Tag: Business Analysis

Five Steps to a Winning Business Case

5StepsToAWinningMaking a successful business case for your new project is the winning way to ensure a good beginning for your team. How often have you been asked to “work the numbers” and provide a basis for a compelling project? Often, if you are a project manager with responsibility to help your sponsor and your company make decisions about which projects are the right ones to do. The PMBOK provides the body of knowledge for “doing it the right way.” In this article, you will learn about the five steps of a methodology that you can take away and use everyday for identifying, selecting, and justifying a new project or a significant change in scope to an ongoing project.

Projects with a solid business case return value to the business, to their sponsors, and to the stakeholders and customers. Meeting scope, staying within budget, and getting done on time are the tactical elements that deliver the value. This being so, it is self-evident that successful project managers are those that effectively make the connection between project accomplishment and business value. (Goodpasture 2001)

Business Case Basics

A winning business case is really no mystery. First, it provides the background and context for the project. Historical performance is often necessary to illustrate opportunity. As is operating results from functional and process metrics are part of context. Perhaps there are lessons learned and relevant history of other projects that got you to where you are.

Second, the business case identifies the functional, technical, or market opportunity that the project is to address. From opportunity, specific solutions can be developed.

Third, the project proposal is given, laying out a description of scope, required investment, expected results and project benefits, and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Next, understanding is conveyed about how the results of the project fit into the business operationally. For this, a “concept of operations” is needed.

Last, and perhaps most important, you ask for a decision on the project proposal. In this section, it is customary to ask for approval of the assignment of managers for performance responsibility.

Step 1. Establishing Context: Put History Together

Assembling history and setting the context for a new project may not be where project managers expect to first come into the picture. However, often times it is necessary to bring forward completed, cancelled, or deferred projects for analysis, or to analyse the operating metrics of ongoing functions and processes. Activities in this step are identifying the similarities, highlighting the differences, and making certain irrelevant aspects of past endeavors do not color the current situation.

Here’s a helpful hint: start with the WBS of all prior engagements. The WBS contains all the scope and should link directly to the financial records and chart of accounts. Make adjustments for change orders or other scope differences. Examine the project charter; make adjustments for tools, facilities, constraints, assumptions, and policies that influence the project, but may no longer be operative. Look also at the OBS (organizational breakdown structure) and the RAM (resource assignment matrix) that maps organization to scope.

Step 2. Responding to Opportunity

We begin with this idea: Opportunity is “unmet need.” Investing in projects to satisfy identified need leads to reward. Reward enriches all who participate.

Goal Setting and Strategy Development

To effectively and wisely choose among opportunities requires goal setting and strategy development. We make these definitions: Goals are ends to be achieved, a state of the business in a future time. Objectives do not differ materially from goals, though some prefer to think of objectives in more of a tactical time-frame and goals in more of a strategic framework.

Opportunity is most often found within the goal sets of the “balanced scorecard” [Kaplan and Norton, Chapter 1]. Typically, there are four such sets: Customer and Market, Operational Efficiencies and Improvement, Organizational Development and Learning, and Employees.

The value of opportunity is transferred into goal achievement. Not all of the opportunity may be available to the business. Thus, more practically, we speak of the “addressable” opportunity as being that part that can find its way into the business. To make good on the addressable opportunity, strategy is required.

Strategy is actionable, often requiring projects for execution. Projects are identified by flow-down from opportunity analysis; projects are an instrument of strategy.

Business Case Preparation

Action plans, the essence of strategy, are a natural for project managers. The strategy is a high level WBS for the overall business case, identifying those actions that are in scope, and perhaps identifying strategy elements considered but deferred or not accepted.

Step 3. Proposing the Project and Laying out the Investment and Benefits

Opportunity is in the future. There are no facts in the future, only estimates. As such, your project proposal must identify four elements:

  1. Scope of accomplishment in terms with which sponsors and approving authorities will identify;
  2. Major milestones that are meaningful to the business;
  3. An assessment of risk factors that affect both investment and benefits estimates; and finally,
  4. A specific proposal of risk-adjusted investment dollars, benefit dollars (benefits recover investment), and KPs.

Many projects have only intangible KPIs and indefinite benefits. Sometimes it is possible to “dollarise” these benefits using the “before and after” methodology: what does it cost to run the business before hand, and what will it cost to run it after? Even though any specific cost element may not be directly linked to the project, the business as a whole will be different.

Identifying and Assessing Risk

The traditional investment equation is: “total return is provided by principal at risk plus gain.” Project methodology transforms this equation into the project equation: “project value is delivered from resources committed and risks taken.” The project equation is the project’s manager’s math and the balance sheet for the project. [Goodpasture, 2001, Chapter 3]

One means of risk assessment is through statistical analysis of the major schedule elements. For purposes of the business case, only major project outcomes need be scheduled. The best estimator of the schedule outcome is the expected value of the overall duration, defined simply as the sum of possible outcomes, each weighted by their probability.

