Tag: Innovation

Start Up with a BA

When you think of the who’s who in a startup organisation you’ll often come up with a list that doesn’t include the title “Business Analyst”. But does this mean that there are no BAs in startups? Is it that there’s simply no room for this role in the small confounds of the windowless rented office amongst the pizza boxes, coffee cups, and static buzz of the young business?

Typically, when I think of the positions within a web startup, I come up with the following:

  1. CEO: Founder, Visionary, Product Owner, Business Development
  2. Designer: UI/UX Design, Product look/feel
  3. Engineer/Programmer: Backend product developer
  4. Developer: Front-end development

No mention of a Business Analyst…

Startups, like businesses of any shapes and sizes, must develop something that is aligned with what customers need so there must be an analysis of that need, backed up with a translation of the need in order to make it a reality. But where does it come from? Let’s take a closer look at the formative stages of startups with a couple of examples.

Take Brian Wong of Kiip as an example. He knew there was something in the structure of games that made them so appealing, so popular (dare I say ‘addictive’?), therefore so successful, and needed to dig deeper to find out what it was that draws the crowds in and keeps them entertained. After hours of deconstructing and analysing the DNA of games, his focus was drawn to one thing: rewards. Those little moments of achievement that start off easy and become harder and harder to attain as the game progresses – you want to receive more rewards and you’re hooked into trying to win them. Brian’s eureka moment came when he converted in-game achievements into real-world rewards, such as free coffee at Starbucks, and built the Kiip platform for game developers to deliver real goodies to their gamers.

Nick Swinmurn of Zappos had a hunch that people would buy shoes online and set out to prove the concept. He went into a High Street store, took photos of shoes, and posted them online at the same price as the retail store, and he found that people bought them. He knew that the real requirement of a shoe shopper was not to “go to a shoe shop and purchase a pair of shoes”, it was more simply “to purchase a pair of shoes”.

These two examples of innovation came about providing solutions to the “right” business use cases: how to turn virtual rewards into real-world tangibles, and how to deliver shoes in the size, colour and brand that they want. Brian and Nick played the role of Business Analyst in these high-level needs analyses.

After asking the right questions and identifying the real need of the customer comes the task of translating the vision into something that enables it; the product. Even startups (the highly successful ones) that were originally built by their founding CEO require a separate technical team to deliver the vision into the product. These CEOs find themselves playing the role of BA once more as they translate the requirements to their development teams. Presenting requirements may take many forms: sketches on whiteboards, post-it notes on kanban boards, some may document their specification in more ‘traditional’ formats such as use cases or workflows. CEOs also have to impart their concepts of design, functionality, and usability onto the team in order to maintain the look and feel of the vision and brand whilst meeting the needs of the business use case.

Looking further down the process of product development we find more examples of where the BA role is played out. Many startups seek feedback of their product early and often to enable them to adapt and deliver something that suits the needs of the market. Presenting an early prototype of the product provides the opportunity to elicit feedback and additional requirements in order to refine the product in the next iteration. Techniques all too familiar to BAs such as workshops, brainstorming, and interviews will ensure that feedback is as structured and insightful as possible, thus providing the best possible chances of developing specifications that will result in richer, more usable products.

Whatever the chosen model of development, be it agile, iterative, or waterfall, and whatever the mode of the business, whether startup or established, the need to translate requirements from the visionary, the clients, the end users, is a constant across businesses. Some people are fulfilling the role of a BA and they just don’t know it.

So is there room for a BA in startups? You might find the answer sitting at the desk with the title ‘CEO’.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Innovation and Business Analysis

How can I use the concepts of ‘innovation’ and ‘business analysis’ in the same phrase?

While, to some, this might sound oxymoronic (like the term ‘deafening silence’), or at least moronic (and those who know me would expect nothing less); I would argue that innovation contributes to business analysis, and business analysis contributes to innovation.

What does this mean and how do we make it happen?

We don’t need to be innovative, though, do we?
Business analysis practitioners can provide an excellent service as we work through the project process, asking questions, applying techniques, creating documents and presentations, and clarifying how to implement the approved solution. Like any discipline involved in business change, done well, business analysis can make the difference between a successful and a struggling project.

Where we can add real value, is in providing creative analysis – enabling stakeholders to think outside the box, encouraging them to behave like their project was their own business so that they care about the outcomes, and providing thought leadership from the project space to the organisation.

How innovation contributes to effective business analysis
An essential purpose of business analysis is to “recommend solutions that enable the organisation to achieve its goals” (p3, BABOK v2, 2009). Sometimes this will involve helping organisations to ‘invent’ something new, although more often it will be to ‘innovate’ – to improve something already in use.

However, with business analysis typically practiced within the confines of a project, under the direction of a project manager, we risk adopting convergent thinking approaches. By following the ‘correct’ process to document requirements for sign-off, we can be seen to add little value in the process – that is, we become a requirements clerk gathering requirements.

Of course, we are more effective where we plan and manage our own business analysis activities, identifying the stakeholders and negotiating the scope, so that we can elicit, analyse, document, and communicate what is needed.

We add even more value where we apply divergent thinking too; this is where innovation is key to business analysis.

What does this mean? We need to push our stakeholders outside their comfort zones, to think laterally, to challenge them beyond an assumed solution and find out why they want something – so that we can be clear about what they really need and guide them to selecting the optimum solution, not just the one they first thought of; that is, let’s not make a bad process faster, let’s design the right process and work out how that needs to be supported.

How do we do this? At its simplest, this requires two things: to develop our underlying competencies (in areas like creative thinking, problem solving, and facilitation), and to have the courage to push back (suggesting that there could be alternative solutions, challenging to ensure that the underlying causes or needs are identified).

How business analysis contributes to effective innovation
Business analysis also has much to offer to how an organisation approaches its innovation processes, that is, well before there is a project.

Innovation in the pre-project stage
Most organisations will go through some form of scoping and business case stage before a project is initiated. While this is often undertaken by a project manager; mature organisations and PMOs recognise that it is a better fit for the BA to build the case for a project, or at least support the business owner in doing that. (Indeed, some would argue that you cannot assign a project manager until you have a project to manage, however there is always business to analyse).

Now, you might contend that building a business case is not showing innovation, it is simply taking the information that is available then researching and analysing it enough to understand the likely costs, revenue, duration, return on investment, risks, etc.

However, to develop a strong business case, we are required to explore alternatives, and can often uncover unexpected options or combinations that were not in the mind of the customer or requestor. More examples of divergent thinking.

How do we do this? If BAs in your organisation do not currently work at this level, find a small project that cannot yet proceed because it needs a business case, then volunteer to ‘have a go’. Even if it still doesn’t get the go ahead, you can learn from the experience and interact with stakeholders in a slightly different role.

Innovation in ideation
Further upstream (in the new product development process), before an idea has even been approved to be scoped and have a business case developed, business owners are busy working with sales performance data, customer satisfaction feedback, market research, and blue-sky thinking – divining answers that will result in a new or improved product, give a jolt to sales, or eventually withdraw a product from the market.

Equipped with our divergent, lateral-thinking, and facilitation skills, we can really enable an organisation to make the most of smaller investments to determine if an idea makes sense, before anyone even thinks of writing a business case. Working at this fuzzy front-end is also very rewarding; as well as being very focused on good business outcomes, you definitely get a sense of play, and interact with senior management.

How do we do this? Opportunities for these sorts of roles are rare, and are often promoted internally rather than advertised. The best way to attract these is to be seen to perform well in the pre-project space, and if there are ever any moves to revise the solution delivery lifecycle, governance, and/or new product development process, volunteer to be involved – from there you can agitate for a role like this and position yourself as the ideal candidate.

Conclusion
I’ve shown that irrespective of where we work in an organisation, and the development process stage, business analysis has much to offer in terms of helping foster innovation in our organisations. Do you agree?

I’ve said it’s rare for us to work outside the project space. Is this your experience?

