Author: Giorgos Sioutzos

Giorgos Sioutzos is working at business consulting industry as a business analyst. He holds a BSc in Management Science and Technology from Athens University of Economics and Business and Msc in International Business & Management from ALBA Graduate Business School. Numerus articles about business and technology issues have been published in most reputable Greek and foreign media. Certifications: CCBA, PRINCE2, ITIL Bio - Short.

Critical Thinking – The Skill of Doubting With a Cause

As a business analyst, you will have lots of information from different sources. Your successful journey in the business analysis field heavily depends on continuous try to increase the quality of your thinking.

A critical thinking mindset will enable you to examine the information and determine the best way to move forward by knowing exactly how to assess the information you can trust. You need to access information quality and relevance. Critical thinking is a judge of what to believe. Socrates who introduced the idea of questioning beliefs, questioning authority, seeking evidence, and striving to live an examined life.

During different task, you will perform as a business analyst in your day-to-day work like requirements negotiation and solutions proposal do not underestimate the following points.


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Recognize Confirmation & Cognitive Biases

When you’re trying to figure out what to believe without deceiving yourself or ignoring evidence you are in a path of recognizing your bias. Try to recognize beliefs, busting assumptions, and undoubtable truths that may have a detrimental effect on how you assess and evaluate information. Confirmation bias causes us to dismiss evidence that causes doubt and search for evidence that dispels doubt, regardless of the quality of evidence. Cognitive biases aren’t totally bad because their mental simplifier helping us process things quickly and easily however is common to leave us susceptible to poor judgment.

Benefit of Doubt

Believing something without any attempt to get closing to the truth can lead to bad decisions. Being comfortable with doubt but avoiding overthinking can have positive impact on your decisions. Reflective skepticism helps a team ask a series of questions, and then discuss how each could determine a critical thinking error. Asking better questions and creatively dispute helps foster critical thinking skills, boosts self-confidence, enhances your creativity, and improves your problem-solving skills. By asking better questions that derive through doubt, you guide the conversation in the direction you want it to go, eliminating confusion.

Slow Down

Fast pace probably means that sometimes you feel too busy to think. In a continuously running business reality, the time is not always right to analyze and to think deep. You are forced to execute. Fast-paced business can be a critical thinking killer. However trying to “pause” certain times during the day, protecting your focus time slots, and instead of instantly responding and executing, thing and ask, is a habit toward improving critical thinking skills.

Avoid Willful blindness

Although this is a term used in law to describe a situation in which a person seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability it can be also applied for the lack of the person to try to find different aspects for a matter that is going to take a decision. Losing the holistic view and intentionally ignoring ideas, concerns etc. can affect detrimental the success of your business analysis tasks.

Developing a critical thinking mindset isn’t easy. It is totally doable, especially when you practice by integrating critical thinking into your daily life. Remember that simple truths do not tell the whole story

4 Tips for Running Effective Workshops

Business Analysis has to do with understanding clients’ needs and trying to offer value through the products you deliver to them. Customer is the final judge and the more the product we develop for them is fulfilling his needs the more he will be happy.

Workshops are a common method for requirements gathering and elicitation. It’s one of the best ways to ensure effective and bidirectional communication between stakeholders and reach consensus on a topic. However common pitfalls can prevent from having the results you want.

Four tips are presented:

  1. Have a specific agenda

You have to define the specific purpose of the workshop. May the purpose varies from a high level capturing of needs to a specific finalization of an integration. After clarifying the purpose then you have to develop specific expected outcomes per area. As time constraints exist is crucial to have the answers you want at specific questions you have. Having a logical sequential discussion flow will prevent from limitless philosophical discussions without any conclusion at the end.

  1. Get the right people involved

Identify the key stakeholders that have knowledge on the area of interest, decision making authority and influence. Try to have a list of participants knowing what every participant can contribute. The right mixture of participants is the one that will lead to final conclusions that are approved and will close as much open points as possible.

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  1. Pose the right questions

Making the right questions at the right time is crucial. A specific question may clarify things out, give to the customer another perspective that has not think about and contribute to having specific agreed points at the end of the workshop and reduce open points.

