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Author: Giorgos Sioutzos

Giorgos Sioutzos is an experienced business analyst currently working at Netcompany in the social security sector. 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 analysis have been published in most reputable Greek and foreign media. He has created educational videos for IIBA Knowelge Hub. Also he has contributed as an SME for Global Business Analysis Survey creation from IIBA. Certifications: CBAP, PMI-PBA, ITIL, PRINCE2, CPRE Advanced

Overcoming 3 Common Challenges of Business Process Modelling

Identifying and depicting business processes is the first step towards understanding the current state and developing a plan for the future. Business analysis activities are often oriented towards enabling and supporting change. The most important aspect of having a process model is that it enables a business to quickly see how well all the different aspects of the business are aligned to achieve common goals. When there is misalignment, it becomes evident very quickly in the model, and the business can plan how it will deal with getting properly aligned again.

Business analysts, using primarily elicitation and modelling techniques, try to find out the means by which an organization carries out its internal operations and delivers its products and services to its customers.

 

However, process modelling and analysis can be tricky. Below are some challenges:

 

  1. Figuring out the tasks

It’s difficult to obtain information about the complete process when there are many engaged departments. Usually every part of the process is aware of the specific tasks and activities in which they’re involved, but they miss the whole picture. Frequently, after the process modelling has been finalized, the engaged actors can holistically understand the end-to-end process.

  • Trying to figure out first who is involved and the starting and ending points of the process is crucial in order to drill down and find the details for each step. It may be a good idea to begin with the most experienced actors or those who have a helicopter view. It is more than important, however, to validate your insights against other sources of information to be sure that you have captured accurate information.
  • Having information about the industry context may be helpful, as the basic business processes among organizations in the same industry have things in common. This, of course, does not mean that the specific organization’s parameters should not be taken into consideration.

 

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  1. Systems Thinking

Consistency, It’s a necessary verification criteria in process identification and modeling. The steps and tasks involved in the process should make sense as parts that form wholeness, not as independent elements. In order to meet deadlines and get immediate results, business analysts frequently reduce the amount of time spent understanding the context. Delivery of value through a process modelling initiative will be limited, as long as we think analysis is about figuring out just specific characteristics of a solution that are already predefined in their minds. Systems thinking is a vital mindset that allows a business analyst to understand the as-is state and communicate it in a way that will be commonly understood by all stakeholders. This is an essential step in defining the future state.

 

 

  1. Understand how the process fits into its environment.

If a model doesn’t define how it fits into its environment, it will struggle, and its likelihood of resounding success is greatly diminished. Understanding the fit of a process within its internal and external environment is a complex, multi-faceted exercise. A business analyst needs to understand who the actors are, what their needs are, and how they can be reached. The business also needs to know who its suppliers are. Only when all relationships between the internal and external environment are understood can the business analyst ensure it is shaping an effective process model.

 

Identifying misalignment issues and understanding problems and opportunities for the business can be triggered by process analysis via modeling. Through effective process modelling, the following questions can be answered:

  • What processes does the business currently maintain?
  • How do the processes fit within their environment?
  • How do the processes create and maintain value in the external and internal environments?
  • What is the gap between the as-is and to-be states?

4 Tips for Managing Ambiguity as a Business Analyst

As a business analyst, it is common to face ambiguity in many different forms and aspects. It may be the ambiguity of the business analysis approach you have chosen, the requirements, or the design decisions that you have to contribute to.

Ambiguity and constant changes are something that is expected. It’s up to you to respond constructively. The following tips may help:

 

#1- Approve Ambiguity

Although you may want to have full control over the circumstances, it will not happen. It may take time and changes in order to establish a business analysis approach to customers’ needs or understand the full aspects of the system to be developed. It is fine not to have the full picture from the beginning of the analysis journey, but it is your job to progressively clear out the context and the scope. Approve the ambiguity of the intrinsic part of the analysis.

 

#2- Mindset Shift

Ambiguity can cause plenty of negative thoughts and worries. Instead of entering into a negative, endless dialogue, try to view ambiguity as an opportunity for new approaches, for innovation, and for gaining experience. Ambiguity can cause team members frustration and challenges, as the situations triggering it are mostly out of our control. It is important to reframe biassed thinking patterns concerning ambiguity into positive ones.

 

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#3- Utilizing Effective Risk Response Strategies

As a business analyst, you should cooperate with the project manager to recognize factors and assumptions that can affect the business analysis objectives. You have to understand the sources of the risk and craft alternatives you can use if those risks actually occur. Whether you are a lead business analyst or other team member, your ability to identify and respond to risks effectively will affect the team’s ability to successfully complete project tasks.

