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Author: Lawrence Dong

Lawrence Dong has extensive experience of over 15 years in the field of business analysis and project delivery gained by leading complex transformational projects for various Tier-1 organisations like ANZ, AustralianSuper and Telstra, etc. He has a track record of providing pragmatic project services backed by his certifications in Professional Scrum Master (PSM), Certified Business Analysis Practitioner (CBAP) and Project Management Professional (PMP). In addition, Lawrence enjoys giving back to the community by volunteering. He was on the Board of Directors for IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) – Australia Chapter, where he promoted the best practice of business analysis and to serve the local business analysis community. He has been selected as a mentor for IIBA Melbourne Branch since 2015 and was recently selected as a mentor in Mentor(SHE) program, which aims to promote female representation in ICT industries. Outside of work, Lawrence enjoys reading, bush walking and soccer playing. Wet or fine, he plays (social) soccer every Saturday with friends for 3 hours.

3 Effective Techniques for Root Cause Analysis

Root Cause Analysis is a method of identifying the underlying cause of a problem or fault. It is a systematic process that involves gathering information, analyzing data and identifying the root cause of the problem. The goal of Root Cause Analysis is to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again in the future.

The process of Root Cause Analysis begins with identifying and defining the problem. This includes gathering information such as symptoms, causes and effects of the problem. This information is then analyzed to determine the root cause of the problem. The analysis may involve using tools such as cause and effect diagrams, flowcharts, and statistical analysis.

In the past I have performed Root Cause Analysis in a number of occasions, and I found the following 3 techniques both effective and easy to use.


Technique 1: “5-Whys” Analysis

The “5-Whys” Analysis is a simple yet effective problem-solving technique that helps users quickly identify the root cause of a problem. This technique was made popular in the 1970s by the Toyota Production System, which aimed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their production processes.

The strategy behind the “5-Whys” Analysis is to keep asking “why” and “what caused this problem” until the root cause of the problem is identified. By asking “why” repeatedly, you are able to dig deeper into the problem and uncover underlying issues. This is the basis for the “5-why” analysis.


The “5-Whys” Analysis is a straightforward process that can be used by individuals or teams. First, clearly define the problem and then ask “why” it is happening. The answer to this question will then lead to a second “why” and so on, until the root cause is identified. It is important to note that it is not always necessary to go through all five “whys” and it can take less or more “why” to get to the root cause depending on the complexity of the problem.

This technique can be applied to a wide range of problems, from simple to complex. It is a valuable tool for organizations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their processes, as well as to reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. It also helps teams to work together to find a solution by encouraging open communication and collaboration.



The “5-Whys” technique is a simple and effective method for identifying the root cause of a problem. However, it is important to avoid asking “why” repeatedly in a literal and consecutive manner, as this can make stakeholders feel interrogated and uncomfortable. Instead, consider using alternative expressions of “why” and adopt a gentle and non-confrontational approach in your communication and body language to create a relaxed atmosphere.


Technique 2: Fishbone Diagrams

The Fish-Bone Diagram, also known as an Ishikawa Diagram, is a tool used to identify the potential causes of a specific problem or effect. It is a graphical representation of the relationship between a problem and its potential causes and is often referred to as a cause-and-effect diagram. The design of the Fish-Bone Diagram is shaped much like the skeleton of a fish, which is how it gets its name.

Derived from the quality management process, it’s an analysis tool that provides a systematic way of looking at the effects and the causes that create or contribute to those effects. It allows teams to identify the key factors that may be affecting the quality of a product or service and to focus on those areas that need improvement. To use the Fish-Bone Diagram, first, clearly define the problem and then brainstorm the potential causes in the various categories.

The Fish-Bone Diagram is a simple yet powerful tool that can be used in a wide range of industries and fields, including manufacturing, healthcare, service, and education. One of the Fish-Bone model that is commonly used in manufacturing is the 5 M’s. The 5 M’s are Manpower, Machine, Material, Method, and Measurement. Manpower refers to the people, Machine includes equipment and technology, Material includes raw material, consumables and information, Method refers to the process and Measurement includes inspection and environment.





