Yaaqub Mohamed a.k.a Yamo

 Wait a minute, did I just say that there is a template called “BA Approach”?
 
Chances are that you may already be involved in contributing to defining business analysis approach one way or another – without knowing it, now is the time to discover it! 
 
Like some of the tasks in the BABOK don’t directly align with what you do or it maybe called differently. One classical example is conducting a “Requirements gathering sessions” vs. what the BABOK refers to it as “Conducting Elicitation Session”… btw, I have a big issue with the word “gathering”, we will leave this one for another post another day!
 
So, back to “Business Analysis Approach” and understanding how you can perform it in your projects effectively. 
 
In this post, you will learn and understand what defining a BA approach really means and also learn how to use the BA Approach template.

First Principles – What is Business Analysis Approach?

Let me illustrate with an example. Imagine John and Mary are getting married. If this is a “Change” that needs to planned, a lot of things have to be done until the day of exchanging the vows. And imagine Julia is getting hired as an event planner responsible to organize and plan their wedding. She would have to:  
  • Clearly understand what values are dear to John and Mary as a couple
  • What kind of wedding they wish to have (low-key, high-profile, destination, etc.)
  • What kind of wedding invitations need to be printed
  • The complete guest list and detailed profiles of their family members and close relatives 
  • A VIP guest list 
  • Food preferences, menu choices, etc.
etc…. you can imagine other important components. 
 
If Julia was a BA in her previous life (and regrets switching to being an event planner), her approach to planning wedding will include:  
  • A checklist of tasks that need to be performed to make the wedding successful (checklists for different aspects)
  • A list of stakeholders that need to be invited or  consulted.
  • Deliverables and milestones to be achieved all along (sample wedding card, cake prototype, menu sampling, booking and tour of the convention centre, photography and videography, etc.) 
 
If you notice, she has externalized her intentions, ideas and work on paper. This helps her to do her job better, and calms the nerves of the couple-to-be. 
 
As a Business Analyst (especially if you are a seasoned professional), doing this at the beginning of your analysis can help you immensely perform your job better.

BA Approach In BABOK 

The first knowledge area in BABOK – Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring – elaborates on BA Approach (BABOK 2.1).  Here is a definition from BABOK (V2): 
 
“Business analysis approaches describe the overall process that will be followed to perform business analysis work on a given initiative, how and when tasks will be performed, the techniques that will be used, and the deliverables that should be produced.”

Three Secrets to a Great Start 

  1. Understand the problem and organizational context - understanding  the business problem being solved or looked into is an important first step. Your approach to build a software would be different from the one to outsource or improve a process. Is the organization process heavy and mature or is a start-up filled with instragramers who will post the product backlog on Facebook. 
  2. What type of project is it? – closely related to understanding the problem, take a step back and understand what kind of project is being undertaken. Is this an in-house software development for a mission critical business application or a COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) product for a not so critical department. 
  3. Introspect and seek help right away if needed – do you have experience in working on a project like this before? If you do, don’t let your past experience cloud fresh possibilities. If you don’t have experience either in working on a similar project or using the current methodology, seek help from another BA / Requirements Manager or a Centre of Excellence if the organization has one. You don’t want to do 12 months of work and then appear foolish at the cost of appearing a fool for the first 12 hours.  

The BA Approach Template – Key Components

  1. Approach for BA Work – this section should describe at a high level what approach is being followed to perform business analysis. What crucial elements need to be part of approach. Providing an overview of the business problem, goals and objectives is useful. 
    1. Techniques, Deliverables, and Timeline is a key component here:
      -       Create a list of techniques such as process modeling, use cases, document analysis, requirements workshops, and interface analysis.
      -       Produce a high-level business requirements document and a detailed stakeholder and solution requirements document.
      -       Establish a high-level timeline of abstraction showing key business analysis milestones leading up to requirements sign off.
  2. Timing of BA Work - is the BA work going to be done in the beginning or performed iteratively all through the project. 
  3. Formality / Level of Details - depending on the organizational context a formal approach maybe adopted. If there are requirements standards that need to be followed, this needs to be detailed here. 
  4. Requirements Prioritization Approach - how will the requirements be prioritized and the key stakeholders involved in the requirements prioritization process.
  5. Tools for BA Work - if there are any requirements management tools or repositories used, this needs to be detailed out here.
  6. Project Complexity - this could be an assessment of how complex the project is based on the number of impacted areas and the criticality of the change from the organizational perspective.
  7. Approach to Scope and Change Management - how will the changes to scope and requirements be handled, if a high level process or flow chart needs to be built, you could define it here.
  8. Approach to Sign-off - what modality and approach will be followed to get concurrence and sign-off for requirements.
  9. Approach to Communication - how will the communication occur, the medium and frequency used.

