One of the critical roles of the Business Analyst (BA), or Enterprise Analyst (EA), in the area of Enterprise Analysis is to identify business need. There are many factors, or many ways that the BA can identify what the business needs. It can be a result of market research or an identified new opportunity brought about by actions of a vendor or competitor. It could be derived from a strategic goal or initiative of the organization. It could have come from a business user complaint about a current system issue and/or the subsequent Root Cause Analysis. It could also be derived from an Enterprise Analysis activity that the BA performed, such as Capability Gap Analysis, SWOT Analysis or Product Feasibility Analysis.
If this vital role is not performed than the organization in Cincinnati, Dayton or other business community would not realize the benefits of identifying some business needs that need to be addressed, possibly gaining greater competitive advantage, possibly achieving strategic goals or taking advantage of an opportunity presented by the market.
Once identified, the business need should be documented in the Business Case of a project to develop a solution for this business need. The business need defines the problem for which the business analyst is attempting to find a solution. The way the business need is defined determines which alternative solutions will be considered, which stakeholders will be consulted and which solution approaches will be evaluated. One pitfall that many business analysts fall into is trying to define the business need by the solution. They start with the solution first instead of the problem first. This reduces the solution alternatives that receive consideration and may bring a lesser valuable solution to deployment than what could have been achieved. So starting with the business need (problem) and solution scope, then developing alternative solutions will bring the most valuable solution to the organization, and the business analyst’s recommendation, to light.
We all learn from our mistakes, what pitfalls to developing the Business Case have you encountered in your career?
One of the most strategic roles of the Business Analyst (BA) is that of a Management Consultant. This role is not drawn out by the IIBA® in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®), but it would fall in the Enterprise Analysis knowledge area. Perhaps this role will be given its due recognition in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge Guide version 3.0 now being developed.
The Business Analyst, Enterprise Analyst (EA) or Enterprise Architect (EA) as they are sometimes called in this role, is often engaged in enterprise wide or market research activities that gives the person great insight into the organization and the market(s) in which it operates. Such activities as feasibility studies, market research, product analysis, SWOT analysis, Capability Gap analysis, analyzing business issues and opportunities, root cause analysis, defining business needs, developing business cases and documenting business processes gives the analyst a deeper understanding of the business and the environment in which it operates that sometimes even the senior management of the organization does not have. This is not saying that business analysts are smarter than business management, it is saying that analysts get deeper into the details of the analysis, which can derive greater understanding of these details about the business.
The creation of internal IT Consulting groups is becoming a common place in companies; in particular a few organizations here in Cincinnati and Dayton in which I have consulted. These groups are often created to perform business analysis activities on the enterprise level; to consult the business on the capabilities and limitations of technology and to consult enterprise application development teams on business needs and requirements. Whether BAs, or the IT Consulting Group, is consulting executive management or business lines management; this is consulting business management to take advantage of business opportunities and diminish business weaknesses and issues.
The creation of an internal IT Consulting Group shows great emphasis to business analysis within the organization. Even if your organization is not large enough to justify a formal IT Consulting Group, giving emphasis to business analysis as management consultants helps the business management make more informed decisions, helps the organization better accomplish its strategic goals and initiatives and enables better change management.
How does your company utilize business analysis for strategic value?
One of the strategic roles that the Business Analyst (BA); Enterprise Analyst (EA) or Enterprise Architect (EA), can perform for the organization is the maintenance of an internal knowledge base, often called an internal Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. This would be a centralized, electronic repository of artifacts concerning the organization and the environment in which it operates. This is not a task defined in the IIBA® BABOK®, however would fall under the knowledge area of Enterprise Analysis.
This repository should describe not only the organization but the environment in which it operates. It should include an Enterprise Architecture; divided into Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Application Architecture, Technology Architecture and Security Architecture. Along with that it should include BA training and information material to quickly ramp up newly hired Business Analysts. Also, some type of mechanism to ensure you are capturing the business knowledge of Business Analysts who are leaving the organization, so that valuable business knowledge does not walk out the door.
