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Author: Angela Wick

4 Roadblocks That Prevent You from Delivering Value to Customers

Business analysts get cast in many roles on project teams, but one of their most important roles is a customer advocate.

Great Business Analysts understand customer needs and provide the voice of the customer to inform priorities and decisions. When the customer is the focal point of project work, teams deliver solutions that delight the customer.

Most Business Analysts would agree with this in theory, but in practice, customer needs get buried under the day to day quicksand of details, deadlines, politics, and fire-fighting. There are so many things that distract us from our customers. Here are the top 4 roadblocks on our path to customer value:

Roadblock #1: Limiting Our Definition of Customer.

Who is your customer? If you think it’s just an internal customer, think again. Think beyond the silo of your internal customer:

  • How does the internal customer serve the organization’s external customers?
  • Who does the internal customer serve in other parts of the organization?
  • How does the internal customer serve the organization’s external partners?

Even when the project scope appears to be internal, it has an impact on the operation of the organization, which eventually impacts additional end users. Even a tiny database change to an internal system could prevent an internal call center employee from having the data they need to answer a customer’s question.

Avoid this roadblock by identifying your customer chain from start to finish. Understand how their needs connect and help your team keep relevant needs top of mind throughout the project lifecycle.

Roadblock #2: Ignoring the Fact That Our Customers Are Changing

Markets change every day. A new product or announcement from your competitor can significantly change your company’s priorities and objectives. Even customer expectations are changing, rapidly! This means their definition of value is changing rapidly too. If you don’t keep up, lackluster solutions that erode your customer base get delivered.

Think about how quickly our lives are changing—none of us grew up with smartphones and social media, family road trips required an atlas instead of google maps, we couldn’t find good places to eat “near me now,” and breaking news came from the TV instead of Twitter.

Every change brings new demands from customers. In fast-paced, competitive industries, your requirements might be outdated before you get them prioritized!

So, how do you bust through this roadblock? LISTEN to your customers. Be sure you have mechanisms in place to monitor their needs, wants and expectations in real-time and be sure to address roadblock #4. Keep your mind open to noticing subtle changes not only in your project but in other projects around you and even your organization’s marketplace.

Roadblock #3: Only Doing What Leaders Ask Us to Do

What leaders ask for is NOT what they actually want. Their intentions are good, but there’s always more to the story. If the story is incomplete, our customers will receive incomplete solutions.

As Business Analysts, it is our responsibility to help leaders understand the full story. Our leaders want us to challenge scope, approach, and design to discover the full value in their ideas. We avoid this roadblock by intelligently disobeying these requests to implement their intent, not the exact requirement they give.

So, what does it mean to go with their intent and intelligently disobey? It means Business Analysts elicit and analyze to align intent and value. They use engaging techniques to get the team thinking and talking about what is valuable to who. Then, BAs give recommendations and high-value options that align to the leader’s intent.

Dig deeper into expectations of your customers and sponsors. Dig into the data to find data points to support the business vision, goals and objectives more subjectively. Help your leaders and sponsors build robust and thoughtful business cases to support their vision, goals, objectives and expectations. Don’t gather requirements – elicit them. Requirements are not laying on the road around the office for you to pick them up off the floor. You need to ask questions, challenge to gain a deeper understanding and create objective validation of the requirements and link them to the expectations of your leadership and sponsors. Trace and align requirements to the vision, goals, objectives and expectations of your leadership and sponsors. If the requirement doesn’t align – it’s time to red line (or cut the requirement).

Roadblock #4: Using an ineffective and outdated requirements approach.

Old-school requirements include a single requirements phase where BAs write down what stakeholders say they want (roadblock #3) and then hand off requirements to the development team for distant delivery (roadblock #2).

To deliver high-value products that delight customers, requirements of today and the future require a new way of working. Value-packed requirements do not come from scribe BAs who just write down what they’re told. We need to dig deeper to find real customer value.

The products that delight customers are not full of features they asked for, and they are full of features that make them think “wow, that is cool, I wouldn’t have thought of that!”