Financial estimates should also be adjusted for risk. After all, financial performance is one key performance indicator (KPI) for all new projects. Two financial measures that account for risk are Net Present Value (NPV) and Economic Value Add (EVA).

Financial Measures with Risk Assessments

NPV measures cash on a risk-adjusted basis. Cash is consumed by projects, but subsequently is generated by project deliverables. EVA measures profitability. Although it has been said “profit is an opinion, but cash is a fact” [Pike, 1999], reflecting the influence of accounting practices on calculating profit, project managers should know that NPV and EVA are equivalent when profit is restated in its cash components.

Net Present Value

How can projects managers affect the NPV or its equivalent, the EVA? Simply put, the main effects under project management control are timelines for cash flows, that is, the schedule for the development of project deliverables and subsequent operations, and assessments of the risks associated with cash flows. After project completion, the responsibility for cash flows is transferred to a benefits manager through the KPI’s. Project management participation in risk-adjusted financials has many parallels with risk-adjusted scheduling of critical path using such techniques as Monte Carlo, PERT, or critical chain scheduling.

Economic Value Add

EVA is a financial measure of how project performance, especially after the deliverables become operational, affects earnings. [Higgins, 1998 Chapter 8]. Projects with positive EVA earn back more than their cost of capital funding; that is, they return to the business sufficient earnings from reduced costs or increased revenues and margins to more than cover the cost of the capital required to fund the projects.

The bottom line on financial analysis: NPV (Cash flow) = present value EVA (After-tax cash-equivalent earnings).

Estimating Cash Flow

Estimating the cash flow for the business case is a project manager’s task. Estimating cash flows is tantamount to estimating the resource requirements for the project, and then estimating the benefits that will accrue from a successful project. The PMBOK identifies several estimating techniques that can be applied. The key is not only to estimate the resources for the project, but also the benefit stream from operations.

Step 4. Outlining the Concept of Operations

A concept of operations need not be rocket science. The idea is this: Once the project ends, and by definition, as given in the PMBOK, all projects end, we must address the question, “how will the project deliverables be made operational in the business?”

Deliverables in the Concept of Operations

If project deliverables are to be inserted into, or change, or bring into being new processes, then there are process actors, inputs, methods, and outputs to consider. If there are new products, the fit to marketing and sales must be considered, as well as support after sale. And if there are new plant, systems, and equipment deliverables then the concept of operations will address the on-going operations that would be touched by these new assets, new or changed workforce, their training and relocation, and retirement of legacy assets.

To convey the concept of operations (ConOPs) in the business case, identify effected organizations, jobs, roles within jobs, tasks within roles, skills, tools and facilities necessary to do the tasks, operating budgets, and other relevant components. By narrative or diagram, explain the operating concept.

For purposes of the business case, it is most useful to reduce even complex processes to a handful of boxes, and back-up this abstraction with whatever detail is needed to satisfy participating managers that their needs are covered.

Step 5. Asking for a Decision and Assigning Responsibility

Hopefully, business cases in your organization are subject to a rational decision policy. Rational means: “outcome is a predictable consequence of information applied to methodology.” With a rational decision policy, the business case should make a direct appeal for a decision to approve the project.

On the presumption of a favorable decision, the managers responsible for executing the decision should be identified. It’s easy for the project sponsor to identify and assign responsibility for the investment: it’s the project manager. The project manager controls the consumption of resources invested, scope accomplished, and the timeliness of it all.

Assigning responsibility for benefits and KPIs is more problematic. We use these definitions: Benefits are the mechanisms for recovering project investment. KPI’s are different yet: they are the “balanced scorecard” of the project. KPIs measure business success as a consequence of project success, and are many times intangible.

The manager(s) for benefits and KPIs becomes loosely defined as the “benefit managers.” They must make commitments in the business case to make good on the ConOPs and the changes envisioned. Benefit managers must accept this responsibility in a transfer from the project manager at the conclusion of the project. A slip-up here will materially affect the investment recovery.

Summary

A good business case lays out the response to opportunity. Such a response is made contextually relevant with history setting the background. From opportunity, all else flows. Risk adjusted financial measures, the project ConOPs, and the strategy response to goals rounds out the completed business case. In short, good business cases define good projects. Good projects return value, provide benefits, and have measurable KPIs.