#4 – Have a Compass

Having a specific compass for ambiguous situations is essential to guiding your decisions and actions. Orienting yourself and leading your team through a period of ambiguity can be supported by a stable and valuable foundation of personal and organizational vision, mission goals, and objectives. Knowing at any time why you are doing something and what you want to achieve and being true to yourself and your team can guide you as the North Stare in unpredictable and chaotic situations.

 

By viewing ambiguity as an opportunity, you can reduce the stress imposed by an ambiguous situation, experiment with new processes and ideas, and develop your team members. Identifying a goal or value that can be used as a “compass” can contribute to avoiding actions and behaviours you will regret later.

Best of BATimes: 5 Characteristics of Effective Business Analysts

“Business Analyst” is not just a title. Is not a job. It is a mindset, a concept and a structured process executed by people in different positions inside an organization. It’s more like, an approach of making the things happen from the realization of business need towards the final implementation.

It’s easy to call yourself business analyst but difficult to be a good and effective business analyst. The field can be great fun, and very rewarding, but you need to be prepared. People who take on business analysis roles typically believe they need three things: skills and experience, a bit of marketing, and an interest in working in a variety of environments. However successful business analysts know they need much more than a technical expertise and specific skills. They need a mindset and a specific attitude in order to serve with the best possible and feasibly way their clients business needs.

What is expected from business analysts can vary widely. And what they actually need you to do can be completely different from what they expect. Business analysis is an exciting, dynamic form of work. You can have a positive impact on your clients and be well paid for your effort. But you have to be appropriately equipped.

To be an effective and successful business analysis you need to continuously develop some specific characteristics.

 

The first is technical depth. It’s critical that you have the technical background to satisfy your clients’ needs. This means you have experience in a variety of environments. The more breadth of experience you have in your technical area, the easier it will be to apply your skill as a business analyst.

Second, effective business analysts need to understand quickly and accurately what’s happening in their client’s environment. Your power of observation needs to be well tuned. Being able to listen carefully and patiently, observe the behavior of your clients, and make sense of what is happening is very important.

Third, effective business analyst care about the welfare of their client’s business and the clients themselves. You need to be able to put yourself in your client’s shoes and appreciate the difficulties they may be facing or have faced. While what you do may seem routine to you, it probably isn’t routine for your client. You need to appreciate that fact and behave accordingly.

 

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Another important characteristic is emotional intelligence. Often clients will engage you because they’ve had substantial difficulties. They may have a skill shortage, or they may not be sure how to manage what you’ve been asked to deliver. All these conditions create stress. On top of that, you’ll be striving to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can, so you’ll be under stress as well. Dealing with all that requires personal emotional maturity and the ability to assess and deal with the emotional state of your client.

Also, you have to develop the observation and effective listening as a personal characteristic, make recommendations based on sound business judgment, and be patient. As trust builds, the direction your client provides will likely become more reasonable. Work out your contract. Understand your client’s needs and desires, and establish a good relationship with your contract manager, and you could put on your superhero costume to celebrate your success. Observation helps towards a really robust problem definition statement. So as you look at your problem-solving, and you’re getting ready to start pursuing that initial set of ideas, you need to go through that prioritization and pick the highest value one that’s going to have the biggest impact on your overall solution.

 

Business analysis is performed on a variety of initiatives within an enterprise. Initiatives may be strategic, tactical, or operational. Business analysis may be performed within the boundaries of a project or throughout enterprise evolution and continuous improvement. No matter their job title or organizational role business analysts are responsible for discovering, synthesizing, and analyzing information in order the best solutions to be derived and the clients’ needs to be accommodated in the best possible way.

 

 

Published on: Dec 2, 2021

The Importance of Benefits Realization

As a business analyst you are not done your job after the deployment of the solution. Although, having the solution up and running is a critical milestone it’s not time to party yet.  It’s like medical surgery. Even though the surgery itself may be successful it is more than important the patients life to be improved and the expected benefits that are the answer to why this surgery should be done, to be realized after the surgery.

Monitoring the solution benefits and interpreting thoughtfully the feedback of the customers is crucial in order to be sure that the benefits of the solution are fully perceived and also that they are sustained. Benefit recipients should experience the stated benefits and also be ensured that those benefits will be sustained from the implemented change over the long-term. In many projects the effort that is done in the period after implementation activities is not enough to ensure the delivery of the claimed benefits as well as the maintenance of the benefits in the long term.

 

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Below are some points that could help you navigate in the after-deployment period:

 

  1. Feel the pulse of the customer

Be open to feedback and try to listen to the voice of the customers. Do not underestimate the feedback from any source. Even an inexperienced user may reveal critical improvement issues for the benefits realization. Filter the feedback in order to find technical and non-technical groups of issues. For example, a repeated concern of the user may be due to the lack of training and proper user manual, due to a non-functional requirement that is not met or due to a bug existing in the functional area of the solution. 