Business Analysts need to help their team to avoid this old-school requirement roadblock by evolving requirements from “what is stated” to “what will delight.” This evolution requires insight, observation, data, empathy, high impact collaboration, human-centered design patterns, and experiments. This new way of working is paramount to a successful customer centered approach.

Do you deliver solutions that delight your end users? Please post a comment below to share your success story with other BA Times readers!

Top 6 Critical BA Skills for the Future (and today!) – Part 2

When I wrote part one of this article series, I wanted to go deeper and have heard from many that deeper is where part 2 needs to go!

You’ll see the original six critical BA skills below with additional details and questions to help your team think about how to apply these valuable skills. 

1. Data Insights: Analyzing Data to Identify Customer Behavior Patterns

What does this look like for BAs in practice? It’s about BAs getting comfortable analyzing and applying customer/user data throughout the project lifecycle. Data insight skills include a continuous process of modifying system behavior based on an understanding of what is valuable to the user.

BAs with great data insight skills understand how customer behavior data can be used to boost the customer’s experience. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself or your team to develop new data insights:

  • How can you use customer data to drive and prioritize your backlog items?
  • What insights does the data give to prioritizing sprints and release goals?
  • What does customer behavior data teach us about how the system should respond to users?
  • What system data can we use to use to adapt (in real time) to user experiences?
  • What data is too large in numbers and complexity for the human brain to process and how can we simplify it for our customers?
  • What value is the customer hoping to receive from the system and which data provides this value? (Are you providing more data than needed to provide user value?)

2. Requirements Anthropology: Observing and Empathizing to Boost Value and Improve the Life of the User

Data insights are critical, but it can be difficult to elicit user/customer behavior data from our typical stakeholders. The difficulty comes because customer needs change faster than we can write a requirements document!

Here’s an example: I signed up for a Spotify account so I could listen to music while working out. On day two, after carrying my phone from machine to machine, I hopped on the treadmill and discovered an immediate NEED: A treadmill with Spotify login capabilities! I wanted the treadmill at the gym to let me access my Spotify running playlist, rather than carrying my phone. A week ago I would not have had that requirements, and now it is something I want bad! I would prioritize it over many other ideas for the gym.

That’s where requirements anthropology skills come into play. BAs borrow the mindset of an anthropologist to keep pace with the changing needs and behaviors of their end users.

Data gathered from customer observations six months ago is out of date. Requirements anthropology encourages real time observations and continuous delivery to meet those changing needs.

How can we observe and evaluate the customer experience AND deliver changes in days? For some BAs, this is easier with agile cadences that include continuous delivery prioritized by end user value. If observations generate system or process change requests with higher end user value than current backlog/roadmap items, they move to the top of the “to-do” list.

For all BAs, agile or not, requirements anthropology calls you to act on what you see when observing users and customers, especially when you can add immediate value. On a recent project, I observed users for 10 minutes and found four quick fixes that were not logged as defects. Once fixed, these simple changes dramatically improved user experience and business operation metrics.

3. Visualization: Using images to explore and learn.

I am not a visual genius and it is pretty hard to find those with the rare talent. But we don’t need perfect, formal, elaborate visuals. Get up from that chair in meetings and sketch on the whiteboard! Draw concepts and connect the dots. In virtual meetings, use that virtual whiteboard! Use basic shapes like stick figures, boxes, circles, arrows, etc.

Visuals create deep, shared understanding that’s more effective than detailed requirements documents; creativity and engagement skyrocket as well. Experiment with various high level models and diagrams and tools connect concepts or data visually.

Did you know the brain engages deeper for the person doing the drawing? Give other people ownership by handing off the marker (or the screen control) and encourage them to add or modify. There is something magical about creating visuals that cannot be duplicated by pure dialog. Our brains crave visuals to enhance the verbal part of the conversation.

4. Forensic Thinking: Evaluating Assumptions and Perceptions to Uncover Facts

Forensic thinking encourages BAs to expand their definition of elicitation and explore techniques beyond stakeholder interviews and requirements workshops. An elicitation approach that includes both collaborative and research-oriented techniques helps BAs fill gaps and connect dots that are not obvious with a single technique.