When a Cincinnati, Dayton or other community business has a BA community that is actively maintaining a centralized, electronic internal body of knowledge; that organization is well on a maturity path from a BA Practice to a Business Analysis Center of Excellence (BACoE).
By maintaining this body of knowledge within the organization, the Cincinnati, Dayton or organizations across the country and globe can help deliver business analysis services across the organization at the same level of service, move its business analysts among the business lines and business units within the organization with ease and little ramp-up time, make better business decisions based on an enterprise-wide knowledge base, enable business management consulting within the organization. These business decisions can have significant impact on the company’s bottom line.
Does your organization have an internal business analysis body of knowledge?
This week we began talking about the role of the Business Analyst (BA) and how that brings business value to the organization. This is not limited to Cincinnati and Dayton. There are many roles and tasks that a BA performs for an organization. Yesterday, I talked about the value of identifying all stakeholders, and thereby all requirements, for a project. Today, I will talk a little about Stakeholder Analysis. Now the question has been asked, how does a BA perform Stakeholder Analysis?
There are multiple ways a BA can perform Stakeholder Analysis, two of the most common are the RACI matrix and the Stakeholder Map. The RACI matrix identifies each stakeholder’s responsibility(ies) for a given task or deliverable. Each stakeholder will be (R)esponsible, (A)ccountable, (C)onsulted and/or (I)nformed for each task or deliverable. You would have one and only one stakeholder responsible for a given task or deliverable, but multiple stakeholders could be held accountable, consulted during or informed as work continues.
A stakeholder map is a visual diagram of relationships of stakeholders to the solution or to one another. The stakeholder map can be in one of many forms, including the target diagram, onion diagram, stakeholder matrix and others. The diagram depicts interrelations and sometimes communication lines between stakeholders.
Other methods of identifying stakeholders include interviews or brainstorming with known stakeholders could identify other stakeholders, organizational charting, Process Modeling, Requirements Workshops, Risk Analysis, Use Cases/Scenarios and User Stories.
This is how the BA performs Stakeholder Analysis. This identifies all possible stakeholders for a project at the beginning of a project; thereby reducing unnecessary rework and frees up project team members to move on to other work. This can sometimes be traced to reduced headcount within the organization.
I have outlined the common methods used in Cincinnati and Dayton companies. These methods are used outside our area as well. So the question is: What other methods of Stakeholder Analysis have you used in your BA career? How did that add value to the organization? I invite you to respond with any comments or other ways BA's bring value to an organization. Reason number two: Stakeholder Analysis.
Attention Cincinnati and Dayton IT professionals: The IBM Tech Trends Report is in. You can view a copy here. Over 4000 IT professionals from 26 countries participated in this survey. It should be no surprise that the top application development areas are in business analytics, cloud computing, mobile and social business.
Specific skills needed by application developers were java, .net, xml, php and html5. Not any real surprises here either. Fortunately, STAR BASE is a leading Cincinnati IT consulting company and can provide IT staffing for any of those areas and skill sets.
Still a very timely topic of discussion, from the person who wishes to transition into a Business Analysis career who wants to know what skills they must have to be a successful BA, to the new BA who wants to know what skills they need to add to their repertoire, to the Senior BA who wants to know where to go next in their career; everyone wants to know how to improve their skills to get to that next level of their career.
Two of my colleagues take on this subject, Kupe in BA Times discusses soft skills vs. hard skills. He notes the importance of soft skills in being a successful BA. Kupe is not suggesting hard skills are not important, he notes that hard skills is what is going to get you noticed, stand out in a crowd, but it is the soft skills that will land you on that next level and keep you there. After all, nobody wants to work with a jerk.
