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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?

Let’s say on an average you commute 2 hrs everyday (to and from work) – which I do. So, that’s 10 hours a week and roughly 520 hours a year. If an average audiobook is about 8 hours in length, then technically you can listen to 65 books in a year! 

Well, practically speaking that might be a lofty goal. You will also have to mix in music, podcasts, reading or just observing strange behaviors of your fellow-commuters. Right? 

However, what about a goal of listening to 7 books? Much more achievable, eh?

If you have never heard of audiobooks and you always thought listening was for music and radio only, think again! Your world of learning is about to change. Click to continue

When I was 17, I stumbled upon the fascinating world of audiobooks. The first audiobook that I ever heard was the life changing “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, read by the author himself. The riveting real-life examples, practical advice, and the passion in delivery made this book have a huge impact in my life.

Early this week, when I learnt that Dr. Covey passed away, it gave me a sinking feeling and I felt extremely sad. 

As a tribute to him, I would like to summarize the seven habits, and provide a parallel of how business analysts can adapt them to be more effective with 3 key BA lessons per habit. These habits have a universal appeal, and could be observed as a common theme with highly effective people.

Let us see what BA lessons we can derive out of them.

(See at the bottom of this post on how to get a free copy of this audiobook from audible)

Click to continue

As a business analyst you can get only two distinct images of your project manager: “A supportive and motivating project coach” or “A slave driver asking the perennial question: ‘So when will you get the <fill in your deliverable>  done?’ “. Sometimes, both these styles can be exhibited by the same person at various phases of the project. To a large extent the way it surfaces depends on the personality, experience level and the background of the PM. So, my questions to all the project managers out there are:

Is there way that the project management community can engage business analysts to improve the synergy between them?

How soon do business analysts need to be engaged in a project?

What can PMs and BAs do together to elevate the team performance?

The Webcast That Started This Thread

In a recent webcast, with Pam Stanton, the author of “The Project Whisperer” I got the honor of speaking to 200+ Project Managers from around the world. We focused on some of the things that project managers can do to better engage their business analysts. The topic of the webcast was “PMs and BAs: Perfect Together“. Well, the reason we can be perfect together is because:

“We have complimenting skill sets that when combined well together can produce results on-time, on-budget, and on-scope, with every project focussing on the right business objectives, required functionality and with desired quality”

Too idealistic eh?

The PERFECT Formula for Engaging Business Analysts

Well, skill sets is just one side of the equation. The other more important side that both Pam and I felt was the shared passion for helping the business achieve its objectives. Both PMs and BAs when collaborate well, and nurture the healthy tension that exists between them, can deliver better quality projects. Being an obsessive, compulsive ‘acronymophile’, I created an acronym for “How PMs can engage their BAs” in seven different ways – PERFECT – which expands to:

  1. P – Plan Together – It can be fruitful to involve a business analyst in the project planning activity. Business analysts normally create a requirements management plan (RMP), and if a PM can work with the BA to integrate this into the bigger project plan it would be a great way to involve a business analyst.
  2. E – Enterprise Analyze Together – Finding out the reasons for undertaking a project together, can be a great activity to increase the synergy. Nailing down the scope items, and objectives of the project in the project charter can become easier when a BA is involved. Unfortunately, most of the times a BA doesn’t get involved in the project charter creation. I would love to see this changing in the days to come.
  3. R – Radar for Risks – Using business analysts as a “project radar” to sense risks in advance, is another great way to involve business analysts. Since BAs work so closely with the stakeholders, have a better understanding of the business requirements’ priority, and overall a tighter knowledge of the assumptions and constraints of the project.
  4. F – Frequent Communication – It is extremely important that PMs and BAs establish solid communication trust between each other. Relationship building is at the seat of establishing this trust. When I asked my current project manager about what is one thing she values the most in business analysts, she said, “I like it when they proactively come to talk to me”. In order that this can happen, both PMs and BAs need to establish that free flowing communication channel.
  5. E – Evangelize Together – At the end of the day, both PMs and BAs are working towards achieving a common business goal, and delivering value to the business. Being project and value evangelists is another joint activity that PMs can engage their business analysts in. This can mean passionately   advocating the value that the project is delivering to the business, valuing everyone’s contribution, and celebrating hitting the milestones.
  6. C – Challenge Each Other – This is the seat of the healthy tension that exists between the PMs and BAs. A project manager can constantly challenge the analysis, and a BA can reason and trace back the extended analysis to the critical business requirements. This dialogue prevents the trap of analysis paralysis, which some business analysts tend to be guilty of sometimes.
  7. T – Team Whisper – This ties in with Pillar 4 of my book. It is going the extra mile to be a project whisperer. It is understanding that tools, and methodologies are just one side of the equation. The other more important side is people. A project manager can involve a business analyst to remove the barriers for the team. This is the moment when both start to look beyond the Gantt Charts and the Business Process Flows.

The Mind Map As Promised

I hope that gave you some food for thought. I have also created a mind map to summarize some of these points and added a few other pointers. You can download this mind map using the link below: (As promised in the webcast, I am making this available to the community).

How can PMs Engage BAs Effectively – The PERFECT Formula

Nothing is perfect in this world, and so is this formula for engagement. So, I now invite you to list your thoughts on this using the comments section below.

What do you think about the PERFECT Formula? Are there additional things that could be done? What would be some of the challenges that will prevent a BA/PM from applying any of the steps?

Would love to hear your thoughts.