Use techniques like collaborative games and create workshops that use multiple techniques in the workshop to gather insights. Then, use the questions that come out of these workshops to research, analyze and prioritize the next steps in your requirements approach. Also, use experiments with users, data and/or rules to test out assumptions rather than simply listing assumptions at the end of a document.

5. Data Security: Balancing Risk and Value

This is where our favorite non-functional requirements pop up! Unlike the past, BAs use value to analyze and prioritize non-functional requirements like data security. The primary goal is to get the right level of quality without compromising value, and it is so tough! The trade-offs between user experience and data security risks usually creates uncomfortable dialog.

If you’re ready to start the conversation, here are a few tips:

  • Challenge yourself and the team to really think about how data security impacts the user and the business.
  • Find the balance between fear and user experience impact. This may mean doing some A/B testing and seeing the difference in user behavior on two different security models.
  • Respect data security needs while also embracing the reality that less security can improve the user experience in ways that might outweigh the risk.
  • Debate where to draw the line. Where are you comfortable trading data security for user experience?

6. UX – User Experience: Collaborating in Short, Informal Iterations to Build an Integrated Experience

Let go of the concept of a UX “phase” with distinct start and end dates. Don’t jump into screen updates and formal mock ups. Instead, encourage your team to let UX evolve as the team collaborates and learns.

  • Start with quick hand drawn screens.
  • Build, and iterate, and iterate more to get to the right balance and experience for the user.
  • Approach UX with an integrated mindset. Look at the user experience and all of the screens as a whole rather than perfecting a single screen.
  • Map screens to user-focused process models. Identify the critical parts of the process that impact the value the user gets.
  • Walk the walk of the user, in real time in a team meeting, rather perfecting a document.

Are these skills on your radar in 2017? I would love to know how your team is integrating value, customer behavior and visuals into your daily routines. Please leave your comments below.

Top 6 Critical BA Skills for the Future (and today!)

As we cruise through the last days of 2016, it’s important to peek in the rearview mirror. Reflecting on the past reveals patterns and trends in our travels that we can use to predict future destinations.

When I look in my 2016 review mirror, I gather insights from deep conversations with industry leaders, real world problem solving with clients, and sharing ideas with students. These insights drive my thinking about the future of business analysis.
Can you guess where we are going? Do you know what skills you need to pick up along the way?
Regardless of title (BA or not) and approach (traditional, agile, or hybrid), everyone in the business of discovering, defining and delivering value can prepare for the future by developing the following skills:

1) Data Insights

Modeling and data relationships are moving to the back seat while data insights take the wheel. This means that we will be asked dig deeper into our data to discover insights that our stakeholders are not aware of and would be difficult, if not impossible, to elicit.
Data insights start with a comprehensive understanding of our customers and our business. Using our customer and business understanding we can look at data differently and analyze the customer patterns and behaviors. These patterns provide insights to where end users experience value in the product/solution itself and it’s features.

2) Requirements Anthropology

Data insights are critical, but data does not always give us the full picture. Requirements anthropology asks us to go beyond the data and the information we elicit from stakeholders. We need to develop an empathetic mindset that allows us to enter the world of our users and identify their behavior patterns. When we approach our requirements like anthropologists, we take a deeper look at the role the product or solution plays in the end user’s life, work and habits. It’s about observing behaviors and understanding where value is derived for a variety of user types.
An anthropologist’s work would not be complete with out looking at the entire ecosystem of how the user behaviors and patterns impact the preceding or resulting business process. Can business model or process changes improve the life of the user and ultimately the value the user receives? This is what requirements anthropology is about!

3) Visualization

The ability to create effective visuals has always been important, but the purpose of visual communication is changing. In the past, we used data in a visual form to prove a point or simplify a decision. Modern visuals are about concepts, exploring, and learning rather than the typical inform & declare process of the past.
We have a giant amount of complex information at our fingertips, so we need to think harder about the purpose of each visual. Effective visualization skills (with the help of many new visualization tools) help our teams make sense of the vast and complex information, and help us along the learning journey to gather insights about where value lies. The complexity of today is making this learning journey an imperative! Insights regarding value are no longer obvious, they are the “needle in the haystack.”

