Author: LN Mishra

LN Mishra (LN) CBAP, CBDA, AAC, CCA Helping BAs to Improve Their Careers: Guided 1000+ BAs to be IIBA® Certified World’s 1st BA to hold all 6 IIBA certifications Practicing BA for 25+ years, Acclaimed Author, Versatile Trainer and Consultant Co-founder and COO @ Adaptive US I have 25+ years of professional experience in agile software development, requirements analysis, business analysis, IT GRC, and management consulting. I currently play the role of business analysis thought leader and product owner, SuXeed, Adaptive’s flagship learning solution. He has been part of multiple large system developments, In-country Value System for PDO Oman and the Color Data Management System for AkzoNobel. I was also involved in multiple large ERP implementation projects and was involved in one of the world’s largest change management programs in PricewaterhouseCoopers, for a large utility agency. I have conducted 300+ workshops in business analysis, requirements management, agile, software project management, Six Sigma, CMM, ISO 9001, and ISO 27001. I have guided 30+ six sigma projects in iGate, MACH, and Akzo Nobel. I hold Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) from IIM Ahmedabad and BE (Honors) in Electronics.

Sixteen Business Analysis Principles

A principle can be defined as an underlying fundamental law or concept. Therefore, Business Analysis principles are the basic rules that should be followed to manage changes successfully.

The Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK) does not currently contain an official list of principles for successful change initiatives. However, IIBA’s Agile Analysis Guide provides 7 principles which are:

  1. See the whole.
  2. Think as a customer.
  3. Analyze to determine what is valuable.
  4. Get real using examples.
  5. Understand what is doable.
  6. Stimulate collaboration and continuous improvement.
  7. Avoid waste.

 


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Here are 16 Business Analysis Principles we are proposing:
  1. Set clear and objective goals and outcomes – A change without clear objectives is bound to fail.
  2. Engage stakeholders continuously – Stakeholder needs are the reason for the change. Stakeholders must work together throughout the project.
  3. Include all relevant stakeholders – Successful change management requires all key stakeholders to be included in the change initiative.
  4. Think holistically – Changes affect people, processes, and technology and are essential for successful change.
  5. Adapt vigorously – Welcome change for competitive advantage.
  6. Deliver iteratively – Better outcomes frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  7. Encourage change adoption – Motivate stakeholders to change for the better.
  8. Communicate frequently – The most efficient and effective communication is face-to-face conversation.
  9. Measure continually – Better outcomes are the primary measure of progress.
  10. Work sustainably – Stakeholders should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  11. Pursue excellence – Continuous attention to excellence in business analysis skills, processes, and tools.
  12. Avoid waste – Art of maximizing the number of requirements not done–is essential.
  13. Reflect regularly – Stakeholders reflect on how to become more effective, then change behavior accordingly.
  14. Organize dynamically – Best solutions emerge from self-organizing teams.
  15. Manage risks proactively – Identify, analyze, and mitigate risks
  16. Define roles and responsibilities – Set clear expectations from all key stakeholders.

I sincerely believe having a set of guiding principles for a profession is extremely valuable. Do comment about any other key principle we should include in the principles.

Business analysis canvas – The ultimate enterprise architecture

Business analysis is a fascinating subject.

As business analysts, we need to understand enterprises very well. However, when we look at different frameworks available for business analysis, they seem to be somewhat limited in their scope. Some of them are good in strategic thinking (like SWOT), some of them are good in tactical thinking (Business model canvas, SIPOC, VSM etc.), but there are no frameworks which give us an idea which covers both strategy and tactical aspects.

Business analysis canvas is an attempt to fulfill this need. In this, we are going to start with strategy and go down to the operational level.

Essentially it has 10 core elements and each core element, of course, has sub-elements which we need to understand. Here, we shall go through one by one: 

1. Vision / Goal / Objectives
2. External environment
3. Internal environment
4. Strategies
5. Customer management
6. Cost management
7. Stakeholder management
8. Product and services management
9. Risk management
10. Resources

1. Vision / Goal / Objectives

(Financial, Customer, People, Societal, Environmental, Process)
Vision / goal / objectives are essential for any organization to have long-term sustainable growth. Without a vision, it may be difficult for an enterprise to maintain focus. Organizations that do not develop a proper vision or goal usually underperform in the long term.
The organization can set goals and objectives with respect to various aspects such as financial, customer, people, societal, environmental, process etc.