Laura discusses whether Project Management is the next step in the career of a Senior BA at Bridging-the-Gap. She discusses how this use to be the case years ago but is no longer the only option. In fact, we now see the reverse happening where Project Management professionals transition into Business Analysis careers. For those who have reached the pinnacle of their BA career, besides Project Management, they could move into BA Management, creating a BA Office within their organization, Enterprise Analysis, Management Strategic Consulting, Business Consulting, Business Subject Matter Expert or external IT and Business Management Consulting. There are as many paths as there are people willing to forge them.
Elizabeth Larson will be taking on a similar topic at the Southwest Ohio Business Development Conference in April. She will discuss whether Business Analyst and Project Manager should be one or two roles within the organization. At this very same conference I will be presenting the topic “Improving Your BA Skills: From Self-Assessment to Self-Improvement”. This is where I will discuss the many ways you can gain new and improve current BA skills. This is a conference not to be missed if you are in the Cincinnati area on April 29, 2011.
This topic has been around for many years and as you can see is still a very hot topic today, getting a lot of press. There is no one way to build your career, forge your own path. Remember you are in charge of your career. Unemployment, downsizing or IT outsourcing may derail your plans for a time, but don’t allow that to stop you permanently. For some general guidelines, as Kupe suggests, develop the hard skills necessary to accomplish the tasks of a BA and get you noticed. Then develop the soft skills that will land you on that next plateau of your career. Remember, that your current job is not your career, it is just your current position in your career; you decide where to go next. Let your passions guide you. If Project Management doesn’t excite you, good; now you have other options to continue your career.
See Part One here. These deadly sins are not limited to IT Consulting in Cincinnati, but everywhere. I wish that someone would have shared the list below with me earlier in my career. It might have saved me a few grey hairs and sleepless nights. I have to admit, I have been guilty of a couple of these in the past, but that’s why it’s called experience.
5. Blame it on Rio. And I am not talking about the movie, I am talking about pushing the mistake/error onto something else like, the Operating System, another consultant or worse, one of the client’s employees. While the problem could very well be any of those things, your job as a professional consultant is to find solutions and to set an example in leadership and even diplomacy. While you may see glaring errors or mistakes and perhaps your way would have been the better way to do something it is best to keep the criticism and commentary to yourself. (See #3 in Part One)
6. Bubble gum and baling wire. Many times consultants are brought in to fix something. The last thing you want to do is to take a shortcut that you aren't sure will last. Band-Aids are fine if you know you are coming back to make a more permanent fix. But eventually, those shortcuts will fail and will need further attention and the time to failure is an unknown. It could be the minute you drive away or months later. This is not the type of chance you want to take. It frustrates the client, and it makes you look bad. You also don’t want to make the client totally dependent on you. A client told me once that Peter (not the real name) is very talented; the problem is he is the only one that knows how it works and can manage it.
7. Showing up, Gotta Go. (AKA I gotta hangnail). Once you’re on a gig, most clients want to see you on some sort of regular basis and some might have a “core hours” expectation. It’s important for both the client and the consultant to know what each should expect. I once heard a client make a comment about another consultant that went something like this: “Larry(not the real name) runs out of here all the time and uses sickleave for a hang nail!”
Here is another list that has some similar ideas here. I’m sure there are others. So go forth and sin no more!
Coders - DO NOT REPEAT YOURSELVES. Put your code in reusable general purpose functions, and then reuse them. Refactor your work if you need to add a parameter. If you find yourself writing a bit of code (e.g. getting a configuration value) more than once, put that code in a function, and call it next time rather than writing the code again. The goal is not to reduce the amount of code you write, though sometimes that is a result of DRY coding. The goal is to improve the maintainability of the code. If at some point down the road you need to change the way you retrieve a configuration variable, you don't have to go change the code in a million places, you simply change it in the one function whose job it is to retrieve the value.