What steps can we take to convince our organisations to allow us to play in this more creative space?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

The 21st Century BA Series – From Tactical Requirements Manager to Creative Leader of Innovative Change

As businesses acknowledge the value of business analysis – the result of the absolute necessity to drive innovation through projects – they are struggling to figure out three things:

  1. What are the characteristics of their current BA workforce, and how capable does their BA team need to be?
  2. What is needed to build a mature BA Practice?
  3. How are we going to get there? 

This article focuses on #1: What are the characteristics of our current BA workforce and how capable does our BA team need to be?  Also see our March and April Blogs for more information on BA proficiency.

How capable do I need to be?

Your challenge is to close the gaps in your BA capabilities to meet the needs of your organization’s complex 21st century projects.  What will it take?  Are you up to the task?  Reading some of the comments from recent articles, many organizations are still keeping their BAs in very tactical roles. And recent research conducted by Ravenflow confirms we have a lot of work to do to become strategic analysts.

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The Challenge: Close the Gap in BA Capabilities

For BAs to elevate themselves into strategic analysts and be seen as valuable corporate assets, they need to start grooming themselves right now to be prepared to meet their organizations’ needs.  The trends are promising:  “Your future business/technology analysts will be the most valuable business analysts, because they can single-handedly turn business-requested IT-delivered applications into tomorrow’s dynamic business applications,” write Schwaber and Karel of Forrester Research, Inc. [i]

How do I know if I am Capable Enough?

Your organization needs to ensure it has appropriately skilled BA workforce possessing the capabilities needed to successfully deliver innovative products and new business solutions that meet 21st century business needs.  So how do we gauge individual and workforce BA capability that is commensurate with project challenges?  More and more BA Practice Leads and Managers are conducting an assessment of their entire BA Workforce Capabilities taking into account the complexity of their portfolio of projects.  Projects typically fall into four areas, with complexity growing as we move from left to right in the model below, which describes the project levels: (1) operations and support changes delivering enhancement to current business processes and technologies, (2) projects creating new or changed processes and technologies, (3) enterprise change initiatives that implement strategy to transform how the organization does business, and (4) innovation and competitive focused initiations to forge new ground.

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Competency vs. Capability

It’s not just about competency (what you think you can do or your score on a multiple-choice knowledge assessment); it’s ALL about capability:

Ensuring your competency level and capability to perform is commensurate with the complexity of your current and future work assignments, andAbility to perform to achieve forecasted project outcomes and resulting business value within your organizational context.

To determine the characteristics of your current projects and your BA capabilities (and those of your BA peers), the BA Individual and Workforce Capability Assessment identifies your capability gaps, and proposed a plan to close the gaps.  The knowledge, skills, techniques, and capabilities behind the model are based on the latest industry research about business, leadership, complexity, innovation, and creativity.  In addition, it is in alignment with the IIBA® BABOK® Version 2 and the IIBA® BA Competency Model Version 3.

So, how capable do you need to be? The Answer: It Depends…

… on the complexity of your current and future work assignments. So let’s examine the model in a little more detail.  The Applied BA Capability Model is four-tiered; each tier requiring different BA competencies based on the project complexity, the innovation required, and the focus of work assignments.  As you move across the model from left to right, projects become more complex, and therefore, more sophisticated capabilities are required for success. The four tiers include four levels of business focus:

  1. Operations/Support Focus
  2. Project or New Product Focus
  3. Enterprise/Strategy Execution Focus
  4. Competitive/Future Strategy Focus

Level 1: Operations/Support Focus

These BAs typically spend their time doing BA activities for relatively low complexity projects that are designed to maintain and continually improve current business processes and technology.  Many BAs operate at this level, since studies show that IT organizations spend 70% to 80% of their budget and resources just to “keep the lights on” – maintaining business as usual.  This only leaves 20% to 30% of resources left for innovation.  IT organizations have been trying to flip this ratio for years, and many are succeeding.  Hence, fewer BAs will be needed at this level, and more will be needed for more strategic, innovative projects.

BAs working to at this level need to view the effort as a large project looking at the entire system; examining the opportunity to creatively change and improve rather than looking at the task as simply fixing bugs or problems. Prioritize change requests based on business value.  Once a systems and business-value approach is used, opportunities for innovation begin to emerge.

As legacy processes and systems age, these business analysts are becoming more and more valuable since they are likely the best (and often, the only) SMEs who fully understand the legacy operational processes and technology.  As application modernization efforts emerge, these BAs are invaluable, working closely with Business Architects to document the current state of the business supported by the applications undergoing modernization.  The analysts assigned to these tasks are typically Generalists and Business Systems Analysts, positioned from entry-level to senior business analysts.

Level 2: Project / New Product Focus

Project-focused BAs work on moderately complex projects designed to develop new/changed products, services business processes and IT systems.   This focus area typically includes senior BAs who are IT-Oriented BAs and Business-Oriented BAs, positioned from entry-level to senior business analysts. It is a little clearer how business analysts can foster innovation when working on a project to develop something new, whether it is a new product, process, or service.  However, even with a project focus, it is easy to use “inside the building” thinking (see previous article) and allow the requirements SMEs to simply define requirements to rebuild what we already have with only minor enhancements.  Business analysts that allow this to happen will undoubtedly be thought of as “note takers” as opposed to “trail blazers”.  Don’t let it happen to you!

To foster creativity at the project level, it is your job to establish an environment where the creativity of your team members can surface and thrive.  Once the team of SMEs has a shared vision, target, and objective, the business analyst encourages the team to create something new by imagining what could be, inspiring each other, collaborating, brainstorming, and experimenting.  As you encourage team members to view each other as unique individuals with valuable contributions to make, participants will start “getting it” and “getting with it” and the business analyst can then quietly step into the shadows and let the team do its thing.  Understand that if your team members are not challenging each other and building on each other’s ideas, they have not yet made it “into the zone”.  In this case, they likely need more prodding and encouragement from the BA as expert facilitator, collaborator, and innovator.  Caution the participants not to be critical or judgmental, but to use conflict positively to spawn differing perspectives and new combinations of ideas.  Hone your innovation-inducing facilitation skills on moderately-complex projects to train yourself for the big leagues.

Level 3: Enterprise / Strategy Execution Business Focus

These BAs are operating at the enterprise level of the organization, ensuring that the business analysis activities are dedicated to the most valuable initiatives, and the business analysis assets (models, documents, matrices, diagrams etc.) are considered corporate property and are therefore reusable.  Enterprise analysts focus on the analysis needed to prepare a solid business case to propose new initiatives to execute strategy. They also work on highly-complex, enterprise-wide projects and programs, typically managing a team of senior BAs.  This focus area typically includes experienced, high-level BAs who are Enterprise Analysts and Business Architects.

As business analysts demonstrate their skills they are in a position to communicate that innovation is everybody’s job; it is not just up to a few super stars or senior BAs to foster creativity.  For business analysts that are working on enterprise transformation initiatives, the need for innovation is even more critical.  Here the stakes are higher, the investments bigger, the rewards greater, and the risks larger.  It is at this level that business analysts need to be on their game, familiar with and comfortable with innovative work sessions. 

It is a delicate balance between instilling a culture of discipline in the team and smothering creativity.  The business analysts who have mastered creativity techniques do deliberate things not to be too controlling, such as, not sitting at the head of the table; not getting into prolonged conversations with only one or two people; insisting on full participation, summarizing and sharing your own opinion only after full discussion has taken place.  The techniques you select need to be customized to your team composition:  mind-mapping for left brain thinkers; brain-writing for right-brain thinkers.  Make your team meetings fun, exciting, and yes, you may even need to “perform” a bit.  Spend ample time planning how you will facilitate meetings to ensure you have lots of tools in your toolkit, experimenting with them until the team begins to gel.