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John C. Goodpasture, PMP and Managing Principal at Square Peg Consulting, is a program manager, coach, author, and project consultant specializing in technology projects, strategic planning, project office operations. He is the author of several books, articles, and web blogs in the field of project management. He blogs at johngoodpasture.com, and his work products are found in the library at www. sqpegconsulting.com, and at www.slideshare.net/jgoodpas. His full profile is at www.linkedin.com/in/johngoodpasture. Mr. Goodpasture’s most recent book is “Project Management the Agile Way: making it work in the enterprise”, published in January, 2010.

References
Goodpasture, John C., “Managing Projects for Value,” Management Concepts, Vienna, Virginia, 2001, cover piece Ibid, pg 40.
Pike, Tom, “Rethink, Retool, Results,” Simon and Schuster Custom Publishing, Needham Heights, MA, 1999, pg 177.
Higgins, Robert C., “Analysis for Financial Management,” Irwin/McGraw Hill, Boston, MA, 1998.
Kaplan, Robert S. and Norton, David P., “The Balanced Scorecard,” HBS Press, Boston, MA, 1996.

John Goodpasture shares his views on contemporary topics in project management, methodologies, and the value propositions of programmes and projects on his blog A Project Management Opinion.

© John Goodpasture. All rights reserved. Used with permission

Business Analysis Scenarios; Understanding the Business Interactions

In previous articles we examined the use of a business context model, and which concepts exist and what is true, using a business domain model. And we looked at how business behaves in the business analysis process article.

This article discusses the role of Business Scenarios to express connections between people and business elements and suggests a way to model them. Even to this day, the clarity and beauty of the jewels of truth of a business are frequently obfuscated in an avalanche of inexplicit verbiage (ha ha!) – and the poor old techies have to pick out the gems from the piles of verbal diarrhea disguised as ‘documentation’.

A business scenario can be used to:

  • Understand the business interactions.
  • Prototype or storyboard a piece of software from a business point of view without presenting screens and buttons which distract from the point of the exercise, thereby keeping the design activity separate.
  • Test the completeness of requirements, thereby finding gaps in the logic understood so far. For instance:
    • Test for completeness a single path through a business process or use case
    • Find characters in the story (domain classes) that have been missed and their responsibilities
    • Understand changes to characters in the scenario (state changes)
    • Understand a ‘user story’
    • Use as a test case for a new system component
  • Take notes as an observer or to further our own understanding; a tool for asking questions.

The aim of a scenario is to understand and communicate a single interaction between the people, systems or anticipated logical components of a business or system. In other words, a business scenario is simply a conversation between people or things/objects in the business.

Scenarios are also a good tool for testing theoretical business processes and domain models by using real-life examples or instances of a situation and the people in it. Although we are specifying behaviour in a business scenario; specifying one single real-life instance renders business scenario modelling a separate tool from modelling business process or use cases.

So how do we start building a business scenario? Using the idea of holding a conversation, imagine that all the things that exist in the business are people or invent people that can talk to other people. For example, I need a way to handle billing once I’ve placed an order. I don’t know what the concepts are yet for billing but I do know that there exists something called Order. Imagining that Order is a person, it will need to have a conversation with some other thing or person. I’m going to call it the Billing Manager (a logical component because I don’t know enough to break that down yet). Now these two ‘actors’ in the business process can have a specific dialogue (say, a single path through a business process or use case if these have been specified already).

Business scenarios can be written as a set of scenario clauses of requests and orders moving around the business using the following grammatical construct: – subject verb noun object

Example Scenario:

Joe asks “will you fix my bike?” to Fred
Fred replies “yeah, if you pay me” to Joe
Joe asks “how much?” to Fred
Fred replies “$100 mate” to Joe
Joe says “OK” to Fred
Joe gives bike to Fred
Fred fixes bike
Fred says “I’ve fixed your bike. Please give the $100 to Mum” to Joe
Joe says “thanks, I will” to Fred
Joe pays $100 to Mum
Mum asks “what’s the $100 for?” to Fred
Fred replies “savings for a new bike” to Mum

This is a perfectly valid way of expressing a business scenario. However, the old problems crop up. We have written “Joe” nine times instead of once, “Fred” 11 times instead of once and written “Mum” four times instead of once, thereby increasing our workload. We cannot reuse what we have created in this scenario To use or reuse “Joe” say, in other artefacts; we have to type “Joe” or copy “Joe” each time. In addition, the knowledge gained here will be lost in a document and difficult to find later on, as opposed to maintaining business architecture in a good modelling tool allowing us to simply drag Joe into the picture next time he crops up in conversation. The model element “Joe” would not be a modified clone. It would be the one and the only Joe.

