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Author: Kupe Kupersmith

Think Before You Speak

Kupe FeatureArticle March19If you know me at all, you may think this title goes against a lot of what I believe in. I am an improvisation actor, and improv is all about spontaneous responses. So you may make an assumption that I am, for the exact opposite,…not thinking before you speak. The trick with improvisation is there is a lot of preparation that goes into being able to respond spontaneously in an appropriate manner. The preparation allows you to open your mind and react quickly when performing. Thinking does happen. It just happens beforehand, and if necessary you can draw out the response quickly. I bring this up because in my last blog, The iTunes Impact on Requirements Analysis, I apparently had a lapse in judgment. There was a sentence where maybe I did not think fully before I wrote. Perhaps something was not thought through completely. And I definitely was not expecting the reaction I received.

Here is the background. I threw in a comment about an urban legend related to Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. I was using the legend as a small example to explain a point. One reader, knowing a lot about the farce this legend is, basically stopped reading or believing in the message I was trying to convey in the blog. In the comments the reader took time to explain in detail the truth about the legend. I hit a ‘nerve’ with the reader; one I did not intend or expect to hit. In hindsight it was not the best example to use. When I was writing I did not think it was a big deal. It was just a situation that I figured a majority of people would know about. The example was not even the main point of my blog. As a blogger I know my audience at a high level. For the most part, I know the people reading my blogs are in one of two categories. They are interested in business analysis or they are my mother. Besides my mother, I just don’t have the opportunity to know all of you intimately. Because of this it is hard for me to know what things will get each individual hung up to the point where they miss the message being delivered.

You, on the other hand, have it easier. You have the luxury of being able to get to know your stakeholders extremely well. One of the critical steps you need to do and prepare for when speaking to or writing something for others is to know your audience. The reason for knowing your audience is to help you determine the best approach to take in order to meet the objective set for the particular situation. What is the objective of writing an email to someone? Why are you meeting with them? Why are you presenting something to a large group? Is it for informational purposes or do you need the team or individual to take action? Do you need them to make a decision or buy into the message you are delivering?

Whatever the objective, you need to consider what will block someone from listening to your message. Here are a couple of common reasons people stop listening.

Grammar and Spelling

Many people are part of a secret society known as the Grammar and Spelling Correction Society. I think they employ more officers than all the law enforcement agencies around the world. You have probably bumped into one or more of them or you may be an officer. They consistently correct your grammar and point out spelling mistakes. In one-on-one conversations they will interrupt you to correct your word choice. If you are giving a presentation you may not be interrupted, but if they see something incorrect on the presentation slide they will begin to focus on the mistake and will be thinking about the error. This is why I always start off presentations stating that if I use the whiteboard or flip chart I can’t be held accountable for spelling mistakes due to these tools not having a built-in spell-check feature. Another way to guard against this is by employing one of the officers. Have them proof your work and correct the errors. I hope the BA Times staff has read through this blog and made some corrections!

Example Use

Examples and scenarios are a great way to explain a point. It helps people connect the message to a possible situation. The problem arises for some people when they try to think through the example and get caught up in arguing the potential of that example really happening. There has to be a society for these people as well! If they can’t figure out how an example can actually happen, they shut down. When I work with someone that does this I do one of two things. If I have time to prepare I think through my example and make sure it could actually happen in reality, this way the person can connect the dots and get my message.

If I am in an ad hoc conversation with no time to prepare I go overboard stating that this is just an example and I have not thought if it could actually happen. I ask them if they are OK with me going forward knowing that. This helps to stop them from thinking about the reality of the example and keeps them focused on my message.

In both situations, you should see a pattern. I acknowledge the potential scenarios that may block the person from listening. There must be some reason why people stop listening to your messages. Feel free to share with the community in the comments below. Regardless of the reason, you need to understand why someone may stop listening and either acknowledge it or prepare to avoid it.

All the best,


Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The iTunes Impact on Requirements Analysis

Kupe FeatureArticle Feb12Once upon a time BAs were required to write long requirements documents that told an entire story. This story started with business requirements, functional and non-functional requirements, which fed detail design documentation, technical architecture and system specifications. This story allowed for, those of us who dared to, tracing each defined goal down to lines of code if need be. It was like a beautifully constructed 5000-piece puzzle. If you looked closely and took some time you could see how the puzzle was weaved together. The concept was that if a puzzle piece was removed you could see what was missing, the impact to the pieces around it and the bigger picture.

