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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Change leaders or Lead Change

Change could be led by current leaders who are inspired by new ideas (which may come from someone or something else) or who realize (or are shown) that the current direction or the existing state of things just is not right or is not working. 
I think it is somewhat disingenuous to assert that the situation can change but those who are leading the situation cannot. To suggest that change only comes through  revolution (replacing current leadership with new and different leaders) does not allow for the Eureka! moments or the "oh, my God, what have I done?" moments. We have plenty of evidence historically of leaders changing their politics, position, beliefs and so forth, and in many cases that is exactly what makes them leaders, as opposed to those who are intransigent or stubborn and go down with the ship instead of finding a new way to save it.
And there are plenty of examples of leadership changing, but nothing else does.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Career path of the business analyst

My thoughts about the career path of the Business Analyst may be considered a bit extreme by some, and on the other hand may be embraced immediately by others. I believe the career path for the Business Analyst is the Executive Suite.  After a career in various levels of business analysis, playing various roles, applying the inherent skills of business analysis, the natural next step from the position of business analyst is at the strategic and leadership levels of the organization.  Why? 
The current crop of CEOs, as has been the case for decades, come from sales or marketing for the most part.  The kind of outgoing charismatic person usually associated with the sales and marketing position is the kind of person that is noticed and elevated as  CEOs and Presidents.  The charisma that helps a person be a great salesperson is the same as that which is typically possessed by  those considered as leaders. However, in today's world it is necessary to only know the organization's product and customers and market position and competition. Those evolving the strategy for the organization need to know technology (computer and otherwise), systems, business processes, and how all the various parts of the organization fit together.  It will not be enough to be a figurehead, plot a direction to increase sales or add new products or buy companies and make speeches at college commencements.
And who in the organization has the experience with both the technical and business sides of the organization? Who is trained with the skills of facilitation, negotiation, mediation, investigation, elicitation, applying influence, and resolving conflict? Who spends their time defining business problems, applying critical thinking to situations, coming up with solutions to business problems, viewing the situation from a systems thinking perspective?  Who is the organization's Chief Problem Solver? 
It is of course the Business Analyst. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Value of Observation

Observation is an information gathering or elicitation technique that is often overlooked by business analysts.  Sometimes it is impossible to observe the workers doing their jobs. There may be security issues, concerns about interfering with the work process, or simply physical limitations in the environment.  However, wherever possible the business analyst should seek out ways of observing the people as they perform the tasks and activities in the problem domain.  . 

The observation provides four beneficial things to the information gathering process:
1.    Observation lets you get an immediate view of, and feeling for, the overall problem domain, especially when you follow the business process from end to end.
2.    Observation gets you closer (and in participation you get all the way) to a shared experience with the people you are going to talk to
3.    Identifies questions that you need to ask
4.    Identifies actions, activities, decision points and processes that are so automatic that the process workers are not aware that they are doing it and would not mention it in an interview or meeting.
There are four types of observation:
·         Passive observation is when you walk through the business unit observing what is going on without any interaction with the workers.  Later you ask questions to clarify what you have observed
·         Active observation is walking through the business unit, but with the ability or permission to ask questions of the workers as you go. 
·         Participative observation is when you actually do the job – take the place of a worker or work side by side with them, taking notes along the way, and asking questions
·         Simulation occurs when there is no other way of observing. The business analyst enters a simulation of the business process.  Examples of simulations include the well-known Flight Simulator and other similar computer renditions.  But also there are usually training materials for new hires that can introduce the business analyst to the business process and some organizations have computer simulations of various user interfaces in the business process for use in training and process improvement that the business analyst can use to become familiar with the business process environment.  

Consider including the practice of observation as one of the elicitation techniques you use regularly in your business analysis process.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Type cast Business Analyst

It is sad that the business analyst has been typecast as solely a definer of requirements and to run interference with the business community. I tend to buy into the business analysts name - someone who analyzes the business to solve business problems.
There are two approaches depending on the business analyst's stance. A deductive or tactical business analyst responds to stated problems from the business. From that perspective, the business analyst would not be involved until someone identifies a problem - the difference between the current situation and what that someone perceives the current situation should be. Then the business analyst steps in to solve the problem and might in the course of defining the solution document some requirements for change.
In the second approach, the business analyst reviews the business process and identifies improvements or problems that could be solved to improve the process without being told there is a business problem to solve. For example, in the situation of a mechanic using a web site to help diagnose a problem with a vehicle (actual situation), the business analyst might suggest reorganizing the web site so that it reflects the natural way the mechanic uses the information instead of the logical flow of data that would be normally defined by a systems analyst or data base designer. The business analyst  observes the way the mechanic uses the website and suggest improvements not in the mechanic's process but in the way the computer system on the web site supports that process. Once the inductive business analyst's suggestion for improvement is adopted, the deductive business analyst (same guy, different hat) steps in to define the solution in a set of requirements that are implemented to improve the process.
Both business analysis approaches are valid and necessary to add value to the organization.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Update on the PBA

I got a few questions lately about the status of the PMI Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide which I helped write last year.  The primary question was whether the PMI-PBA exam was now based entirely on the Practice Guide.
The practice guide was released electronically in December 2014 and in print in January 2015. It was available for free download from PMI through June of this year. As far as I know, the guide is still just one of 11 books on which the PMI-PBA exam is based. Although, each of the five writers of the guide, including myself, submitted 50 to 100 questions to be included in the question bank for the exam. So there may be some bias in the questions toward information in the guide. Additionally as we wrote the guide we were aware of the books in the last (for example several of the sections I wrote were based on my book, which is a natural thing to do of course).
I advise anyone taking the exam to read the guide because for the most part it is a very good summation of all of the books. However I don't know whether just reading the guide will be enough for someone without a lot of experience as a business analyst. I have not taken the exam, even though I have the certification. But remember that the exam was given for six months during the pilot before the guide was released so the first set of questions were based solely on the BA reading list.  
In general, after talking to many business analysts who have taken, and passed, the exam, a solid understanding of the general aspects of business analysis will likely suffice although all the books on the list are certainly worth reading even if they weren't part of the PBA exam.