BATimes_Dec1_2022

The Beautiful Game as a Modern, Event-Driven Business Process Structure

The Beautiful Game

Whether you call it football or soccer, “the Beautiful Game” as it is widely known, has simple rules of play. But playing soccer is another matter. It is a highly dynamic, agile process. In the flow of a single match, an eleven-player professional team can make more than 500 passes and there can be dozens of game stoppages.

In the eyes of process analysts, quality improvement professionals, and business analysts, who still rely on the more than 100 years-old, strictly procedural notions of a process and on flowcharting notations that were also invented in the last century, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to perceive and model something like playing soccer as a sequential process.

The Modern Business Process Modeling Solution

The most effective business processes are not only structurally sound and efficient but also highly dynamic and agile.  A high-quality business process structure today is one that has been conceived, structured, and can be readily configured as a network of specialized, collaborating, event-driven, and outcome-oriented services, not just as a sequential procedure.

If a business analyst, process analyst, quality analyst, or manager adopts that modern business process paradigm and a modeling notation that is aligned with how today’s business relationships and processes work, then perceiving and modeling something as dynamic and agile as the beautiful game as a process, IS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, BUT ELEGANT.

Universal Business Process Definition[1]

The Universal Business Process Definition is not constrained to a strictly procedural notion of a process. It is an event and outcome-oriented business process paradigm. The Universal Business Process Definition’s four common-sense rules define all processes, workflows, and activities, regardless of a process’s scale, the overarching project methodology, the model’s required degree of abstraction, the modeling participants, and the organizations and the technologies that will implement the process or workflow.

The Universal Business Process Definition, and the Business Process Normalization technique are defined in the Universal Process Modeling Procedure (UPMP), published by ProcessModelingAdvisor.com.

Business Process Modeling and Notation[2]

Business Process Modeling and Notation (BPMN) is a graphical notation for illustrating modern business process elements.  It overcomes the limitations of the last century’s procedural flowcharting and process mapping notations.

BPMN was defined by the Business Process Modeling Initiative (BPMI) and is maintained by the Object Modeling Group (OMG). BPMI states that the goal of BPMN is:

“To provide a notation that is readily understandable by all business users.”

BPMN is the best-suited notation for illustrating modern business process and workflow structures. It includes sequential flowcharting elements, but BPMN also includes symbols for illustrating concepts that are relevant to today’s dynamically collaborating systems and business processes. Namely, events and messaging.

 

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The Beautiful Game as an Example

We don’t need process models about playing soccer. We’d rather be playing or spectating. But we’ve all observed enough about playing soccer to use it as a commonly understood example.  Playing soccer happens to be similar to how modern-day business processes and operating relationships work. Let’s use soccer to demonstrate how to apply a modern business process modeling paradigm and modeling notation to discover and illustrate a sound, modern business process structure.

Event-Driven Business Process Flow

A contextually and structurally sound model of the Play Soccer process can be discovered by answering the Universal Basic Business Process Flow Elicitation Agenda[3] and the Universal Event and Outcome-Oriented Business Process Flow Elicitation Agenda[4], found in The Universal Process Modeling Procedure.

This basic, event and outcome-oriented (non-procedural) BPMN process flow diagram communicates the normal, dynamic flow of Play Soccer as a set of collaborating, specialized activities.

The Play Soccer process is initiated by a kick-off at center field. It is comprised of 4 activities: Tend Goal, Defend, Play Midfield, Play Striker. Activities are performed by the players of two teams. The expected outcome of Play Soccer is that a match has been played to its allotted time limit, according to its rules.

A free kick from center starts a match.  Once the match starts all players in their assigned positions maneuver freely, whether they possess the ball or not.  The expected succession of the keeper’s, defenders’, midfielders’, and strikers’ activities is determined dynamically, by the players, while the match is played, by receiving or intercepting passes, stopping shots, and by making passes or taking shots.

