Secret Public BA Shames. Part 2.

Last month’s column generated a huge response – a nerve has been struck!

Responses to the “database check data poking” controversy ranged from (I paraphrase here) “the project manager may know something you don’t” to “even without hard evidence, you should try to make the auditors aware”.

The solution, I think, is for the auditor to receive an anonymous invitation to talk to the project manager, so the project manager can share what they know, since they won’t share it with the BA. How the BA keeps their job (or gets any future job) by doing this publicly is not clear. For it to work, there has to be an anonymous way of reporting concerns. Let’s be frank – whistleblowers are punished, not rewarded, even when they are reporting serious offenses.

FREE IDEA from the “Ideas are cheap” department. A web page could invite people to send letters (yes, snail mail) expressing concerns. These letters could remain completely private, and be destroyed after receipt. The concerns expressed would be posted anonymously on the web page by hand, and forwarded to appropriate agencies. The “poster” would have no liability, and no responsibility for content, and the whistleblower would have a chance to do the right thing while escaping punishment. And the offender would have a chance of seeing themselves online, just like when Ann Landers published anonymous letters.

OK, deep breath – “Situation #2”. The case of “who cares about inventory?”

A large institution manages a huge portfolio of physical assets – buildings, tunnels, underground assets, vehicles, etc. They do not have an accurate inventory of these assets, and have not felt able to apply the resources to resolve the issue. They ARE aware that the situation is undesirable, but have never quantified the costs, nor have they estimated the benefits of correcting the situation.

Enter the BA, who is asked to make a business case for managing these assets.

In the early stages of elicitation, it was discovered that contractors hired by the institution were expected to perform “exploratory engineering” (to determine what assets are really in place) before they begin actual work. This “exploratory engineering” was performed after the contract was awarded, and often resulted in change orders, which tended to be more costly than if the work had been bid properly.

When asked about the financial benefits of having an accurate inventory of assets, and the possibility of saving money on “exploratory” work and expensive change orders, the manager in charge said (I paraphrase) “It’s just part of doing business, they all know they have to do it (exploratory work)”. When asked if contracts would be less expensive with proper asset management, the manager replied (again, I paraphrase) “That doesn’t affect me”.

Just to make sure, I followed up a few days later with some more questions, but got the same sort of avoidance.

This took place in the context that asset management had been identified as a strategic objective of the agency. This manager did not, could not, or would not care about the possibility of using resources better.

OK, brilliant readers – three questions:

  1. What could possibly have been on this manager’s mind?
  2. Is there an ethical concern?
  3. Why or why not – what factors would affect your decision?

NEXT MONTH – another situation – send yours, if you know of one!

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Marcos Ferrer, CBAP has over 20 years experience in the practice of business analysis and the application of Information Technology for process improvement. Following graduation in 1983 from the University of Chicago, Mr. Ferrer joined IBM in Chicago, where he worked on requirements and systems implementations in diverse industries. His recent projects include working requirements for the Veteran’s Administration, introducing BA practices at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and creating bowling industry models for NRG Bowl LLC. In November 2006, Marcos Ferrer is one of the first CBAPs certified by the IIBA. He has served as an elected member of the DC-Metro chapter of the IIBA, most recently as President, and assisted in the writing of the BOK 2.0 test.