One way of introducing stakeholders to modelling business scenarios is to begin writing it as above on a whiteboard, and then convert it into a diagram by erasing the object names on the left and right sides, and by adding the direction (arrows) of ‘conversation’ and the people (object lifelines) involved as follows:

Joe Fred
Joe asks “will you fix my bike?”→ to Fred
Fred replies ←“yeah, if you pay me” to Joe
Joe asks “how much?”→ to Fred
Fred replies ←“$100 mate” to Joe

Messages are represented by an assortment of arrows (as with all modelling techniques, I recommend that the reader researches the notation available) but basically, the messages sent are either calls (an order or request) for a service of another object or returns (answers) to the calls. (Note that services offered by an object are operations on a class.)

Here is the scenario expressed as a UML sequence diagram:

businessanalysisscenario1

I prefer to use the Unified Modelling Language (UML) because:

  1. It is broadly accepted as a worldwide standard formal notation,
  2. It allows me to cover all the types of modelling I need to do with only one notation
  3. I can use an existing standard notation with my business audience rather than impose one or more non-universally understood notations that colleagues and I have invented.
  4. I can maximise the reuse of model elements, reduce my workload and eliminate inconsistencies and errors in terminology, and in notation, across all diagrams.

In my experience, business and technical audiences love the precision and speed of describing the business given by a business analyst who can think in an abstract and logical way, and who uses meaningful labels for model elements. The only exception I have come across was a business owner who claimed to be a verbal thinker and who found it difficult to review a diagram later. However, her complaints to the business analysts were about endless repetition and inconsistencies in text and one feedback comment said ” …should not ignore the business scenarios analysis!” and another “I expected to see those stick diagrams …”.

My recommendation is to use UML sparingly and pragmatically, referencing help manuals to avoid breaking the rules as far as possible. I use only four to five symbols in a workshop session – easily digested by a high calibre business audience. My intention in a workshop is not to teach UML to my business. I may not even mention UML, but simply reassure the audience that I am using the current standard notation to the best of my knowledge for describing business. As I record (much more quickly than I could in prose) what is understood and agreed, I ‘speak’ the symbols as I draw them. Later, when I have formalised the model, I talk it through with those who would like another viewing. My other rule is never to send or hand over a model without having gone through the above process with the business audience.

Back to scenarios: a respected solution architect colleague told me that allowing a business analyst to do sequence diagrams is like handing a carving knife to a toddler. I protested but found myself wondering if he was right. Given the general propensity in organisations to jump into solution mode and talk about systems, he may have seen a number of business analysts stepping on the toes of the solution team instead of focussing on business concepts and objects when modelling, albeit not ignoring constraints imposed by existing solution components. I’ll come back to this point.

As with any modelling technique, it is important to judge when it would be appropriate to use, as there would not be time to develop every possible business scenario. To scope this work, think about the core business services that respond to the goals and expected outcomes of important external stakeholders. On the other hand, I know a business analyst who uses this tool by preference as a starting point for his understanding. If you do use them, then I would recommend modelling the successful happy day scenario i.e. what should happen 80% of the time, and a few major and typical exception scenarios for each major domain of the business. Certainly, in the book I’d like to write, they should be created by the business and testers with the help of the business analyst. For the advanced modeller, I recommend researching the principles of distributed control and encapsulation to reduce the impact of future changes by keeping related behaviour and data together.

Back to my point. Let’s not forget, a business analyst’s role is to analyse the business, describe it and its intentions. In this and the articles referred to at the start, we have focused on understanding, specifying and communicating the problem, the scope and the requirements of business change. If we stick to business concepts and business speak, we won’t run the risk of scaring our audiences with models of a technology bent. We need to record the business talk in a sophisticated and useful way, and keep it looking like a real human conversation.

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Suzanne Jane Maxted BSc.(Hons), MBCS CITP, is a business architect and analyst with 17 years experience from around the world. She is an accomplished business modeller, workshop facilitator and presenter. Suzanne coaches business analysts and project managers, and is a regular contributor to the Business Analyst Times magazine, with extensive hits and positive feedback from readers. In 2008 and 2009, she was a speaker and panel member at the BA World Symposium in Wellington, NZ. Suzanne fills her spare time teaching and performing dance (performed NZ Dance Festival 2007, Wellington Cuba Street Carnival 2009) and having fun with her two little children. She can be reached at [email protected]

Copyright © Suzanne Jane Maxted, 2010

Managing Business Analysis-as-a-Service (BAaaS)

ManagingBAaaS1Introduction

Organizations are constantly in need of business analysis (BA) skills that can help them in various business transformation initiatives where information technology plays a major role as driver or enabler. In this article we explain the three trends which will result in a reorganisation amongst the BA communities as well as driving the emergence of new organisation models and business models around BA services.

Business analysis (BA) is defined as the “set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals ” (as defined in the IIBA Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® Guide, Version 2.0).