The player with the ball will pass the ball to any one of up to 10 other teammates or take a shot; Either the intended teammate will receive a pass, or an opposing player will intercept a pass or stop a shot, to possess the ball. Any player that possessed the ball will then maneuver (according to their assigned position level and their own skill) and then pass the ball to any one of up to 10 other teammates or take a shot. This succession of activities continues, until a stoppage in play.

The success of the expected outcome (pass made or shot taken) of one Play Soccer activity will determine the initiating event (pass received/intercepted or shot stopped) of another Play Soccer activity. The actual flow of a game is determined dynamically, by the players who are assigned to perform Play Soccer’s activities.

This basic, event and outcome-oriented process view of Play Soccer is contextually and structurally sound, but still basic. It is upon this solid, defining structure that one can elicit, add and communicate logical details that are relevant to how the Play Soccer process will “flow” and, that this model’s readers likely expect to see. What about conditional activities, like throw-ins, corner kicks, penalty kicks, substitutions, fouls, out-of-bounds, injuries), and delays (like injury time-outs, and half-time)?

 

Logically Refined Business Process Flow

The logical details about the periodic conditions, activities, and delays in the execution of the Play Soccer process can be straightforwardly discovered by asking and answering simple agendas that are defined in The Universal Process Modeling Procedure[5]. This refined BPMN process flow diagram communicates the conditional activities and delays that are expected to periodically occur throughout the dynamic flow of Play Soccer.

The BPMN process diagram shows that game events, not a sequential procedure determine what and when certain activities are performed in the Play Soccer process.

Even with all those refinements made, the contextually accurate and sound basic structure of the Play Soccer process, that we previously established, has not changed. These refinements can be graphically included or excluded, without any rework of the basic contextual meaning or basic diagrammatic structure of Play Soccer.

Activity dependencies are contextually accurate, without depicting a sequential procedure and sequential flows. Dynamic, alternate activities, paths, and timings throughout the process are accounted for in the model. Undue model complexity, and the analyst’s time that would have been spent on it, has been avoided. Process navigation decisions, and alternate flow paths are in fact modelled, but need not be explicitly illustrated as sequence flows.

Conclusion

The Beautiful Game serves us as a beautiful example of a process that is a set of dynamically collaborating sets of specialized services. It is not a sequential procedure.  Modern business processes are not just sequential procedures either.

The Universal Process Modeling Procedure, with its Universal Business Process Definition and elicitation agendas, provides a modern process modeling paradigm, capable of event-driven as well as sequential business process elicitation and modeling. BPMN is a modern process modeling notation, that includes the graphical elements to represent business event-driven, not just sequential process flows.

With these tools in-hand, process analysts, quality improvement professionals, and business analysts, are capable of eliciting, perceiving, normalizing, defining and graphically illustrating structurally sound, modern business process structures.

Copyright 2022, Edmund Metera

[1] Universal Process Modeling Procedure – The Practical Guide to High-Quality Business Process Models Using BPMN (Metera, 2018, 2022) www.ProcessModelingAdvisor.com
[2] Object Modeling Group, www.OMG.org
[3] Universal Process Modeling Procedure, Step 3 – Define Basic Business Process Flow (Metera, 2018, 2022)
[4] Universal Process Modeling Procedure, How to Specify Event/Outcome Oriented Business Process Flow (Metera, 2018, 2022)
[5] Universal Process Modeling Procedure, Step 5 – Refine Business Process Flow(s) (Metera, 2018, 2022)
BATimes_Nov30_2022

The Strategic Flexibility Approach in Solution Design

Compared with strategic management, strategic business analysis focuses on designing a sustainable solution in order the long term strategic goals and future demands to be fulfilled with the best way. Constant changes in internal and external environment require business analysts working on a specific solution to constantly assess solution approach and capabilities for success.

Strategic flexibility it terms of a solution may be defined as the ability of the solution to adapt to substantial, uncertain, and fast-occurring environmental changes that have a meaningful impact on the solution performance.

 

Strategic business analysis involves a future outlook. Detection of emerging threats and opportunities, prediction of their future impact, and the development of solution responses is something that should be considered before a solution definition. Ideally, the “future paths” should be incorporated in the solution itself in order “strategic adaptations” to be achieved with less cost and effort.

