  we are told that there are no stupid questions. And that’s good advice to follow. The idea is that we ask all our questions and not worry about whether we will appear silly or stupid in asking them. And as a business analyst, of course, our bread-and-butter is asking questions and if we analyze and concern ourselves with the quality of the question or more importantly how we are going to appear and what people are going to think about us when we ask the question, we will find that we will be stifling ourselves and limiting the number of questions we ask.

 However there are two forms of questions that might be considered to be stupid; in other words, they should not be asked.

 A question for which you know the answer or the answer is clearly obvious is a stupid question. In other words you wasted time asking it when you could have asked a more information providing question. Now this does not apply to clarification questions where you’re asking to confirm your understanding of information that you already know. But asking if the sun is shining while everyone is wearing sunglasses seems to be somewhat of a stupid question.  Or this real question asked of a medical examiner by a lawyer: “Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?””

 The other type of stupid question is one in which the responder cannot answer. There is no way to be able to answer without for example incriminating themselves, or putting themselves in a bad light or simply the responder clearly does not have the answer to the question. For example,  “how long has it been since you stopped beating your wife?” The question itself usually generates laughter because they see the quandary the responder is in trying to answer the question. 

It is a stupid question which has no answer.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

More on your future in business analysis

I was asked how long a business analyst should be a business analyst before he moves on to a “real” profession like project manager.   Here is my response:
I will mark my 50th anniversary in the IT business in September.  I am still a business analyst and as it turns out have probably been a BA for the whole time. I don't intend to "change " jobs.  Why?  Because business analysis is a role, not a position.  The CEO and CIO of major companies still perform business analysis activities; they still play the business analysis role.  There is always a demand for someone to determine the real problem, analyze the situation, and define alternate solutions to the problem.  there will always be a need for someone to analyze other businesses for acquisition or merger or analyze the competition and marketplace to help management decide on strategic direction for the organization.  You may choose to leave the position of business analyst, but likely once you are working in business analysis you will always work in business analysis.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The business analyst “career ladder”

I have answered the question of where the business analyst goes after a successful business analysis career, other than retirement, several times in the past, but the question becomes relevant again over time as the profession evolves.  The "ladder" still leads directly to the executive suites in any number of positions. Considering the business analyst is the corporate problem solver and generally is quite versed in both the business processes and practices and the application of IT to support or drive those business processes and practices, the Business Analyst is in a prime position to help the company move forward, make decisions, and lay out strategies for the future.   Intermediate steps on the ladder include senior positions in an organization's PMO (or equivalent), product manager, and director positions.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quality business analysis

A writer recently posed a question on one of the blog sites. He asked if there were any quality business analysts around, and by that he meant people doing “quality business analysis”. He specifically referred to business transformation and process improvement as areas where quality business analysis was needed, but was not being provided.  I would say that the issue is not limited to business transformation and process improvement. In general there is not enough quality business analysis done in business period.  Business decisions at all levels are being made without eliciting and analyzing the appropriate information.  And that is business analysis.  Too much "business analysis" is focused solely on defining requirements for software development when the real business analysis is needed for strategic decision making and overall business operations.  Simply put, many of the business failures of the past decade could have been avoided with solid business analysis.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Advancing the career ladder as a business analyst

Since we business analysts are expert communicators, communication central in the organization, we naturally build relationships and those relationships will be valuable to our future career choices.  Some relationships will be mentor-like and others will be networking assists. 
When choosing a path to follow, use the relationships you have built while building solutions.  You will have demonstrated your ability to solve problems and now you can parlay that ability into the career path you wish to follow.