4) Forensic Thinking

Forensic thinking helps teams get to the root of complex problems by applying a scientific approach. Forensic thinkers use a logical process to confirm the problem’s cause by direct observation, examination and/or objective measurement. This approach helps BAs gather meaningful, accurate requirements rooted in facts rather than stakeholder perceptions or assumptions.
An important focal point for our forensic thinking is the customer experience. Modern teams use forensic thinking to explore customer patterns. Forensic thinking also aligns well with solutions that prevent and investigate fraud and digital/cyber crimes.
So, what does forensic thinking look like? It involves going far beyond what stakeholders say or think they want or need and truly looking at various resources, tests, data, and connections that build upon one another to get to the learnings that ultimately provide insights.

5) Data Security

In the past, data security skills fell on the shoulders of our techie teammates. Now BAs need data security skills too! We need to understand which data assets are most valuable to the organization, and help the organization weigh decisions about protecting this data. If teams protect data too fiercely, they may compromise business performance. Think about the customer who abandons a purchase because the app wants too much data or takes too long to authenticate. Or think about the internal user who abandons core systems to use an “unauthorized” program to meet customer needs and business goals faster.
As BAs we need to understand these dynamics and be prepared to discuss the impact data decisions have on solution requirements, solution design, user/customer experience, and risk to the organization. We need to understand the value of data and the possible risk/reward trade-offs.

6) UX – User Experience

UX is changing and new UX skills are coming into play in this digital era. The huge migration to mobile and tablet devices over web/PC screens will grow as we rely on our devices more and more. This means more UX-related projects and product development for BAs. Responsiveness, modular design and service design are key. BAs with UX skills understand how the UX design features play with all technical layers.
Other key areas of UX include customer experience mapping and rapid UX work. This means understanding the business model and processes very well in order to design a UX that supports the strategy, business model, and flow of the most critical pieces of value.
Formal wireframes are fading out in favor of quick hand-drawn lo-fidelity sketches that go straight to the build process for quick feedback from users. It means more collaborative design sessions instead of reviewing wireframes. BAs who want to keep up with UX will also need to acquire persuasive design and user-centered design skills.

Are you seeing increasing demand for these six skills in your organization? They shine a bright light on a giant shift in our thinking about business analysis. In many organizations, BAs focused largely on analyzing internal systems and processes. Based on my discussions with many of you this year, BAs are increasingly looking outside. They uncover value by analyzing the end user’s environment, thinking, patterns and behaviors.
Don’t get left behind! Develop skills that fuel the future.
Please leave your comments below.

5 High-Impact Questions Every BA Should Be Using!

Success or failure often hinges on the questions we ask throughout the project lifecycle.

It sounds a bit dramatic, but I’ve witnessed it many times—a single, thought-provoking question that changed the trajectory of a conversation, opened a floodgate of new ideas, or magically simplified a complex problem.

Related Article: 7 Candid Strategic Questions Every Business Leader Should Ask

Great business analysts fill their toolbox with high-impact questions! BAs use these questions strategically. They figure out the right way to ask the question and the right way to gather the answers. They also consider the best time, place and audience for each question.

High-impact questions:

  • are difficult to answer
  • create moments of silence
  • inspire responses like, “Hmmmm, let me think about that…”
  • stir up emotions and politics
  • spark analysis
  • encourage stakeholders to provide context, solve problems, make good decisions
  • generate deep, meaningful, interactive discussions that spawn high-value systems, processes and products

5 Excellent High-Impact Questions

Tell me about your pain points and challenges with the system/process/product.

Yes, I know this is not in the form of a question, but this phrasing indicates your interest in details and deep discussion instead of a short, off-the-cuff list. Starting from a place of pain gives people a chance to get their frustrations on the table right away. It inspires storytelling that gives context to stakeholder concerns and creates a shared understanding of each stakeholder’s priorities.

If this system, product, process worked as good as it could, what would that look like?