Because the environment is so uncertain and fast moving with many potential threats and opportunities, business analysts often finds it difficult to react using conventional business analysis approaches. Evaluating the likelihood and nature of the impact of each environmental change that can consequently affect the solution requires is challenging.

 

It is common that during the analysis phases of a solution definition, considerations of alternative ways to increase solution’s flexibility tend to be limited and ad hoc and not comprehensive, systematic, or formal.

Moreover, internal and external constraints on the style and experience of the business analysis team tend to dictate an inflexible approach that is not taking into account the future challenges and adaptations that will be necessary for the solution’s sustainability.

 

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Another challenge in embracing strategic flexibility is the lack of objectivity in flexibility and scalability options. This is inevitable given the lack of information for the future conditions and the difficulties in predictions.  Options concerning sustainable solutions tend to be subjective and informal. Flexibility levels are rarely monitored or even measured. An example of a subjective KPI is the time and the cost required to modify core flows in a system or the time and effort required incorporating a new group of users in an existing solution.

Identifying assumptions that had been made during design phases is crucial in order to clear out the future state and to develop contingency plans that can contribute to lower time, cost and effort in future changes. Well-defined contingency scenarios with specific responses associated with each future specific event may be decrease the response time required, once those events occur.

 

Paying attention at the confirmation of the elicitation results and trying to find areas for sustainability and preparation to change improvement should be cultivated in business analysis approach.

Last but least working towards defining specific evaluation criteria concerning the long term horizon solution flexibility as a response to future events is essential in an era of fast – moving and numerous environment changes.

References:
  1. David A. Aaker, Briance Mascarenhas, (1984) “THE NEED FOR STRATEGIC FLEXIBILITY”, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 5 Issue: 2, pp.74-82, https://doi.org/10.1108/eb039060
BATimes_Nov24_2022

Collaboration The Easy Way, Business Analysts’ Secrets Revealed

How does she make it look so easy?

She must have a secret. I wish I knew.

Have you ever seen a Business Analyst lead a collaborative meeting? I have asked some of the leaders in this community. Here are a few things they do.

 

Lead the Team

When I asked Glenn Hughes about collaboration he shared this. “As Business Analysts, we are often a leader without a title.  This means we need to help influence others to make key decisions and work together to negotiate compromises that will ultimately benefit the business.”

“Good leadership fosters collaboration. There are serval ways to foster collaboration which can all be tied back to leadership.” This was Trevor Meyers Central Iowa IIBA President’s response to my question.

As you can see leadership impacts the collaboration of the team.

 

Vision

Along with leading the team comes the vision. Collaboration goes nowhere without it. Ifeoluwa Akinboade from IIBA Calgary said, “to collaborate effectively, all the involved parties must have a clear understanding of the vision.”

The vision informs the requirements. The team can pick up the baton and run with it. It helps the team coalesce around the picture of success.

 

Check-In

Having been a leader in the past, you can believe things are going well. Until you begin asking a few questions. Dig in and see how the collaboration is going.

As a developer myself, I know we can be hard to work with. We may not always communicate clearly. Therefore, Business Analysts might think we are mad. In reality, we can be introverted.

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Heads up

As a fellow introvert, I enjoyed Steve Hewitt’s comment. “Giving people a heads-up prior to a collaboration session is always helpful – especially if you have a mix of introverts that appreciate the chance to gather thoughts ahead of time.”

Working with teams myself, I have seen this advice pay dividends. I had a developer who would shut down if he didn’t know what to expect. Giving him a heads-up changed the way he engaged in our meetings.

 

Understand their needs

Shari Hall pointed out how we need to understand the team’s unique needs. “Whether I am working with a team of developers and data analysts or project stakeholders, it has been my experience that if we can each see the other’s needs and the value they bring to the project, we can work together toward the goal.”

Each of us comes to a project with different experiences. It only makes sense that we will need different things to be successful. Shari recognizes how this affects collaboration.