We see Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) combining three (potential) trends. First and foremost, BAs are gaining an increasing strategic role, especially within large organizations. Second, increasing service orientation within organizations to offer, deliver and manage its business and IT functions and, finally, the emerging opportunities for CIOs to strategically source operational BA services. In this article we discuss these trends and focus on the emerging BA management models, i.e. how the organization wants the BA services to be arranged internally and sourced externally.

The Three BA Trends

The first trend is that the business analysis discipline is gaining a more strategic role in organisations. BAs act as the focal point for key organisational knowledge about business processes and IT systems. With many CIOs trying to reposition themselves as Business Process Managers rather than just caretakers of the IT Infrastructure, BA capabilities have become vital assets, especially for organisations with complex business processes and broad portfolio of IT applications. Hence, managers are trying to re-position BAs as innovators who can make use of technology to improve business performance, rather than just being involved in traditional software development and infrastructure management activities. As compared to just being translators between business and IT, BAs are now acting as architects of the business. According to a study 56% of Business Architects / Business Consultants are erstwhile BAs .

Based on our interactions with Senior IT executives and Industry Analysts few significant pain points which are hindering effectiveness and efficiency of BAs are:

  • Lack of analytical frameworks as well as sufficient skill-sets to understand the business needs and turn them into improvement projects. Currently, these projects are usually driven by more technical IT professionals.
  • With a high BA turnover, (sometimes due to the large number of BAs working as contractors) there is much less bandwidth spent on knowledge building and retention.
  • Lack of thought leadership and collaboration between the different BAs within an organization as well as between BAs and the other stakeholders
  • Lack of understanding and usage of the appropriate BA methods and tools and industry best practices.

These deficiencies lead to lower productivity, high cost for projects and sometimes may also lead to lack of motivation amongst the BA staff. They also comes with a very high opportunity costs which organisations have recently started to realise.

Secondly, service orientation is gaining importance in both the internal and external way of thinking about value creation, organizational arrangements, and business-IT alignment.

On one hand, enterprises continuously strive to offer their services in a manner which aligns with satisfying their customer’s needs, while on the other hand the internal organisational structures are also evolving in the form of loosely coupled “soup of services” (as compared to traditional ‘department’ oriented structures) to increase responsiveness, better performance management and increased accountability. Consider this, apart from re-organising services in a more citizen-centric manner, (Service Canada, DirectGov -UK, Smart Services Queensland) governments are also undergoing large scale re-organisations in IT departments (and shared service agencies as a whole). Some time back, a large state government enterprise in Australia began its journey developing a sustainable internal capability development for the provision of BA services to projects and business units. In another case, a large Australian Bank recently formulated its BA practice strategy with an aim to be the “supplier of choice” and a “Centre of Excellence” for its internal customers. Both these cases highlight the degree of service orientation organizations are bringing into their BA management strategy.

The third notable trend is in the area of (global) sourcing. project managers/BA managers are faced with a Hobson’s choice of either pursuing the traditional model of high cost contractor -based sourcing of skills, or developing permanent staff. The latter implies loosing flexibility of quickly ramping up and ramping down teams on an ad hoc, need-driven basis. This issue is exacerbated in the case of BAs since most of the BA work happens in-house unlike Design & Development which can be largely outsourced. Hence more and more organisations now want their large IT services vendors to “partner” with them in BA space rather than just providing generic, professional/ augmentation like services. Last year’s survey by Mckinsey & Co. on IT outsourcing clearly stated that managed service models lead to higher customer satisfaction, and this is applicable to BA services as well. It is notable that bringing in an external partner also sometimes aids innovation in business processes and technology, since often it is difficult to “insource” innovative thinking.

Emerging Models: BA Services

Deloitte suggests that next wave of competitive advantage will accrue to organizations that can effectively apply the shared model to business advisory services as well4. Now that the worst is behind us in the global financial crisis the leaders look up to build internal capabilities in variety of areas.

We believe that the three trends, illustrated above, and renewed eagerness amongst the leaders to build and nurture internal capabilities will contribute immensely to an increase in shared advisory/shared services group for the BA community. Trends already suggest an increase in service orientation amongst the BA communities, especially the emergence of BA Centres of Excellence (BACoE) in large organisations. Sometimes these capability centers may be termed BA Competency centre, BA Solution centre, BA Shared service centre and so on. These centers are expected to be centralized bodies (physical or a virtual organisation) of professionals with a charter of providing professional BA skills to various internal customers (projects). This group has good subject matter and technology expertise to be able to provide services around Requirements Engineering, Process Management, Data Management, Product Evaluation, Business Case Preparation, Business Architecture and many more. Establishing a central function has in the past helped organisations to foster collaboration and innovation within the BA community.

Our experience suggests that one of the critical success factors for such groups is the amount of “Service Rigor” (service oriented strategies) provided to its customers. However, most of the time, the focus has been just on providing staff trainings, skill assessments, creation of knowledge repositories, methodologies, etc. Often the CoE is too internally focused and reduced to being a collection of repositories on a web-portal or a forum for regular BA meetings.