This question approaches pain points and challenges from a positive angle and promotes problem-solving. Stakeholders will reveal their solution priorities and their definition of success. Use this question to brainstorm enhancements, features, or to diffuse disagreements about priorities, needs or decisions.

What are the top 3 things you would change?

This question can be used in multiple ways throughout the project lifecycle. You can use it in discussions about systems, features, products or processes, or you can use it to focus on internal processes and issues. This question works in the initial stages of the project when you are defining needs, and is equally useful during a retrospective or “lessons learned” discussion. It also works well evaluating how a current or newly implemented solution is working regardless of if changes are being asked for.

Asking users to limit their change list to 3 items, forces stakeholders to prioritize and focus on what’s most important. Be sure to spend time diving into the why for each item. When stakeholders reveal their top 3 things and explain why, you will begin to understand their values, priorities and pain points. You’ll also begin to see how each stakeholder is connected.

What things would you make sure not to change?

This question works well when you need your team to focus on the positive. It reveals what each stakeholder appreciates about the current process, system or product. You begin to understand stakeholder values and priorities. You discover stakeholder fears and define innovation boundaries. Digging into the why of each “please don’t change this” item, will uncover stories (requirements in context) of what’s working well and might spark ideas for enhancements or new products/processes/systems. You might also find conflict here…things in this list might also be in the top three that others want to change, which generates good discussion.

If the project or enhancement does not happen, what impact would that have for you?

This question, when discussed in a group setting, pulls each stakeholder out of their silo. They begin to discover gaps in their understanding of the big picture. As the stakeholders reveal their needs. Some may discover they do not need to actively participate in the project. Others may discover they underestimated their impact. This question often generates meaningful examples and scenarios that stick in people’s minds much longer than words in a giant requirements document.

Benefits of High-Impact Questions

High-impact questions provide multiple benefits that tip the project balance to success. Here are just a few:

Silence: High-impact questions allow the stakeholder or group to think, go back in their mind, come back and be with a space in their mind to really process thoughts and come to conclusions. Silence helps us get better requirements that are better thought out. It reduces the risk of changing requirements by giving stakeholders time to dive below the surface requirements earlier in the project.

Trust: High-impact questions build strong relationships with stakeholders and users. Deeper dialog makes them feel connected and understood, which creates trust and boosts morale.

Ownership: High-impact questions help our stakeholders own their involvement in the solution. Rather than cast blame or incite conflict, high-impact questions help stakeholders communicate and articulate the real problem they want to solve.

Be Strategic

To maximize the benefits of high-impact questions, use them strategically. Consider the following:

  • Why are you using the question? What do you hope it reveals? How will it help your team boost end-user value?
  • Who should be answering the question? All stakeholders or just a subset? Users or management?
  • How will you ask the question and how will you gather the answers? One on one, small group, large group? Do you need to allow opportunities for introverts by using surveys or individual brainstorming on sticky notes, then sharing with the large group?
  • Can you use the questions to help stakeholders focus on the end user’s perspective rather than the team’s perspective?
  • If you are in a group when you ask these questions, take the time to observe body language. Who is agreeing with the speaker, who is disagreeing, who looks angry or frustrated? What does body language reveal about your stakeholders’ needs, values and priorities?

High-impact questions encourage teams to talk early and often—minimizing the risk of identifying expensive, show-stopping issues late the project. Use them strategically to help your team build the right solutions, faster! Test one of these questions in your next elicitation session and let me know what happens, or share your favorite high-impact questions below.

Updates from BBC Vegas With Angela Wick

Angela Wick is at BBC (Building Business Capability) Conference in Las Vegas this week. Be sure to check back often for all her updates!

Update #9 – Emerging Trends in Technology and Critical Skills – Ken Fulmer

Ken gave a talk this morning on how disruptive technologies are impacting the BA work we do. This has been a major theme at the conference; so many sessions talking about this and the conference twitter storm (#BBCcon) is buzzing with tweets about it.

What strikes me about this is how easy it is to think that this is far way, or that it does not impact my org or client?

IT IS CLOSER THAN WE CAN IMAGNE! As BAs we will be impacted VERY SOON and likely already but not seeing it!

