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Tag: Leadership

Unpacking BA Requirements for the Blockchain Industry

When the word blockchain is heard, cryptocurrency comes to mind next. Some need to realize that cryptocurrency is just digital money and other digital monies, such as stablecoins, exist.

What exactly does blockchain mean?

A blockchain is a shared or decentralized digital ledger of public, private, or hybrid transactions. It relies heavily on the flow of information and, in this case, the flow of transactions across many computers in a business network. This specifies that the blockchain wouldn’t have any core function without information or data. A blockchain network provides a shared, simple, single view of transactions, signifying that transparency is a strength and a win in this industry. Blockchain can potentially revolutionize how enterprises transact business and solve problems creatively.

 

What makes blockchain, blockchain?

The presence of a distributed ledger, which is the shared database in the network that stores the transactions; smart contracts, which are used to self-manage business contracts without the need for 3rd parties, which means they are triggered automatically when certain conditions are met; public key cryptography, which is used to identify the members in the business network; and permissions necessary to ensure that all transactions are secure, authenticated, and verifiable.

 

Is there a future for business analysis in this delicate but ever-evolving industry?

As business analysts, we have the strength to feature in any industry or organization and play an integral and delicate role in bridging the gap between the present and the future. Remember, business analysts need to understand that they exist to drive change while still understanding the capabilities and competencies of every shift (Read, Business Analysis, how and why I need to evolve).

Taking a deep dive into the future of business analysis in this industry, business analysts must have at least a basic understanding of how this industry works and the specific details related to the company in which they work. This will help you understand details that would help you identify the business needs and vision, understand the potential of this technology, and align it with the organization’s objectives—understanding how the industry works can be a solid requirement for benchmarking and market analysis in an event where this becomes necessary.

 

Secondly, the blockchain industry would thrive on the practical and right adoption and application of use cases, which is where business analysis comes in. This is necessary to identify specific use cases that highlight value to the enterprise or company and even the industry as a whole. Business analysts are crucial to determining the context in which blockchain helps attain value or change. Furthermore, this will be useful in communicating diverse use cases for blockchain technology to various audiences with differing levels of technology understanding and divergent business needs. This remains a critical gap; thus, there is a need to ensure and manage stakeholder collaboration, involvement, and engagement.

 

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Thirdly, stakeholders, top management, process owners, and project sponsors need to understand and assess the potential value blockchain would bring, possibly a solution to an identified problem, and determine if it meets their standards. Value assessment could be performed using a SWOT analysis, feasibility studies, cost-benefit analysis, market mapping, decision analysis, modeling, etc. An analysis of possible weaknesses and challenges this technology is prone to is an essential task all business analysts must perform, some of which include security concerns, as there is a possibility that distributed ledgers and smart contracts could introduce security concerns, data access, and storage issues based on the decentralized/consensus mechanisms (proof of work), and the evolving regulatory landscape surrounding blockchain can significantly impact and influence business requirements. It is pertinent to note that regulatory requirements always prevail to avoid costs and penalties in requirement prioritization. For example, the Nigerian government initially placed a ban on cryptocurrency but lifted this ban in December 2023. In this situation, business analysts would need to assess the viability with due consideration of the unstable regulatory requirements.

 

Fourth, when translating business requirements, there is a need for business analysts to walk closely with the stakeholders, both internal and external, to critically understand the business requirements and correctly translate them to technical specifications through functional decomposition. Suppose the requirements are not adequately broken down into functional and non-functional requirements. In that case, being able to develop use cases might be a challenge, hence the need for a business analyst. However, it is essential to mention that the role of a business analyst extends beyond developing use cases; they also play a vital role in all the business analysis knowledge areas such as planning and monitoring, elicitation and collaboration, requirements life cycle management, requirements analysis, design definition, strategy analysis, and solution evaluation.

