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Every area of practice in IT has a set of specific “tools” that supports the standard work of technology professionals. Data Analysis is the capture of data requirements, development of models that reflect those requirements and creation of design to store the data. You can accomplish this with a pencil, paper, and the right skill-set. But it can be done much more quickly and consistently if the process is automated.

There are hundreds of individual software tools and tool-suites that support different facets of data analysis.

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Whether you’ve never heard of Agile or you just finished your nth Agile project, you need to understand that Agile is here to stay! Are you, the Business Analyst, an extinct species in this new world? Is your career changing? Do you need new skills?

Agile guru and visionary Scott Ambler talked with Adrian Marchis, ModernAnalyst.com's Publishing Editor, and shared his vision on what’s next for Agile and his thoughts on the role of the business analyst in the Agile world.

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Change seems to be a popular word in this pivotal election year. When I think about change, I recognize that it impacts each of us in many forms. One of the biggest changes I’ve experienced as a Business Analyst was the transition from working requirements in a traditional project lifecycle to an Agile methodology. The change was introduced to my project team as a management directive with management support.

Our project was an enterprise initiative funded as a multi-year program. The program was comprised of three parallel workstreams with shared releases. Our workstream’s objective was to build out data and data services for the other workstreams and the enterprise to use. The team was made up of experienced Information Technology (IT) professionals and a brand new business unit. We were halfway through the program’s duration when our workstream was called upon to employ Agile methods. The other two workstreams we serviced stayed with traditional waterfall software development, which presented challenges interfacing with each other. The entire program had already completed a Business Architecture phase that outlined the program’s objectives, future state vision, and capability implementation plan.

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As an analyst practitioner I took it upon myself to act as a proxy for the product owner – which in a corporate environment came with the challenges of multiple stakeholders, the fact that you are not the product owner and thus don't really have the final say, and a number of other challenges that typically stump people trying to move to agile.

My circumstances were unique in some ways. I had worked in the organisation for some time and had established good relationships with all the key stakeholders. They really did trust me with their requirements because, over time, I had learnt (and shown I had earned) their business.

I also maintained high bandwidth communications with the stakeholders throughout the project and kept them informed of what was happening and how the system was shaping up in the context of their business needs. And expectations were managed.

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As business professionals, we need to understand that security is everyone’s responsibility; and that is especially true for business analysts, project managers, systems analysts, and others in the position of defining processes, technical architecture, or decision support.

If you are involved in a project that deals with information business assets, then you need to be thinking about the confidentiality and integrity of those assets throughout your project.

There are questions you need to be asking yourself, as well as others on the project, to better understand the security implications of a particular process, technology, or design element of that project.

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The ultimate management sin is to waste people’s time, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister told us in their famous book Peopleware [1]. This includes having pointless meetings that prevent people from actually doing anything useful. Nevertheless, some meetings are considered a necessary evil and therefore the so-called “agile movement” in software development has come up with an efficient way of dealing with this: the Stand-up Meeting in 15 Minutes. For those who have just woken up from ten years of hibernation, or having emerged from a cave that had no Internet access, I will explain this briefly.

A stand-up meeting is a daily meeting where people remain standing up to keep the duration of the meeting under 15 minutes. Teams use these meetings to answer three simple questions..

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Software production has become one of the key activities of the industrialized world. Software applications are now the driving force of business, government operations, military equipment, and most of the services that we take for granted: electric power, water supplies, telephones, and transportation.

Most major companies and government agencies build or commission new software applications every year. But software development and software contracts have been very troublesome. Cost and schedule overruns are common, and litigation for software problems is a frequent outcome. Successful development of large software projects is so difficult that significant percentage of large systems greater than 10,000 function points are canceled and never completed.

One of the major challenges of software cost and schedule estimation is “sizing” or predicting the amount of source code and other deliverables that must be built to satisfy the requirements of a software application. Sizing is a critical precursor to software cost estimating whether estimation is done manually or by means of a commercial software cost estimating tool.

For software applications that are similar to existing applications, size can be derived by analogy to the existing packages. When the software application is a new kind of application then sizing by analogy is not a feasible approach.