Level 4: Competitive / Innovation Focus

When you are operating at the corporate level, you are truly at the pinnacle of your career. The stakes are the very future viability of your organization.  Business/Technology Analysts are recognized business domain and technology visionaries who serve as innovation experts, organizational change specialist, and cross domain experts. Business/Technology Analysts focus outside of the enterprise on what the industry is doing, formulate the future vision and strategy, and design innovative new approaches to doing business to ensure the enterprise remains competitive, or even leaps ahead of the competition.  Business/Technology Analysts convert business opportunities to innovative business solutions and translate strategy into breakthrough process and technology.  To focus on heavy duty innovation, very high-level BAs who are Enterprise Analysts, Strategists, and Business/Technology Analysts are needed whose sweet spot is business/technology optimization.

Complexity, Creativity and Innovation– The Major Leagues

When the business analyst is working at the enterprise level or as an innovator focused on competitive advantage, this really is the big leagues.  There are many business practices that the business analyst engages in to turn new products or services, and new business processes, into a source of competitive advantage.  In fact, most people who perform these practices are not yet thought of as business analysts, often operating at the executive level, carrying the title of strategic planner, product manager or portfolio manager.  Indisputably, when individuals and groups are engaged in the activities described below, they are very much carrying out business analysis pursuits. [ii]

Decide What to Build to Seize Competitive Advantage

What we build today determines our place in the market tomorrow.  To determine the most valuable products to build, all of the enterprise analysis activities the business analyst leads come into play including: decomposing strategic goals into measureable objectives, conducting competitive and customer analysis to determine the differentiators that will make your organization stand out; defining the business need and assessing capability gaps to meet the need; identifying the most creative and innovative solution, defining the solution scope and approach; determining when to release the new product, and how to manufacture and support it; and finally, capturing the opportunity in the business case to secure investment funds.

Capitalize on Complexity to Breed Creativity

Business Analysts need to learn to capitalize on complexity to bring about creativity.  What do creative leaders do?  They use their adept facilitation skills to set the stage for a diverse group of experts to traverse through the Continuous Innovation Loop.

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Continuous Innovation Loop

Certain behaviors are required to traverse the Continuous Innovation Loop.  A new discipline is emerging called, “Complex Leadership.” It was introduced early in the 21st century, and is based on the application of complexity theory to the study of organizational behavior and the practice of leadership.  What do complex leaders do?  They let the solution emerge as they engage in unique leadership behaviors that foster innovation.  This involves four steps:

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With so much riding on the results, companies must invest in the most valuable projects, providing value to customers and revenue to the company.  However, studies reveal that few companies have effective portfolio management processes.  The emerging roles of the enterprise and competitive-focused business analysts, serving as the complex leaders we need, have got to fill this gap in organizational capabilities by being the vital link between opportunity, innovation, investment, and value creation.  To do this the business analyst brings together an expert team of individuals who are system thinkers and enjoy working in ambiguity, and leads them to break old rules and paradigms to discover breakthough ideas.  Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t have effective portfolio management is because not enough business analysts are leading these important activities.[iii]

The Applied BA Capability Assessment – How does it Work? 

Using an Applied BA Capability Assessment provides the information you need to baseline your applied capabilities and prepare your own learning and development plan. For a group of BAs, it can serve as valuable information to develop your organization’s professional develop program.  The results provide a basis for BA workforce adjustments and/or realignment, training requirements, professional development activities, and specific mentoring and coaching needs.

Benchmarking: How You Compare with BAs Working on Similar Projects

The BA Applied Capability Assessment provides the opportunity to participate in a multi-dimensional assessment.  The assessment collects basic demographic information about you, e.g., years of experience, time spent on BA activities versus project management or more technical tasks, amount of BA education, and capabilities performing BA work.  It then compares the state of your BA capabilities to your peers and to BAs in the same industry.  The information on how much time you spend on BA activities provides a view as to your actual capacity to deliver new business solutions. In addition to the benchmark report, you receive a customized professional development plan to guide your BA performance improvement and career development efforts.

Not Your Typical Competency Assessment

This is not your ordinary multiple-choice-type self-assessment using a rating scale. This approach provides an interpretive frame of reference to analyze your assessment responses; this assessment process exhibits strong reliability and validity when you respond candidly to each question. The following chart compares the BA Applied Capability Assessment approach to traditional competency assessments.

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Sample Results

The reports you receive are customized to your specific work situation and provide you with relevant, prioritized recommendations to help you focus your learning and development efforts.  If you use our online assessment, your customized reports arrive via email in PDF format. You may request a telephone coaching consultation or email consultation if you have any questions about your results and professional development recommendations. For organizational BA Workforce Assessments, organizational results and individual BA coaching sessions are performed at your place of work.

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Don’t forget to leave your comments below.


[i] Carey Schwaber and Rob Karel, The New Business Analyst, Forrester Research, Inc., April 8, 2008

[ii] IBM Corporation. Turning product development into competitive advantage. Best practices for developing smarter products. IBM Executive Brief: Developing Competitive Products, July 2009, p 5.

[iii] Jim Brown, The Product Portfolio Management Benchmark Report: Achieving Maximum Product Value, Aberdeen Group, August 2006.

From Tactical Requirements Manager to Creative Leader of Innovative Change

The Adaptive Business Analyst – As Complexity Increases, the BA Adapts

The world, she is a’changin’.  The Internet has made everyone on the globe hyper-connected and has transformed virtually all industries: publishing, broadcasting, communications, and manufacturing.  Did you know that just a few short years ago:

Facebook

Didn’t exist

Twitter

Was a sound

LinkedIn

Was a prison

A Cloud

Was in the sky

An Application

Was something you used to get into college

4G

Was a parking space

Skype

Was a typo[1]

Fast forward to now.  Traditional work has been commoditized.  Anyone with an idea and a little moxie can use their laptop to set in motion a virtual new entity.  You can go to:

Taiwan

For product design

Alibaba in China

For low-cost manufacturing

Amazon.com

For delivery and fulfillment

Craigs List

To do your accounting

Freelance.com

To do your logo[2]

If this isn’t bad enough, the heart and soul of middle class jobs are disappearing in the U.S.  Consider this: When Apple began manufacturing the iPhone, the company estimated that it would take nine months to find 8,700 qualified industrial engineers in the U.S. to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones.  In China, it took 15 days.[3]  Result: we lost 200,000 iPhone manufacturing jobs.

Many believe that these and many other traditional jobs are not coming back to the U.S.  So, what are the jobs of the future?  We probably don’t even know what to call them, but they will definitely require creativity, innovation, invention, and lots of complexity.  Even today, many companies in Silicon Valley do quarterly reviews of their key project leaders because they can’t wait to find out they have a poor BA or PM.  Many U.S. companies report they can’t find the employees they need.  American businesses also report that U.S. workers that are available are too expensive and too poorly educated as compared to workers in India, China, South Korea and many other countries.

What does all this Mean to the Business Analyst?

Employers are looking for critical thinking and an ability to adapt, invent, and reinvent; collaborate, create, and innovate; and an ability to leverage complexity to compete. Standout companies are using projects as the hotbed of creativity – so that means BAs and PMs have to step up their game.  According to the 2011 CHAOS Report from The Standish Group, only 37% of projects delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions. 

  • The Cause: Gaps in enterprise business analysis and complexity management 
  • The Cost: USD 1.22 trillion/year in the US and USD 500 billion/month worldwide in IT  project waste 
  • The Opportunity Cost: “If we could solve the problem of IT failure, the US could increase GDP by USD 1 trillion/yr.”  according to Roger Sessions, a recognized expert in enterprise architecture and author of Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises.

We need to fundamentally change the way we do projects so that 80% of projects are on time, budget and scope (see Figure 1).  But we also need to focus on innovative solutions, not incremental changes to business as usual.  And we need to bring about value to the customer and wealth to the organization – otherwise, why are we investing in the project?  This is where the BA comes in – constantly focusing on value and leveraging complexity to foster creativity.

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  Figure 1: New Project Approach

Does the business analyst role change, either significantly or subtly, with highly complex projects? If so, how?  Our framework for dealing with complex projects consists of four distinct activities (see Figure 2):

  1. Diagnose Project Complexity
  2. Assign Competent Leaders
  3. Select the appropriate project management approach
  4. Manage complexity dimensions

This article in the series will examine steps 1 – 3.

