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Author: Michelle Nefdt

Unidentified Flying Objectives (UFOs)

I was recently engaged on an initiative which was motivated by a moderately articulated business need. The opportunity promised enormous improvements to the company’s enterprise capability. However, after the initiative kicked off we were propelled into an unnecessary journey of continuous improvement towards an ambiguous and evolving concept. This initiative was weighed down by unidentified flying objectives (UFOs).

UFOs refer to strategic irregularities in the business-sphere, which hover, appear, or dissolve when scrutinised. They generally tend to appear after the launching of unplanned strategic initiatives. UFOs are not easily identifiable or definable, unless the use of instrumentation such as scope scanners or feasibility radars are applied by classified authorities called Business Analysts.

UFOs display the following characteristics: they are shallow (insufficient), disc-shaped or round (recurring), and are capable of displaying luminosity (radiance). They shape-shift or evolve moving at high speeds, often counter to the strategic initiative underway.

In some instances, trying to decipher where UFOs originate from can place the Business Analyst at the risk of painstakingly attending to ongoing marginalised and unresolved issues.

Quite the opposite, SMART objectives are specific, time-related and measurable targets that a person (or system) aims to achieve. These are basic tools that underlie all planning and strategic activities, and serve as the basis for evaluating business performance.

Nefdt june26 IMG01Why is it we often don’t get objectives right? Leaders conduct their general business, approving and kicking off initiatives with good intentions to make people, systems, structure and processes better. However, when it comes down to the setting of objectives we are often crippled during the latter stages by misalignment between objectives, deliverables and performance. The setting of objectives is also impeded by limited organisational readiness, change management, scope, economic drivers, time, and resources. Correspondingly, success tends to be emphasised by the “delivery on time and within budget” mantra.

The strategy, objectives and measurement approach is vital for business analysis and delivery success. It is imperative to justify Why we are doing it, closely reinforced with the What, Where, Who, How and When (5W’s & H).

I have persevered by taking business leaders on a very simple journey to optimise their business initiative objectives and assure success using the following 5 steps:

  1. Clarify what is driving the initiative. Is it a Problem, Opportunity or Need?
  2. Translate the Problem, Opportunity or Need into Goals
  3. Evaluate each Goal against SMART objectives and the 5W’s & H principles
  4. Transform each Goal into a SMART objective
  5. Identify how your SMART objective can be evaluated and re-evaluated to become SMARTER

Nefdt june26 IMG02The benefit of using this approach for business leaders is self-assurance in setting a clear vision with reliable measures for performance; and traceability from strategy through to delivery. A good alignment between SMART objectives, solutions and benefits will empower business leaders to make informed decisions and measure performance with confidence.

The Business Analyst is instrumental in aligning objectives to requirements and solutions for traceability management. For the Business Analyst, developing clarity of the objective(s) enables and adds value to business analysis delivery.

So travel forth at the speed of light and unlock those UFOs if you sense or observe them in your business activities. Leave behind a legacy and impart the above simple approach for business leaders to define, translate and transform UFOs into SMART objectives.

Which intuitive instruments do you use to sense, observe and investigate UFOs in your close encounters with the third kind?

How do you manage those UFOs into SMART objectives?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Cloudy with a Chance of Transformation

“Climatology” beckons images of clouds, temperature, sea levels and currents, naturally occurring events including volcanoes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. The climatologist’s analysis considers weather conditions over specific periods of time, identifies conditional variables, applies forecasting averages, examines interdependencies between climate changes and effect on people and events. They also work in various locations, scrutinise current, past and future states, translate predictions and determine requirements. Have you spotted the similarities in approach between climatology and business analysis, yet?

How does this climatologist concept relate to business analysis? It all started when I came across the term “business ecosystem”, first used in Moore’s May/June 1993 Harvard Business Review article, which was titled “Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition”, and won the McKinsey Award for article of the year.

Moore defined the business ecosystem as an economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organisations, individuals and customers of the business world. Organisations, individuals and customers refer to both internal and external suppliers, lead producers, competitors and stakeholders who organise, co-evolve and adapt their capabilities and roles and to align variable economic conditions.

This conceptualisation provoked a minor adjustment in my approach to business analysis.

Should business analysis engage the climatologist approach with the purpose of understanding, identifying, resolving, maintaining and restoring the order and balance to the business ecosystem between people, process and technology?

According to the climatology method, the essential elements for observation in the ecosystem are likely to be cloud formation, climate, weather, temperature, sea and current levels, natural order and culture. In the business analysis world, these essential elements make up the following:

  1. Cloud formation – Impending projects or initiatives, economic drivers, external risks, regulations etc
  2. Climate/ Temperature/ Weather – Strategic priorities and exceptions; Atmosphere
  3. Sea levels – Levels of impact; level of process and affected areas of the business
  4. Sea currents – Strategic direction, values, mission, what is enabling/ constraining process activity
  5. Naturally occurring events  – Existing or impending disorder or interruptions to business activities
  6. Elements of natural order – Business policy, rules, controls, process infrastructure and performance metrics
  7. Culture – Way of thinking and doing in particular business context, process infrastructure

Following this approach, I succeeded in enlarging the business analysis focus and capturing the appropriate communication, capability, learning and change requirements key to understanding how conditions in the business ecosystem impact on people, process and technology. It appeared easier to determine the scope, steadiness or change requirement of process across the organisation and the best process intervention approach between technology, process improvement, redesign or reengineering.

On your next project or initiative, try adapting your optical lenses to the climatological view and consider people, process and technology as core components in the business ecosystem. Observe the essential elements in the business ecosystem and identify conditional variables operating within the business. Go on to determine the arising emanations, ripple effects or impending change effects to people, process and technology.

Develop your understanding of the business needs to deliver a holistic solution for your business.

The probable advantage of this approach is magnified stakeholder identification, improved engagement, better collaboration, superior communication strategies and alliance between people, process and technology.

What’s more, (and a value add to the customer) …if these broadened business ecosystem identified requirements do not fit in the scope of what you are delivering, capture these important out of scope initiatives and communicate the importance for  integration into operational initiatives, and as part of the business strategic plan to complement current project and programme activities.

Do you consider yourself a climatologist in the business ecosystem when engaging in your business analysis adventures?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.