The Fish-Bone Diagram is a visual tool that illustrates the relationship between a problem and its potential causes. To effectively use this technique, it is recommended to have a physical whiteboard or butchers paper to draw the diagram on. However, it may not be the most suitable option when working remotely as you cannot draw it as quickly with your mouse as with a marker.


Technique 3: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a powerful tool for identifying root causes of problems. The brainstorming process involves bringing together a group of people with relevant knowledge and experience to generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. The goal is to remove inhibitions and encourage the free flow of ideas. The brainstorming session is typically led by a facilitator who guides the group through the process and ensures that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their ideas.

During the brainstorming session, all ideas are recorded and no idea is criticized or dismissed. This allows for a diverse range of ideas to be generated and evaluated. The facilitator may also use techniques such as mind-mapping, word association, or random word generation to stimulate the brainstorming process. After the brainstorming session, the ideas are evaluated and analyzed to identify the most likely root causes of the problem.

Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate ideas and solutions quickly and efficiently in a group setting. It allows for the collective knowledge and experience of the group to be leveraged and it helps to identify potential root causes that may not have been considered by individuals working alone. It also encourages participation from all members of the group and fosters a sense of teamwork and collaboration.



Brainstorming sessions can be time-consuming, especially if many ideas are generated, and it takes time to evaluate and analyze all of them. Also, strong personalities or highly dominant individuals can dominate the brainstorming session and prevent quieter or less confident individuals from contributing their ideas. An experienced facilitator is a must-have to the success of a brainstorming session.



Once the root cause of the problem is identified, a solution can be developed. It is important to not only solve the immediate problem, but also to address the underlying cause to prevent it from happening again in the future. Implementing a long-term solution is critical in order to improve the overall performance and reliability of the system.


Root Cause Analysis is an important technique for business analysts to perform their job duties because it helps to identify the underlying causes of problems or issues within an organization. By identifying the root cause of a problem, business analysts add real value to the organization by addressing the problem at its source, rather than simply addressing symptoms. This can lead to more sustainable and long-term improvements in the organization. Overall, Root Cause Analysis is a crucial tool for business analysts to use, when permanent solutions rather than temporary fixes are required.



  1. International Association for Six Sigma Certification, “Root Cause Analysis”,
  2. Toyota Global, “5 Whys”,
  3. ASQ, “Ishikawa Diagram”,
  4. Mind Tools, “Brainstorming”,
  5. National Safety Council, “Root Cause Analysis: A Guide for Effective Incident Investigation”,

Establish Your BA Practice from Scratch

I have had the opportunity to establish BA practice within an organization a few times. After first time doing BA practice establishment, I have summarized a toolkit for myself, which in turn helped me setting up BA practice more consistently and effectively. If you are looking to set up your own BA practice, regardless of the organization that you work at, I believe you can benefit from this industry-agnostic BA Practice framework.


Element 1: Streamlined Onboarding

Well began is half done. Onboarding starts when offer is accepted. Trigger IT equipment and system access provision process as early as practical. Consider including any additional productivity equipment, such an as additional monitor, in the IT equipment provision.

The week before new joiner commencement, give them a call to understand their need, questions or concerns regarding onboarding. A phone call, although old-school, will give the new employee a good human-to-human style start. On or prior to day 1, send out all business unit wide email to announce the new starter.

Schedule one-on-one “causal catch up” at the start time on day 1, and project introduction meetings right after, to make new starter feel welcome and cared into new environment.

Make sure you do everything above in a remote-friendly way. Remote working is here to stay.


Element 2: 90-Days Action Plan

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Planning is always the best quality assurance. Set up a 90-day plan with the employee and you both stick to it. Focus on both performance and professional development. Regularly review progress with your new starter.


Element 3: Scheduled Communications

“A manager in need is a manager indeed.” (by Lawrence Dong). To avoid the situation that you are too busy to attend to your employees’ needs, schedule communications in advance so that you will have time for this important matter. Apart from the performance review conversations, the most obvious communications opportunities include:

  • Manager/Employee 1:1
  • Regular team meetings

Set them up in an appropriate and recurring way.