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Figure 2: Project Complexity Framework

 Step #1: Diagnose Project Complexity

The first step in understanding the level of complexity of your project is to assess each complexity dimension.  Use the Project Complexity Model depicted in Figure 3. Facilitate your project team leads to agreement on which cells most closely describe your project for each complexity dimension.  Then apply the project complexity formula to determine the complexity profile of your project.  In my experience, the actual complexity of projects exceeds the team’s initial assessment prior to applying the model.


PROJECT COMPLEXITY MODEL 2.0

Complexity Dimensions

Project Profile

Independent Project

Moderately Complex Project

Highly Complex Project

Highly Complex Program “Megaproject”

Size/Time/Cost

Size: 3–4 team members
Time: < 3 months
Cost: < $250K

Size: 5–10 team members
Time: 3–6 months
Cost: $250–$1M

Size: > 10 team members
Time: 6 – 12 months
Cost: > $1M

Size: Multiple diverse teams
Time: Multi-year
Cost: Multiple Millions

Team Composition and Past Performance

PM: competent, experienced
Team: internal; worked together in past
Methodology: defined, proven

PM: competent, inexperienced
Team: internal and external, worked together in past
Methodology: defined, unproven
Contracts:  straightforwar
Contractor Past Performance: good

PM: competent; poor/no experience with complex projects  Team: internal and external, have not worked together in past
Methodology: somewhat defined, diverse
Contracts: complex
Contractor Past Performance: unknown

PM: competent, poor/no experience with megaprojects
Team: complex structure of varying competencies and performance records  (e.g., contractor, virtual, culturally diverse, outsourced teams)Methodology: undefined, diverse Contracts: highly complex 
Contractor Past Performance: poor

Urgency and Flexibility of Cost, Time, and Scope

Scope: minimized    Milestones: small
Schedule/Budget: flexible

Scope: achievable 
Milestones: achievable
Schedule/Budget: minor variations

Scope: over-ambitious Milestones: over-ambitious, firm 
Schedule/Budget: inflexible

Scope: aggressive
Milestones: aggressive, urgent
Shedule/Budget: aggressive

Clarity of Problem, Opportunity, Solution

Objectives: defined and clear     Opportunity/Solution: easily understood

·Objectives: defined, unclear
Opportunity/Solution: partially understood

Objectives: defined, ambiguous
Opportunity/Solution: ambiguous

Objectives: undefined, uncertain    Opportunity/Solution: undefined, groundbreaking, unprecedented

Requirements Volatility and Risk

Customer Support: strong 
Requirements: understood, straightforward, stable
Functionality: straightforward

Customer Support: adequate  Requirements: understood, unstable
Functionality: moderately complex

Customer Support: unknown
Requirements: poorly understood, volatile
Functionality: highly complex

Customer Support: inadequate
Requirements: uncertain, evolving
Functionality: many complex “functions of functions” 

Strategic Importance, Political Implications, Stakeholders

Executive Support: strong
Political Implications: none
Communications: straightforward
Stakeholder Management: straightforward

Executive Support: adequate
Political Implications: minor
Communications: challenging
Stakeholder Management: 2–3 stakeholder groups

Executive Support: inadequate 
Political Implications: major, impacts core mission 
Communications: complex
Stakeholder Management: multiple stakeholder groups with conflicting expectations;  visible at high levels of the organization

Executive Support: unknown
Political Implications: impacts core mission of multiple programs, organizations, states, countries; success critical for competitive or physical survival
Communications: arduous
Stakeholder Management: multiple organizations, states, countries, regulatory groups; visible at high internal and external levels

Level of Change

Organizational Change: impacts a single business unit, one familiar business process, and one IT system
Commercial Change: no changes to existing commercial practices

Organizational Change: impacts 2–3 familiar business units, processes, and IT systems
Commercial Change: enhancements to existing commercial practices

Organizational Change: impacts the enterprise, spans functional groups or agencies; shifts or transforms many business processes and IT systems
Commercial Change: new commercial and cultural practices

Organizational Change: impacts multiple organizations, states, countries; transformative new venture
Commercial Change: ground-breaking commercial and cultural practices

Risks, Dependencies, and External Constraints

Risk Level: low 
External Constraints: no external influences 
Integration: no integration issues    Potential Damages: no punitive exposure

Risk Level: moderate
External Constraints: some external factors
Integration: challenging integration effort 
Potential Damages: acceptable exposure

Risk Level: high

External Constraints: key objectives depend on external factors
Integration: significant integration required
Potential Damages: significant exposure

Risk Level: very high
External Constraints: project success depends largely on multiple external organizations, states, countries, regulators
Integration: unprecedented integration effort
Potential Damages: unacceptable exposure

Level of IT Complexity

Technology: technology is proven and well-understood
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration easily understood

Technology: technology is proven but new to the organization
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration  largely understood

Technology: technology is likely to be immature, unproven, complex,  and provided by outside vendors
IT Complexity: application development and legacy integration poorly understood

Technology: technology requires groundbreaking innovation and unprecedented engineering accomplishments
IT Complexity: multiple “systems of systems” to be developed and integrated

Figure 3: Project Complexity Model 2.0

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

 

Then apply the formula below, Figure 4 to diagnose the complexity level of your project.

PROJECT COMPLEXITY FORMULA

Highly Complex Program

“Megaproject”

Highly Complex Project

Moderately Complex

Independent

Size: Multiple diverse teams, Time: Multi-year, Cost: Multiple Millions

Or

2 or more in the Highly Complex Program/Megaproject column

Organizational Change: impacts the enterprise, spans functional groups or agencies, shifts or transforms many business processes and IT systems

Or

3 or more categories in the Highly Complex Project column

And

No more than 1 category in the Highly Complex Program/Megaproject column

3 or more categories in the Moderately Complex Project column

Or

No more than 2 categories in the Highly Complex Project column and

No more than 2 categories in the Moderately Complex Project column

And

No categories in the Highly Complex Project or the  Highly Complex Program/Megaproject  column

Figure 4: Project Complexity Formula

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.


Step #2: Assign Competent Project Leaders

Complex projects require seasoned leaders, and the use of a shared leadership model (see Figure 5).  The core project leadership team consists of the PM, BA, Chief Architect, Development Lead and a Business Visionary, each taking the lead when a particular expertise is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Figure 5: Shared Leadership Model

Once the project complexity is known, it is imperative that appropriately skilled and experienced individuals are assigned to key leadership positions.  Obviously, BAs need more sophisticated skills as they move from low complexity projects, to enterprise, strategic and innovation projects. The first order of business is for the organization to understand their BA Workforce.  Check out the blog site:  http://baassessmentmatters.blogspot.com/ posting on March 5th entitled “Calling All BA Practice Leads!”  It discusses how BA Practice Leads ensure their organizations have an appropriately skilled BA workforce (see Figure 6) possessing the capabilities needed to successfully deliver complex new business solutions that meet 21st century business needs.

Figure 6: BA Workforce Capability Model

The BA Manager or Practice Lead then assigns BAs (and working with other managers, assigns other project leaders) based on the complexity profile of the project at hand (Figure 7).  If the project leads’ capabilities are lower than the complexity of the project requires, it is almost certain that you will have a challenged and/or failed project.

Figure 7: Make Appropriate Leadership Assignments

Step #3: Select the Project Approach

As projects have become more complex, project cycles have evolved. Project cycles models are not interchangeable; one size does not fit all. Project cycles can be categorized into three broad types:

  • Linear: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are clear, no major changes are expected, and the effort is considered to be routine. A linear cycle is typically used for maintenance, enhancement, and continuous process improvement projects. It is also used for development projects when requirements are well understood and stable, as in shrink-wrap software development projects.
  • Adaptive: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are unclear and the schedule is aggressive. An adaptive cycle is typically used for new technology development, new product development, or complex business transformation projects.
  • Extreme: used when the business objectives are unclear or the solution is undefined. An extreme cycle is typically used for research and development, new technology, and innovation projects.[4]

Figure 8 shows the differences between linear and more adaptive methods.

