Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tako Eye...and Process Improvement

Tako Eye is seeing the process improvement innately....Calamari is asking if you even need the process in the first place!

Let me start with explaining this "tako eye" thing...I have to credit a mentor for phrasing the "tako eye".   In Hawai'i, we often use the Hawaiian and Japanese words for things we talk about in daily dialogue.  Tako is a Japanese word to refer to an octopus.  If you have ever watched one move across the ocean reef, they constantly change their colors to match their surroundings around them to blend in and better hunt their prey.

To have "Tako Eye" means that you see the tako on the reef while everyone else is marveling at the pretty fish swimming around the coral.  You see the moving creature, adapting, searching and even stalking right through the activities of the environment.  When you are looking at your business processes, what do you notice?  Do you notice things before people even consider the situation itself?  Do you see the root cause before the long-pressed symptoms discussion ever happens?  Then you my friend have "tako eye"!

But now I've had the fortunate exposure to go beyond this - let's make some calamari!  Now that you know how to spot the process improvement, are you able to step back further and not be lured in by the beauty of the movements and the awe of the colors and see that you can satisfy your own hunger with a tasty treat?  To be a helpful analyst and improve process is absolutely a needed skill set.  To go further and challenge the organization to ask how the process even fits and continues to support the organization's mission and goals is a key element of being that senior advocate for the business.

As we were improving a process, I noticed everyone was trying to fix the process.  We were talking about future status and no one was questioning the very existence of the process itself.  If we are truly talking about future state, then you don't bring the baggage of existing along with you.  But too often our stakeholders get consumed by what they do versus realizing they need to rise above existing 'business' and focus back on goals.  Asking the questions to what you are trying to accomplish - asking WHY! - becomes a key value to your role as a business analyst and process improvement support member.

So do you have "tako eye" and see the process improvement opportunity existing in the chaos of today's world?  Do you even see your next appetizer and are ready to cook calamari?  Share your thoughts on how we find and highlight these creatures of the deep that are all around us!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Elicitation...and Conflict!

I had the pleasure to present and share with a host of other industry leaders and flat out fantastic and enthusiastic individuals some thoughts on Real World Elicitation this month in Orlando at the Project Summit*Business Analysis World conference.  Talking about elicitation, I shared thoughts on how facilitation focuses on making it easier for others, helping someone else get to a place of adding value.  One of the things that often comes up is conflict.  A dirty word to some and a treasure box to others!!

Are you a person who runs and hides from conflict?  Or scared to call that meeting because of that over powering stakeholder who does not get the idea of 'consensus'?  Conflict lets you know that you've found the right mark as if people get challenging, then that means they care.  You have found something they are passionate enough to get motivated on - so you should PURSUE it!  No hiding here for fearless BA super heroes!

One of the best things you can do with conflict is to turn it from a "me versus you" scenario to an "us versus it" scenario.  Take the conflict and throw it on the wall (yes the topic here, it's not a person!) - white board works great!  I love to take an idea, concept or discussion point and write it on the wall big so that we - the whole team, those in the room, online and in email - have something to now attack with that same passion that got us worked up in the first place.  You and I now sit and TOGETHER talk about how you and I will overcome the obstacle.  Now it is you and me figuring out a solution together that brings the business value we are seeking.  Now the true passion brings out energy and a fire that helps us all be super heroes to overcome the challenge!

Love to hear further ideas on dealing with conflict!  Check me out on Twitter @jamie_champagne to see all my conference highlights as well as other's thoughts!

Interested in learning more about business analysis, the value it brings and the techniques to be successful?  Join me in one of the upcoming classes - sign up here!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Doing Requirements Well

I've had the privilege of sharing some thoughts on doing Requirements well in the "real world" and I love the questions that it spawned from the Business Analysis community.  Here are some of those questions and some ideas I had on how I would respond.