This post may shock you... the Java Rocker is going to talk about legacy iSeries and AS/400! Before you panic, and call it the end of the world, let me continue. This post is about running all of the cool new Web 2.0 things on your IBM hardware. Really! Even in Cincinnati! Many people, (myself included) thought the old IBM hardware was only for RPG and COBOL (shudders). It turns out that IBM has been adding functionality to run Linux on the box. That means Wikis, Ecommerce, blogs, and web applications are now there for iSeries-AS/400 people. The catch is that your iSeries needs to be up to date, which sadly for most organizations is not. My IT consulting colleagues at STAR BASE are good with taking your tired old hardware and doing the maintenance necessary for the modernization piece. They get your hardware and software cleaned up and ready, so I can help you with all of the cool new application development projects that I have been talking about.
As an IT Strategy Consultant developing IT solutions here in Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, I go from organization to organization and see that turnover within the BA ranks inevitably causes a great learning curve; either to recover the knowledge that has just walked out the door or bringing the new BA up to speed and making them an effective contributor to the organization.
What all these organizations lack is an Enterprise Architecture, a fundamental artifact of the Business Analysis profession. This and other artifacts are the foundation of creating a Business Analysis Center of Excellence. There is a maturity path that all organizations take from having a community of BAs that serve the organization with no continuity or conformity of service through a mature level in which that continuity and conformity of service is establish; into a BA Center of Excellence, where all BAs within the organization have a common standards of practice, tools and resources from which to draw knowledge.
Where is your Organization on the maturity path to a BA Center of Excellence?
Happy New Year!!! Welcome to a new year, new decade and a new beginning.
As the recession recedes and recovery takes hold, IT executives are looking at their project lists and trying to decide what their priorities are. Should we do application development in house or bring in an IT consulting company? Should we consider an open source application? What is the ROI? What’s a company to do? It doesn’t matter if your company is in Cincinnati, Dayton or Katmandu, the questions are the same.
Last month we did a pulse survey to see how IT leaders are managing ROI measurement. The results were surprising and sparked a lot of conversation here at STAR BASE, Inc. The thing that surprised us the most was the number of companies that did NOT look at ROI before doing a project. Most of our respondents (58%) do not.
Some of conversations we have had revolved around the idea of doing a project or installing an application just to stay in the game. Could you imagine a company of any size today functioning without email? I could argue that there is negative ROI with amount of time managing my email in box takes!
For those that measure ROI, only about half see the actual ROI align with the projected ROI most of the time. The other half report that they see the actual ROI align with the projected ROI less than half the time and most said seldom or never. I have often said that if management knew how much it was really going to cost to install that new ERP system before they started, they probably wouldn’t.
Since most of our respondents don’t look at ROI and of those that did, half said the ROI did not align, my question is this: How do you decide what projects to do? Are most companies spending money on IT because they need to “keep up with the Jones’ “? Is it because installing that new ERP will look good on everyone’s resume?
Get your copy of our ROI Survey results by going here.
I was reading this article and as a Cincinnati based IT consulting firm owner, found it interesting. Social networks are influencing our everyday lives more and more each day. This research was conducted by Don Bulmer from SAP and Vanessa DiMauro According to them, there were six key findings:
1. Professional decision-making is becoming more social - enter the era of Social Media Peer Groups (SMPG).
Professionals want to be collaborative in the decision-cycle but not be marketed or sold to online; however online marketing is a preferred activity by companies.
2. The big three have emerged as leading professional networks: LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter.
The convergence of Internet, mobile, and social media has taken significant shape as professionals rely on anywhere access to information, relationships and networks.
3. Professional networks are emerging as decision-support tools.
Decision-makers are broadening reach to gather information especially among active users.
4. Professionals trust online information almost as much as information gotten from in-person.
Information obtained from offline networks still have highest levels of trust with slight advantage over online (offline: 92% - combined strongly/somewhat trust; online: 83% combined strongly/somewhat trust).
5. Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years.
Three quarters of respondents rely on professional networks to support business decisions
6. Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation.
Younger (20-35) and older professionals (55+) are more active users of social tools than middle aged professionals.
There are more people collaborating outside their company wall than within their organizational intranet.
After reading this, a Bad Company tune came to mind, “Run with the Pack”. There is certainly safety in numbers. My question is this: If everyone is doing the same thing, are they giving up any competitive advantages?
