Soft Skills

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As agile methods become widespread in organizations, it’s not surprising to see the idea of the business analyst as a dispensable role taking root among IT project teams. After all, in agile approaches, tasks typically performed by a business analyst, such as requirements elicitation, analysis and documentation, are replaced by a conversation between customer and developers.

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Over the years I have noticed that we, as Americans, seem to possess a knack for attacking the wrong problems which I refer to as the “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” phenomenon. I see this not only in the corporate world, but in our private lives as well. Instead of addressing the correct problems, we tend to attack symptoms.

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I recently saw the "The King's Speech," a movie about the relationship between the stammering King George VI of England and his speech therapist... how is this commoner able to help the monarch and become his life-long friend? He is a master at influencing with absolutely no authority.  There are some lessons here for those of us business analysts and project managers whose jobs depend on our ability to influence without authority.

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More and more organizations are taking advantage of business process management (BPM) solutions. And yet, it is often the case that, after an initial success or two, the growth of BPM within a company stalls.

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We can probably all agree that Knowledge Management is generally A Good Thing and that we should do more of it. But what does “doing Knowledge Management” actually involve, and how as BAs can we ensure we effectively reuse our knowledge?

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This month’s column explores the biological basis of human decision-making based on Lehrer’s book. However, it also suggests that lessons from the human brain can sharpen our decision models2 and enhance the process by which we create and manage them.
 

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The ownership of business processes is often a bone of contention – with various parties feeling that they should be considered the owner of certain processes and not of other processes. Inability to agree on ownership can lead to turf-wars when there are perceived overlaps, as well as impactful inaction when no clear owner has been identified.

This article analyses the source of ownership conflict, and makes suggestions regarding resolutions to the problem. It considers the issue of ownership, as well as the issue of custodianship.

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While my co-workers know me as a manager of Business and Systems Analysis, others know me as a Triathlete (A triathlon is multi-sport event involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events; most commonly swimming, bicycling, and running).  It was while reading a recent article about Triathlon that I began to draw a strong parallel between achieving career goals as a business analyst and achieving goals as a triathlete. 

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Once while teaching a business analysis elicitation course, a student in the class asked me, “Have you ever had a wasted interview with a stakeholder?” The question took me back, a surprise; a question I had not been asked before.

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On February 12, I wrote and passed the CBAP exam on the first try. I had completed my application way back in September but hadn’t been able to find an exam sitting date that I felt would give me enough time to study. I finally decided in December that I would never find the perfect time so I set the date for early February and told myself I’d find a way to make it happen.

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“I may not know much about art, but I know what I like”. This famous punch line to a Monty Python sketch about a fictional conversation between a disgruntled Pope and innovative Michelangelo (who wanted extra disciples, multiple messiahs and a kangaroo in his first draft of the Last Supper), can also be seen to satirize our own modern fixation with creativity, feedback and the idea that ‘the customer is always right’.

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Like it or not, every business analyst will have to stand up in front of a group and present. The group might be your business clients, the project stakeholders or just your fellow team members but for many people, one of two things will happen: it will frighten the life out of them OR they’ll umm and ah their way through, sending the audience to sleep.  Why is this so?
 

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If you work with other business analysts, you are fortunate. Together with your colleagues, you can experience greater effectiveness than you could have achieved on your own.  Additionally, your colleagues can provide you with a diverse and convenient pool of expertise from which to draw.

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What we have witnessed in the last 25 years is a series of programmes of change failing to achieve their intended outcomes. Customer Care, ISO 9000, TQM, ABC, BPR. All the research and experience show that the latest panacea does no better than its predecessors. Over and over again improvement programmes are thwarted by commonly-known but illusive forces. The problem is labeled as ‘organization culture’, which typically leads to rationalizations like ‘change takes time’, or ‘each programme is an element in the total change programme’.

Rationalizations prevent learning.

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In virtually every industry in which business analysts find themselves, employers are trying to do more with less. Normally, this means budget and personnel cuts, which are forcing many analysts to also do the work of project managers, prototype designers, and other roles—and often with a smaller budget for software and other analysis tools. In this environment, it may seem challenging for analysts to find ways to cut back even more, but proactively doing so will benefit not only your employer but your projects and your career. Here are a few ideas to research and pitch to your manager for cutting costs as you go about your daily work.

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