Element 4: BA Skill Matrix and Career Levelling

Business Analyst, like most other jobs, can and should be measured at work. For all the right reasons, it is critical to provide a fair and equal path to everyone. In order to give a chance to everyone’s career progression, it is fundamental for the manager to acknowledge the existence of different career levels and skill levels among their employees.

An example of career levelling could be:

  • Junior BA
  • Intermediate BA
  • Senior BA
  • Lead BA
  • Etc.

And an example of skill matrix could be:

  • Requirements gathering (1 out of 3)
  • Process mapping (2 out of 3)
  • Stakeholder management (3 out of 3)
  • Etc.

It is worthwhile to mention that the entry criteria of a particular career level may consist of more than skills and deliverables. Behaviors and collaboration are equally important, if not more.


Element 5: Templates and Processes

Consistency is key to high quality customer experience. With BA templates and processes put in place, effectively there is less room for confusion in “what should be delivered and how”. Just make them easily accessible to the team.


Element 6: BA Services Catalogue

Business analysis work is sometimes dynamic and self-evolving. From a SDLC perspective, BA’s may benefit more than other from a well-defined BA Services Catalogue, whenever there are questions about the boundary of their roles and responsibilities.


Element 7: Knowledge Sharing

Sharing is caring. A regular knowledge sharing forum is a great addition to the regular team meetings, where team members can have the podium and be empowered. When a team member feels empowered, they will be more creative, and everyone involved will feel the positive chemistry.


Element 8: Coaching and Mentoring

“Coaching” and “mentoring” look similar, but a lot of people understand the obvious difference. Coaching is quite performance driven and short-term based, while mentoring is more development driven and long-term aimed. What’s subtle is that mentoring requires a none conflict of interest communication, which means people managers are least appropriate mentors to their direct reports. However, a great support people managers can to is to encourage and even help their employees find a good mentor.


Element 9: Training and Education

It is somehow a “moral contract” between permanent employees (and the likes) and the employer that training and education will be made available when and if required.

Therefore, it is the manager’s role to identify the required training and education opportunities that will strengthen the skills of individual employees.


I hope you have got some inspirations now to use the industry-agnostic BA Practice framework to guide your future team and capability management. If you demonstrate commitment to your employees by building a mutually beneficial BA Practice, consistency will be created, and employee engagement will be elevated. Win-win.


3 Career Stories Where IIBA Certifications Truly Helped

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is a professional association formed in October 2003 with the stated goal of supporting and promoting the discipline of business analysis. In another word, IIBA is the professional body for business analysts.

IIBA is providing many types of certifications and they all have their own benefits. In the past 10 years, I have experienced various occasions where, either myself or people I know, have achieved great and tangible career results thanks to certain IIBA certifications.

Here are 3 stories with 3 IIBA certifications, which apparently do not represent all the useful certifications that IIBA provides. However, I believe you will get a strong message why you may want to become a certified business analyst.


Story 1: A university graduate

A promising young talent was about to graduate from university. She had equipped her resume well with IT & BA courses, project-based-learning initiatives, internships and workplace experiences. However, based on her job seeking experiences, she had an impression that sometimes she was perceived by potential employers as “indifferent” to other university graduates.

She was determined to make a difference in job applications. The action she had done was to have obtained the ECBA (Entry Certificate in Business Analysis) certification, which was then added as a highlight to her resume and used in job applications.


In a final round interview, she successfully stood out by saying “I have been certified in the same (IIBA) framework as experienced BA’s use”, while other candidates claiming, “I am a quick learner”.


I’m sure you will also be empowered by the story if you are currently looking to transition your career towards a business analyst role.


Story 2: A 2nd year Junior BA

A young IT professional completed her 2nd year of work anniversary in an IT consulting firm as a junior business analyst. Although she progressed a lot in BA competencies and demonstrated consistent work performance, it was frustrating that a lot of people in the company, including her manager, still saw her as “that Junior BA”.

She decided to remind her manager in a polite yet effective way. Weeks before the annual performance review (a.k.a., salary review), she had completed her CCBA (Certification of Capability in Business Analysis).


In the performance review meeting, she showcased the details her outperformance, coupled with her CCBA certification and the techniques she had acquired from the study of CCBA. At the end of the meeting, she asked for a promotion to Intermediate BA. She got the good news soon after.