"How do you identify the right stakeholders?"
Creating agendas and preparing  your questions of what you wish to accomplish

"Some people may fear that they may be complaining and may be reluctant to offer up 'pain points' - how do you best work with these situations to understand the current issues?"
Ask people what they LOVE about what they do - what works well?  What could be better?  As you follow this approach, the stakeholders will often start to highlight the exceptions to what works really well and that will give you the opportunity for improvement, but it's an expression of what could be better versus asking what's wrong.

If there is a conflict between the stakeholders regarding what should be consider a requirement...what can we do?
With conflict, I love to isolate the problem.  A simple technique is to "throw it on the wall and see what sticks!"  I literally write the problem statement on the board and so your stakeholders "attack" the challenge versus attacking each other.  Now we're a team trying to overcome the challenge at hand (versus disagreeing amongst each other).

How do you establish your expertise in the Requirements space, specifically, if the client himself isn't technically qualified and is insisting on limiting the BA to certain templates to use?
If someone asks you to use a template, ask them to walk you through it.  Do a collaborative approach with the stakeholder so that you can use your elicitation skills and ask good questions, even if the answers have to go in a predetermined 'box'.

How would you recommend handling an environment where many areas may are a part of a process/transaction, but true ownership is not clear?  Multiple managers may either view they own the process or no one feels they own it at all.
Try changing the focus to the product.  Who manages it today?  Identify who would be affected if you change a process - show how their daily routine would change based upon a decision.  And when in doubt - get them in a room and walk through the process around the decision so that everyone sees what the considerations may be. 

How do you deal with participants who give you non-functional or design specs as opposed to the function or business requirements?
Ask them WHY!  These will start to draw out the requirements at a higher level then where they are focused.  And ask for use cases and scenarios around what they are describing.  Even if the use case or scenario doesn't give you the specific business requirements, it will at least give you more stakeholders to approach as you may need to seek a different audience.

What tips do you have to match elicitation techniques to project/audience?
Know your project and more importantly your audience!  If the outcome is well defined, then use techniques that focus on specifics such as traceability and process flows.  If you are exploring options then use techniques such as brainstorming and focus group to allow the freedom of expression.  As well as even consider if you need greater engagement then consider using collaborative games.  This comes out of your BA planning work PRIOR to beginning your elicitation when you are doing stakeholder analysis.

A scribe may be helpful, but what are alternatives when resources are limited?
Having another BA assist you is a great way to job shadow and even be assessed on your own skill sets.  And if you're needing greater stakeholder engagement, ask the stakeholders to take turns capturing the discussion points and outcomes.  And don't forget to ask if you can record a session for playback later.  Reinforce you understand the sensitivity of the conversation and share all results and they may be more open to ideas that improve even current processes. 

Have you used Use Cases in the past and if so, did you find it useful to subsequently extract requirements and/or to ensure the requirements are complete?
Use cases are great for helping you validate your requirements and trace them to completeness.  I often ask for scenarios as story telling can be an easier approach for your stakeholders than asking them to give a 'checklist' of requirements - definitely can feel more natural to your stakeholders!

What are your thoughts on mockups being inserted into requirements?
Mockups are great for drawing out requirements.  Use the language your customers are comfortable when trying to elicit information.  The check is to go back and not only verify but then validate these represent the value your customer is expecting to add.

Do you find the use of "and" in requirements causes issues for designers or developers?YES!!  However, if this is how your stakeholders start off with requirements, then take it and work to verify them by separating them out as you ask more details.  Functional decomposition usually is a great way to help your stakeholders separate and isolate the requirements that make it easy for the next team who will work on them, such as designers and developers.

How do you position and integrate business rules into requirements?Business rules are part of your requirements so they are often intermingled.  Walk through the process so you get the process mapped.  As you verify the process, while walking through the process maps, capture requirements in one table and business rules in another.  Then identify the dependencies so that you know if you test or change one you must re-verify and validate the associations.

What if the requirement has been approved but later the solution was not as expected and all the estimates allotted were consumed?  What do we do with the requirement?
When you wrote the requirement, did you write acceptance criteria?  This acceptance criteria should still hold true to leading to project/initiative success and so the requirement is still required.  This is when you rely on change control processes to help you coordinate getting the resources to deliver the value.  It is easier to get more resources when you show the value of what they will provide. 