 

Early Adopters

Experienced Business Analysts know the team has many members. Each of them comes to the change at different speeds. Some will jump in and want to help. Others might stand on the sidelines and see what happens.

“I’ve always had good luck with this – I always get some early adopters prior to getting to the point where I need more general collaboration.  It gets me a little more insight into my audience and when my ‘early adopters’ participate in a collaboration session, it’s much easier to get others involved.” This is from Steve Hewitt whom we have heard from before.

A consultant once outlined a similar approach to me. They were describing a process for organizational change. Collaboration is part of any change process. As Steve noted this can help us understand the team’s needs.

 

Clarify

Debbie asks me if I understand the requirements. I hesitate and then reply. “I think so, but I have one question. What do you mean by authenticating user?”

This was a trouble spot. We had many bugs with this before. A few of our business stakeholders assumed this meant something else. From a technical perspective that would be quite difficult.

Debbie was able to talk with the business. She clarified my suspicions. One question saved us some time.

 

Psychological Safety

One way to describe team health is to look at their Psychological Safety. Essentially, do you feel comfortable questioning decisions or speaking out at work. This part of the culture really impacts the level of collaboration.

Shashank Soni fosters a safe environment. He said he likes to “make them feel OK to provide input without fear of repercussions.” This takes time and a concerted effort but, it will set the tone for better cooperation.

 

Domain Knowledge

Business Analysts have to know the domain. If you work for a healthcare company you need to know the basics. This can start with curiosity and questions. Then you can dig deeper with each new project.

Steve Hewitt reinforced its importance with this. “Having an excellent understanding of the business and a good reputation makes it easier to get people involved.  When folks on my team trust me to know what’s needed for a project (for example), collaboration becomes second nature.  The more experience I get, the more trust I earn, and the easier it is to collaborate.”

 

Once you know and gain respect then collaboration is easier. Things start to fall into place. Leading a meeting is natural. Of course, this doesn’t mean you know it all. You know enough to keep things on track.

BATimes_Nov23_2022

Avoid Illusory Constraints And Incentives

If you were learning to drive in the UK, chances are you’d get in touch with a driving instructor. Over here, many of the driving schools they work for have company names starting with the number 1 (often ‘1st CompanyName Driving School’).  I suppose if I were a driving instructor my default company name would be “1st Reed” or something similar.

It might seem curious as to why there are so many driving schools with “1st” in their company names. We might assume it’s a signal that people who learn with them pass their driving test first time… but I suspect there’s another legacy reason, which goes back twenty years or more.  You see, when I learned to drive, you didn’t Google a driving instructor, you used the Yellow Pages.

 

For anyone unfamiliar with the Yellow Pages, it used to be a thick local telephone directory of different companies. It probably still exists, but twenty years ago it was an essential reference for every household and could usually be found close to the (corded) landline telephone.  It was printed on thin yellow paper, and had thousands and thousands of companies listed.

You’d search for a category (‘driving instructor’) and then (with the exception of paid ads) the companies were generally listed in alphabetical order.  And company names starting with numbers were given preference, so a company named “1st Aardvark Driving School” would be listed above “Aardvark Driving School”… hence the incentive to start a company name with the phrase “1st…”.

 

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The Constraints and Incentives Of Yesterday Might Be Irrelevant Today

Today, I would guess that very few people search for a driving school using a paper telephone directory, so this necessity to preface a company name with ‘1st’ is no longer valid.  Not only this, it could actually hinder findability…. Imagine if you heard somebody say their company name was “First Reed”.  Would the URL be 1stReed.com, FirstReed.com, First-Reed.com, or something else?  What keyword would you type into Google to search for them?

I wonder if issues of ‘digital findability’ might also start to affect musicians. With more and more people using voice-activated assistants, bands might get more airplay if they have a band name and a song name that is “voice assistant friendly”.  Don’t believe me? Try to get an AI assistant to find music by 90s band Campag Velocet and you’ll likely see the problem.

The point here is that constraints and incentives of yesterday (“We must start our company name with ‘1st’” or “Unusual band names sell records!”) might actually be disadvantages today.  The incentives and constraints have changed, and those that recognize that can use it to their advantage.