Ken covered 3 areas of impact in his presentation.

Cloud Computing and SaaS

Key impacts to BAs:

  • Move to product vs. project capability and enhancing the value of the product ongoing. Short lifecycles and very frequent releases.
  • As BAs we need to help the users adjust their process to fit the package and its options without code change

Artificial Intelligence

  • Decisions knowledge workers make will be automated
  • New Skill – How to teach a machine how to think?
  • How much BA work can be automated?
  • The work left of BAs will be strategic, facilitative, insightful and creative


  • Things like IoT (internet of things) devices, 3D printing and Robotics
  • The “digital BA” helps analyze and link all these things.

Other factors of all this that impacts our business analysis:

  • More sophisticated customer and their needs are changing FAST too!
  • Disruptive business models – Like Uber? – Could a disruptive start-up or disruptive change by a legacy company totally change your industry? Are you ready?
  • Is your company disruptive enough?

Career challenges for BAs with this?

  • Understand business models and how to influence it
  • Understand how to digest and handle TONS of information and develop insights to value
  • Lifetime learning – Good BAs need to get better, learn more, expand your role

Organizational Challenges:

  • Invest in learning as well, develop relevant skills for teams
  • Expanded role in BAs, agile teams, product owners

Shout out to all of you – Do you have a disruptive mind set? Do you know how to adjust your business analysis and decision making facilitation to account for disruption in your industry? Are you ramping up your skills?

Update #8 – Business Analysis On the Cusp of Change – Katie Bolla, KPMG & Stephen Ashworth, IIBA

IIBA commissioned a research study on Business Analysis and the results have been published and discussed this week. This morning a session on the results!

A link to download the study results is available on

Three Trends:

  • Technology and Data
  • Sophisticated Customers
  • Industry Disruption

Top CEO Concerns:

  • Customer Loyalty
  • Relevant products
  • Not enough time to think strategically

Key Takeaways:

  • Trends – How to compete in disruptive era – and where the BA fits in
    • BA role moving from tactical to value centric
  • Shifting expectations of business analysis skills
    • More cognitive, strategic, innovative, insightful
  • Delivering value and insights
    • Looking at data differently. What insight does the data give not just how does it flow through a system
  • Conditions for Success
    • Support and awareness of business analysis in the organization

Update #7 – Crucial Conversations: 5 Critical Concepts to Help You Effectively Discuss What Really Matters Most – With Bob Prentiss, BobTheBA

It’s Friday at 8am in Las Vegas and hundreds have their coffee in hand ready for Bob to wake us up!

As BAs, we don’t have enough crucial conversations! They are needed to lead! Mastering soft skills will get us through these conversations.

Bob took us through the steps and key elements that we need to understand how to have crucial conversations. As always he provided us with great humor and entertainment along the way.


Update #6 – The Need for Agile Portfolio Management – Shane Hastie

We are just getting used to agile as a delivery model, but now do it at a portfolio level! What does this mean? Shane has set out to help us understand!

Consider your organizations project investment portfolio a backlog of projects in the organization like a backlog that gets regularly prioritized, items can come on and off and change priorities.

According to Shane, 75% of requirements change every 12 months, and this is why we need to adaptive portfolio management.

The life of a requirement is short!

So, let’s imagine requirements at the business objective level, if these are changing just as often, how can we plan our project investment in Q4 for all of the next year?

This totally resonated with me! Many leaders I work with are frustrated that they have to decide now what projects they think they will need a year from now, and then the project takes months or years to deliver. By the time the project is implemented, it is years from the idea and too much has changed since to deliver value. And, more important things have come up since! Agile portfolio management helps organizations plan and use uncertainty and change strategically in their investment and portfolio planning.

My favorite quotes from Shane’s session:

“Stop starting to start stopping”

“The essence of strategy is saying NO, not just adding another backlog item.”

“The Portfolio/Program/Program office (or PMO) should be about value facilitation, not cost and risk office.”

Lots of deep thoughts coming out of this session!

Update #5 – I Wish I could be in More than 1 place at the same time!