Songwriters did a similar thing in the past. They created albums: a collection of individual songs that told a story. Some artists worked hard to find a theme for an album and had clear reasons for the songs chosen for the album and the order. Believe it or not, Pink Floyd has an album, Dark Side of the Moon, that follows the plot of the Wizard of Oz. Some consumers liked the fact that an album had a purpose. Other consumers could not stand that you had to buy an entire album so you could hear the one or two songs you loved. Even though they had to buy full albums, that did not mean they had to listen to the full album the way the artist intended. That’s where the tape cassette helped out and people started making their mixed tapes, essentially their own album. This was the beginning of what eventually became how music is purchased today and the popularity of services like iTunes. These services changed how consumers bought music. Even though artists may still make albums that have a theme or tell a story, consumers just buy what they want when they need it.

The same thing is happening with BAs. Long documents are taboo. Hand anyone an old-school document and the eye rolls begin. People get overwhelmed. Consumers of analysis just want the pieces they needed to do their job. Even before BA practices switched from writing long documents, consumers started picking and choosing what they needed — just like the mixed-tape craze. Now there is a big switch from long documents to much-focused pieces for a specific function being developed. The focus is on one small piece of the puzzle. Like songs, each of these smaller sections of the requirements document can stand alone.

I think iTunes and YouTube unfortunately have turned the music industry into a one-hit-wonder world. Think of songs like Call Me Maybe or most recently Gangnam Style. On the flip side, I am thrilled the iTunes phenomenon has hit the business analysis industry. Many of you have witnessed the waste. A 5000-piece puzzle was put together when all you needed was a 1000-piece puzzle. Solutions were not started until all of the requirements were completely put together. This caused big issues when the goal of the project changed and some or all project requirements were not useful. The move to focusing efforts on smaller features and functions to be developed and delivered to the business is a positive move. But…something is lost. 

Although this incremental approach to building the puzzle sounds great, there are downsides. How do you start a puzzle? You start with the border first so you know the boundaries of the puzzle and it helps you see how the smaller pieces fit into the larger picture. The same applies to business analysis work. Are you starting your work on the right issue or opportunity? Have you thought through what is trying to be accomplished before you start your puzzle or are you just starting to construct your solution? Do you know the boundaries of your analysis effort? 

Using well-known analysis techniques like a context diagram can help get the team on the same page with understanding what is in the boundary of your initiative and what is not. Need help making decisions on the level of effort you should put forth with your project? If so, use the Purpose Based Alignment Model covered in Kent McDonald’s book Stand Back and Deliver. To help see the bigger picture and where things fit, use a decomposition diagram. Start with a mind map to outline the features and functions of a product. Even though you may be working on a smaller piece, make sure at a minimum you know how it fits into the bigger picture. Whether people admit it or not, they like it when they know the bigger picture.

Finding this balance will show how you add value to your team. 

All the best,


Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Business Analysis is Dead, Long Live Business Analysis

FeatureArticle Jan8 KupeThe start of a new year is a good time to reflect. I have been thinking about where business analysis has come and where is it headed. During my thought process I came to the conclusion that business analysis is officially dead or at least on a respirator. I have been involved in the BA space since the turn of the century (with it being 2013 that’s not as long as it sounds, but it sounds so much better than the mid 90’s). The profession has transformed dramatically in the last 17 years. When I broke into the field a trend was taking off where companies had roles dedicated to business analysis work and titles like Business Analyst, Systems Analyst or the more common Business Systems Analyst. These titles were found primarily in IT organizations and companies started seriously thinking about how to train people that performed the sole role of business analysis. There are many reasons that sparked this trend.

In the United States one reason was the interpretation of governmental regulations. Many project teams implemented a strict process in how they elicited, documented, and communicated requirements. Another reason was due to companies around the world implementing large ERP systems. Having people specialize in business analysis work was necessary due to the amount of process, data, and functional analysis that was needed. Reports were saying the biggest cause of project failure was due to poor requirements. How teams were developing software almost required a team of BA specialists to be more efficient. At this time some key vendors created curriculum and training for the role. In 2003 the IIBA emerged to help have a common definition of the profession and to certify people as business analysis professionals. There are more reasons, but you get the picture.

Since a role was emerging there were serious, passionate discussions about the various levels of business analysis professionals and what does a business analysis career path look like? The largest debate was do BAs grow up to be PMs or something else. You are probably thinking, “I just had a conversation about that last week!” You are not alone. These conversations are still happening year after year. There is a lot of talk now about BA career paths and what makes a good junior BA, a good intermediate BA, and a good senior BA. This discussion and need primarily comes from IT groups and more specifically related to project work. To some extent this is necessary. There has to be some entry point, some launching point, and this is the space where most people start to learn their BA skills. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Is business analysis really dead then? No…not at all. Although, it is dead as we knew it. The larger impact of business analysis is needed now more than ever before. The question I pondered regarding the future of business analysis was is business analysis a profession that someone aspires to have and continue through a career or is it a skill that you can continue to work on and use in any career. My answer is business analysis is shifting away from a career someone has to the value of business analysis activities regardless of one’s role, title or job function. If we are to grow the awareness and impact business analysis has on companies focusing on junior, intermediate, and senior BAs is a disservice. It is time to expand the horizons. 