 

  1. Prioritize the actions

It is crucial to prioritize the improvement actions. Some bugs fixing may be in first priority as they have a detrimental effect in the overall experience. Or an updated user manual and video of navigating the users in using effectively the solution may be number one priority in order to full realization of benefits to take place. A specific prioritization approach may be existing and agreed up at the initiation of the project. However, as nothing is more stable than change you probably need to revisit and update frequently the approach to prioritization.

 

  1. Be ready for Organizational Change

A new solution that is deployed is a change. Appropriate change management is required to ensure the full exploitation of the solution. New processes and polices may need to be established in order to maximize the value. Changing the way of working that existed for years may be challenging. Many times, a new solution is a trigger for a culture shift in an organization. As a business analyst you need to be aware of such required changes and propose solutions that will contribute towards the

 

It is common for the delivery team to complete the implementation activities, deliver the initial benefits to the customer and just close down the project. This is not suggested. Benefits realization most of the time is not one and done process. There are always activities that need to be performed on an ongoing basis to ensure the solution developed stays in shape.

Soft Systems Methodology for Business Analysis

Soft systems methodology is an approach that an analyst can embrace when phasing messy and complex problems. SSM is a way of organizing, thinking and learning in a problematic situation.[1] [2]This methodology allows the observer, faced with a vague and unstructured problem situation, the possibility to approach as holistically as possible, concentrating, combining and co-housing all existing perceptions and to suggest ways to improve the existing situation.

Business Analysts can use Analysis with SSM before the analysis and design of an information system begins (i.e. before using UML or a traditional structured development methodology).

 

The Methodology

A basic pillar of the methodology is the distinction between the real world and the systems thinking about real world. The methodology recognizes the complexity of the modern world and tries to reconcile the mental models we try to construct to simplify the world with the real needs and environment upon which any change will be implemented.

In addition to eliciting the perspectives from different stakeholders, it is also important to investigate different perspectives of the problematical situation.

This involves analyses of:

  1. The intervention, including the actors involved,
  2. The socio-cultural context including roles, norms and values and
  3. Existing power structures

The following diagram depicts seven-stage model of SSM (adapted from Checkland & Scholes, 1990, p. 27)

 

We can group the activities in the real world versus the activities in systems thinking.

Ιn real world:

  • First: we learn/analyze the problematic situation
  • Ultimately: we intervene with the aim of bringing about improvements

Systems thinking include:

  • Identifying relevant systems of human activity with ‘key definitions’
  • Creating mental models from the basic definitions

 

Tools

1st Step:

To understand the complex problem situation we use the rich image.

Emphasis is placed on illustrating the following:

  • roles in the system and views,
  • disputes and controversies,
  • system limit,
  • elements of the environment

An example of rich image is given below:

Source: elabor8.com.au

 

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2nd Step:

In the next stages of the methodology (systems thinking) we create basic definitions and then a mental model of the system.

The basic definition can follow the following structure:

  • Do P by Q in order to contribute to achieving R” (P = what? Q = how? R = why?)
  • CATWOE is a good way to think holistically about actors.[3]

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. The phrase “mental model” is an overarching term for any sort of concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind.[4]

The following diagram represents the structure of a simple mental model.

 

3rd Step:

Finally we return to the “real world” for the last 3 stages of the methodology, aiming to make effective changes to the problem situation.

Collaborative learning is achieved through the SSM process.  Development of shared meaning and understanding across individuals and groups are enabled and can ensure faster requirements elicitation and more precise requirements that will add value to the different stakeholders.

 

Conclusion

The internal and external conditions are complex, interdependent and unique. Either the change of only an internal or external component creates a different dynamic and a different system and may trigger a chain of events that can affect indirectly other components. The “Ceteris paribus” assumption in some microeconomics models seems to be utopia in the modern business environment. Systems thinking and the holistic approach are basic characteristics for effective conduction of business analysis. SSM encapsulates the systems thinking mindset and can be a useful methodology in the pre-analysis and/or early analysis phases.

 

[1] Checkland P. Systems thinking, systems practice. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons; 1981
[2] Checkland P, Poulter J. Learning for action: a short definitive account of soft systems methodology and its use, for practitioners, teachers and students. John Wiley and Sons Ltd: Chichester; 2006.
[3] CATWOE Analysis: A Holistic Approach to Problem Solving – SlideModel
[4] Mental Models: Learn How to Think Better and Gain a Mental Edge (jamesclear.com)