  1. Have evaluation criteria

Workshop results has to be agreed and confirmed by every participant. Before having something finalized in the workshop results make a quick evaluation using predefined acceptance criteria. Technical feasibility, usability and cost are some common evaluation criteria

Facilitating a successful workshop for sure needs experience and may be challenging. However the proper preparation, the clear scope and purpose. Lacking of previous insightful preparation of a workshop can lead to its derailment in the sense of giving space to expression of wishful thoughts that are neither specific nor feasible. On the other hand, dogmatic obsession with the narrow capabilities of the system can prevent the development of potential functions and features that are easy to implement and provide value.

Business Analysis in the times of COVID-19

Business needs that are linked closely with customer needs change dramatically during crises. During lock-down periods the way companies interact with customers has changed.

New technology solutions, methods of delivery and processes change are emerging. Diachronically companies strive to protect their sustainability and survival. A crisis may be an opportunity to evaluate if they are in the correct path towards this. A strong a call for understanding the long-term strategic needs of the organization and the immediate needs of customers signifies the need for high effective business analysis methods and practices.

Business Analysis has as a core activity the elicitation of genuine needs conducting needs assessment and the contribution in maximizing value for the internal and external environment with a viable and effective solution recommendation. Defining accurate the evolving needs and understanding the value will be transmitted via a solution is more critical than ever especially in times of uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity. We have to keep in mind that Business Analyst’s responsibility is to solve the problem, and get that product into the business environment.

A crisis affect certain aspects of BA everyday routine. Business Analysis approach has to be suitable for the specific conditions. Iterative planning may be used as long-term planning is rendered ineffective by rapid change and great uncertainty: the next step in the plan is based on the latest learning. The need for effective solutions delivered with speed and quality is unadaptable during this health crisis. The methods of eliciting requirements has to be tailored to the context’s special characteristics. For example a workshop or a focus group has to be performed via digital tools. Also volatile nature of needs that will be interpreted as requirements result to the need of change, speed and proactive approach. Many iterative cycles of requirement elicitation may be necessary during the shrink projects lifecycle.


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Agile Business Analysis may be a response

The pandemic of the coronavirus has pointed the benefits of agile mindset. As per Agile Extension to the BABOKv2® Guide, Agile Business Analysis is the practice of business analysis in an agile context with an agile mindset. Agile Business Analysis can provide a competitive advantage in fast-paced and complex environments. 

Agility is not only about fast. It’s about going effectively in order not to waste unnecessary assets in the route to complete your project. Agile in no case means to surpass planning but it gives certain levels of flexibility to adjust planning in order to aim to the highest value with the lowest costs. 

Some questions to answer before proceeding with an agile approach:

1. Find if agile techniques are appropriate for the specific type of project.
2. Does the organizational and industry standards allow an agile approach? 
3. Are the people aligned with the agile methodology that will be used? 
4. Are you fully aware of the final products stakeholders’ aspirations?

 

The Contribution of Business Analysis in a Successful Change

Change is everywhere. From small to bigger scale change is a fact.

Going from a current state to a future state is something that occurs frequently in the liquid and challenging business environment. Redefining a process, changing the timeline of a project, establishing a new common practice that will be followed or daily routine, removing or adding a feature to a product or changing the hierarchical structure of a division are examples of change. However in this article we are going to focus on more system/product related changes.

Generally speaking there are two types of changes. The proactive and the reactive ones. Proactive changes reveal a strategic wisdom and can have more controlled results that the reactive ones that many times are spasmodic and urgent. Proactive changes in general allow more time for preparation and also are characterized by a higher level of freedom and creativity than the reactive types of change.

Business analysis field can contribute to the design and implementation of a successful change. Supporting beneficial changes that will deliver additional value with the need to protect customers and users from the adverse effect of changes, is something that may be achieved with the contribution of certain BA activities.