Linear Methods

Adaptive Methods

  • Industrial-age thinking
  • Plan based
  • Distinct life cycle phases
  • Tasks completed in orderly sequence
  • Assumes predictability
  • Lays out development steps
  • Stresses the importance of requirements
  • Only firm basic requirements that are not expected to change (aka high-level requirements) and a release plan up front
  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produces small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Evolution of requirements with each planning and development cycle
  • Constant evaluation of the evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog

Figure 8: Linear vs. Adaptive Methods

As we move along the complexity continuum from independent, low complexity predictable projects to highly complex projects with lots of uncertainty, we also move along the spectrum of project cycle types. A linear approach works for a simple, straightforward project; whereas, adaptive, and extreme approaches are used to manage the uncertainties of increasingly complex efforts (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Project Complexity Mapped to Project Cycle Approaches

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

 

Low-Complexity Projects: Traditional Waterfall Methods

The traditional role of the business analyst does not need to change much to successfully execute activities on low-complexity projects. The linear Waterfall Model is appropriate (see Figure 10). However, to optimize the business analyst role, it is wise to adopt some of the principles of agile and iterative development for even low-complexity endeavors:

  • Prototype for requirements understanding, to reduce risk, and to prove a concept
  • Involve the business and keep the business analyst as a member of the core project leadership team throughout the project
  • Continuously validate, evolve, and improve requirements throughout the project.

Figure 10: The Waterfall Model

Moderately Complex Projects: Agile Methods

There’s no question about it: agile methods expedite the product development process, especially for products that are software intensive. Agile is an adaptive, streamlined model, based on having only essential people work in tight-knit teams for quick and efficient results (see Figure 11). As we’ve seen, one very important member of the team is the business analyst; if companies hope to achieve strategic goals, they need someone who is focused on the business value expected from the project outcomes. The business analyst provides guidance before funds are invested, during a project, and after the solution is delivered. She continually focuses on the evolving business requirements and serves as the steward of the business benefits.[5]         

Figure 11: The Agile Model

Through leadership and collaboration, the project manager and business analyst guide the agile team, ensuring that it is both efficiently and effectively run and that it adds significant long-term benefits for the company with each iteration. The business analyst plays close attention to the original business case, recommending the project be terminated when the ROI has been realized.

 

Firm Basic Requirements

A business analyst’s main priority when she is first attached to a specific project is to elicit firm, basic business requirements (what we used to call high-level requirements, which outline the breadth of requirements and which we do not expect to change), to collaboratively determine the most feasible solution, and then to categorize releases into valuable features and functions. Then each release is initially described in enough detail to determine its cost versus its benefits, thus developing an ROI for each release.

Knowing what it will take to deliver each individual component of the solution as well as what the return will be to the organization, the development team can then build components or features based on business value, delivering the highest-value features first. As the project moves through the release schedule, the business analyst elaborates the requirements in enough detail to meet the development team’s needs for each release.

 

An Eye on the Business Value

As an agile project progresses through its life cycle, the team continually learns new information. It becomes clearer how many resources will be needed to perform detailed design, construction, and tests for each release, how much risk there is to the project, and how the risk needs to be managed. Accordingly, it is important to go back and check original assumptions about business value and costs to develop and operate the new solution to see if they are still true, or if the original business case has been compromised.

 

Validation after Every Release

By being involved during the development process, business analysts can validate that new components are actually meeting business needs and that the business case is still sound. They also take information to other groups outside of the agile team to further corroborate that the inevitable changes have the support of other stakeholders.

 

Organizational Transition Requirements

The operational environment needs to be analyzed and assessed before the solution components are implemented. Perhaps there will be a need for reorganization, retooling, retraining, or acquisition of new staff. Working with management, the business analyst helps to ensure the organization is prepared for the impact of the changes and can support the release plan. That way, when the complete solution is delivered, it can be operated efficiently and effectively.

 

Lighter Requirements

Agile requirements are typically “lighter” than those developed for linear project models. Requirements are visually documented whenever possible. The wise business analyst uses modeling to manage complexity. Less formal user stories (a high-level description of solution behavior) may suffice, as opposed to use cases.

 

Advanced Skills

Advanced skill development is required for business analysts who are working on agile projects. They need to develop new or higher-level leadership skills, including expert facilitation, coaching, collaborative decision-making, and team development. The analyst also needs to have a good understanding of software architecture and be proficient in decoupling the breadth of the solution from the depth of the solution into feature-driven requirements.

Highly Complex Projects, Programs, and Megaprojects: Extreme Methods

 

Welcome a certain amount of complexity and churn because it creates a chemical reaction that jars creative thinking.

—Colleen Young, VP and distinguished analyst and IT adviser, Gartner, Inc.

Highly complex projects offer the greatest opportunities for creativity: complexity breeds creativity. But the business analyst must understand the nature of complexity to leverage complexity to foster innovation. Complexity is one of those words that is difficult to define. Some say complexity is the opposite of simplicity; others say complicated is the opposite of simple, while complex is the opposite of independent.

Since complex projects are by their very nature unpredictable, it is imperative that the project team keep its options open as long as possible, building those options into the project approach. This approach requires that considerable time be dedicated to researching and studying the business problem or opportunity; conducting competitive, technological, and benchmark studies; defining dependencies and interrelationships; and identifying potential options to meet the business need or solve the business problem. In addition, the team experiments with alternative solutions and analyzes the economic, technical, operational, cultural, and legal feasibility of each option until it becomes clear which solution option has the highest probability of success. When the opportunity is unclear and the solution is unknown, traditional linear approaches simply will not work.

 

Last-Responsible-Moment Design Decisions

On highly complex projects, it is important to separate design from construction. The key is to use expert resources and allow them to spend enough time experimenting before they make design decisions; the construction activities will thereby become much more predictable. Linear methods might then be appropriate during the construction phase of the project.

Models for adaptive project management are still emerging. We suggest two that are designed to provide iterative learning experiences, adapt and evolve as more is learned, allow analysis and experimentation to determine solution design viability, and delay decision-making as long as possible (that is, until the last responsible moment, the point at which further delays will put the project at risk): the adaptive evolutionary prototyping model and the eXtreme project management model. There are significant differences between the adaptive and eXtreme approaches (see Figure 12).

Adaptive Methods

eXtreme Methods

  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produce small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Constant evaluation of evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog

·         Keep your options open

◦      Build options into the approach

·         Discover, experiment, create, innovate

◦      Analyze problem/opportunity

◦      Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies

◦      Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions

◦      Analyze feasibility of each option

◦      Design and test multiple solutions

 

Figure 12: Adaptive vs. Extreme Methods

 

Evolutionary Prototyping Model

The keep-our-options-open approach often involves rapid prototyping—a fast build of a solution component to prove that an idea is feasible—which is typically used for high-risk components, requirements understanding, or proof of a concept.

Evolutionary prototyping is quite effective for multiple iterations of requirements elicitation, analysis, and solution design. Iteration is the best defense against uncertainty because with each iteration, the technical and business experts examine the prototype and glean more information and certainty about functions that are built into the next iteration.

The strength of prototyping is that customers work closely with the project team, providing feedback on each iteration (see Figure 13). If requirements are unclear and highly volatile, prototyping helps bring the business need into view.

.

Figure 13: Adaptive Evolutionary Prototype Model

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

 

eXtreme Project Management Model

An extreme project is a complex, high-speed, self-correcting venture during which people interact in search of a desirable result under conditions of high uncertainty, high change, and high stress.