Is it acceptable practice to use words like "YOU/YOUR" or "WE/OUR" while doing business analysis in a context with respective stakeholders who may be also part of same organization?
use personal nouns when creating vision, describing success criteria and acceptance criteria as you want the personal buy-in of the stakeholders.  As you move to requirements and user stories, utilize the role that is affected or acting in the situation to draw out the need, not simply the want.  If the requirement can stand for anyone in the role it helps articulate business value to the organization than a one time occurrence for "you."

If you are an IIBA member, the presentation on "Requirements for Requirements" is available in their archived webinars section on their website IIBA.org.

Do you have any "Tips and Tricks" for BA's to share?  Please COMMENT and share your thoughts as well!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Value of Added Value

I had the fortunate pleasure of being able to work with some fabulous Business Analysts (BA's) the other week as we were doing course work of the role of the business analyst.  Great questions came up about how to deliver value to the organization.  However, the most challenging question came up in "how to show the value of delivering this business value?"

What a great business analysis question!  How do I show the value of a business analyst that delivers value to the organization?  How do I show the time spent is value added?  How is the cost not only justified but then RETURNED to the organization?

This is the fun of a business analyst to ask the questions then about what you DO know.  What is it that you know you can measure today?  What do I know about the process today?  If there is a 'pain point' and you solve it, what is that worth to the organization?

Measures can always be identified and broken down based on the scenario.  Again, measure what you do know.  How long does it take you to complete a process (perhaps an average time frame).  Then if you change something in your process and re-measure the process, did it take less time?  More time?  This is the essential perspective of measuring - after a change, how do you compare to the baseline?

So if you're considering training and trying to justify it, can you identify activities that you do prior to training that might change based on your training?  Same thing with justifying the position of a business analyst or re-shaping your role to be an official BA - what are you doing now (and how can you measure it) and what will the process look like after the change (and what are the measures then).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Get Good In, Get Good Out...and Keep BA's Happy!

So I saw this posting and had to share it.  Funny how the first thing I thought about was how it applied to business stakeholders and business analysis.

But think about it for a few.  How many times have you read a business case and wondered how in the world the person came to the conclusion!?  I love the business case of a 12 month project that was submitted, but revenue projections show that they will be bringing in revenue on the second month of the project when the product will not official be available for sale until at least half way through the project!  

The thought that if you act like an adult and think about what value means and how to achieve it and spend some thought about what it will take to achieve this, then you will get more scrutiny from the BA than our minion is providing here.  Yet time and time again I see business cases submitted with the same amount of energy as the decision making being done above.  

Picking the project with the cooler sounding name will only make you cool as long as it takes to read the title.  After that the metal hits the pavement and you have to produce.  Projects fail if they were not well conceived to even start with.  And I adamantly defend BA's that projects do not fail because of bad requirements, but because they were not even setup to scope ANY requirements.  Some forethought to consider what might be involved, even a simple checklist can save a TON of resources!

Get the businesses to consider a simple checklist before submitting any kind of proposal, whether major project or small work enhancement:

  • Is there IT components?  (Could there be IT components?)
  • Do we do this work in house today?  
  • What Legal issues are there?
  • What Compliance rules do we have to worry about?
  • Have we complied with Branding requirements?
  • Who will be my testers to evaluate the solution?
  • Do I know my budget?  Have I taken in account budget for any changes?
  • Who are the people who use this process?
  • Who are the people who support this process?
  • Who are the people who pay for this process?
  • Who has no clue about this process?  (Should they?)

And I could go on and on - but considering asking someone to look at these questions and for any question they do not know the answer to, then they must NOT submit their request and go find out.  A small checklist can save you a TON of time and headache from trying to work with a project manager to deliver an unrealistic project.  You may not be able to change the stakeholder's mentality but you can get them to consider a few conditions prior to asking for the world.  Then you'l be as happy as a BA with a 'bunch' of requirements!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Measuring Innovation

Image courtesy the BCG
To all my fellow innovation managers out there who are trying so desparately hard to measure the value of innovation in your organizations, I wanted to share something that struck me as so simplistic yet so profound that in and of itself, was truly innovative.