Analyze Current State:

Business analysts examine the current state in the context of the business need to understand what may influence proposed changes, and what will be affected by them[1]. Describing as much accurate as possible the as-is landscape in crucial in order all engaged parts in th change process have a clear understanding of what the situation is right now. The key benefit of this process is that it provides a sufficient understanding of the existing state of the organization, providing context for determining which elements of the current state will remain unchanged and which changes are necessary to achieve the future state[2]. Ηowever a holistic view is more than necessary as a change may indirectly affect certain aspects that must be included in the scope of current state analysis.


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Define Future State:

Try to define the future state in realistic, clear, understandable and agreed among all stakeholders’ terms. Future state must meet the business needs. Having in mind the business justification that is accompanied with every aspect of future state is crucial in order to provide a future state description that is aligned with the Goals and objectives that are defined by the project board or change committee.

Define Change Strategy:

How the company is going to achieve to be landscape? What are the alternatives and what is the most dominant alternative after the evaluation and ranking? The appropriate representation of a change strategy depends on the perspective of the change team and their stakeholders. The change strategy might be presented as part of a business case, Statement of Work (SOW), an enterprise’s strategic plan, or in other formats.

All changes should be assessed by people who are able to understand the risks and the expected benefits; the changes must then be authorized before they are deployed. This assessment, however, should not introduce unnecessary delay. Business Analysis activities are crucial in order the change committee or project board proceed to decisions. Having all the possible information available and the agreed between stakeholders views the executives with the change authority are going to approve or not the proposed change strategy and to initialize next phases of the change process.

[1] BABOK®

[2] The PMI Guide to Business Analysis

Creative Dispute Α Business Analyst’s Personal Characteristic

A business analyst has to continuously ask questions and to critically translate the information they collect into clear needs and requirements.

It’s the inner trigger that has to lead a professional to find the deep problems and to reveal the actuals needs of stakeholders. A business analyst is not only a recorder of needs and requirements. They have to critically evaluate different needs and to confirm that the actual problems and their causes are fullfield by the suggested solutions. A pathetic view and record here is not enough. Critically judging and sometimes challenging the status quo can lead to meaningful solutions that will add value to all stakeholders and a win-win outcome will be possible.

Creative Dispute and asking questions can be applied across all the business analysis pipeline. For example:

Business Justification:

The business justification is the reason for the project and for the business analysis work concerning the project. Without it no project should start. If business justification is valid at the start of a project, but disappears once it is under way, the project should be stopped or changed. An analyst must have always in mind what is the aim of the project and which actual needs is fulfilling. They have to continuously ask if this action or step is aligned will the overall project scope and if it is meaningful.


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Tailoring- Plan Business Analysis Approach:

Αs a business analyst you have to continuously ask where the standard methodology can be applied. What we have to tailor and what parameterizations are needed in order to have the best outcome? This is an ongoing question.

Business analysis pipeline involves selecting the appropriate business analysis processes, tools, techniques, inputs, and outputs for use on a specific portfolio, program, or project. The business analyst performs this selection activity in collaboration with the project manager, sponsor, functional managers, other business analysts, or some combination thereof.

Analyze Current State:

As a business analyst you need to describe accurate and realistic the current state. Assess Current State is the process of examining the current environment to understand important factors that are internal or external to the organization, which may be the cause or reason for a problem or opportunity. The key benefit of this process is that it provides a sufficient understanding of the existing state of the organization, providing context for determining which elements of the current state will remain unchanged and which changes are necessary to achieve the future state. Which are the current state and the non-obvious visible competencies that can lead to success?

Elicit Requirements- Confirm Elicitation Results:

Ηere you have to actively try to obtain information from stakeholders and confirm the results. It’s not only to keep notes of the information and to track the requirements. You have to critically evaluate the aspirations expressed by stakeholders and to form clearly the requirements in a way that support the actual business need(s). Confirm Elicitation Results activity involves ensuring that stakeholders have a shared understanding of the outcomes of elicitation, that elicited information is recorded appropriately, and that the business analyst has the information sought from an elicitation activity.

Business Analysis is the field where critical questioning and challenging is the basis of the everyday tasks. Challenging well established formulas and approaches is something that may lead to better outcomes.

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