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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Business Analysis Specialists

While the concept of being an Oracle Business analyst or an Accounts Receivable business analyst is not quite right.  A business analyst is after all, a business analyst regardless of the technology, product or business area. Or so it has been said.  In fact, it also has been said by me.
But today we can look at specialties within business analysis , specialties that are generic enough to warrant standard business analysis approaches and discipline, and requiring additional technical or business expertise, or both,  for success.
These areas are relatively new, not in concept or theory, but in practical application.  Artificial Intelligence, for example, has been around since the 1950s, but never really had business applications the way they are cropping up e everywhere in every business now.  So it is easy to fathom business analysts with the specialty of “AI specialist”. In fact, :”AI specialist” is the fasted emerging job of 2019 according to LinkedIn.  (LinkedIn does not specify exactly what an “AI specialist” is, or what one having such a title would do, but the title is clearly one in demand.
Machine learning, deep learning, robotics, Big Data, analytics of all kinds, and other specializations may all be sub categories of business analysis when talking about how each of these technologies impacts or aids the business. I’m not talking about the technical aspects of these technologies – the new programming languages, data science, statistical computations, algorithm creation and so forth. 
Before any of that happens the organization needs to determine a business problem that can be addressed with the technology (or, as many organizations are doing,, trying to find  a problem to fit the already pre-determine solution.  “We want to use artificial intelligence, go find something to use it on”).
Much of the new technologies impetus has to do with innovation, and as we have pointed out for years, the business analyst is in the forefront of the organization’s innovation since the business analyst has the most inf-depth knowledge of the organization’s business processes, data and customers.  So, naturally, these technology specialties would be considered a subset of business analysis.  Business analysis is needed for all of the technologies to be successful for any given organization, and all of the technologies help the business analyst achieve the primary business analysis goals in the organization:  identify and solve the organization’s business problems.  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

business analyst and optimism or realism

One of the common characteristics of business analysts that I hear fairly frequently is that of optimism or a positive approach.  Certainly a positive approach is good to have, especially when the project or the new system  or modification is not universally endorsed.  It is good to be optimistic about the final results when the nay sayers are predicting failure and doom. The business analyst among all other roles needs to keep eyes on the prize, so to speak.
However, the business analyst has to be more than just optimistic. The business analyst also has to be realistic. The optimistic business analyst accepting a program or feature of questionable technical feasibility or specious strategic alignment is aiding and abetting waste. The business analyst
needs to analyze and when the business analyst is sure that the program or new feature adds value to the organization, then the business analyst can charge ahead optimistically.
Skepticism, analysis, confirmation, optimism, in that order.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Coaching or Mentoring Business Analysts

Suppose your boss, the business analyst manager, project manager, PMO director, or whoever, asks you to coach a group of business analysts, or to mentor an individual business analyst. What would you focus on? What would you consider to be the most important aspect to improve the business analysts you are culturing or mentoring?
Of course; a lot would depend on the experience level of the people your coaching or mentoring. One might assume that you might be mentoring a less experienced business analyst, perhaps a person who is new to the profession, and providing coaching services to business analysts who are somewhat experienced. After all, even the most experienced of us can benefit by coaching, even if the coach is less experienced. But that would be a topic for another blog later
The question here is what areas of the entire business analysis spectrum would you choose to begin your coaching with?
Obviously; most of us would start a coaching or mentoring initiative, as I have in the past, by asking the coach cheese or protégés where they would like help, or where they feel they are the weakest in their skills. Clearly focusing on what they need first and foremost would likely get the best bang for the buck, the most improvement for the leased time invested. But then there is the issue that the area that they request help in is also an area that you need help in. For example, if they are running into issues with basic data modeling since they are getting into some data analysis projects, and you don't know how to spell ERM, entity relationship modeling much less have ever done it, your coaching would not be exceptionally effective. But a request for something specifically technical like data modeling, probably is best handled with a formal training session by an expert in the field, or one of those online on-demand training sessions.
If the business analysts requiring coaching need the coaching in elicitation techniques and how to ask the right questions, and you break out in hives whenever you are forced into a situation where you must ask questions and get answers, your coaching might not be effective.
But it certainly is good to know that up front. So you don't waste your time coaching them on writing user stories when they don't know how to gather the information to write these stories the first place.
Bring us back to the original question if you were to be given this assignment, along with a general instruction to coach them on "everything business analysis". What would be the first area of business analysis that you would provide coaching in?
Think about it it's a good thought exercise to put the tasks and activities of a business analyst into perspective.