—Doug DeCarlo, author and lecturer,

Extreme Project Management

eXtreme project management is sometimes also called radical project management. Some equate it to scaled-up agile methods. The approach consists of a number of short, experimental iterations designed to determine project goals and identify the most viable solution. As in the agile model, eXtreme project management requires that the customer be involved every step of the way until the solution emerges—a practice that involves many iterations. Like the iterative Spiral Model, the eXtreme model terminates after the solution is found (or when the sponsor is unwilling to fund any more research); the project team then transitions to one of the other appropriate models. One variation of the eXtreme Model spends a considerable amount of time in discovery, then prototypes, then transitions to modular development (see Figure 14).

Figure 14: eXtreme Model

© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Challenges will arise at every turn, because it can be difficult to:

  • Know how long to keep your options open
  • Build options into the approach without undue cost and time
  • Gather the right group of experts to discover, experiment, create, innovate, and:

◦      Analyze the problem/opportunity

◦      Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies

◦      Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions

◦      Analyze the feasibility of each option

◦      Design and test multiple solutions.

 

Operating on the Edge of Chaos

Conventional business analysis practices that assume a stable and predictable environment encourage us to develop all the requirements up front, get them approved, and then fiercely control changes. As we have seen, conventional linear project cycles work well and should be used for predictable, repeatable projects; however, this approach has proven to be no match for chaotic 21st-century projects. Figure 15 compares the characteristics of projects on which conventional linear practices can be successfully used with the characteristics of projects that require a more adaptive model. A blend of the linear, adaptive, and eXtreme models is almost always the answer. The trick is to know when and how to apply which approach.

Conventional linear approaches work well for projects that…

Adaptive approaches work well for projects that…

Are structured, orderly, disciplined

Are spontaneous, disorganized

Rely heavily on plans

Evolve as more information is known

Are predictable, well defined, repeatable

Are surprising, ambiguous, unique, unstable, innovative, creative

Are built in an unwavering environment

Are built in a volatile and chaotic environment

Use proven technologies

Use unproven technologies

Have a realistic schedule

Have an aggressive schedule; there is an urgent need

 

Figure 15: Conventional vs. Adaptive Approaches

What exactly does it mean to operate on the edge of chaos?  Complex systems fluctuate between a static state of equilibrium and an adaptive state of chaos.  If a system remains static, it will eventually result in paralysis and death.  Whereas, if a complex system is in chaos, it is unable to function.  So, here is the genius of complexity: it breeds and nourishes creativity, as complex systems adapt to changes in the environment for survival.  Complexity scientists tell us that the most creative and productive state is at the edge of chaos.  (Refer to figure 16.)  Therefore, complex project teams must operate at the edge of chaos for a time in order to allow the creative process to flourish.  The business analyst assigned to a complex project must use adaptive business analysis methods to foster an environment where creativity is possible.  The next article in this series explores the business analyst as creative leader of complex projects who are living on the edge.

Figure 16: The Edge of Chaos: the Most Creative State

Putting It All Together: What Does This Mean to the Business Analyst?

A business analyst who is an asset to highly complex projects is comfortable with lots of uncertainty and ambiguity in the early stages of a project. She leads and directs plenty of sessions of brainstorming, alternative analysis, experimentation, prototyping, out-of-the-box thinking, and trial and error, and encourages the team to keep options open until they have identified an innovative solution that will allow the organization to leap ahead of the competition. The BA who does not embrace complexity does so at her own peril.

The articles in this series are adapted with permission from The Enterprise Business Analyst: Developing Creative Solutions to Complex Business Problems by Kathleen B. Hass, PMP. © 2011 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved. The Enterprise Business Analyst: Developing Creative Solutions to Complex Business Problems

About the Author

Kathleen B. (Kitty) Hass, PMP

Senior Practice Consultant                   

Kathleen Hass & Associates, Inc.  

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.kathleenhass.com

Blog: http://baassessmentmatters.blogspot.com/  

Twitter:  @ BA_Assessment @KathleenHass1                           

Kitty is the president of her consulting practice specializing in enterprise business analysis, complex project management, and strategy execution. She is a prominent presenter at industry conferences, author and facilitator.  Her BA Assessment Practice is the gold standard in the industry. KHass BA Assessments:

  • Appraise both BA organizational maturity and individual/workforce BA capability based on four-stage reference models
  • Present results that are continuously examined for reliability and validity by Lori Lindbergh, PhD, Senior Researcher and Psychometrician , Lorius, llc                              
  • Benchmark results against a global data base of BAs performing comparable work
  • Align with the IIBA BABOK® and the BA Competency Model®
  • Align with standards and best practices for quality and fairness in educational and psychological assessment
  • Are based on the skills and knowledge needed to work successfully on the complexity of current project assignments
  • Examine critical relationships between competency, project complexity, and project outcomes.

In addition to assessments, Kitty’s expertise includes implementing and managing PMOs and BACOEs.  She has over 25 years of experience providing professional services to Federal agencies, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies.  Kitty is a Director on the IIBA Board and Chair of the IIBA Board Nominations Committee.  She has also authored numerous white papers and articles on leading-edge business practices, the renowned series entitled, Business Analysis Essential Library, and the PMI Book of the Year, Managing Project Complexity – A New Model.



[1] Tom Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to be us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How we can Come Back, 2011.  

[2] Ibid., p. 134.

[4]. Robert K. Wysocki, Effective Project Management: Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2007), 48.

[5]. Kathleen B. Hass, “An Eye for Value: What the Business Analyst Brings to the Agile Team,” Project Management World Today (June 2007), 1-5.

The Adaptive Business Analyst – As Complexity Increases, the BA Adapts

The world, she is a’changin’.  The Internet has made everyone on the globe hyper-connected and has transformed virtually all industries: publishing, broadcasting, communications, and manufacturing.  Did you know that just a few short years ago:

Facebook Didn’t exist
Twitter Was a sound
LinkedIn Was a prison
A Cloud Was in the sky
An Application Was something you used to get into college
4G Was a parking space
Skype Was a typo [1]

Fast forward to now.  Traditional work has been commoditized.  Anyone with an idea and a little moxie can use their laptop to set in motion a virtual new entity.  You can go to:

Taiwan For product design
Alibaba in China For low-cost manufacturing
Amazon.com For delivery and fulfillment
Craigs List To do your accounting
Freelance.com To do your logo [2]

If this isn’t bad enough, the heart and soul of middle class jobs are disappearing in the U.S.  Consider this: When Apple began manufacturing the iPhone, the company estimated that it would take nine months to find 8,700 qualified industrial engineers in the U.S. to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones.  In China, it took 15 days. [3]  Result: we lost 200,000 iPhone manufacturing jobs.

Many believe that these and many other traditional jobs are not coming back to the U.S.  So, what are the jobs of the future?  We probably don’t even know what to call them, but they will definitely require creativity, innovation, invention, and lots of complexity.  Even today, many companies in Silicon Valley do quarterly reviews of their key project leaders because they can’t wait to find out they have a poor BA or PM.  Many U.S. companies report they can’t find the employees they need.  American businesses also report that U.S. workers that are available are too expensive and too poorly educated as compared to workers in India, China, South Korea and many other countries.

What does all this Mean to the Business Analyst?

Employers are looking for critical thinking and an ability to adapt, invent, and reinvent; collaborate, create, and innovate; and an ability to leverage complexity to compete. Standout companies are using projects as the hotbed of creativity – so that means BAs and PMs have to step up their game.  According to the 2011 CHAOS Report from The Standish Group, only 37% of projects delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions. 

  • The Cause: Gaps in enterprise business analysis and complexity management 
  • The Cost: USD 1.22 trillion/year in the US and USD 500 billion/month worldwide in IT  project waste 
  • The Opportunity Cost: “If we could solve the problem of IT failure, the US could increase GDP by USD 1 trillion/yr.”  according to Roger Sessions, a recognized expert in enterprise architecture and author of Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises.

We need to fundamentally change the way we do projects so that 80% of projects are on time, budget and scope (see Figure 1).  But we also need to focus on innovative solutions, not incremental changes to business as usual.  And we need to bring about value to the customer and wealth to the organization – otherwise, why are we investing in the project?  This is where the BA comes in – constantly focusing on value and leveraging complexity to foster creativity.