2. External environment

(Competition, Customer, Macroeconomic environment, Regulation, Technology)
The second key element that business analysts must pay attention to is what is happening in the external environment. All businesses operate within an economic environment, which is changing constantly.
Environment essentially comprises of factors like competitors, customers, macroeconomic factors, regulation, and technology.This offers tremendous opportunity, as well as posing threats to the organization. So business analysts must figure out what is happening in the external environment, and how can the organization take benefit of the changes in the environment, or protect itself from the threats arising from the external environment.

3. Internal environment

(Culture, Structure, Products, Capabilities)
After external environment, the next element that business analysts must pay close attention to is the internal environment of the organization. Some the key factors that we look for in an internal environment are the culture of the organization, structure of the organization, the products that the organization has, services it provides, capabilities it has. If the internal environment becomes weak for an organization, it will also lead to the downfall of the organization. Organizations those do not develop capabilities continually or stop innovating or their culture becomes toxic, will for sure lead to organization’s failure.


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4. Strategies

(Innovation, Cost leadership, Quality, Focus, Customer intimacy)
Based on the organizational vision, goal, objectives, understanding of the external and internal environments, the organization must develop suitable strategies to be successful in the marketplace. Common strategies that most organizations follow are innovation, cost, leadership, quality, focus, and customer intimacy. There can be multiple strategies playing together in the organization.
However, the organization must figure out what strategy works well for the given size and maturity of the organization and act accordingly. Strategy affects organizational operations as well as sets the direction for the organization. One must be very careful in choosing strategy but at the same time, not get paranoid regarding it. This is because the strategies may work or may not, and one must figure out and adjust the organization strategy as it moves forward in the organizational journey.

5. Customer management

(Segments, value propositions)
Though customers are stakeholders as well, we must differentiate them as they are the most valuable stakeholder in the organization. Customers are the only source of revenue for any organization and understanding customer needs is extremely vital for any organization to be successful. The organization should identify the different kinds of segments and then develop propositions of the right value, which will attract potential customers to the organization. At the same time, the organization also must understand profitability aspects for each of the customer segments and figure out a way to serve each customer segment profitably.

6. Cost management

(Structure, Optimization)
If costs are not managed well in an organization, it will lead to a drop in the profitability and finally leading to shutdown of the organization. As business analysts, we should understand the different elements of the cost structure, and which elements of the structure can be optimized for organizational benefit. At the same time, one must be careful that the lowest cost is not necessarily the optimized cost because the lowest cost could compromise on the product or service quality. This, in turn, would affect organization’s customer satisfaction and ability to earn revenue from its customers.

7. Stakeholder management

(Identification, Analysis, Engagement)
Business analysts need to understand stakeholders for the organization, initiative or project as everything that business analysts do must add value to the stakeholders. Effective stakeholder management is essential for the success of any change. Stakeholders could be internal or external to the organization.
Key steps that we would follow for stakeholder management would be to identify stakeholders, analyze stakeholders for the criticality and contribution. Of course, business analysts must engage with stakeholders to reap benefits from the initiative.

8. Product and services management

(Portfolio, Contribution, Improvement, Processes)
Next element that we business analysts need to understand is product and services of the organization. Most organizations offer multiple products and services. It is essential for the organizations to understand the portfolio that they would like to maintain, contributions coming from different product and service lines, what kind of improvements or innovations are possible in existing products and services, and to develop new products and services, and bring about improvements to the processes carried out in the organizations.

9. Risk management

(Identification, Analysis, Mitigation)
Any organization has multiple risks from different sources including external and internal sources. Organizations must be cognizant of the sources of risks that it faces and develop suitable mitigations for managing business risks. Some activities can put the organization at a serious loss (even leading to the closure of the organization). All of us know the story of Enron and Arthur Andersen when they violated government regulations and finally leading to the closure of both these organizations. Not understanding risks coming from technological or demographic changes of customers can lead to companies going bankrupt because their products no longer have demand in the marketplace.

10. Resource management

(People, Financial, Technological, Physical)
The last element we discuss is resource management. Resources are essential for delivering any product and services to customers. Different kinds of resources that the organization must develop, maintain, and improve include people resources, financial resources, technological resources, and physical resources.