 

Conclusion

Business analysts working with blockchain must be adaptable and embrace continuous learning. There is a need to master new skills while adapting existing BA practices and their skills to this evolving technology. Armed with the knowledge that the future holds exciting possibilities for BA professionals who embrace the transformative potential of blockchain, business analysts need to take the necessary steps to ensure that they will be well-positioned to navigate this dynamic and transformative landscape.

Beyond Frameworks: Agile Insights from a BA’s Odyssey

Reflecting on my journey from a Junior Business Analyst to a seasoned Business Analyst and eventually evolving into a role where Business Analysis and Product Management intersect, I’ve had the privilege to contribute to organizations as diverse as Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and EPAM, alongside navigating the unique challenges of smaller entities.

This path, spanning over 13 years and multiple domains, has equipped me with a deep understanding of Business Analysis from the grassroots, teaching me the crucial balance between adhering to frameworks and embracing the agility necessary for today’s dynamic business environment. This narrative is an exploration of that journey, emphasizing the transition from rigid methodologies to agile adaptability, and the critical importance of customer focus and stakeholder management.

 

In the early stages of my career, the allure of frameworks was undeniable. They presented a structured way of understanding Business Analysis and Product Management, offering a semblance of control and predictability in the chaotic realm of project management.

However, as I progressed, the limitations of these frameworks became increasingly apparent. The real-world application of Business Analysis goes beyond the confines of any framework. It demands an acute awareness of the shifting business landscape and the ability to think on one’s feet—a blend of deep analytical thinking and pragmatic street smarts.

 

This evolution in perspective was mirrored in my approach to project management. Initially, my focus was on mastering the technical aspects: understanding the ‘what’ and ‘why’ to navigate towards solutions and create value for users. Yet, I quickly learned that the essence of effective Business Analysis lies in the ability to communicate, adapt, and understand the broader business context—skills that are foundational yet flourish only with experience and deliberate practice.

 

Communication emerged as the cornerstone of my professional development. The capacity to engage with a diverse set of stakeholders—customers, engineers, designers, and executives—and synthesize their insights is paramount. It’s a skill that goes beyond mere articulation; it’s about understanding the audience, choosing the right words, and effectively conveying complex ideas in a manner that resonates.

This skill set has been instrumental in navigating the complexities of projects, ensuring alignment across teams, and driving towards common goals with clarity and purpose.

 

As I embraced the agile methodology, the importance of flexibility became glaringly evident. Agile is not just a buzzword; it’s a mindset that values adaptability, customer-centricity, and continuous improvement.

It challenged me to think differently about project management, to be more iterative in my approach, and to prioritize direct feedback loops with stakeholders and customers. This agility has been crucial in climbing the project ladder, allowing for rapid pivots and adjustments in response to new insights or changing market dynamics.

 

Customer focus and stakeholder management have been the bedrock of my growth as a Business Analyst. Recognizing the criticality of these aspects, I’ve dedicated myself to becoming adept at navigating the complex web of stakeholder relationships and ensuring that the voice of the customer is always at the forefront of decision-making. This has involved honing my ability to manage expectations, articulate value propositions clearly, and foster an environment of trust and collaboration.

 

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In retrospect, the journey from adhering strictly to frameworks to adopting a more flexible, agile approach has been transformative. It has taught me that while frameworks provide valuable guidance, the essence of Business Analysis and Product Management lies in the ability to adapt, communicate effectively, and maintain a relentless focus on the customer and business objectives.

As I continue to navigate this ever-evolving landscape, these insights will remain central to my approach, guiding my decisions and actions in the pursuit of creating meaningful, impactful solutions.

Become a Better BA: Study History

As a business analyst or someone aspiring to be a business analyst, do you seek out better understanding in your daily life as well as at work—exploring the angles and the what-ifs?

I think many business analysts have a mindset to explore and uncover truths that others might not.

Let me share a recent related experience.

 

During a trip to France several months ago, I crowded into the museums amid the other tourists. Despite the bustling, I re-connected with the beauty, the feeling of inspiration, and the magnificent presence of the best works of art in the Musee d’Orsay, the Claude Monet House in Giverny, and the Dali Museum.

