3 Things for Business Analysis Professionals to Focus on in 2018
As we settle into 2018, the pressure to quickly deliver innovative products and solutions continues to increase.
We need to speed up the delivery process in a way that is responsive to rapidly evolving technology and ever-changing user needs and expectations. All too often, our teams end up rapidly delivering, but not getting the expected outcomes from a user and customer point of view.
This need for a responsive delivery approach will inspire many BAs and organizations to focus on these three goals in 2018:
1) Increase knowledge and awareness of new technologies and how they can improve the customer’s experience.
As organizations wrapped up 2017 and set refined priorities for 2018, one of the most common things I am seeing in portfolios and spending is a shift to artificial intelligence capabilities.
If you think your industry isn’t impacted by all of this, think again! Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics are already part of our daily lives—consider the fraud alert you receive when someone makes an unusual purchase on your credit card, the map app that suggests a faster route for your commute, or the ever-improving spam filter in your email.
If these technologies haven’t appeared in your project work yet, they will soon, and likely this year! Your customers and users will start asking for these advances soon, if not already. So, get ready to respond by increasing your awareness of how these technologies might influence your work.
For BAs, this means new customer interactions, new business models and new business processes that will replace existing processes that we thought were working fine. It also means helping our business stakeholders think differently about their own requirements and helping them understand the latest capabilities. Think about how these capabilities could provide a better solution than what a stakeholder may be asking for. They may be providing requirements that are using outdated technologies and there may be AI capabilities that better align to providing the user a better experience while helping the organization with their strategic agenda. I am betting our backlogs are full of requests that could be re-imagined and strategic!
BAs who are ready will have a ton of fun on these projects. BAs that are not ready might be left behind.
What can you do to get ahead? Make time to learn about AI capabilities. How can these capabilities help your customers meet their goals faster and improve customer interactions with your organization?
2) Define smaller increments to experiment or get feedback.
In addition to being responsive to new technology, effective teams need to be hyper-focused on their backlog management processes.
BAs and product owners are often in the driver’s seat when defining and prioritizing the backlog. They should consider the size, scope and value of each item. Each increment should also be an opportunity to experiment or get feedback from stakeholders and/or end users.
Feedback loops are king, and we need to get feedback FAST in today’s business environment. Organizations that do this well learn faster and please customers at a faster rate which is critical to success in fast-paced, complex and ambiguous environments.
If your team is struggling with backlog management, consider these tips:
- Backlog items should express the WHO, WHAT, and WHY, in terms that the end customer understands and can be prioritized by business leaders.
- Make sure the backlog is not just something the technical team is managing; it needs to be aligned with the business. The right business drivers should guide the backlog prioritization.
- Backlog items should be “feedbackable.” When you deliver the item, will your users or stakeholders be able be able to see or experience the change and provide feedback?
- Slicing backlog items does not mean dividing it up into tasks, components, or technical design details! Instead, slice by decomposing the item into smaller, but still user-valued pieces. Recently this is my favorite thing to help teams with, there is so much value in slicing backlog items strategically!
3) Collaborate deeper and just in time.
Another way be more responsive to stakeholders and end users, is to explore the quality and timing of collaboration. Teams that actively collaborate with their stakeholders deliver better products and solutions.
So BAs, your call to action is to ramp up your collaborative games skills. Both remote and face-to-face elicitation sessions should include facilitation techniques that deepen the discovery and learning cycles. Effective collaboration helps attendees move from good ideas to great ideas and from wishy-washy decisions to confident decisions.
But timing is important too. Defining too many details too soon, results in lengthy backlogs. If an item has been on your backlog for a few months (or years, uh oh!), it’s likely your assumptions/shared understandings are out of date, and a more advanced and innovative solution is needed to compete and please customers.
You can prevent rework and be more responsive to change by collaborating at a high level initially and defining details as close to delivery as possible.
Every team will deliver better solutions faster, when they stay on top of technology trends and refine their delivery processes to get immediate feedback from stakeholders and end users. It’s this responsive approach that will continue to delight your customers and give your organization a competitive edge in 2018.