Thursday, 06 July 2017 08:03

Better, Not Bigger!

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After working as an IT Analyst in the same organization for over twenty years, it became apparent to me that every year our project load got bigger and bigger.

Just when you thought that someone was going to stop the madness, every new year we ended up out-pacing the previous year’s project load. It wasn’t just the shiny, new initiatives coming on the scene. There was a cumulative effect when a few of the previous year’s projects would spill over, creating a nice overlap effect. Unanticipated architecture changes halted project progress and impacted deadlines. The end-result was an overwhelming dog pile of projects that over-consumed resources and frustrated many.

Year after year, it was like Ground Hogs day, where we relived the same vicious cycle. While strategic planning did occur, strategic project selection was based on which got the most votes by upper management. Most of the time IT resources did not see project requirements until projects were launched.

Moreover, strategic projects did not include system or application upgrades, those of which consumed large portions of IT resources.

The trouble for me was that I knew there were better ways to manage the project capacity load, and thus avoid the relentless chaos. The ways to achieve more was not to add more on to the plate! After spending the past five years learning Business Analysis tasks and techniques, I knew there were recipes and ingredients for counteracting and avoiding the various problems we faced.

Imagine that the organization described above chose to hire a Business Analyst to help address the project chaos. With the skills and discipline that a Business Analyst can provide, this company could have transformed their chaotic project life-cycle into a well-oiled machine. With a revamping of their project processes, this company should be able to better focus on the priority strategic initiatives that provide the most value, rather than spreading itself thin with the vast number of projects. In fact, with proper capacity planning, they might possess a greater ability or agility to act on opportunities, such as offering new products or services faster than their competitors. Furthermore, they may even open up a new window to engaging in process improvements for their operational functions.

You might be wondering how this amazing transformation would take place. What specific tasks and techniques would this Business Analyst use to effect such dramatic change in this company? I contend that the most dramatic changes would come from starting at the beginning in the initiation and planning phases.


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During the initiation phase, our talented BA could follow a predictive approach and use the following techniques to minimize uncertainty and mitigate “surprise” architecture changes, as well as better identification of resources needed:

  • Business Case – this should be used to outline the justification for pursuing the project, as well as the value it will provide. The Business Case illustrates the value a problem or opportunity will bring if realized. The Business Case would also outline constraints (i.e., need to install security equipment, upgrade servers, etc.) before setting the schedule!
  • Enterprise Analysis – this would compare the current state of the environment to the desired future state, thereby illustrating the gaps.
  • Requirements Analysis – this will outline the specific needs, and specific technology needed for the solution design. This process will also uncover any non-functional requirements needed, and then ultimately whether the proposed solution would meet the needs. To provide the benefit of proper capacity planning, capture this information in the analysis and design phase of the project rather than at kickoff!
  • Functional Decomposition –If the project scope was broken down into smaller pieces for analysis, then project resource and timeline uncertainties could be greatly reduced.
  • Estimation – With the requirements analyzed, a far better estimate of the amount of effort and needed resources for the project will be much accurate.
  • Prioritization – by identifying the value (or ROI), the complexity, and risks of each project, we could then assign a customized rank to each one. This ranking should guide the company in determining which projects to pursue in the appropriate order.
  • Stakeholder Analysis – by outlining who might be impacted by the solution or the implementation of the solution, this will guide in resource capacity planning.
  • Backlog Prioritization and Management – by regularly reviewing the entire backlog of projects to determine if priorities or needs have changed would be essential in keeping the company focused on those projects that bring the most value to them.

There is one final tool that I am certain would have revolutionized the company’s formulation and prioritization of goals and strategies: a Business Model Canvas.

TABLE A- BABOK V3 – BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS

schemmel 070617 1

Table B - BABOK V3 – BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS DEFINITION

“A Business Model Canvas can be used as a diagnostic and planning tool regarding strategy and initiatives. As a diagnostic tool, the various elements of the canvas are used as a lens into the current state of the business, especially with regards to the relative amount of energy, time, and resources the organization is currently investing in various areas. As a planning and monitoring tool, the canvas can be used as a guideline and framework for understanding interdependencies and priorities among groups and initiatives.

Business model canvas allows for the mapping of programs, projects, and other initiatives (such as recruitment or talent retention) to the strategy of the enterprise. In this capacity, the business model canvas can be used to view where the enterprise is investing, where a particular initiative sits, and any related initiatives.

A business model canvas can be used to demonstrate where the efforts of various departments and workgroups fit and online to the overall strategy of the enterprise.”

  • IIBA BABOK Version 3.0

In closing, after enduring years of frustration over the overwhelming burdens, it finally occurred to me that I was not a good fit for this style of operating. Luckily for me, I was recently able to find the perfect new job leading the newly formed Business Analysis department! To be in a position to guide others in using the techniques and framework that the practice of Business Analysis provides is like making it over to the other side of the rainbow! I can’t wait to work on my new organization’s transformation!

References/Bibliography
BABOK V3, A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. International Institute of Business Analysis.

Karen Schemmel

1stcontributionKaren has over twenty five years’ experience in the credit union industry.  She has worked in various IT roles such as a Systems Analyst, an IT Support Manager, an IT Architect, and a Business Analysis Manager.  Over the years, she has had many opportunities to serve on project teams.  Additionally, working in the Systems Support arena for so many years gives her great perspective on the many demands on IT resources.

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