I noticed something was different this time.

Moving mindlessly with the flow of the other tourists from one piece to another felt flat and meaningless. Most tourists approached each piece with a camera first, skimming the surface with a click and a view, posting to social media, and then turning attention to the next piece.

I wedged myself in to get closer as I listened to the audio guide. Skimming was not what I was here for this time. I was hungry for the history of each piece: the background of the artist and the details of the time and place in which the piece was created. Give me history, context, and the human perspective.

 

Learning and embracing history has quite a few benefits for building on context, scope, and possibilities.

  • It fosters knowledge and deeper understanding, contributing to a broader perspective.
  • It exposes multiple details associated with an event, which helps improve understanding.
  • It establishes connections between events (even seemingly unrelated events).
  • When expressed like a story with characters and settings, it improves comprehension and retention.
  • It can provide a base for drawing conclusions and, therefore, applying learning.

That trip to France has ended. The journey to apply the art of historical understanding to the challenge of business analysis is ongoing.

As CBAPs, we look to BABOK for guidance in our work. We use it to provide the pillars of understanding needed to do what we do in the best possible way.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could tap into a fresh methodology that has the power to augment the resources in BABOK?

…and in walks history. You thought you wouldn’t need it after college, probably even after high school, right? Let’s explore this.

To study history effectively, one needs to engage in most of the following tasks:

  1. Take a chronological account of events and tie them together with other events.
  2. Be able to distinguish what events lead to other events to establish cause and effect.
  3. Be able to make connections between seemingly disconnected pieces of information.
  4. Keep track of the players and how they affect the events.
  5. Identify and extract the key information.
  6. Gather related information to fill in the blanks to build a more complete picture.
  7. Apply critical thinking to assess your own understanding.
  8. Be able to apply and project your own understanding based on the facts.
  9. Do not be afraid of research or large quantities of information.

 

An effective business analyst needs to be able to:

  • take in a tonne of seemingly disparate information.
  • research and uncover additional information.
  • Talk to many different people.
  • synthesise all the information.
  • put it into context (many times we have to build an entirely new context from all the information!)
  • …and then be able to express it in a way that multiple groups of people will understand it and be able to draw conclusions from it.

We look to BABOK for guidelines on how to approach this process.

If you study history, you are honing skills that BABOK teaches. In effect, you have another tool to become a better analyst.

History is usually presented as a set of sometimes-chronological facts that you need to piece together and tie to other facts. From this, you can determine cause and effect to get a bigger picture of how different events are related (represented by #1 and #2 stated above).

 

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Think about the BABOK task “Conduct Elicitation.” The purpose of this task is “to draw out, explore, and identify information relevant to the change.” The task has three types: collaborative, research, and experiments, all of which rely on gathering and organising usable information and facts.

The BABOK task “Analyse Current State” contributes in a similar way. This task’s purpose is “to understand the reasons why an enterprise needs to change some aspect of how it operates and what would be directly or indirectly affected by the change.” The inputs to this task are elicitation results, and they include elements of external influencers, organisational structure, and culture to support the analysis.

Another parallel I find interesting is between #7 and #8 above and the BABOK tasks “Analyse Potential Value” and “Recommend Solution and Recommend Actions to Increase Solution Value.” You must be able to absorb and synthesise the information and come up with your own understanding, so you can use that understanding to build context and perspective for future understanding. In the two BABOK tasks, the purpose is to “estimate the value” of multiple options (or courses of action, in the case of the “Recommend Solution” and “Recommend Actions to Increase Solution Value” tasks) and determine which best meets the requirements of the enterprise based on the information available.

 

Finally, I find a parallel between gaining a deep understanding of the players in history and the need to know our stakeholders in business analysis (represented by #4 above). A deep understanding of the stakeholders is so important in business analysis that it is a core concept in the Business Analysis Core Concept Model, integral to every knowledge area in the BABOK. You cannot completely understand your project and cannot design a solid solution if you don’t have a strong handle on who the stakeholders are, how they are connected, and what they need.