I can’t be in more than one place at the same time, but I wish I could!

So many great sessions from many great bloggers you read!

I am currently sitting in a session with Stephanie Vineyard and her co-presenter Jennifer Starkey. They are presenting on how to build tests from User Stories and connecting Features to User Stories, and acceptance tests using Gherkin language, which is business readable and also computer-readable. This enables some automated testing in their agile environment. They have about 100 people practicing writing GIVEN-WHEN-THEN statements for sample user stories.

Also this morning Clinton Ages has a session on actualizing corporate innovation.

Yesterday while in the Agile BA Panel where BATimes Blogger Kent McDonald was part of the panel, I missed out on a session with Richard Larson, and yet another session at the same time with Kupe Kupersmith and Lori Silverman.

Later today Hans Eckman, Mary Gorman, and Heather Mylan-Mains are speaking. And, tomorrow “BobTheBA” Bob Prentiss wakes us up with an 8am session.

I have also been hanging out at the Agile Open Jam area of the conference. Last year and this year I have been honored to be a facilitator at the Agile Open Jam where anyone at the conference can come by and ask a question or submit a topic for a 20 min huddle discussion with an experienced agile practitioner. The Agile Open Jam goes all day, each day of the conference and a group of experienced agile practitioners takes turns facilitating the discussions. This year the hot topics are: Product Ownership, Scaling the Product Owner Role, Difference Between Product Owner and BA, and more Product Ownership Topics! The Agile Open Jam is organized and hosted by the Agile Alliance in partnership with the conference. Below is a snapshot of what the Agile Open Jam looks like in action!

update 5

More updates coming!


Update #4 – Agile Business Analysis: Current State of the Practice

A panel discussion with Mary Gorman, Shane Hastie, James King, Kent McDonald, and Jas Phul. Moderated by Alain Arseneault

The panel is made up of part of the team creating the 2nd addition of the Agile Extension of the IIBA BABOK.

Agile BA is a HOT topic at the conference, and many are excited to hear from the panel. I have been talking to many attendees, and the Agile BA is on many minds. No longer is there a question of if a BA fits in agile, most are now talking about the various ways agile teams are using and leveraging the BA skill set and how agile teams are doing analysis.

Some key quotes from the panel:

“It’s about learning and adapting to enable our organizations to deliver faster.”

“Analysis is critical, and the BA brings those analysis skills. Asking the hard questions, identifying value, and what we shouldn’t be doing.”

“If you are a BA no matter what type, we need to understand what the actual need is. Think then act.”

“The agile manifesto is a historical document. Instead of valuing working software, we need to be valuing the outcomes are we seeing?”

How has the role of Agile BA evolved over the last 5 years?

• Focus on value and outcomes
• 5 years ago the idea of putting a BA onto an agile team was not as accepted. Today there is a recognition that product ownership is more complex, and analysis is a really important part of it, and analysis and BA brings a lot to this. Yes, that is product ownership, not just Product Owner.
• In the past 5 years, the BA work of an agile team is more evenly spread. The idea of a rigid role structure is evolving. The focus of analysis is broad, not just the next sprint.
• BA work is evolving and recognition that BAs are not replacing thinking they are facilitating thinking, helping the team analyze.
• The positive message here is as BA professionals we have the competencies that can add value to any project, even an agile context. We are really well suited to being BAs on an agile project.

“Agile should be making it quicker and easier to get the job done, not replacing the job.”

Skills needed for Agile BAs? Here is what the panel had to say:

User experience, customer experience focus, customer empathy and getting into the minds of the customer. Understanding the potentials of technology. Value stream mapping. Understanding data (model it and communicate it). Decision making, either you make the decisions, or you facilitate them and realizing what goes into making decisions. Understanding cognitive bias. Strategy, vision, goals, objectives. Deliver value every iteration! Facilitation, collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution.

There was a discussion on what the value of the BA is in agile… and one comment that struck the audience was: Value of a BA in agile? “Turn the question around and ask: Will you take the risk of not having a BA? Are you comfortable having developers make the decisions?”