Story 3: A Senior BA who wants to change industry

A senior BA got 10 years’ BA experience. He was always in the telecommunications industry but now wants to pursue a career in the financial service industry. He had a few interviews, but all ended up not well. The typical feedback he had received was “solid BA but lack of domain experience”. He took the advice from others to study towards CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional).


After being CBAP certified, he was invited to an interview with a local bank. He made a point to the interview panel that “BA skills are transferable across industries” and outlined his BA expertise that had been certified via CBAP and that would add value to the bank immediately. After a week he got a phone call from the hiring manager asking for referees.



Summary: ECBA/CCBA/CBAP Comparison Table




  1. IIBA Certifications,

Mission Impossible: BYO Mentor

What is mentoring

Mentoring in Europe has existed as early as Ancient Greece. The word’s origin comes from Mentor, son of Alcimus in Homer’s Odyssey. Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. Mentors have hands-on experience that their mentees can learn from, so that the mentees can gain proficiency. [1] Mentoring is like a professional relationship similar to an apprenticeship but without command and control.

Why mentoring is important

The IT industry is a fast-moving industry and it is extremely important for IT/project services professionals to keep their skills up to date. Technologies of today and tomorrow will always require you to learn new things. Regardless of what you want to learn, you want to know the best way to begin and a reliable way to track to completion. This is where mentoring can add value to your own process – it will give your learning process more certainty by providing trust, advice, support, and discipline. My own experience proved the benefits of mentoring. I have had 3 mentors. The first one advised me to widen up my eyes in terms of career path, rather than adhering to the shallow and limiting views of IT occupations. The second fast-tracked my learning of a new skill set. The third gave me a different lens to see sustainable productivity. They all played a very vital role in my career development and I truly appreciate their help and effort.
To give back to the community, I have also become a mentor through 3 different not-for-profit organizations in Australia. Thanks to their careful mentor-mentee matching processes, I have been able to advise my mentees with my stories of success and lessons, so that they feel well informed in critical decision making.

BYO Mentor

Traditional mentorship requires 2 people to be involved: the mentor and the mentee. Due to different reasons, connecting yourself with a mentor may not be suitable for you. If that’s your situation, don’t give up: think bold: BYO Mentor (Be Your Own Mentor).
Is BYO Mentor a mission impossible? Absolutely not!
Actually, you know yourself better than anyone else. You have trust in yourself and you surely will support yourself. All you need is some methodology on structured advice, plus discipline.
Let’s find the answer together by looking at a real example of BYO Mentor lifecycle.

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Be familiar with the concept of SMART goals prior to this session.
  • Allocate 60 mins (of uninterrupted time) for this session.

You need to know what you want to achieve by setting your goals. Your goal may be as simple as to master a new skill or understand new knowledge, which is straightforward, or as complex as to advance your career, e.g., by being appointed to a different position.


Session 1 – Goal Setting

BYO Mentoring Advice: Big or small, you’d better follow the rule of thumb by writing down your goals in a SMART way.

The acronym SMART means your goal is:

  • Specific (Concisely state the expected outcomes)
  • Measurable (Make it both quantifiable and verifiable)
  • Achievable (Make it challenging but realistic or state if it is aspirational)
  • Relevant (Make it relevant to your long term objectives)
  • Time-bound (Be clear about the timeframe that it should be achieved by)

SMART goal example:

  • For a Business Analyst professional: I want to pass the IIBA CBAP exam by 30th November 2021.
    By following the above guideline, you should be able to get your own SMART goal. If you come up with more than one goal that’s fine, you just need to prioritize them and focus on the first one first.

Session 2 – Gap Analysis

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Session 2 should start no later than 2 weeks after session 1 completion.
  • Determine the reliable industrial/official source of information, prior to the session.
  • Allocate 60 mins for this session, in the following sequence:
    a. 40 mins for Future State Analysis
    b. 10 mins for Current State Analysis
    c. 10 mins for Gap Identification

Future State Analysis:
Once you have specified your goal, do your own research on what it takes to achieve your goal.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Analyse industrial/official sources.
Want to become a Senior Business Analyst? Download 10 Position Descriptions from jobs websites. Want to pass the IIBA CBAP exam? Go to the IIBA website to understand the detailed process of certification. Put your research outcome into an Excel spreadsheet in the “future state” tab.