ManagingBAaaS2
Figure 2: Illustrative BACoE model with vendor partnership

This also enables the internal capabilities of the CoE for example; trainings, methodologies, tools and templates to be directly aligned, according to the needs and demands of the service provided.

For example, Infosys has been investing in creation of BACoE through a unique partnership model between its Business Units, Education & Research division and their R&D arm SETLabs. Apart from Training, Collaboration and best practices creation, this model has been successfully used to create a suite of BA service offerings for its customers.

When the Infosys BACoE decided to launch its “Requirement Development” service offering it was well supported by the proprietary tool and methodology called “InFlux” for developing use cases. All the BAs involved in provisioning this service to clients were trained experts in this methodology.

Inarguably, having such a service-oriented strategy for internal customers (Business Units) as well as a provider of BA services (IT department) can deliver outcomes that can enhance efficiency, quality and productivity; in IT as well as non IT initiatives. Based on our experience we prescribe the following considerations for the CIOs while creating such a service-oriented structure:

  • Clearly identify and define the services which are easier to understand, support and deliver. This may sound easy but experience suggests that it is the most challenging task for the BA community
  • Establish well-defined SLAs with measurable outcomes/deliverables and an overall promise of service. Clearly associate performance measures with each of these identified BA services
  • Establish a framework to manage a portfolio of these BA services. This includes appointment of Service Managers, Service Performance Management, Periodic Service Upgrades and so on.
  • Create a well-defined sourcing strategy for these services.

Engaging an IT vendor or a consulting partner, who comes onboard with basic practices, processes and guidelines, can accelerate the development as well as the maturing of such a function. There are many instances where organisations have set up a joint shared services model with their vendors to achieve flexibility, scale and demand of business with good service level performance at a lower total cost. Such partnerships also help to free up in-house BAs, allowing them to focus more on innovation and value creation for the business.

While most of the firms currently operating in the market are either specific tool vendors or BA training providers it is notable that only a few vendors possess the integrated capabilities of providing BA services that provide a strong value preposition across multiple service areas and innovative financial schemes, e.g. outcome based pricing.

Conclusion

Service orientation within BA organisations or in other words Business-Analysis-as-a-Service (BAaaS) presents a lot of promise for the CIOs and senior managers. A well developed model for the BA as a Service that addresses the value proposition, the strategic alignment, the organizational configuration and the financial scheme (revenue, investment, KPI) can works as a catalyst for innovation, enhancing workforce effectiveness and reducing enterprise costs.

References:

  1. Forrester Research – The Up-And-Coming Business Architect by Jeff Scott and Katie Smillie for Enterprise Architecture Professionals
  2. McKinsey Quarterly – How Innovators are changing IT offshoring – Michael Bloch, Dejan Boskovic, and Allen Weinberg
  3. Hewlett Packard – Business Analysis Centre of Excellence: The Cornerstone of Business Transformation by Kathleen B. Hass, With Richard Avery, Terry Longo, and Alice Zavala
  4. Deloitte LLP – Sharing internal expertise making shared advisory capabilities work
  5. Infosys in-house research artifacts.

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Rohit Shawarikar (BE, MBA) is a Consultant with Software Engineering and Technology Labs, Infosys Technologies Limited. He has significant consulting experience across Banking, Telecom and Industrial sectors in the area of IT Requirements Development, Business Process Improvements and Technology Product Implementation initiatives. Rohit is also responsible for evangelizing IP based BA service offerings to customers in Australia Region. He has successfully managed the creation and global roll out of Business Analysis Center of Excellence (BACoE) for Infosys.

Erwin Fielt (MSc, PhD) is a senior researcher at the Information Systems Discipline of Faculty of Science and Technology of the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. In his research, he focuses on the intersection between business and IT, where information systems have to create value for individuals and organizations addressing topics like success, strategy, business models, service-orientation and architecture. Erwin participates as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Business Service Management project of the Smart Services CRC. Within this project, he is responsible for the business model research and he works closely with different industry partners like Queensland Government, Suncorp and Infosys.

Launching Fledgling Business Analysts

launchingfledglingA fledgling is a bird that is out of the nest but still dependent on its parents for food and care. Recently I was contacted by a technical support/system administrator in my company who wanted to know more about this profession called “business analysis”. This young man, let’s call him Brandon, had been singled out both by his peers and his manager to be the person to talk to internal customers. Brandon had shown a talent for engaging with the customers to find out if what they asked for was what they really needed. (ding!)

Brandon hasn’t written formal requirements and he hasn’t done work on a project that has lasted for more than two weeks. He has experienced customers changing their minds half way through the delivery of the service. He has realized that he is the only one in his peer group who can “speak geek” and in the next breath “speak manager” and not break a sweat. (Ding ding!)

