Start from the Problem Statement
As most business analysts will tell you many projects, business or technical, are initiated with a solution in mind instead a problem. Adrian Reed, CBAP of the United Kingdom articulated this issue in a Podcast interview with Yaaqub (Yamo) Mohamed, CBAP. As James Szuch suggests every project should start with the problem statement. If the business stakeholders already have the solution in mind, then ask them why this is the solution and what problem is it going to solve for us. Get all the stakeholders back to the problem, and make sure everybody understands the problem that you are trying to solve.
Gaining Shared Vision
As I mentioned earlier sometimes it is best to have the business stakeholders share their vision of the current state of the system or process you are considering changing with you and the other stakeholders. This is particularly effective if you are investigating a system or process that you personally are unfamiliar with; however, I use this technique with every new project, task or when I work with a new group of stakeholders. It starts to build the relationship, gain trust, and shows them that I value their expertise in their domain. This also helps reduce errors and omissions. I was once engaged to help a client gain video capability on their website. When I began the first few groups of stakeholders I spoke with said they had no videos currently on their websites. When I got to the marketing department, they said that there were a couple of videos already on their website. So I investigated the platform that was used to embed the videos on the website. If I had not continued my investigation of the current state with each department I spoke with we would have started the project thinking that there was no current state from which to start.
Extending the Vision
Once you have that vision of the current state now you make sure all concerned have the same vision. This is what Kupe Kupersmith, CBAP refers to when he discusses creating Vivid Descriptions. With my client that wanted video capability, I was able to inform the other business units that we indeed did have some videos already on our website. Each business unit had a platform in mind that they wanted to see implemented. The fact, the organization already had a platform in use played into the decision making of the business stakeholders. We did not go with that platform, but this allowed them to open their minds to other possibilities other than the one they had walked into the project already in mind.
Extending the vision works with both the current state and the future state of the system or process under investigation. You build the future state vision together with the stakeholders, business and technical, using the pictorial tools I mentioned above.
Target the Vision to the Audience
In order for your audience to gain a vision, they must not only see the picture, but understand it. The picture must be painted in a way that facilitates understanding; it must be presented in a way that the audience can comprehend. You may use flow diagrams, use cases, story boards and/or activity diagrams when painting the vision to a business audience. You may use text documents, flow diagrams, use cases and/or activity diagrams to paint the picture for a technical team. You may use very short summary text documents and/or flow diagrams to present to management. You would use more detailed documents and diagrams when presenting to business users; and even more detailed documentation when presenting to a technical audience. To create a shared vision the picture must be presented in a way that facilitates quick comprehension from the audience to whom it is being presented.
So as you work on your tasks, whether it is a small task, business process improvement project, software development project, architecture project or enterprise initiative remember to always Create a Shared Vision with and among the stakeholders with which you are working. In this way you can be assured to implement the best solution for the organization. As Kupe put it:
“You need to help them get clarity around the problem or opportunity they are trying to solve and more importantly the outcomes or results they want.”
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