Current State Analysis:
Equally important, make sure you do a reality check on where you are at now.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Align your current state analysis to the future state analysis.
Have you got some of the essential experience for your dream job already? Have you met the eligibility criteria for your preferred exam? Put everything in the same Excel spreadsheet to the “current state” tab.

Gaps Identification:
Now that there is the “future state” (your goal) and the “current state” (what you already have), you are ready to identify the gaps.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Compare your future state v.s. current state, and work out the gaps.
Example: To Pass the IIBA CBAP Exam

  • Future State analysis:
    o Meet Exam Eligibility Criteria
    o BABOK Knowledge Study
    o Prepare for the Exam
    o Take and Pass the Exam
  • Current State analysis:
    o (✔) Met Exam Eligibility Criteria
  • Gaps Identification:
    o (X) Study BABOK Knowledge
    o (X) Prepare for the Exam
    o (X) Take and Pass the Exam

Session 3 – Action Plan

BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Session 3 should start no later than 2 weeks after session 2 completion.
  • Allocate 60 mins for this session, in the following sequence:
    a. 30 mins for Action Options Generation
    b. 15 mins for Options Comparison
    c. 15 mins for Decision Making and Due Date

With the gap analysis done, you are on track to create a customized action plan, which takes your availability and circumstances into account.

Action Options Generation:
Refer back to your gap analysis outcomes. Each gap identified should lead to relevant action options.
BYO Mentoring Advice: Action options can be generated by analyzing the industrial/official sources. Action options must add direct value to bridging the gaps you identified.

  • Gap: “Study BABOK Knowledge”
  • Action Options generated:
    o Join an IIBA Chapter hosted BABOK Study Group
    o Register a commercial education provider’s training course

Options Comparison:
Simply list the advantages and disadvantages of each action option. Bullet points will be sufficient.
BYO Mentoring Advice: If you don’t know how to compare action options, start with cost, time, and frequency.

Decision Making & Due Date:
Decide which action option you will go on with, and assign a challenging but realistic due date.

BYO Mentoring Advice: When choosing from different action options, as long as you pick a good option, that’s fine. There is no need to navigate to the very best option, as this will consume too much time.

  • If you prefer weekdays: choose “IIBA BABOK Study Group”. Join the next available group.
  • If you prefer the weekend: choose “Training Course”. Enroll in the next available course.

Session 4: Ongoing Inspection

You need to inspect your progress and track it to completion.
BYO Mentoring Discipline:

  • Remind yourself of your actions on a weekly basis
    a. Send delayed email to yourself
    b. Set up calendar appointments
    c. Ask your family or friend to check your progress

A lot of email tools/apps can support delayed emails. Send yourself delayed emails targeting key milestones in line with your action plan. Plus, you can add calendar appointments to remind yourself of key dates. If these are not enough, ask another person for help.

Continuous Improvement
Mentoring or BYO Mentor are meant for our continuous improvement. If you want to be a better self. Do something now. Remember If your circumstances changed, consider participating in a human-led mentoring program.

Observation of Business Analysis Events in Covid-19 Time

If you use “Business Analyst” as the key word to search people living in Australia on LinkedIn, there are about 325, 000 results.

(1) This is the indication of the scale of BAs (business analysts) Down Under, many of whom have a need to attend professional development events from time to time. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption, there are a few emerging challenges to the organization of BA events in Australia:

  •      Government restrictions on public gathering

In New South Wales, the number of persons allowed on premises is no more than 20 to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises. (2)

In Victoria, Stay at Home restrictions apply for residents in Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. (3)

The traditional form of hosting events in an indoor venue is no longer feasible under the current climate.

  •      Loss/reduction of employment in workforce

In Australia, there were huge job losses of 594, 300 jobs in the month of April 2020, (4) while total job vacancies in May 2020 were 129,100, a decrease of 43.2% from February 2020. (5) The same group of people who attended BA events before the pandemic are not immune from this catastrophic job market volatility, and will likely to attend events less often if they job is impacted.

