Skip to main content

Building on Building the Right Thing

As a senior BA, I increasingly find the BA Times to be a fantastic resource for winning hearts and minds.  Kent McDonald wrote a terrific article last month about Value and Building the Right Thing.  It is a must read for any BA who is unsure what to do about difficult stakeholders (are there any other kind?).

In thinking back on numerous projects over the years I could suddenly see what Kent described – teams that were most excellent at building things right, but who were relying on stakeholders to identify and prioritize what to build.  This behavior has derailed a lot of projects (death by “superuser”*), and made Scott Adams a LOT of money for “requirements” jokes.


The ability to INFLUENCE a project to perform due diligence (BA) on what is possible AND worthy to build (as opposed to “recommend and retreat”) is a very advanced skill, requiring business and technical knowledge, plus people skills of significant depth and breadth.  This does not describe the experience set of most stakeholders, or even of many BAs (fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals!). 


Add to the above the natural reluctance of most stakeholders to change.  Since projects imply change, it is actually unreasonable to expect stakeholders to perform a thorough, balanced investigation and analysis.  That is our job.  Then we create as much consensus as possible.


Enabling this balanced investigation to happen IS a key BA move – it is the reason we are expected to speak ALL the dialects – “business” and “project” and “IT” and “user” and “developer” and “vendor”.  Failure to  find this balance can lead to projects that are infeasible, unbeneficial, too expensive, unacceptable to some or all stakeholders, and in some cases just funny (did you hear the one about the team that decided to re-invent accounting for the stakeholder who had to receive and cut checks across thousands of accounts, but who didn’t like accounting systems?).


SOOOO, deep breath.  Back we go to our exercise in identity requirements.  The reason I am walking through this exercise with you, the fearless reader, is that my experience has taught me that my value is focusing on value.  At this time, I can think of no greater value to freedom and democracy than a careful analysis of the requirements for identity systems.


BUT, loyal reader, I am out of time this month.  Here is the problem we have posed:




To reassure ourselves that we REALLY understand the stakeholders for identity systems (see prior columns), we will try to list the “identity transactions” that might occur in society, and we will try to match these transactions to the kinds of stakeholders we are aware of so far (individuals, businesses, government, and other organizations).


How many identity transactions can you think of that have significant differences in identity requirements (purchase goods, fly to Palestine, get a driver’s license, buy a gun, become a citizen, visit Niagara Falls), or how would you elicit such a list?  Is this why no one has ever done it?


Potential answers will be discussed next month, and incorporated into the case study.  The best reader response will get acknowledged next month (send a picture with your response!) and will undoubtedly receive a large raise in the near future, just for rising above the pack.


 ALSO:  A tip of the hat goes out next month to anyone who shares a story about “death by superuser”.


© 2008 Marcos Ferrer