For much of the history of the software industry, sizing was considered a very difficult and intractable problem. Sizing is still difficult, but over the past 30 years an interesting new methodology for dealing with size prediction has been developed based on the use of the function point metric. This new methodology has the advantage that it can not only predict the volume of source code, but also the volumes of planning documents, specifications, user manuals, test cases, and even the probable number of errors or bugs that might be encountered.

 

 

 

Author: Capers Jones is the President of Capers Jones & Associates LLC. He is also the founder and former chairman of Software Productivity Research, LLC (SPR), where he holds the title of Chief Scientist Emeritus. He is a well-known author and international public speaker, and has authored the books “Patterns of Software Systems Failure and Success,” “Applied Software Measurement,” “Software Quality: Analysis and Guidelines for Success,” “Software Cost Estimation,” and “Software Assessments, Benchmarks, and Best Practices.” Jones and his colleagues from SPR have collected historical data from more than 600 corporations and more than 30 government organizations. This historical data is a key resource for judging the effectiveness of software process improvement methods. The total volume of projects studied now exceeds 12,000. 

Copyright * 2008 by Capers Jones & Associates LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

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The Volere requirements techniques were developed to answer the need for a common language for discovering requirements and connecting them to solutions. The language needs to be understandable by business people, customers, business analysts, engineers, designers, suppliers, testers or anyone else whose input is needed. All of these people have different skills and, not surprisingly, different views of what is important. A language intended for all of these people must recognise the differences in peoples’ viewpoints and yet have a consistent way of communicating and tracing the
relevant knowledge. This realisation that requirements is a socio-technical discipline has a strong influence on the development of the techniques.

Author: Suzanne Robertson & James Robertson, The Atlantic Systems Guild

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Failing to properly and accurately define requirements at the very beginning of the project lifecycle points to a distinct lack of business analysis competency. The role of the business analyst is an important one, and, sadly, one that is underutilized by many organizations around the world. In essence, a business analyst acts as a translator or liaison between the customer or user and the person or group attempting to meet user needs. But, that’s just speaking generally. What about the specifics?

Below, I’ve put together a list of eight key competencies that every business analyst—or every professional performing the duties of a business analyst—should possess. I’ve included specific emphasis on tasks associated with junior, intermediate and senior business analysts. If performed effectively, the items on this list could save organizations millions.

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In my last column I introduced you to the role of a typical security analyst, and explained that security is a part of the business lifecycle. In this column, I will dive into that concept, and I will highlight some of the areas a security analyst might play in determining the risk to an asset throughout its life span.

So what is a ‘lifecycle’ in business terms? There are many definitions, and if you ask any modern analyst you will get their own tweaked version of that answer. For our sake, let’s say a lifecycle is the cycle of life of a business asset from birth through to an end stage.

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One of the issues high on the agenda of many CIOs is to align IT efforts with the company’s strategic goals. But how you do trace a line of code back to the strategic goal that caused it to be written? If we’re able to do this then, and only then, can it be said that IT is aligned with the business strategy. 

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Over my last two articles, I have laid a foundation for a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) as the enterprise architecture of the globally integrated enterprise and focused on how to define and establish the business side of the enterprise through a well defined business architecture . Before diving into the IT side of the enterprise, this articl...
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In the past I have discussed the need to manage data (and all information resources) as a valuable resource; something to be shared and reused in order to eliminate redundancy and promote system integration.  Now, our attention turns to how data should be defined.  Well defined data elements are needed in order to properly design the logical data base as well as developing a suitable physical implementation.

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The subject of current systems analysis is usually greeted with dismay or disdain by systems departments. There are many reasons for this. In many installations, the support of current systems takes more than 85% of the systems department's time, and the departments are more than ready to get on with new systems development and bury the old, non-working systems as quickly as possible. In cases where systems do not require a lot of maintenance, the systems department may find that the current systems are not giving management the kind of information it needs for effective decision making; these current systems become likely candidates for replacement.

However, there are some very legitimate reasons for documenting existing systems...

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"As I discussed my May article for Modern Analyst, there's a lot of hype about the role of requirements in agile projects. Many people think you don’t “do” requirements on an agile project. Hogwash. Indeed, agile projects use requirements—but just enough requirements at just the right time."

In this article Ellen covers a number of agile requirements topics including:

  • Agile requirements need to be understood in context of the product, release, and iteration
  • Balancing Business and Technical Value
  • The Product Workshop
  • Release Workshops
  • Iteration Workshops
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