Articles for 'Karl Wiegers'

Jan 08, 2023
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Rather than building systems in house, many organizations outsource development to contract development companies. They might outsource the work to take advantage of skills they do not have available in-house, to augment their internal staff, or in an attempt to save money or time. The outsourced development supplier could be located physically nearby, on the other side of the world, or anywhere in between.  The role of a business analyst is even more important on these projects than on a co-located project. If the team members are all in one location, developers can walk down the hall to ask the BA a question or to demonstrate newly developed functionality. This close collaboration can’t happen in the same way with outsourced development. Compared to in-house development, outsourced—and particularly offshore—projects face requirements-related challenges...

Oct 23, 2022
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Whether you’re purchasing a package (also called commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, products) as part or all of the solution for a new project or implementing a solution in the cloud, you still need requirements. Requirements let you evaluate solution candidates so that you can select the most appropriate package, and then they let you adapt the package to meet your needs.

Jun 12, 2022
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There are many other valuable requirements activities besides these six. However, these practices greatly increase your chances of building a solution that achieves the desired business outcomes efficiently and effectively. Applying them doesn’t guarantee success for any BA, product owner, or product manager. But neglecting them likely ensures failure.

May 08, 2022
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A software feature consists of one or more logically related system capabilities that provide value to a user and are described by a set of functional requirements. Many business analysts use features as a way to describe the scope of a project. However, a simple list doesn’t readily show the size and complexity of various features. Nor does quickly skimming a feature list easily reveal the full scope of a project. A feature tree is a visual analysis model that organizes a set of features in a format that makes them easy to understand.

Feb 13, 2022
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Knowledge isn’t like other commodities. If I have three dollars and give you one of them, now I have only two dollars. Money is zero-sum in the sense that I must lose some of it for you to gain something in this transaction. In contrast, if I give you some of my knowledge, I still possess all the knowledge myself. I can share it with other people, as can you. Everyone touched by this expanding circle of knowledge benefits.  Everyone has something to teach—and to learn. You don’t need to be the world’s expert on some topic to be helpful. You just need some useful block of knowledge and the willingness to share it. In the world of technology, if you’re one week ahead of the next person in some area, you’re a wizard. Someone else will doubtless be ahead of you in other areas, so take advantage of their trailblazing. People in a healthy learning culture share what they know and also acknowledge that someone else might know a better way.

Oct 03, 2021
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There’s always more than one design solution for a software problem and seldom a single best solution. The first design approach you conceive won’t be the best option. As one experienced designer explained it:

You haven’t done your design job if you haven’t thought of at least three solutions, discarded all of them because they weren’t good enough, and then combined the best parts of all of them into a superior fourth solution. Sometimes, after considering three options, you realize that you don’t really understand the problem.

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     Designing a new product is a messy process. It involves initial brainstorming, rough concepts, false starts, and extensive refinement. Good designs begin with an identified need or opportunity, and they’re based on a solid understanding of the product’s requirements. No matter how skilled the requirements analyst is or how informed and cooperative the customer participants are, the first set of requirements they develop will be only approximately correct. It takes a process of iterative refinement and validation to accurately understand the requirements for any nontrivial product.

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 Not every manager is convinced that his team needs to do a better job on requirements development and management or that such an investment will pay off. Numerous industry studies, however, indicate that requirements issues are a pervasive cause of project distress. Let’s see why investing in better requirements is a smart business decision for any organization.

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Software applications, cars, kiosks, and many other products must communicate important information to users. These feedback messages most commonly contain information about errors; warnings or alerts; and task progress, completion, or confirmation . Feedback from a product is most effective when it exhibits these seven characteristics...

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I spent a lot of time in the past half-century doing software work: requirements, design, user experience, programming, testing, project management, writing documentation, process improvement leadership, writing 7 books and many articles, consulting, and training. Sure, there were some side trips along the way,.... But basically I’m a software guy. Over all that time, I’ve accumulated numerous insights about the software business. Here I offer 66 of those lessons. Perhaps you’ll find them as helpful as I have.

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Everyone’s crazy busy when you’re launching a new project, and taking the time to study existing bodies of knowledge doesn’t seem like real work. However, “doing nothing” while you examine the lessons of the past is a high-yield investment in your own future. An overconfident project manager, in contrast, will rely solely on personal experience, memories, and the team members’ intelligence and experience to weather any crisis and master any challenge. Hubris, arrogance, and cockiness aren’t solid foundations for project success.
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Visual analysis models provide a powerful set of tools that let business analysts depict system information at various levels of abstraction. These models serve as an aid to understanding, as well as an aid to communicating. Alas, I fear that modeling is somewhat of a neglected practice. I believe modeling is an essential skill every BA should master. Here’s why.

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Perhaps you’ve seen a sign at an auto repair shop that asked, “What do you want: good, fast, or cheap? Pick two.” While humorous, the sign is also wise: it acknowledges the reality of trade-offs. You generally cannot optimize every desired outcome of a given situation.  The notion of such a “triple constraint” or “iron triangle” appears throughout project management. The problem is that I have seen numerous representations of the triangle with various parameters on the triangle’s vertices—size, cost, time, or scope—and various assumptions made about what is being held constant, such as quality or functionality. I’ve also seen diagrams that show four project dimensions. So, in my view, the traditional “triple constraint” is wrong, although the concept of constraints and trade-offs is certainly valid.

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It’s more important than ever for software organizations to build a healthy engineering culture. Healthy cultures rally developers around common goals: shipping high-quality work, continuously improving, and having fun in the process. Your culture is key to recruiting and retaining the talent you need to ship exceptional customer experiences.

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Estimation is a chronically thorny issue for software practitioners. Most people need to prepare estimates for the work they do, but in our industry we don’t do a great job of estimation. In this article I offer six safety tips to keep in mind as you prepare estimates for your project and for your individual work... These six safety tips might not help you create estimates that all of your customers, managers, and coworkers will dance to, but at least they will help you and your team hear the same music.

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