Business Analysis Approach Template – Download for FREE

[Coming soon] 
 
We are putting together a great list of FREE templates for the BA community. The BA Approach template will be part of this and you will be able to download a FREE template soon.

Your Thoughts Please

Have you used a BA approach template or creating something analogous before you started analysis? What name does this template or activity have in your organization?

Today is the day when you stop the dog and pony show as a Business Analyst. That’s enough!

If you were ever confused with the multitude of templates that you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis as an analyst, it is all about to end.

Wouldn’t it be nice to never document meeting minutes, because it’s an utter waste of time?

Why would you need to plan your business analysis approach when the PM knows what the deliverables are already?

Requirements attributes are just columns that you will have to fill out and what’s the point in planning them out ahead of time?

Today we are pleased to present “The Omniscient BA Template” … the only template you’ll need to perform business analysis end-to-end.

This feature rich and versatile template helps you to read Your stakeholders minds, decode politics and get things done!

Presenting the Omniscient BA Template

If you are already envisioning a 500+ page template with 30 different sections that includes every aspect of analysis work, I would like shed some light on its existence.

The reality is:

It doesn’t exist!

Yes, it really doesn’t. And there is no better day to realize that this is a no more than a joke on the most light hearted day of the year – The April Fools Day! :)

The Template Fool Syndrome

On the same token, it is unrealistic to think that by just having a BA template to perform certain aspect of analysis would be a be all and end all entity. Typically, you may have searched google to find a template that someone created to give you an idea of how things get constructed and structured to elicit, analyse and control requirements and scope. There is more it than just this.

No tool or template can accelerate analysis unless the analyst thinks through its implication and ensure that all the right questions are asked at the right time involving the right stakeholders.

So, how do you ensure that you have a template that address every need in the most comprehensive manner?
And, more importantly how do you ensure that you understand the not-so-obvious intricacies in creating a complete artifact from a template?

As I always like to say about the misconception that a tool or template can solve a problem effectively:

A fool with a tool (or template) is a more dangerous fool!

What is a Template?

If you look at the dictionary definition of a template, the closest pertinent definition is:

“…anything that determines or serves as a pattern; or a model to do something…”

For performing business analysis, we could define a template to be:

“… a starting point, standard or an outline of a model that helps business analyst perform analysis conforming to the standards of the organization and to ensure timely delivery of requirements and associated artifacts…”

It is usually a document or file having a pre-set format, used as a starting point for a particular application so that the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used in performing business analysis tasks.

The BABOK Perspective

So, how do templates look in the world of BABOK. Where are they referenced in the 32 tasks and seven knowledge areas?

There are three primary areas where BA templates could be aligned in the BABOK

1. Inputs 

Per the BABOK V2: 

An input represents the information and preconditions necessary for a task to begin. Inputs may be:

>> Explicitly generated outside the scope of business analysis (e.g., construction of a software application).

>> Generated by a business analysis task. 

There is no assumption that the presence of an input or an output means that the associated deliverable is complete or in its final state. The input only needs to be sufficiently complete to allow successive work to begin. Any number of instances of an input may exist during the life cycle of an initiative.

Using this context, templates constitute inputs that get generated by (or used by) a business analysis task. 

For Example: If you have planned for a high level approach for business analysis, and have created a “Business Analysis Approach” document, this can serve as an input; and if you know your BABOK, this is generated by the task ‘Plan Business Analysis Approach (2.1)’. 

2. Outputs

An output is a necessary result of the work described in the task. Outputs are created, transformed or change state as a result of the successful completion of a task. Although a particular output is created and maintained by a single task, a task can have multiple outputs.

An output may be a deliverable or be a part of a larger deliverable. The form of an output is dependent on the type of initiative under way, standards adopted by the organization, and best judgement of the business analyst as to an appropriate way to address the information needs of key stakeholders. As with inputs, an instance of a task may be completed without an output being in its final state. The input or output only needs to be sufficiently complete to allow successive work to begin. Similarly, there may be one or many instances of an output created as part of any given initiative. Finally, the creation of an output does not necessarily require that subsequent tasks which use that work product as an input must begin.

Using this context, templates are ways you could start creating an output gradually as your analysis moves along.

For Example: You may complete creating a “Requirements Management Plan” and use it to guide other aspects of your analysis (e.g. change management, requirements prioritization, etc) –  Or create a “Requirements Package” containing a collection of your project deliverables, which gets built with time as your analysis moves along.

3. Techniques

Each task contains a listing of relevant techniques. Some techniques are specific to the performance of a single task, while others are relevant to the performance of a large number of tasks.

You could also think of techniques as a way to perform a task in the BABOK.  

Why Do You Need Templates?