I gave him a whirlwind tour of business analysis by introducing him to the IIBA website and giving him a “tips of the waves” tour of the Knowledge Areas in the BA BoK. Unfortunately the corporate training for business analysis skills section that used to be in place is on hold for a while.

Other than suggesting he join the IIBA, download the BA BoK and find a local chapter to join, I couldn’t really offer him much more personal support for learning about the BA profession because of the geographic separation between us. Brandon asked if I knew any BAs in his location whom he could job shadow. “Job shadowing” is a way for a person, typically a student or intern, to learn about a day in the life of a professional by following the professional around for a day. To my delight, one of the senior BAs that I contacted, let’s call him Steve, responded with “yes, I’ll set up some time with Brandon”. Steve deserves a halo and wings.

Steve’s generosity made me think about what I would do if Brandon were to shadow me. What exactly could a senior BA invite a fledgling BA to watch or listen to?

Traditionally job shadowing is done all in one day. Given that Brandon is working a full time job, I had suggested that he consider having Brandon shadow him in a few two-hour sessions over a couple of weeks, or some similar arrangement. Here’s a list of seven suggestions for job shadowing activities where the senior BA spends several increments of time with the fledgling.

Bring the fledgling with you when

  1. You are collecting information from stakeholders for the business case.
    Give the fledgling the business case template or the work-in-progress business case so they have something to ground the information that will be swirling around.
  2. You are eliciting requirements from, or reviewing a use case with the stakeholders. If more than one session is planned, it would be great to have the fledgling observe a sequence of elicitation sessions. 
  3. You participate in a requirements document peer review. If you want to make a huge impression, pick a peer review that has one of your BRDs on the agenda. Give the fledgling the business case and the BRD to review a couple of days in advance – whatever they can soak up is fine.
  4. You discuss the requirements with the architects, infrastructure people, or user interface advisors, for the purpose of articulating a design.
  5. You and the project team discuss the scope changes requested by the customer.
  6. You and the PM discuss the plans for a User Acceptance Test.
  7. You conduct the daily review of the UAT progress with the stakeholders.

It’s okay if any of the above interactions don’t go as smoothly as you might have liked. It is important to model patience, resilience and perseverance. It is important to model “leaving your ego at the door”.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not so sure I’d be a good person to shadow, I spend a lot of time just typing at my computer”, read the suggestions again. What do they have in common? You got it, “interacting with other people”. I can’t think of anything more boring than watching someone else type.

Many years ago I participated in the Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conferences. EYH is a program designed to encourage girls in grade school through high school to take classes in math and science. A young lady came up to me after my talk; she seemed vaguely familiar. She had attended my EYH presentation two years previously as a junior in high school. My heart soared when she said she had changed her original college plans and was attending Carnegie Mellon University in the Artificial Intelligence/ Computer Science program. She was having a blast in school and had just stopped by to say hello during Spring break.

Going back to Brandon’s situation – he is lucky! Brandon’s manager recognized a diamond in the rough and suggested that he look into business analysis as a career path. Brandon had the wherewithal to follow through and find a senior BA to talk to. (ding ding ding!) And, true to the nature of “being the bridge”, Steve, the heaven-sent senior BA, decided to check out the raw talent and stepped up to the task letting Brandon job-shadow him. Maybe in six months I’ll get an email from Steve, “Hey, remember that guy Brandon? He has been re-assigned to my team as the junior business analyst.”

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Cecilie Hoffman is a Senior Principal IT Business Analyst in the Business Analysis Center of Excellence, Symantec Services Group, Symantec Corporation. Cecilie’s professional passion is to educate technical and business teams about the role of the business analyst, and to empower the business analysts themselves with tools, methods, strategies and confidence. Cecilie is a founding member of the Silicon Valley chapter of the IIBA. She writes a blog on her personal passion, motorcycle riding, at balsamfir.com. She can be reached at [email protected].

Future Leaders Learning Program Puts Business Analysis at Core

futureleaders1Background

The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc. is a leading property and casualty insurance provider based in Worcester, Massachusetts in the United States. The company distributes its products through independent agents across the country. Established in 1852, The Hanover has grown to rank among the top 30 property and casualty insurers in the United States with more than 4,000 employees.

The Challenge

One of the core skill sets identified as being critical to The Hanover’s continued business success is that of business analysis. For the past five years, The Hanover has partnered with ESI International to deliver instructor-led learning to business analysts in its technology division. There were, however, business analysts in the business areas of the company as well.