Kitty1

  Figure 1: New Project Approach

Does the business analyst role change, either significantly or subtly, with highly complex projects? If so, how?  Our framework for dealing with complex projects consists of four distinct activities (see Figure 2):

  1. Diagnose Project Complexity
  2. Assign Competent Leaders
  3. Select the appropriate project management approach
  4. Manage complexity dimensions

This article in the series will examine steps 1 – 3.

Kitty2_Mar_6_2012

 Figure 2: Project Complexity Framework

Step #1: Diagnose Project Complexity
The first step in understanding the level of complexity of your project is to assess each complexity dimension.  Use the Project Complexity Model depicted in Figure 3. Facilitate your project team leads to agreement on which cells most closely describe your project for each complexity dimension.  Then apply the project complexity formula to determine the complexity profile of your project.  In my experience, the actual complexity of projects exceeds the team’s initial assessment prior to applying the model.

PROJECT COMPLEXITY MODEL 2.0

kitty_table1

Figure 3: Project Complexity Model 2.0
© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Then apply the formula below, Figure 4 to diagnose the complexity level of your project.

PROJECT COMPLEXITY FORMULA

kitty_table2

Figure 4: Project Complexity Formula
© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Step #2: Assign Competent Project Leaders
Complex projects require seasoned leaders, and the use of a shared leadership model (see Figure 5).  The core project leadership team consists of the PM, BA, Chief Architect, Development Lead and a Business Visionary, each taking the lead when a particular expertise is needed.              

Kitty5_Mar_6_2012

Figure 5: Shared Leadership Model

Once the project complexity is known, it is imperative that appropriately skilled and experienced individuals are assigned to key leadership positions.  Obviously, BAs need more sophisticated skills as they move from low complexity projects, to enterprise, strategic and innovation projects. The first order of business is for the organization to understand their BA Workforce.  Check out the blog site:  http://baassessmentmatters.blogspot.com/ posting on March 5th entitled “Calling All BA Practice Leads!”  It discusses how BA Practice Leads ensure their organizations have an appropriately skilled BA workforce (see Figure 6) possessing the capabilities needed to successfully deliver complex new business solutions that meet 21st century business needs.

Kitty6_Mar_6_2012

Figure 6: BA Workforce Capability Model

The BA Manager or Practice Lead then assigns BAs (and working with other managers, assigns other project leaders) based on the complexity profile of the project at hand (Figure 7).  If the project leads’ capabilities are lower than the complexity of the project requires, it is almost certain that you will have a challenged and/or failed project.

Kitty7_Mar_6_2012

Figure 7: Make Appropriate Leadership Assignments

Step #3: Select the Project Approach
As projects have become more complex, project cycles have evolved. Project cycles models are not interchangeable; one size does not fit all. Project cycles can be categorized into three broad types:

    • Linear: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are clear, no major changes are expected, and the effort is considered to be routine. A linear cycle is typically used for maintenance, enhancement, and continuous process improvement projects. It is also used for development projects when requirements are well understood and stable, as in shrink-wrap software development projects.
    • Adaptive: used when the business problem, opportunity, and solution are unclear and the schedule is aggressive. An adaptive cycle is typically used for new technology development, new product development, or complex business transformation projects.
    • Extreme: used when the business objectives are unclear or the solution is undefined. An extreme cycle is typically used for research and development, new technology, and innovation projects. [4]

Figure 8 shows the differences between linear and more adaptive methods.

Linear Methods

Adaptive Methods

  • Industrial-age thinking
  • Plan based
  • Distinct life cycle phases
  • Tasks completed in orderly sequence
  • Assumes predictability
  • Lays out development steps
  • Stresses the importance of requirements
  • Only firm basic requirements that are not expected to change (aka high-level requirements) and a release plan up front
  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produces small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Evolution of requirements with each planning and development cycle
  • Constant evaluation of the evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog

Figure 8: Linear vs. Adaptive Methods

As we move along the complexity continuum from independent, low complexity predictable projects to highly complex projects with lots of uncertainty, we also move along the spectrum of project cycle types. A linear approach works for a simple, straightforward project; whereas, adaptive, and extreme approaches are used to manage the uncertainties of increasingly complex efforts (see Figure 9).

Kitty9_Mar_6_2012

Figure 9: Project Complexity Mapped to Project Cycle Approaches
© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Low-Complexity Projects: Traditional Waterfall Methods
The traditional role of the business analyst does not need to change much to successfully execute activities on low-complexity projects. The linear Waterfall Model is appropriate (see Figure 10). However, to optimize the business analyst role, it is wise to adopt some of the principles of agile and iterative development for even low-complexity endeavors:

  • Prototype for requirements understanding, to reduce risk, and to prove a concept
  • Involve the business and keep the business analyst as a member of the core project leadership team throughout the project
  • Continuously validate, evolve, and improve requirements throughout the project.

Kitty10_Mar_6_2012

Figure 10: The Waterfall Model

Moderately Complex Projects: Agile Methods
There’s no question about it: agile methods expedite the product development process, especially for products that are software intensive. Agile is an adaptive, streamlined model, based on having only essential people work in tight-knit teams for quick and efficient results (see Figure 11). As we’ve seen, one very important member of the team is the business analyst; if companies hope to achieve strategic goals, they need someone who is focused on the business value expected from the project outcomes. The business analyst provides guidance before funds are invested, during a project, and after the solution is delivered. She continually focuses on the evolving business requirements and serves as the steward of the business benefits. [5]     

Kitty11_Mar_6_2012Figure 11: The Agile Model

Through leadership and collaboration, the project manager and business analyst guide the agile team, ensuring that it is both efficiently and effectively run and that it adds significant long-term benefits for the company with each iteration. The business analyst plays close attention to the original business case, recommending the project be terminated when the ROI has been realized.

Firm Basic Requirements
A business analyst’s main priority when she is first attached to a specific project is to elicit firm, basic business requirements (what we used to call high-level requirements, which outline the breadth of requirements and which we do not expect to change), to collaboratively determine the most feasible solution, and then to categorize releases into valuable features and functions. Then each release is initially described in enough detail to determine its cost versus its benefits, thus developing an ROI for each release.

Knowing what it will take to deliver each individual component of the solution as well as what the return will be to the organization, the development team can then build components or features based on business value, delivering the highest-value features first. As the project moves through the release schedule, the business analyst elaborates the requirements in enough detail to meet the development team’s needs for each release.

An Eye on the Business Value
As an agile project progresses through its life cycle, the team continually learns new information. It becomes clearer how many resources will be needed to perform detailed design, construction, and tests for each release, how much risk there is to the project, and how the risk needs to be managed. Accordingly, it is important to go back and check original assumptions about business value and costs to develop and operate the new solution to see if they are still true, or if the original business case has been compromised.

Validation after Every Release
By being involved during the development process, business analysts can validate that new components are actually meeting business needs and that the business case is still sound. They also take information to other groups outside of the agile team to further corroborate that the inevitable changes have the support of other stakeholders.

Organizational Transition Requirements
The operational environment needs to be analyzed and assessed before the solution components are implemented. Perhaps there will be a need for reorganization, retooling, retraining, or acquisition of new staff. Working with management, the business analyst helps to ensure the organization is prepared for the impact of the changes and can support the release plan. That way, when the complete solution is delivered, it can be operated efficiently and effectively.

Lighter Requirements
Agile requirements are typically “lighter” than those developed for linear project models. Requirements are visually documented whenever possible. The wise business analyst uses modeling to manage complexity. Less formal user stories (a high-level description of solution behavior) may suffice, as opposed to use cases.

Advanced Skills
Advanced skill development is required for business analysts who are working on agile projects. They need to develop new or higher-level leadership skills, including expert facilitation, coaching, collaborative decision-making, and team development. The analyst also needs to have a good understanding of software architecture and be proficient in decoupling the breadth of the solution from the depth of the solution into feature-driven requirements.