There are four main reasons why I think templates add a lot of value if used and leveraged properly:

  • Ensure Coverage
  • Set Expectations for business analysis work
  • Conform to Organizational Standards 
  • Increase Productivity  

We Are Marking April as BA Templates Month

Starting today we will provide in-depth articles to help the BA community to demystify and help them use BA templates. For us this is a massive endeavour and we are onto something big in the weeks to come.

Your Thoughts Please!

What other ways do you think templates help with analysis?

What challenges have you faced with using templates as a BA?

What is the biggest benefit that a template has offered you in the past?

BABOK V3 is in development and based on my twitter interaction with Kevin, the final version of the BABOK won’t be released until end of 2014.

babok-v3-release-date-tweet

Let me rephrase, the BABOK V3’s final version won’t be out for the most part in 2014. This date is also not final, and there maybe more delays since majority of the folks working on BABOK either as authors or reviewers are volunteers and may cause a further delay in the final release (hey! life happens).

There is one key conclusion here:

BABOK V3 exam won’t be administered in 2014. IIBA hasn’t announced the dates of the new exam yet, but in all likelihood it won’t be immediately after the release of V3. Additionally, you will have six months after the launch of final version to take an exam for an earlier version of the BABOK. So, you can take the BABOK V2 exam until June 2015. That’s a lot of time at hand. So, if you’ve been stalling your exam prep citing BABOK V3, this must shed some light.

However, beyond the V3’s there are 13 more reasons that I would like to highlight.

Talking of 2014, and the new year, roughly 45% of us make at least one New Year resolution and interesting only 46% of them keep their resolution through the year.

The reason I am writing this post in March is to let the novelty of the New Year to wear off a little bit and give all of us a dose of reality.

Now, if you happen to be  among the 46% of them or the flip 54% of them, this post is for you.

1. It’s the new year – Sorta

Since we are March, there is no better time to make what I call the real New Year resolutions. This is when you can decide the resolutions that really matter to your personal and professional life. If one of your resolution is to advance professionally in the realm of business analysis, there is no better way to get certified. Here is a key takeaway for this:

Getting the 4 letters don’t matter as much as the journey of self-reflective learning journey that you go through!

BABOK V3 is no longer an excuse for this year. In my opening thoughts, I have highlighted the importance or lack thereof of BABOK V3. Here is a key take away:

BABOK V3 is not a factor for your prep in 2014, not until at least June 2015.

2. More material to cover 

As you maybe aware that BABOK V3 is a more expanded version of the business analysis framework. With a few new concepts and perspectives. However, keep in mind there WILL definitely be more content to cover in V3 than in V2. Here is the crux:

BABOK V3 will have more content than V2

3. Avoid the sunk cost 

You bought 4 study guides, 3 exam simulators, invested in an expensive prep course, instead of buying the Macbook or iPad Air or upgrading the dog shed that was falling apart. Now, how can you let go of this investment? You must avoid the sunk cost associated with your V2’s prep journey by making sure you can take the exam in 2014. Like my mom always used to remind us that, “Money doesn’t grow on a tree” … so, unless you have a backyard with a plant that yields the green $ bills, avoid sunk cost by taking the exam in 2014. Here is the crux:

Avoid the waste of time and money spent so far in V2’s prep

Time is precious, don’t squander it and money doesn’t grow on trees!

4. You are becoming a PM

If you are one of those BAs who gets pushed into (voluntary or involuntary) a PM role as a career advancement move, you will miss being a BA. And, please don’t leave the profession without truly understanding the what business analysis really is and mastering the BABOK – the most definitive global framework of practicing business analysis tasks. Here is the crux:

Understanding the BA framework of tasks, will make you a better PM.

Or like I always say to my PM friends:

One minute of effective business analysis now, will save two minutes of project management later.

5. PMP is more appealing 

A direct consequence of # 5, you may have already started preparing for PMP, and think that you should get that out of the way first. And, yes having a PMP along with CBAP is a good combination especially for dual roles. However, based on what I’ve heard CBAP is more difficult that PMP. So, tackling a relatively more difficult exam with V2 is more wise that starting the prep from scratch for V3. Here is the crux:

Even though PMP is easier than CBAP, tackle the harder exam first.

6. Leverage your IIBA membership 

One of the reasons you may have become an IIBA member is to get the discount on the certification exam, and after being overwhelmed with the information in the BABOK the plan to take the exam may not have panned out. If you have no intention to renew your IIBA membership, then this is year for you to get this discount. Here is the crux:

Leverage your IIBA membership before it expires to get the special discount for the exam

7. This is your final straw 

Completing your certification in 2014 is the most realistic goal you can set yourself. With the exam being available until at least mid-June 2015, you really can fall back if life or work comes your way. This is the final straw, your last chance to get certified for V2.  Here is the crux:

This is your last chance to set and achieve a realistic goal to get certified in 2014.