With approximately 200 business analysts across the company, The Hanover’s leadership sought to formalize an enterprise wide strategy for positioning the business analyst role as a pipeline for analytical and operational roles. With the implementation of its Future Leaders Program in 2009, work was begun on developing a consistent profile for entry-level business analyst talent at The Hanover.

The challenge before ESI and The Hanover was to develop a learning program for the Future Leaders Program effort that could indoctrinate new team members within various business units quickly and focus on raising the bar for the entire company, steering a course for continuous leadership development.

The Strategy

With approximately 200 business analysts stretching across multiple lines of business, bringing enterprise-wide focus to this role as a career-growth opportunity is a winning strategy.

Planning for the program focused on a number of key strategic goals, including:

  • Identifying and effectively recruiting outstanding university students and recent graduates
  • Determining a consistent, common approach and language around business analysis
  • Delivering learning through a range of modalities to ensure skills and knowledge are reinforced and effectively applied

The Hanover chose to partner with ESI International to guide the development and implementation of this new program. “It was clear that they were the ideal choice as our partner for this program,” said Irene Brank, Assistant Vice President and Director of The Hanover’s Future Leaders Program. “Their direction, commitment and support have helped us chart the path to this initiative.”

The Solution

The first task was to map a set of core competencies for the Future Leaders Program, which was divided into two broad career focus areas: business management and risk management. Assessment tools to effectively benchmark and evaluate the progress of program participants were also developed.

Once recruited into the two-year program, candidates are assigned an IT or non-IT career track. At the conclusion of the two years, candidates will find placement in a role that allows them to continue to grow their career. To ensure participants have the skills and knowledge they need to be leaders, the Future Leaders Program guides participants through a range of learning opportunities:

  • Traditional instructor-led classroom curricula
  • Reinforcement workshops delivered in person and via webinars
  • A participant forum promoting formal group interaction, including program coaches
  • Corporate-wide access to online reference materials
  • Practical, on-the-job application of new skills and knowledge
  • Continued mentoring after program completion

The program’s design ensures that learning and reinforcement take place before, during and after classroom training. Pre-class webinars create a foundation that prepares participants for specific learning events and reinforcement workshops conducted after courses further reinforce key competencies.

“We believe that offering a range of learning opportunities greatly increases the program’s success,” said Ken Joseph, Business Learning Manager, The Hanover. “By combining what we could offer in-house with ESI’s various, interactive modalities, we’ve achieved a robust solution.”

The Future Leaders Program also offers coaching and mentoring, as well as the opportunity to earn professional and technical certifications including Actuarial, Business Analysis, and INS certifications.

As university graduates progress through the program, the company’s current leaders also undergo targeted learning based upon position and role, which promotes consistent knowledge across the organization. These include:

  • Traditional, instructor-led classroom courses
  • Executive level workshops and webinars that overview key program knowledge areas
  • Skill specific workshops and webinars

Results

The Future Leaders Program builds upon the success of the two companies’ partnership which has demonstrated:

  • Significant improvements in project completions and adherence to budgets
  • A dramatic reduction in project change requests
  • A reduction in project errors
  • Faster time to market for new products

While still in the early stages, the Future Leaders Program has begun to deliver decisive impact by:

  • Charting a clear and fast track for new leadership
  • Defining a consistent approach and language around business analysis
  • Improving recruiting and retention
  • Increasing organization-wide competency in business analysis

Each year, approximately 75 future leaders are accepted into the program. At this rate almost 10 percent of the company will have completed the leadership program in the next five years.

Planning Forward

The Hanover and ESI are identifying ways to further enrich the program. Specific considerations include:

  • Enhancing The Hanover’s company-wide business analysis methodology
  • The addition to the core learning program of a “live” practicum project
  • Inclusion of a set of business consulting and skills curricula focused on such topics as financial literacy, critical thinking and leading organizational change
  • Inclusion of additional project management specific curricula
  • Executive workshops to refine the mentoring skills of those managing Future Leaders Program participants to help them more effectively reinforce the program’s competencies
  • Ongoing individual and organizational assessments to add value and uncover areas for greater learning emphasis

“Despite the early stage status of the program, it’s already delivering clear benefits to us,” said Greg Tranter, Senior Vice President and COO, The Hanover. “Much of the benefit is a direct result of the emphasis we’re placing on business analysis for decision making, which is changing the way our company approaches its decisions.”

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Nancy Y. Nee, PMP, CBAP, CSM, Executive Director, Project Management & Business Analysis Programs, ESI International, provides thought leadership in the field of project management and business analysis while incorporating the industry’s best practices and professional advances into ESI’s portfolio of project management and business analysis courses and services. She is a member of numerous professional associations including the Project Management Institute (PMI®), the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®), and the Scrum Alliance where she is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) from the PMI®, Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) from the (IIBA®), and a Certified Scrum Master from the Scrum Alliance. www.esi-intl.com.