There are two major trends happening today driving this shift. The first is IT project teams are building software differently. Even though I wrote a blog about agile being a fad, Agile is a Fad; agile practices are not a fad at all. After a conversation with a vice president of a large IT group this thought of the shift really hit me. He said he no longer hires Business Analysts. After a little digging he meant he does not hire someone that wants their role to only be a Business Analyst. He needs people that can be flexible and play the roles needed by their team or teams. The scale is tipping away from BAs solely doing business analysis work within project teams. More companies are realizing everyone needs to perform business analysis to some extent on the team. Everyone needs the BA mindset because business analysis is not done in a black box or a vacuum.  Business analysis is a true team sport. 

The second trend is traditional BAs are growing up and out of IT project teams using their skills in other roles and being successful. More business analysis professionals are moving into more strategy roles like enterprise or strategic BAs, business architecture, management consulting, and managing lines of business in large and small companies. This is where individuals and companies really see the value of business analysis. Look around…business analysis work is happening all around you.

These trends are very positive. Think of them as an opportunity. On project teams you will get to use other skills you have and try new things. You can help coach and mentor other team members to embrace the business analysis mindset. For your future the end is not a senior BA. That is just the beginning. Think of the BA skills you have, and continue to build upon, as tools you will use in any position. Positions like CIO, manager of a business area, and the owner or employee of any business. These trends show that business analysis skills are not only for people with the Business Analyst title. They are important to everyone. Long live business analysis.

All the best,

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Signing Off with My Two Cents

FEATUREAug14thAs the president of B2T Training I ask people inside and out of my company for thoughts and advice.  I also scan the comments on blog posts and LinkedIn groups looking for good take-aways and lessons.  What I have noticed over time is that there is a little five word phrase that makes me discount someone’s advice or comments.  The phrase…“that’s just my two cents”.  For example, someone will write an email giving me feedback or advice that I have asked for and they sign off the message with “that’s just my two cents”.  I view this as “that’s just my view point…take it or leave it” or “that’s just what I have to say and I’m not sure it really matters”. It leaves me feeling there is a lack of conviction and confidence in that person’s voice.
I have a strong feeling of why people do this. In emails and social media services that phrase softens up the message.  Social media has unleashed a nastiness in people you would rarely, if ever, see in a face to face conversation.  So I think people want you to know that they are on your side, giving suggestions, and not being rude.  This approach backfires.

As a professional, confidence and conviction are keys to your success.  When working with your team and suggesting an approach to use, you need to have confidence and conviction in your suggestion. If you have confidence, your team and business stakeholders will have confidence in your choice and go along with it.  If you say, “I think it would be a good idea to draw this diagram to help us understand the real problem…that’s just my two cents”. What do you think the team will think?  Mostly likely they will not have confidence you know what to do therefore not buy in to or even take the suggestion.

The same applies when you disagree with someone. You can be confident in your response without being rude.  Give facts on why you feel your approach may be better without slamming someone else’s.  Don’t soften your response by adding “that’s just my two cents”. 

All the best,


Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The Eyes Have It

FEATUREJuly10thI have always proclaimed that 4 year olds are the best business analysis professionals.  Great BAs have an easy time of asking why.  Have you ever been around a four year old that did not ask why to every response?  I think I found a challenger to the 4 year olds.  Eye doctors.  If you ever had an eye exam you should know why.  One thing for sure has not changed since I can remember getting an eye exam. At some point the eye doctor swings this big apparatus in front of your face and you are staring at an eye chart in front of you.  You look through these lenses in the apparatus and then it starts.  “Is it clearer like this”… the lenses switch…”Or is it clearer like this?”  This constant lens switching continues.  “Do you like #1 or #2…1 or 2?” The eye doctor continues until there is complete clarity.

What technique is the eye doctor using? Scenarios.  For an eye doctor the solution they are after is building the best pair of glasses or contacts for each individual.  For you as a business analysis professional you are helping your team build the best solution to meet the business needs. 

Most likely you use scenarios today with prototypes, simulation software and/or textually written in a use case or user scenario.   It is not enough to just elicit one scenario per goal from the user.  Where you add value to project results is acting like the eye doctor. When developing scenarios you need to make sure you provide multiple scenarios per goal per user or user group.  Always ask “do you like #1 or #2 better?”  Keep asking until there is clarity for the team and the user. 

All the best,