From all of this, I hope you can feel the energy around this hot topic.

Other hot topics at the conference that I hear the crowd discuss are around themes of digitalization and getting closer to the customer.

More updates soon!


Update #3 – Your Customer is Changing – IIBA Keynote – Brad Rucker

Who is your customer? Are you sure?

Brad has challenged us at BBC this afternoon to rethink who our customer really is.

He discussed “Customer Friction,” which is any interaction that has a negative impact on the customer’s experience.

So, my line of thought when listening to Brad is: How as BAs does our requirements work impact Customer Friction? Even if the process or system being built, changed or fixed is not something the customer interacts with we still need to understand the impact and friction factor from the customer perspective.

For example, how does every project you work on impact a customer touch point? The user who uses that system or process likely is using it when interacting with or serving a customer, right? Do we, as BAs know the ways in that our requirements may cause negative feelings in customers? Or are we just thinking about the internal user? Are we helping our stakeholders think through the impact of their requirements on the end customer of the organization? Are we having these conversations on projects?

Brad talked about how easy it is to lose a transaction and eventually a customer do to customer friction and negative customer experience.

Provoking thoughts!

Update #2 – BBC Keynote – The Invisible Habits of Excellence – Juliet Funt

Juliet started us off this morning with an inspiring talk about how busyness is robbing us of being thoughtful, creative, and solving problems effectively. She talks about how taking the time to “pause” stimulates better work.

Does your office have a sense of thoughtfulness?

What would it be like to work in an environment like this?

Juliet resonates with the crowd that our time is under attack!

My favorite quote from Juliet this morning:

“Our global workforce is so fried it belongs in the food court of the county fair.”

Juliet contends that when talented people don’t have time to think, business always suffers. When is the last time you caught someone thinking? Thinking changes everything, and as BAs, our job is to provide, detail, strategy, and excellence. She is asking us to think about what is it costing for us to work without thoughtfulness?

Juliet talks about how we need skills to “de-crapify” our work life, and create space and pause for thoughtfulness to truly bring out our best skills. Juliet discusses how busyness and overload might be the biggest boulder in the road for what you are trying to achieve on that project!

I can relate, can you?

Does our detailed work as BAs keep us in the micro too much? How can we come up to the macro and influence a mindset of thoughtfulness in our teams? How can you model thoughtfulness to our team when we work and inspire creativity and better problem solving?

This is deep! Yes, we as BAs impact the thoughtfulness and creativity of others we work with!

In the age of overload, we are lured into a pace and pressure that actually reduces our effectiveness.

41% of our time is being taken up by low-value tasks. Why? It is so hard to let go of unimportant things. Letting go is the path to freeing up our time to create thoughtfulness.

Juliet has truly left us inspired to rethink how we spend our time and how important space and pause is.

Later today I am looking forward to sessions from Brad Rucker on how the BA role is changing with more digital business transformation and leading our organizations towards a customer-centric future.

I am also looking forward to the session on the Current State of Agile Business Analysis, a panel discussion.

Stay tuned!

Update #1 – Live from the BBC (Building Business Capability) Conference in Las Vegas!

 BBC 2016 is the official conference of the IIBA and this year brings to us:

• 1400+ attendees, from 27 different countries
• 125 sessions, 32 Tutorials, 4 Keynotes
• Agile Open Jam hosted by the Agile Alliance
• Many sponsors, networking events, and great content and learn, network, and share!

Overall the conference is looking to provide pragmatic approaches to business innovation and excellence.

I will be blogging this week on the key sessions and hot topics that are all the buzz at the event this year!

I would love to hear from you on what you want to hear about.

You can comment on the blogs or use my twitter @WickAng, or @batimes to connect with us about the show. The conference twitter hashtag is #BBCCON; myself and many others will be updating the twitter feeds often.

Monday and Tuesday this week were the pre-conference tutorials. Half day workshop tutorials that explore topics more deeply. Today – Friday are the symposium sessions where speakers from around the globe give talks on leading edge business analysis topics.

There is a great video: about what BBC is all about.

I am looking forward to bringing you event happenings and updates!