Rick Weaver posted an article about measuring project success and the impact Cloud services could have on these measures.  One of his measurements focused on an "Innovation Ratio" where we consider how much we are spending on reducing technical debts versus the amount of new capabilities we are adding.  More simplistically put:

                           Amount spent on reducing technical debts
      Innovation =  ------------------------------------------------------------
                                Amount of new capabilities added

To me we could keep this very simple on figuring out hard numbers of Innovation.  Consider what   are you spending to ensure your current technology does not become obsolete?  Are we buying the latest and greatest versions or upgrading legacy equipment?  Are we removing manual systems that lead to errors?

And then capabilities are easily accounted from a basic features list.  What can you do now that you could not do before is a great measurement for any change project or initiative.  Those are the benefits that are quickly tangible!   You can worry about culture change and measuring shifts in dynamics later once you have buy-in with your metrics!

So where to look for these things?  Again, keep it simple - where are you manually addressing processes?  Where are you using outdated technology (easy answer is where do people ignore the technology provided and instead use their own manual process - these are anyone creating their own spreadsheets and databases or emailing items or worse, printing!!)?

What ideas do you have?  Again, this equation struck me as a great way to help MEASURE INNOVATION and the value that you are bringing to an organization!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Building Leadership Skills on Project Teams

I recently had the pleasure of sharing this as a presentation at PMI HNL Professional Development Day 2015 and enjoyed the feedback that I've incorporated into this posting to continue to share and build on thoughts that makes us successful when working with people!

If you want a different outcome, ask yourself what are you doing differently to achieve this outcome.


Understand that project teams are made up with people of diverse experience & expertise; while valuable to the team, realize that they each take a different view of the challenge at hand

Physically displaying items – whether in pictures of end result or large words posted on the wall – help clarify and ensure everyone is literally on the same page.

Consider “Draw the Pig” icebreaker – instructions available at:  http://www.whiteman.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130408-056.pdf  

Draw out the potential outcomes (comic strips are great for actions) – how likely are they to occur?  Are they worth prioritizing? 

Getting Feedback
Post ideas on a large easel sheet of paper (one idea per page) and post in a common area.  Leave markers and encourage people to comment over a few days.  Great for identifying what’s in and out of scope!

Listening is about asking the right QUESTIONS (not the right answers – if you knew the answer, why are you asking the question?)
Listen to all the information the person shares versus focusing on just what you want to hear – you may miss out on valuable information!

Get a scribe – someone NOT a stakeholder to take notes so that you may engage with your stakeholders.  Then review afterwards with the scribe and highlight key insights from your listening.

Process Definition
How a process works is sometimes better to see in person.  If you can’t physically see the action then act it out (think charades!). 

Use the “Red Cup” or other object – one idea per person, must say an idea before passing, can only say one idea and continue for a short amount of time with a hard time limit (push people to go faster!) – focus is on QUANTITY not quality.  It removes the “analysis paralysis” by focusing on the object while getting equal participation by all, regardless of position or expertise.  There are no right or wrong answers, just ideas to grow on.
     Question from presentation: Brainstorming in this way could still allow influence on others - YES!  Participants, even though the focus is on equal pariticipation by all, could still be influencing others; however, the goal of brainstorming is quantity.  If you're more focused on not influencing, then anonymous techniques (via email and a facilitator) or non-verbal techniques (using post-its on a wall) may be preferred.  Adjust to your situation!

Build something a user can interact with – SHOW what the envisioned end result is, do not tell them.  Give them something to interact with.


Write out each item on a post-it, one per post-it.  Then provide stakeholders with poker chips (or other voting item) and have them vote.  They can place as many as they want on each, but no “buying” more.                                                     

Just TRY it!  And build on Lessons Learned!