  •      Work-from-home new norm

Working from home becomes the new norm for IT industries in Australia.

As a result, face-to-face BA events are most likely converted to online events where possible, if not cancelled. Being a proactive member of the BA community, I have been both attending and organising BA events before Covid-19 outbreak. Here are my observations of the trends on physical and online events after the pandemic:

1) Cost

Physical Events

There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to organising a physical event. Venue hire is normally the biggest overhead, followed by catering. For a standard 90-minute event, speaker fee varies between 0 to AUD 1000, with a lot of speakers generally offer their time for free. Depending on if there are volunteers for onsite support, this may be another cost.

Online Events

The cost structure of online events is quite different to physical ones. Online platform cost is the main one, plus online admin & support if you cannot do it yourself. Speaker fee is on more concessional terms than physical events, as the speakers have no need to travel to the venue.

2) Revenue

The income streams for both physical and online events are the same: admission fee and sponsorship.

The unit admission fee is lower for online than physical events. However, the target customer base for online events may be bigger than physical events.

The sponsorship fee, as always, depends on value proposition and negotiation.


3) Decision to attend

Physical Events

The most important matters when I consider if I come to a physical event are the topic of the event and the venue location. Networking opportunities are very attractive to people who have social or career needs. Time and date are also important, that’s why most regular physical events are done on a weekday evening.

Online Events

Considering the virtual nature of online events, there are only 2 aspects for decision making: the topic of the event and the time and date.

The big game changer is that an online event can now target geographically diverse participants. Also people have greater flexibility in arranging their work time during this Covid-19 situation, which means more timeslots have become viable for online events than they used to do.

Impacting Factors

Physical Events

Physical Events (Covid-19 lockdown)

Online Events

Online Events (Covid-19 lockdown)






Revenue – Admission





Revenue – Sponsorship





Venue Location





Networking Opportunities





Time and Date





Interest in attending





Participant Concentration





4) Challenges and Opportunities


Compare to traditional physical events, online BA events are encountering the following challenges:

  •      Less interest in attending – loss/reduction of employment, financial uncertainty, less disposable spending
  •      Lower admission fee
  •      Ticket pre-sale is hard to manage
  •      Significant change in networking opportunity
  •      Shorter concentration time

Paying attention without getting distracted is a big challenge.

Less viability for longer (e.g., all-day) events.

  •      New investment in online event-hosting capability


Administration: Make-or-buy decision – upskill your team or outsourcing to online experts

  •      Disrupted sponsorship model

No more coffee pads, lanyards, etc.

Less interest from businesses

Businesses suffering financial loss and uncertainty.


As the other side of the coin, the online events have a few new advantages:

  •      Access to geographically diverse speakers
  • Access to geographically diverse participants – everyone’s “home team”, especially for:
    1.      Rural
    2.      Interstate
    3.      Global
    4.      People with disability
  •      Removal of venue hire and catering cost
  •      Easy setup of interactive questions on the spot
  •      Access to Youtube-like business models
  • Scalable
    1.      You can adjust venue capacity as you go. No need to find a new venue/room.
  • Events data available right after completion
    1.      Attend/Registration ratio, satisfaction voting on completion, etc

5) Outlook

Before vast majority population in the world are vaccinated, the post-Covid or Covid-normal era is here to stay. With the trend of easing of restrictions in most countries, physical BA events will eventually have its fair share back, as there are benefits of physical events that cannot be backfilled by virtual events. Virtual events, however, will grow its penetration rate without cannibalising into the traditional physical events. Overall BA professionals are likely to spend more time in professional development, thanks to more varieties of BA events on offer. We as the BAs have curious minds and will embrace the chances, as “the only thing constant is change itself”.


  1.      LinkedIn,
  2.      Department of Health, State Government of New South Wales, Australia,
  3.      Department of Health and Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia,
  4.      “Australia just lost 600,000 jobs. Economists warn the reality behind that figure is much worse”, Business Insider,
  5.      “6354.0 – Job Vacancies, Australia, May 2020”, the Australian Bureau of Statistics,