 

What This Means For BAs: The Importance of Healthy Challenge

This is where good business analysis helps.  It often feels that there is a human tendency to revert-to-norm and to “do what we’ve always done”.  In our world as BAs, this might relate to the way work is undertaken, the way a process works, or the way that technology is used.

In these situations there is a huge opportunity to tactfully challenge: to ask does it still need to be that way? And also ask what are the implications if it is implemented that way? Are we ‘baking in’ a constraint that is no longer relevant?

This starts by identifying those tacit assumptions and constraints and seeing whether they are really still valid. Techniques such as ‘five whys’, the brown cow model, or just informally asking questions with curiosity and listening deeply to the response can help a great deal.

Whichever techniques we use, having the confidence to build rapport and tactfully challenge accepted practices is key. Sometimes there might be a valid reason for the status quo… but if there isn’t, we might be able to help co-create a better way with our stakeholders. And if we can create something better, cheaper, slicker, better… that has to be a good thing!

BATimes_Nov17_2022

Important Techniques for CBAP Certification Examination

This again is a very frequent question that we receive from our CBAP participants. BABoK V3 has 50 techniques and obviously, all techniques would not be of equal importance for all three certifications. Some techniques are more important to junior business analysts and some techniques are used more by the Senior Business Analysts.

In this article, we are going to categorize the techniques into three categories based on their complexity levels. Low complexity techniques are more useful for ECBA aspirants. Medium and high complex ones are more important for CBAP examination aspirants. High complexity techniques would require CBAP practitioners more time and effort to understand and be comfortable with.

You must be wondering how did we come up with this list?

It’s primarily based on inputs from many of our past CBAP participants regarding what kind of techniques challenged them more during the CBAP certification examination. Secondly, most business analysts start their careers as requirements analysts and as part of requirement analysis work, they use some techniques more extensively than others. Techniques that typically belong to strategy analysis planning and solution evaluation are the techniques where usually many have a lesser comfort level and obviously, they need to pay more attention to those techniques. Three specific areas that we would advise CBAP participants to pay attention are the techniques related to Financial Analysis, Decision Analysis, and UML.

Here are a few blogs and videos that we published which will help CBAP aspirants:

Estimation

https://www.adaptiveus.com/business-analysis-estimation-technique/

Metrics and KPI

https://www.adaptiveus.com/business-analysis-world-indicators/

Data and Concept model

https://www.adaptiveus.com/concept-model-vs-data-model/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdvgaxqTkmE&feature=youtu.be

Process analysis

https://www.adaptiveus.com/process-modeling-vs-process-analysis/

Business model canvas

https://www.adaptiveus.com/balanced-scorecard-vs-business-model-canvas/

Non-functional requirements

https://www.adaptiveus.com/blog/non-functional-requirements

 

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Stakeholder list, map, and personas

Here is a summary of important techniques for CBAP certification:

Author: L N Mishra, Co-Founder, Adaptive US

 

L N Mishra co-founded Adaptive US, a business analysis skill development organization, working with professionals from 80+ countries in skyrocketing their BA career and staying ahead of the game. He has helped 5000+ BA professionals to achieve better salary and role in their BA career. He is the ONLY trainer who holds all 7 certifications from IIBA (ECBA, CCBA, CBAP, CCA, AAC, CBDA, and CPOA).

LN has authored 12 best-selling books on business analysis. He is also a Versatile trainer, coach and speaker on all IIBA Certifications.

Grab a copy of best-selling eBook –  FREE 50 CBAP Exam Mock Questions Plus Comprehensive CBAP Exam Information utilized by 1000s of BA professionals to ace their IIBA exam.

 

LN is also a member of IIBA Question Setting Committee, mentored 100+ global clients and 3000+ Bas. He has 24+ years of working experience as a Business Analyst and conducted 1000+ workshops in business analysis, requirements engineering and agile, project management, requirements engineering and different BA Skilled webinars.

Please write to LN if your thoughts are in sync with his or if they spark a thought in you.