Picking up where I left off last week and the travel theme, every good trip involves some amount of planning. Seeking the CBAP, working full-time and trying to balance a life outside of work and school, definitely involves planning – the good, the bad, and the adhoc…
Per the CBAP exam breakdown, around 20% of the questions focus on Business Analysis Planning and Management. When it came up at boot camp, several of us were pretty surprised. None of us could remember having spent a substantial amount of time planning on a project – we usually act in a reactive manner. Planning is adhoc and a “catch-up” exercise as other deliverables on the timeline are given more priority.
Not so for the IIBA, where once again we were surprised to see the minutiae to which they have broken down this task – including post-planning metrics to measure the BA’s success (and here we thought if the project is delivered on time, with the team members still speaking to each other, we are successful :).
Every plan means a schedule right?
Correct Answer: Maybe?
In practice, most of us do some type of (informal) planning when we take on anything new or try to regain control of our environment. We look at predecessor activities, documents, even people for background. We look at what needs to be accomplished (lists, lists, and more lists!)
Side note: I think a true BA is list “obsessive” and has at least 1 active list at any given time – currently I am at 4). We look to identify who will be impacted; juggle schedules through online apps; and coordinate the best way to get a hold of each stakeholder (phone calls, tweets, texts); and then pray for success.
Success can be overrated
At least measuring a BA’s success can be a challenge.
I have worked on several projects where the BA is removed once the development is complete and Quality Analysis has asked their 2,000 clarification questions. So, in this context I guess an important question to ask is:
How does a BA measure success if they are not there when a project is implemented?
The use of success criteria as defined by the Sponsor on the outset of the project could work – if these criteria are communicated to the team. Although they do not often target BA work. Lessons learnt could also work – however these can sometime disintegrate into highly political blaming sessions (pending the size of the audience).
Success for a BA is therefore an abstract measure, or at the very least a subjective one. Short of getting feedback directly from their managers or the project’s PM, it is much like a popularity contest, a BA knows they have done well if they are in demand.
A commute or a Sunday drive?
Throughout the BABOK v2 Chapter 2 there are numerous comparisons between Plan and Change driven approaches.
Plan Driven, even as I type, makes me think of a project moving at a glacial pace. It implies a formal approach also referred to as “waterfall”. People, Phases, and Deliverables are defined up front and organized into compartments in the view of making things more accountable, transparent, on-time and on-budget.
Bureaucracy is key and often the project is buried under mountains of paperwork or meetings.
Change driven is the one I (and a majority of BAs I believe) prefer. With most of our work being reactive, it allows us to be more responsive to the current environment – more agile. Just as it sounds, it implies speed; and to achieve this speed, most of us have found that informal more collaborative interactions work well. Not that under the Plan approach there isn’t collaboration, it’s more rigid with typically more senior people involved whom everyone bows down to and avoids contradicting. In a more agile environment, process is still followed however it’s the folks at the ground floor who are involved. The advantage of having the ground floor involved is that you get buy-in from the people who will be using the system – their attitude and influence can be huge on the upper echelons – especially for a contractor / consultant who need to get an idea up the ladder on short notice.
Back to the map
To get back to the journey analogy, and magically incorporate this week’s planning theme as I seek the CBAP into the 6 tasks for this KA in the BABOK:
- Plan Business Analysis Approach - In my case I identified the need to get my CBAP. I spoke with several people who had heard of it – even met someone who had it (Expert Judgment); and I looked at assets (BABOK 2.0). Participating in CBAP Prep Boot Camp in Toronto helped fuel some of this too.
- Conduct Stakeholder analysis – I am my own primary stakeholder – however at the same time I had to look at my family, my co-workers , my clients, and what the impact would be to them of my studying. Deadlines might have to be moved, or nights out with friends – to accommodate study sessions (which we have weekly). It also helped me identify who, in my moments of weakness and procrastination, I can turn to and get a swift kick back on track.
- Plan BA Activities– admittedly this is an odd one to word as I (and am sure most) plan my activities in my head and then only write down the more challenging ones where a bit of extra effort may be required. No difference right now. However, based on section 2.3.2 description of the task:
- ID deliverable(s) – in my case an online blog.
- Scope of the work for the activity – reading the BABOK 2.0, each blog covers an area of the BABOK or the CBAP process; and attending study groups and meeting with peers.
- Determine what BA will do and timing – in this case the above two bullet points and a weekly schedule (I wish). This is also where a WBS would fit nicely (typically for the PM’s sake, although admittedly it helps a BA‘s time-management when there are multiple deliverables in a tight window).
- Estimate the work – once again, for this I guesstimated originally 4hrs a week. Not the reality, which is double – what with the challenges of staying awake rereading the BABOK 2.0, edits to this blog (yes, can you believe edits?), and the numerous study sessions that run over the allotted time.
- Plan Business Analysis Communications – with weekly study sessions and this blog I think I have this covered. Note: when I saw this as a task I thought it was obvious and didn’t see why the IIBA would highlight it. Then, on my last project, I dealt with people who never created meeting minutes. I actually had to ask that they be produced (and then often found myself as the scribe – sigh).
- Plan Requirements Management process - or, what can I bribe Yamo with so that he OK’s this week’s blog? LOL – As for managing any changes he might request, I just go with it. Besides, this is my blog and seeing how long it takes me to write an initial draft, change will not be often…
- Manage Business Analysis Performance – that more often than not, and especially in this case, is a “known unknown”.
In relation to this blog and seeking the CBAP:
- Did I get something out weekly?
- Did I do the latest chapter quiz in preparation for study group?
- Did I complete the chapter exam as I prep to write the practice exam?
And on that note – I have to take a couple of quizzes and exams as I prep for tonight’s study session.
To summarize for Week 2:
- Completed reading the BABOK 2.0
- Compiled my work history for the CBAP application
- Attended CBAP study group – with a focus on BAPM
For Week 3, my goal is to complete and submit the CBAP application; and in study group we are going to finish reviewing BAPM and do some glossary work.
How do you plan and monitor your BA work? Do you have standards and guidelines in place or is it more of an adhoc process?
Please use the comment space below to leave your thoughts and any questions that you may have.