8. It is insured 

Although we haven’t yet made the formal announcement yet, we will be insuring all the CBAP-CCBA prep courses and material for BABOK V2 in 2014. If you enroll for yourself in a course or get ‘The Ultimate BABOK Kit’ in 2014, your investment will be insured. This means that for whatever reason if you are unable to take the exam after attending our prep course, you will get a complimentary V3 prep course. So, the crux is:

BABOK V2 exam prep is now insured for the first time!

9. Free refresher course for V3

This is the second biggest news that we are announcing now. If you get certified in 2014, you can also get a complimentary refresher course. So, you don’t have to miss out on the delta between the two versions. This will help you get a perspective on the changes in V3.  So, here is crux:

V2 certification now comes with complimentary V3 refresher course.

10. PMI is coming out with a new BA certification

Oh yes! There are signs that PMI is going to come up with a new BA certification. My good friend Kent McDonald was not too happy about it, and yes, I get his sense of indignation. However, I feel that this can actually be a good thing for IIBA and the BA community. I should probably share my thoughts on this in a separate blog post. In a nutshell, I feel that being certified as a CBAP or getting your CCBA, you will be able to have more insightful conversations with your project manager. So, here is the crux:

Getting your CBAP/CCBA will prep you to converse meaningfully with someone certified by PMI in the same realm.

11. You love being a BA

In spite of all the challenges and difficulties our profession poses, if you still love it, then this is your year to get certified. Getting certified will help you truly appreciate what you are doing. Remember the euphoria you get when you understand the inner workings of things and hidden history around the attractions you visit? That’s it! So, here is the crux:

Do it for the love of the profession!

12. Qualify for the next interview or get an edge 

Now we are seeing more and more BA job posting that require a CCBA or CBAP as an entry criteria. I have also seen this for requirements managers, directors, and other management positions. So, why not make 2014 the year to get this edge? This can only get better, right? So, here is the crux:

More and more jobs are now asking for CBAP-CCBA, and this will only go up in 2014.

13. Unprecedented support and material is now available

I took my CBAP in 2011 after taking a snake oil prep course and there were no useful study guides available that time. This frustration, lack of quality content, and many requests from the BA community, made us create our online prep courses and the ultimate study guide, engaging the best professionals and BA practitioners from around the globe. So, here is the crux:

2014 is the year where you have the best in class tools available to study!

14. You read this

Let’s admit this: You made a choice to read this. You may have been either curious to find out or really find that WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) for getting certified in 2014. You have exercised a thought process, you took action. You are a motivated kind, so why not take the leap! So, here is the crux:

You read this, now it’s the time to act!

Which of the reasons above resonates the most with you?

Is there any other reason you can think of?

Please use the comment space below to leave your comments.

The Business Analyst Coach Podcast Artwork

I love doing what I do. I love asking questions. I love being in the mix.
~ Larry King

Asking questions, the right ones, at the right moment, is one of the core skills of a great business analyst.

How can you ensure that you’ve covered all the bases during your analysis when it comes to asking all the required questions? One question, might be a tipping point to truth. Have you asked that? What holds you back from asking a question or questions? Fear? Bias? Reason?

There is an art and science to asking questions though. I think the art of asking questions improves with experience and once you know the proper science behind it.

In this enlightening episode Laura Brandenburg shares with us some incredibly useful insights on how to approach asking all the questions in a project. After all, we are all truth seekers looking to uncover the final iota of it with the last question standing!  Click to continue

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You maybe familiar with “Knowledge is power” quote by Francis Bacon, but knowledge applied to solve real world problems is even more powerful.

Today, I am pleased to announce another new series of BA interviews, which we are calling ‘CBAP-CCBA Success Cast’, a showcase of CBAPs and CCBAs who have made a difference in the real world practice – applying what they learnt as part of their certification journey. This will highlight how these practitioners used their updated knowledge of the business analysis framework to make a difference to the organizations they work for.

So, before we get onto the actual episode, I wanted to share this narrative with you. Knowledge being a source of power simply means it can help you DO things easily. It means you are in a better state to ACT as a result of knowing something.

So, if we represent this in an equation it would look like:

Knowledge = More ways of doing things = Being more adaptive = Power The Business Analyst Coach Podcast Artwork

In this premier episode of this series, I am excited to present Ren Dreyfus as our first guest. Her certification journey has been quite unique in that her trigger or tipping point to get certified was motivated by another CBAP (under interesting circumstances).  She was already a great BA before being certified, but somehow lacked a bit of ‘stiffness’ in proposing something radical during one of her assignments.
She had worked on several domains and had many years of experience as a practicing BA before getting certified. Pursuing CBAP has helped her to practice with more confidence (to an already confident approach) and be more deliberate about proposing the best analysis and solution approaches for her clients. 
You don’t want to miss the inspiration and wealth of knowledge in this episode!
Here it goes:

Click to continue

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Page 1 of 1412345...10...Last »