I recently read an article about the state of the IBM “i” and the amount of complaining by IBM application development and business partner folk. I know several RPG application development folk, and it sounds familiar. That made me think about my Java Application development and career. Are there things to complain about, and uncertainty about the future? Yes, but there are 2 reasons why the Java community is in a better place; the business model and the community. Before the IBMers call for a holy war, I said COMMUNITY! I am not talking about the strengths or weaknesses of the hardware or software. The business model for IBM is that they make the hardware and software, and partner for the sales and service. I think that is a viable model until IBM competes in the sales and services with their partners. If a lead is brought in by a small partner, they are awarded by giving the business to someone bigger. This sets up a confrontational relationship between IBM, the big partners, and the little partners. IBM can also decide whether or not you are worthy to be a partner. Why does this affect the software application development team? Because most consulting firm are selling SERVICES not HARDWARE. If they are not seeing business because of political fighting, they don't have to sell it. There are viable options on other platforms, where interference does not happen. IBM never fostered a community, they created a hierarchy with themselves as the head.
Certainly Sun has done some things that made myself and others unhappy. Besides, complaining, we actively pushed to remove barriers in our path. We do have an open source Java. Is there a IBM community that can work with RPG to make it work for them? I also think its about scale and timing. It's not like IBM software developers have their own AS/400 at their home. It's easy for me to create and use nearly any kind of application at my home in Cincinnati, and pretty cheaply. It makes it fun to tell non-technical people about my application development. Nobody but accountants want to hear about accounting programs. Java, and newer languages have grown up with the Internet. I have friends from all over the globe that have similar interests. If I have a problem, I can go online to a forum, friend, or web page to find what I need. I can read and write blogs to voice my opinion (like now). These things are not ingrained in the Legacy community, and in fact, have been actively campaigned against. It is my belief that any software, hardware, or service will die when there is no vocal community to support it.
People outside of Cincinnati may be shocked to know that I work with languages OUTSIDE of Java! I don't know any application development person, especially one who does web application development who doesn't use several languages. I have recently been working on Magento. What is that you say? Magento is an Open Source PHP ECommerce application based on the Zend Framework. You don't need to download Zend, just the Magento PHP files. We actually have Magento internally setup with a LAMP package, but I already have MySQL and Apache on my local machine, so I thought I'd tackle and individual install. The verdict? Well after a couple of small hiccups (don't use the Windows install for PHP, just unzip, and localhost needs to be a virtual host), setup was a breeze! Fortunately, STAR BASE, Inc. has enough experience to over come these issues. Magento is easy to customize products and catalogs, and would be a good choice for organizations to create their own ECommerce site. Magento is easy enough to implement without an IT Consultant, but an experienced consultant can save you time and frustration.
Seems like it has been a while since I have had a chance to do a post. For the last 3 weeks things have been absolutely crazy in our IT consulting world, but in a good way. We had a chance to go to the Techserve Alliance national conference in Las Vegas. I have heard all the jokes, including the one about it staying in Vegas. We did learn that just because you are pre-checked with the airline, does not mean that your bags are. We got our bags checked with literally a minute to spare and fortunately all made it back to Cincinnati.
Upon return, we signed a support contract for a new customer. They trust us enough to outsource their entire IT applications support to us. We have a real life example of an IT Strategy that was discussed at the conference (See #3). Not only was IT strategy discussed but business strategy as well. Here are some highlights:
1. Market Differentiation - customers have lots of choices, how will you stand out?
2. Improve Systems and methodology for delivering service- excellence, efficiency, depth of service.
3. Outsource what you can-eliminate the busy work that does not add strategic value.
4. Deal with the economy being slow to recover till 2012, spend your money wisely, hire wisely, fire quickly, and refine what is working, stop what is not.
5. Build Alliances with like minded providers in different industries and sell collaboratively to serve the customers' need.
My favorite of these five is number four. Said another way, its takin’ the basset hound to the farm. I’ll expand more on that in my next post.