Nature of resources that an organization should possess is changing dramatically over the time. For many services organization in the olden days, having physical assets was very helpful. Today, in certain segments, it’s probably better not to have physical assets, but rather have digital assets. Physical assets require a significant amount of money to be maintained. In future, organizations will develop more and more digital assets as maintaining digital assets cost less, and can earn revenue across the globe, whereas physical resources mostly earn revenue from a specific geography.

Requirements traceability: What, why and how

Traceability is one of the lesser understood aspects of business analysis. It is indeed quite hard to maintain good traceability unless automated.

This is why BABoK® warns us being theoretical about traceability.

In this article, I would like to explain traceability concepts with the help of an example.

BABoK® definition of traceability:

Traceability is the ability to look at a requirement and others to which it is related, linking business requirements to stakeholder and solution requirements, to artifacts and solution components.

Traceability identifies and documents the lineage of each requirement, including its backward traceability (derivation), forward traceability (allocation) and its relationship to other requirements.

Traceability ensures that the solution conforms to the requirements. It also helps in managing scope, risk, time, requirement changes, cost, and communication. It can be used to detect missing functionalities or to identify whether the implemented functionality is supported by a specific requirement.

Reasons for creating traceability are:

Assist in impact analysis for requirements changes.

Ensure requirements coverage: Understand how business objectives are implemented. Business objectives not traced to detailed components have not been analyzed and hence not included in the solution.

Requirements allocation.


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Relationships

Derive

When one requirement is derived from the other. Stakeholder requirements are derived from business requirements. Solution requirements are derived from stakeholder requirements.

Depends

One requirement can be implemented only if the other has been implemented or easier to implement if the other is implemented.

Satisfy

The relationship between an implementation element and the requirements it is satisfying.

Validate

A relation between a requirement and its test case to validate whether the solution fulfills the requirement.

Let’s take a practical example of a requirement to list all products on an eCommerce store.

mishra 06212018a

Requirement

To list products in the e-commerce portal with their price

Derived from (Parent requirement)

Enable e-commerce for business

Dependent requirement (Prerequisite)

Payment gateway to collect payment from customers

Satisfied by (Allocated to Solution component)

Storefront end

Validated by (Tested by test component)

Test cases to test store functionality.

This is a simple template to capture requirements traceability. You may transpose the same to handle multiple requirements in the template.

10 Most Useful Business Analysis Tools

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/struggling-user-interfaces-try-little-secret-tool-dreamer-and-doerAs a practicing business analyst, trainer and consultant for last 25 years, I have come across many business analysis tools.

I was forced to use some of these tools because my clients and organization mandated some of them. I do read about a lot of blogs and articles about which business analysis tool is used extensively by industry. Many of them appear to be simple marketing propaganda by the tool vendors (or copy paste from someone else’s blogs) saying the particular tool is the greatest tool for business analysis.

Fundamentally, we need following types of business analysis tools:

  1. To track requirements
  2. Describe requirements in certain detail
  3. Model requirements wherever feasible
  4. Collaboration tools

One can get a toolset literally free for all these 3 types of requirements. Here is it true list of the tools that I have used extensively. I have no intent to please or promote any specific tool or organisation.

I am going to start with number 10 and go down to number 1.

10 Star UML

The tool I look forward to for any UML diagram is StarUML. I have a version on my system which is free which I believe is no longer free on the net. StarUML is a pretty simple software to learn to draw use case diagrams such as the Class diagram, State diagrams etc. In case your company is still in the waterfall world, you will find StarUML pretty useful tool to develop any kind of UML diagrams.

YouTube video links on Star UML:

youtubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWcbyturXVI&t=3s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xObBewqkdk8&t=2s

9 Google Voice typing

Google voice typing is indeed a boon for me. I am a pretty bad typist and I used to have a terrible experience in trying to create documentation. With Google voice typing that pain is gone. In fact, this blog you are reading was created using Google voice typing. The same amount of documentation if I would have tried to do using MS word or any other tool, probably would have taken me 4 times more time and 10 times more pain.

8 Google drive

Another neat software from Google which allows us to share documents in a secured manner. It practically offers unlimited storage capability and for about $3 per month. You get humongous space to store and share your project artefacts.

