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Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh The Joys of Requirement Walk Throughs - Part 1

This week has been quite a busy week as I was part of facilitating walk throughs. What made these walk throughs a little more challenging for me is that I had to walk through requirements that I did not write nor had all the background on how these requirements came about. I am currently in a requirements manager role for this particular project where I provide leadership and direction to the business analysts on the project. Sometimes it's challenging enough to just put out fires and provide that direction, in addition to filling in gaps when needed. I have found though that if you have built great relationships with those on the project team, most people with help you in any way they can in the situation I was in. So here is how the week leading up to walk throughs went.

1. Since there was another large project doing walk throughs the same week of my project that utilized some of the same resources, there was some coordination that needed to be done between myself and the other requirements manager, as well as the impacted parties. Agenda's had to be created to outline where the overlap was. Once everyone agreed on how to accommodate the overlap, I worked on my agenda to where each business analyst would present all of their topics at one time, meaning in the same session or sessions, taking into account timezones. We are quite a virtual team with business analysts in other timezones as well as our business partners in other timezones.
2. I then worked with the business analysts to define the plan on how we conduct our virtual walk throughs. Each person would essentially bring up their own business requirements template and present their requirements. Once each business analyst completed their sections I would incorporate into the final document as approved requirements. We use SharePoint for project documentation but i wanted to be constantly updating the online version during the walk throughs so i did not want to do the checking in and out. Yes I did multi-task while walk throughs occurred.
3. The PM sent out the agenda to the broader project team so everyone knew our plan and what sessions they would want to attend.

So at this point we are prepared for walk throughs to begin...but are we?

Look for another blog post that discusses some of the things that can occur during a walk through and how you can handle those situations to reach your outcome. These will be real life experiences i encountered.

Paula Bell

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Top 10 BA Trends for 2011

I love checking out YouTube videos and I stumbled across a video that was posted by ESI.  This video talks about the top 10 BA trends.  You can find the actual video here. However, I wanted to outline the trends here.
  1. Business Architecture
  2. BA & Cloud Computing
  3. RMD (Requirements Management & Development): Delivering Smart Business Perspective
  4. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)
  5. Agile success means breaking tradition
  6. Business analysis is recognized as critical to change management
  7. Resurgence of centers of excellence
  8. Business analysis is essential to regaining market share
  9. Business analysis continues to struggle to define itself
  10. Business analysis requires better balance competencies (soft skills and technical skills)
I find this these trends are dead on and a lot of what organizations are dealing with. I felt this was definitely worthy of sharing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Less is Sometimes More

Sorry for the late post as I have been sick but what I have been reminded this week is less is more. It is sometimes very hard as a business analyst to get out of the details sometimes to speak at a higher level. For example, have you found it hard to tailor your documentation to fit the audience in which you are talking or presenting to? If you are presenting to a senior leader in your organization you probably don't want to show up with a 50 page document when you can get the same information across in a 4 page PowerPoint presentation. Typically senior leaders or executives only want the high level bullet points but expect you to speak to the details if they should have questions. However, your technology team may need the 50 page document to understand what you want them to do. Now I know my agilists just crinched but I'm just trying to make a point. Another area of topic is business process modeling. A common question is, "How much detail should I flow?". What I have found is business analysts need to be really skilled on reading your audience, understanding the team dynamics and understanding the level of content your targeted audiences need. Getting out of the detail can be challenging because we are in the detail daily but we seriously need to understand how to get out of th detail and be concise. This is the point of twitter, concise messages. If I ask a question, I don't need you to go to Brazil, Argentina and then back to the United States. I need you to stay in the United States and in the city.

Some of the tips I have learned to become better at this are as follows:
1. Understand your audience - understand what your audience likes to see as far of level of detail. This means getting to know the people you work with. This doesn't mean get on a personal level but get to know pet peeves and what style of communication each individual on your team prefers. Yes, this is the power of interpersonal skills.
2. Be concise when appropriate - sometimes you need detail but be concise where you can. Remember, tweet!
3. Have a peer review your work that is mot engaged in your project - if the peer can't understand then your message is not clear. If it doesn't flow logically or make sense to your peer then there is a good chance it won't be clear to your audience.
4. Prepare - prepare for your presentations in advance, if you can. Don't wait to the last minute.
5. Be prepared - ensure you do understand the details IF asked for detail so you can speak to it. Otherwise stay concise and to the point. That will eliminate confusion and unnecessary swirling.

I have seen business analysts struggle because it's hard to get out of the detail but as business analysts we have to be flexible and meet the needs of all parties involved. We have a hard job and huge responsibilities but we are HUGE assets to the organizations in which we work.

Go forth and conquer!

Paula Bell

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Communication is Key

One of the most important skills a BA should possess is communication. I put this skill higher than writing the requirements because if you cannot effectively communicate you will not capture or understand the business needs. Another skill is to understand how to communicate with the many different audiences you will work with daily. I have found that if you find how the other person likes to be communicated to you will be more successful. I have also found that no matter how you communicate some people will never get it. No matter how specific you are, whether it be task assignments or getting your point across it's as though you are speaking another language. I write this post to ask you to think of the following when you conduct your business analysis as these tips have proven successful to me:

1. Understand how each individual likes to be communicated with
2. Adjust your communication style to fit your audience
3. If you find that written communication doesn't work then try verbal communication
4. Watch the tone in which you communicate, it's mot what you say but how yo say it
5. Less is more - be concise but get your point across
6. Avoid phrases such as "You need to do..." this puts individuals on the defensive
7. Paraphrase what you understood the person to say to ensure you understand
8. Proof read written communication
9. Do not respond based on emotion
10. If an individual gets loud then you get soft. Don't add fuel to the fire.

These ten concepts have proven successful in my business analysis career. Hopefully, these can help others.

Paula Bell