Highly Complex Projects, Programs, and Megaprojects: Extreme Methods 
Welcome a certain amount of complexity and churn because it creates a chemical reaction that jars creative thinking,
—Colleen Young, VP and distinguished analyst and IT adviser, Gartner, Inc.

Highly complex projects offer the greatest opportunities for creativity: complexity breeds creativity. But the business analyst must understand the nature of complexity to leverage complexity to foster innovation. Complexity is one of those words that is difficult to define. Some say complexity is the opposite of simplicity; others say complicated is the opposite of simple, while complex is the opposite of independent.

Since complex projects are by their very nature unpredictable, it is imperative that the project team keep its options open as long as possible, building those options into the project approach. This approach requires that considerable time be dedicated to researching and studying the business problem or opportunity; conducting competitive, technological, and benchmark studies; defining dependencies and interrelationships; and identifying potential options to meet the business need or solve the business problem. In addition, the team experiments with alternative solutions and analyzes the economic, technical, operational, cultural, and legal feasibility of each option until it becomes clear which solution option has the highest probability of success. When the opportunity is unclear and the solution is unknown, traditional linear approaches simply will not work.

Last-Responsible-Moment Design Decisions
On highly complex projects, it is important to separate design from construction. The key is to use expert resources and allow them to spend enough time experimenting before they make design decisions; the construction activities will thereby become much more predictable. Linear methods might then be appropriate during the construction phase of the project.

Models for adaptive project management are still emerging. We suggest two that are designed to provide iterative learning experiences, adapt and evolve as more is learned, allow analysis and experimentation to determine solution design viability, and delay decision-making as long as possible (that is, until the last responsible moment, the point at which further delays will put the project at risk): the adaptive evolutionary prototyping model and the eXtreme project management model. There are significant differences between the adaptive and eXtreme approaches (see Figure 12).

Adaptive Methods eXtreme Methods
  • Many rapid planning and development cycles
  • Produce small batches of tailored products on a tight schedule
  • Constant evaluation of evolving product
  • Constant evaluation of the value of functions in backlog
  • Keep your options open
    • Build options into the approach
  • Discover, experiment, create, innovate
    • Analyze problem/opportunity
    • Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies
    • Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions
    • Analyze feasibility of each option
    • Design and test multiple solutions

 Figure 12: Adaptive vs. Extreme Methods

Evolutionary Prototyping Model
The keep-our-options-open approach often involves rapid prototyping—a fast build of a solution component to prove that an idea is feasible—which is typically used for high-risk components, requirements understanding, or proof of a concept.

Evolutionary prototyping is quite effective for multiple iterations of requirements elicitation, analysis, and solution design. Iteration is the best defense against uncertainty because with each iteration, the technical and business experts examine the prototype and glean more information and certainty about functions that are built into the next iteration.

The strength of prototyping is that customers work closely with the project team, providing feedback on each iteration (see Figure 13). If requirements are unclear and highly volatile, prototyping helps bring the business need into view.

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Figure 13: Adaptive Evolutionary Prototype Model
© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

eXtreme Project Management Model
An extreme project is a complex, high-speed, self-correcting venture during which people interact in search of a desirable result under conditions of high uncertainty, high change, and high stress.   —Doug DeCarlo, author and lecturer, Extreme Project Management

eXtreme project management is sometimes also called radical project management. Some equate it to scaled-up agile methods. The approach consists of a number of short, experimental iterations designed to determine project goals and identify the most viable solution. As in the agile model, eXtreme project management requires that the customer be involved every step of the way until the solution emerges—a practice that involves many iterations. Like the iterative Spiral Model, the eXtreme model terminates after the solution is found (or when the sponsor is unwilling to fund any more research); the project team then transitions to one of the other appropriate models. One variation of the eXtreme Model spends a considerable amount of time in discovery, then prototypes, then transitions to modular development (see Figure 14).

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Figure 14: eXtreme Model
© Kathleen B. Hass and Associates, Inc.

Challenges will arise at every turn, because it can be difficult to:

  • Know how long to keep your options open
  • Build options into the approach without undue cost and time
  • Gather the right group of experts to discover, experiment, create, innovate, and:
    • Analyze the problem/opportunity
    • Conduct competitive, technical, and benchmark studies
    • Brainstorm to identify all possible solutions
    • Analyze the feasibility of each option
    • Design and test multiple solutions.

Operating on the Edge of Chaos
Conventional business analysis practices that assume a stable and predictable environment encourage us to develop all the requirements up front, get them approved, and then fiercely control changes. As we have seen, conventional linear project cycles work well and should be used for predictable, repeatable projects; however, this approach has proven to be no match for chaotic 21st-century projects. Figure 15 compares the characteristics of projects on which conventional linear practices can be successfully used with the characteristics of projects that require a more adaptive model. A blend of the linear, adaptive, and eXtreme models is almost always the answer. The trick is to know when and how to apply which approach.

Conventional linear approaches work well for projects that…

Adaptive approaches work well for projects that…

Are structured, orderly, disciplined Are spontaneous, disorganized
Rely heavily on plans Evolve as more information is known
Are predictable, well defined, repeatable Are surprising, ambiguous, unique, unstable, innovative, creative
Are built in an unwavering environment Are built in a volatile and chaotic environment
Use proven technologies Use unproven technologies
Have a realistic schedule Have an aggressive schedule; there is an urgent need

Figure 15: Conventional vs. Adaptive Approaches

What exactly does it mean to operate on the edge of chaos?  Complex systems fluctuate between a static state of equilibrium and an adaptive state of chaos.  If a system remains static, it will eventually result in paralysis and death.  Whereas, if a complex system is in chaos, it is unable to function.  So, here is the genius of complexity: it breeds and nourishes creativity, as complex systems adapt to changes in the environment for survival.  Complexity scientists tell us that the most creative and productive state is at the edge of chaos.  (Refer to figure 16.)  Therefore, complex project teams must operate at the edge of chaos for a time in order to allow the creative process to flourish.  The business analyst assigned to a complex project must use adaptive business analysis methods to foster an environment where creativity is possible.  The next article in this series explores the business analyst as creative leader of complex projects who are living on the edge.

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Figure 16: The Edge of Chaos: the Most Creative State

Putting It All Together: What Does This Mean to the Business Analyst?
A business analyst who is an asset to highly complex projects is comfortable with lots of uncertainty and ambiguity in the early stages of a project. She leads and directs plenty of sessions of brainstorming, alternative analysis, experimentation, prototyping, out-of-the-box thinking, and trial and error, and encourages the team to keep options open until they have identified an innovative solution that will allow the organization to leap ahead of the competition. The BA who does not embrace complexity does so at her own peril.

Kitty is the president of her consulting practice specializing in enterprise business analysis, complex project management, and strategy execution. She is a prominent presenter at industry conferences, author and facilitator.  Her BA Assessment Practice is the gold standard in the industry. KHass BA Assessments:

  • Appraise both BA organizational maturity and individual/workforce BA capability based on four-stage reference models
  • Present results that are continuously examined for reliability and validity by Lori Lindbergh, PhD, Senior Researcher and Psychometrician , Lorius, llc                              
  • Benchmark results against a global data base of BAs performing comparable work
  • Align with the IIBA BABOK® and the BA Competency Model®
  • Align with standards and best practices for quality and fairness in educational and psychological assessment
  • Are based on the skills and knowledge needed to work successfully on the complexity of current project assignments
  • Examine critical relationships between competency, project complexity, and project outcomes.

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[1] Tom Friedman, Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to be us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How we can Come Back, 2011.  
[2] Ibid., p. 134.
[3] How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, The New York Times, January 21, 2012. Online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/business/apple-america-and-a-squeezed-middle-class.html?pagewanted=4&ref=charlesduhigg
[4] Robert K. Wysocki, Effective Project Management: Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2007), 48.
[5] Kathleen B. Hass, “An Eye for Value: What the Business Analyst Brings to the Agile Team,” Project Management World Today (June 2007), 1-5.