Its good to see Cincinnati and Dayton area companies starting to embrace open source as an alternative to custom application development. As an IT Strategy consultant, I can say there is a place for both.
STAR BASE, Inc. just landed another Magento project. I have written about Magento before and this post has links to several others. These are not your father’s shareware packages. The packages we are working with are what I’m calling Commercial Open Source.
I’m curious, why have you or your company not implemented an open source option? Is it because the light at the end of the tunnel looks more like a train? Maybe we’re just ahead of the curve again and I need a little bit of Patience.
Come on, come on, come on, come on now Touch me, babe! Can't you see that I am not afraid? ....... Yea, I have been listening to The Doors again. See the complete lyrics here. Actually we are trying to decide how, when and what to do marketing wise or as we say internally, how many times to “touch” the client. Even a Cincinnati based Information Technology Firm is not immune to the FUD Factor. What’s an IT Consulting Service firm to do?
One of the things that has stuck with me from my marketing class at MIT is when the professor said that the quickest way to burn through a million dollars and have nothing to show for it, was to start marketing and advertising. We certainly need to be marketing, but if companies’ are not in a position to buy, are the marketing dollars wasted?
Having been around for 19 years, this is the 3rd economic downturn we have experienced. We have come out of each one a little wiser and a little stronger. We have been positioning to leap frog our competitors during this one. We have seen an up tick in activity, just like everyone else. This is the 64 dollar question: Is now the time to spend the marketing dollars?
Since today I have more questions than answers, I invite you to leave comments on How?, When?, How often? What means? You would like to be marketed to. Comments will be posted following this blog, so contribute and check back to see what others think.
A couple of weeks ago, I made the trek to Columbus and attended the Ohio chapter meeting of TechServe Alliance of which STAR BASE, Inc. is a member. In talking with other owners and corporate executives, everyone is pretty much saying the same thing: “We are seeing more sales activity, just no commitments.” Seems like everyone involved with Ohio Information Technology firms is in the same boat. In Cincinnati, things might not be quite as bad as Columbus because there is less state government work.
So why is there a lack of commitment? There could be many reasons, but it all boils down to what I call the FUD Factor. Never heard of the FUD Factor? We would not be a real IT Consulting firm if we couldn’t use a TLA (three letter acronym) and it’s not what you’re thinking! FUD is short for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
When the FUD factor is high, people tend not to make commitments, changes or decisions. Doing nothing seems like the safest choice. A high FUD factor equals RISK and as a society, we have become very risk adverse. When the FUD factor is low, decisions are much easier to make, less risky.
With the economy down and so much uncertainty, the FUD factor is definitely high. So is doing nothing really a good choice? Things tend to move in cycles or patterns, it is the way of the world... Losers become winners. Winners become losers. Day yields to night; nights divide the days; summer gives way to winter. Life goes on...always as it always was...but never the same.
Will you be ready?
As I wind down from my client in Cincinnati, I have been reflecting on the job of technical consultants. In my previous posts, I have reviewed my knowledge and understanding of code. But there’s more to my job, and really all application development members’ jobs than code knowledge. A technical consultant needs to know the internal political climate, the processes in place, and the personnel. The client may be risk averse to technology change, or open source software. It could be a corporate edict, or it could be that your client doesn’t know the benefits of the new technology. The processes may be flawed, but are flawed for a reason. A good consult needs to work within the existing process, move that process to a better one if needed. People are always initially wary of technical consultants, because they fear that they will be replaced. Conversely, technical consultants are keenly aware that they are replaceable, and that they should be replaced, if they have done their job right. A good technical consultant knows the trends, but also knows to read people. Which ones need assurance that their job is not in danger, which ones should focus more on their job, and which ones are ready to pick up new ideas. A good technical consultant has confidence in his abilities, but isn’t afraid to learn new ideas from others. I consider an assignment a success if I have left my client in better shape than when I arrived. I am many things, including an application development person, but my job is more than code.