General Business Analysis

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We begin our exploration of information system data fundamentals by looking at types of records applicable to any organization. Records such as     GL ACCOUNT, STAFF MEMBER, and ASSET are well-understood within any organization large enough to warrant information systems supporting Accounting, Human Resources, or Asset Management functions. These functions and record types are well supported today by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) packages. So well supported, it’s difficult to imagine any organization justifying a decision to develop an in-house solution rather than buy a commercially available one.

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A change request (CR) is basically any change in the initial set of signed-off requirements. So, typically in a waterfall model implementation, the requirements phase ensures that all the requirements (features/functionalities/functional and non-functional) are agreed upon and documented before development starts. After that, any new scope brought or requested by clients becomes a change request. There is an additional cost associated with implementing a change request.

Even in the agile model of working, although there is flexibility in the implementation of the project, vendors ensure that a high-level set of requirements are discussed and agreed upon. The iterative way of working ensures that clients have their eyes on the product as it is developing and can suggest corrections or alignments. However, no vendor can work with entirely flexible requirements. It's not feasible from a budgeting standpoint.

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Have you ever wondered how global a career in Business Analysis might be? So, you roll up to your desktop or laptop every morning in an office or these days mostly likely at your workspace at home. You check your emails, plan the day, speak to your colleagues and manager, attend meetings and work your BA magic all within the boundaries of your project, client or organisation. Everyone speaks the same language and I’m not talking about English or Spanish, I mean tech speak, industry speak and BA buzz words like ‘moment of truth’. But what if you were to take your desk and move it halfway across the globe to a different country and time zone? Would organisations even face the same challenges most BAs are helping to solve and would teams use the same techniques to help solve them? I can answer that question with a resounding ‘Yes!’

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Business analysts, process analysts, systems analysts, and process owners use Business Process Normalization to more effectively elicit and perceive, unequivocally define, and model sound, modern business process structures, and workflow configurations. Proficiency with this analysis technique benefits their process management, digital transformation, and regulatory compliance projects.

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Thanks to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) architectures, the utility of and business case for model-driven, no-code and low-code platforms have become more compelling than ever. More and more enterprises are entrusting their digital transformation, regulatory compliance, and business process management objectives to model-driven, no-code or low-code business application platforms.  These model driven platforms also raise the bar for the business process modeling skills of the business analysts, systems analysts and process owners who use them.

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The practical applications of data science are multiplying. From predicting if a delivery will arrive late to recommending how much herbicide to use to save money and protect the ecosystem, there are endless examples of organizations harnessing data science solutions to improve the efficiency and quality of business decisions.

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Is there something called as Agile BA or DevOps BA? Or is there a dedicated role such as ‘BA in DevOps’? How are Agile and DevOps related? How does BA role change or goes through metamorphosis, when it comes to DevOps?

One day, I got a corporate training enquiry and that is when I heard the term ‘Agile BA’ for the first time. At that time, I had already worked on Agile projects yet nobody had referred to my role particularly as Agile BA. A thought came to my mind, what if there was a job post saying “looking for a ‘Waterfall BA’?” I even heard once: “With DevOps there is hardly any role a need for BA or PM”.

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As BA's our fundamental job is to understand the business problems proactively, determine the consequences of not solving them, and then define a solution that eliminates or alleviates the problem. When given our directives: (i) a problem exists- define it (ii) provide a solution to that problem- describe it (iii) a change is required in the business to solve the problem- realise it. We must have effective tools in our arsenal, and a sure way to see beyond the bars on the window is to understand the fundamental truth of the situation and reason up from there. A first principles mindset could be that dominant tool to understand the seed to reap the fruits, enabling us to be the change agents that improve business processes and add value.

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In a previous organization I worked for, I formed a Business Analysis team by bringing 7 business analysis professionals together for the first time.  There were no templates, no standards, everyone was doing work their own way.  I don’t believe in standards for the sake of everyone doing work the same way, but I do believe in embracing what works best in an organization and striving to use that to achieve repeatable success.  I introduced the concept of a Business Analysis Center of Excellence (CoE) to the organization. 

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to manage a group of project managers and business analysts. This article reminisces about what shaped my thoughts on managing such a group and hopefully gives you some considerations given the opportunity.

Past Experience

Perhaps negative experiences impress us more than positive ones. What does not kill you, makes you stronger. In the area of managing a group of project managers and business analysts, two negative experiences stand out for me. I was a project manager engaged in a conversation with my boss on my development. I had worked for this person several years. I asked him if he had heard about a group called the “Project Management Institute.” He said “yes” and maybe he should expose the organization to the group. Maybe? I asked the question since I had been working as a project manager without guidance and frankly was a bit upset over the lack of leadership and development. I told myself, “isn’t that the role of management - to develop people.

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Analytical techniques in process discovery and improvement, including process mining and simulation, have been available for many years. In the past, however, they were used primarily by people with a technical analytical background. The current business environment and technological advances have pushed these analytical tools into the mainstream, where they are being recognized as essential for all levels of business analysts.

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One of the biggest challenges now facing business analysts is this: how do we successfully engage with stakeholders, elicit requirements, and have productive workshops and meetings, without actually meeting in person? The tried-and-tested methods of getting together in a collaborative space, using sticky notes and whiteboards, and bribing attendees with baked goods, are no longer quite so straightforward in a world where some or all of the stakeholders are on the far end of an internet connection.

There are several factors to consider when moving out of the purely physical realm as a business analyst.

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It is true that a structural element of the conceptual framework of the BABOK knowledge areas is tailoring. The philosophy that a specific sequential approach does not fit in all circumstances is clear across all the knowledge areas and techniques presented. A business analyst has to critically filter and pick up the most useful techniques and approaches given the specific circumstances.

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I was teaching a business analysis course recently and noted that few students had used a Fishbone Diagram along with the Five Whys for root cause analysis. This motivated me to write an article on root cause analysis using the combo method along with a short example.

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This article covers examples of how tools are becoming extremely important in today’s world for Business Systems Analysts; continuous learning and exploration of various tools are becoming indispensable to work efficiently and contribute towards the team success.  As more and more new technologies/tools arrive in the market, from a BSA perspective being able to appropriately understand and use them will not only emphasize the value of the BSA role, but also the force the change in mindset to align more towards the Agile way which is the common forte nowadays.

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