7 Screencast-o-matic

Screencast-o-matic is a very little known tool but I found it extremely helpful. As business analysts, we need to ensure that all the discussions that we have with our stakeholders are recorded and kept for future reference. Screencast-o-matic does a fantastic job of recording our discussions and keeping them stored in a place like YouTube which we can access anytime later. One can make the YouTube videos private so that only your team members and stakeholders are able to access the videos. No more missing discussion points and no more worrisome fact that we missed something to note down during a discussion.

6 Skype

Skype is again a wonderful tool for remote working and collaboration with stakeholders. Today end users, developers could be in any part of the world. A tool like Skype allows us to coordinate and collaborate seamlessly irrespective of where we work.

5 BizAgi

BizAgi is another free tool that I really love. It’s very simple to use and is extremely powerful when you wish to draw business process models. The good part about BizAgi is, it also generates a fantastic documentation in MS Word.


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4 MS PowerPoint

You will read lot of people saying death by PowerPoint and all kinds of stuff as how evil PowerPoint is.The fact is MS Office is not going to go away from corporate life in near future. Businesses need communication and presentation. Nothing beats PowerPoint at this time to share our ideas to our stakeholders.

3 MS Word

Among the Microsoft tools, I possibly hate the most is MS Word. I somehow find it extremely hard to work as effectively with MS Word is I can work with MS Excel on MS PowerPoint. StillMS Word is the most popular word processor that are stakeholders continue to use and hence we must be familiar in creating documentation using MS Word. The amount of BA documentation that we do using MS Word has come down dramatically over last 20 years but still there will be enough times when MS Word will be a good tool capture ideas, notes and discussions.

2 MS Excel

This is my most favorite MS tool. I do my entire BA documentation using MS Excel. I create wireframes using MS Excel. I use extended data matrix to understand UI requirements. If you learn use Excel well, I bet you definitely fall in love with Excel. It’s quite a powerful tool for many things that anyBA wishes to do including requirements management, user interface development, traceability matrix etc.

Article on Excel Prototype :https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/struggling-user-interfaces-try-little-secret-tool-dreamer-and-doer

youtube

Video on Excel Prototype:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iS7UVY4yXs&feature=youtu.be

1 Google search

Finally nothing beats Google search. Anytime you get stuck as a BA, you need some help, you need a particular template, just do a Google search. Anyone who learns to leverage Google will be a Super BA.

Requirements traceability: What, why and how

Traceability is one of the lesser understood aspects of business analysis. It is indeed quite hard to maintain good traceability unless automated.

This is why BABoK® warns us being theoretical about traceability.

In this article, I would like to explain traceability concepts with help of an example.

BABoK® definition of traceability:

Traceability is the ability to look at a requirement and others to which it is related, linking business requirements to stakeholder and solution requirements, to artifacts and to solution components.

Traceability identifies and documents the lineage of each requirement, including its backward traceability (derivation), forward traceability (allocation) and its relationship to other requirements.

Traceability ensures that the solution conforms to the requirements. It also helps in managing scope, risk, time, requirements changes, cost and communication. It can be used to detect missing functionalities or to identify whether the implemented functionality is supported by a specific requirement.

Reasons for creating traceability are:

Assist in impact analysis for requirements changes.

Ensure requirements coverage: Understand how business objectives are implemented. Business objectives not traced to detailed components have not been analyzed and hence not included in the solution.

Requirements allocation.

Relationships

Derive

When one requirement is derived from the other. Stakeholder requirements are derived from business requirements. Solution requirements are derived from stakeholder requirements.

Depends

One requirement can be implemented only if the other has been implemented or easier to implement if the other is implemented.


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Satisfy

Relationship between an implementation element and the requirements it is satisfying.

Validate

A relation between a requirement and its test case to validate whether the solution fulfills the requirement.

Let’s take a practical example of a requirement to list all products on an eCommerce store (such as AdaptiveUS.com/eStore)

mishra 05292018a

Requirement

To list products in the ecommerce portal with their price

Derived from (Parent requirement)

Enable e-commerce for business

Dependent requirement (Prerequisite)

Payment gateway to collect payment from customers

Satisfied by (Allocated to Solution component)

Store front end

Validated by (Tested by test component)

Test cases to test store functionality.

This is a simple template to capture requirements traceability. You may transpose the same to handle multiple requirements in the template.

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