Same in history. You understand the Impressionist era much less if you don’t know that Monet, Renoir, and other painters during that time period actually worked and played together.

For the passionate and effective business analyst—as well as for any history buffs reading this—I think it comes down to being curious, being structured, and doing your research.

What’s Next: The Future of Business Analysis in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, professionals across industries are witnessing the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analyst profession is not untouched and is on the brink of a significant shift in its roles and responsibilities. As AI technologies continue to advance, they are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of business analysis. In this blog, we’ll deep dive into how AI is set to impact the future of business analyst professionals.

 

The Rise of AI in Business Analysis

 

1. Data-Driven Insights

Business analysts have always been tasked with extracting valuable insights from data to support decision-making. AI, with its machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics, empowers analysts to delve deeper into data. They can now unearth hidden patterns, make more accurate forecasts, and identify trends that might have remained concealed with traditional business analysis methods.

 

2. Enhanced Efficiency

AI-driven automation tools can handle repetitive tasks, such as data collection and cleansing, leaving analysts with more time for critical thinking and strategic analysis. This increased efficiency allows business analysts to focus on high-impact activities, making them indispensable assets to their organizations.

 

 

 

 

  1. Real-time Analytics

AI enables real-time data analysis, providing business analysts with most relevant and current insights. This instant access to reliable and accurate information empowers business analysts to respond swiftly to market changes and emerging trends, enabling more predictable and agile decision-making which is critical for reaching organization’s strategic goals.

 

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  1. The Evolving Role of Business Analysts

As AI becomes more integrated into business operations, the role of business analysts is evolving in several significant ways:

 

  • From Data Analysts to Data Strategists

With AI handling routine data analysis, business analysts are transitioning from mere data collectors to data strategists. They are expected to interpret AI-generated insights and translate them into actionable business strategies.

  • Ethical Considerations and challenges

AI raises ethical concerns, such as bias in algorithms and data privacy issues. The role of Business analyst is to navigate through these ethical challenges and ensure that AI systems are used responsibly and the data they collect and analyze is both accurate and unbiased.

  • Cross-functional Collaboration with different partners

Business analysts are increasingly expected to collaborate with data scientists and AI engineers to develop and implement AI-powered solutions. Effective communication and collaboration between these roles are vital for successful AI integration and forms core of various digitization initiatives.

  • Continuous Learning is the key to success

The rapid evolution of AI requires business analysts to engage in continuous learning and skill development. Staying updated on AI technologies and methodologies is crucial to remain relevant in their roles.

  • The Impact on Job Market

Even though the initial buzzword of AI lead to job insecurities but future seems to be bright. While AI is automating some aspects of business analysis, it is also creating new opportunities. The demand for business analysts who can harness AI and effectively interpret its insights is on the rise. Companies are actively seeking professionals with AI skills to drive innovation and competitive advantage.

 

Conclusion

Industry’s future hinges on how well business analysts use Artificial Intelligence (AI). Business analysts will find themselves at the vanguard of data-driven decision-making as AI technology develops and advances. They will play more strategic and team-oriented roles with an emphasis on utilizing AI to boost corporate success. Business analysts are expected to embrace AI and see it as a potent tool if they want to succeed in this dynamic and fast paced environment. They should invest in their AI-related skills, navigate through ethical challenges, and adjust to the shifting needs of the labor market. By doing so, they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities that Artificial Intelligence presents and remain valuable resources for their organizations in years to come.

Best of BATimes: Approaches for Being a Lead BA

You’ve worked your way up the BA ladder – started as a Junior BA, then a BA, then a Sr. BA, and now you’re a Lead BA on a project working with other BAs. What do you do? This article focuses on some of the Do’s and Don’ts of being a Lead BA. Some of it is science and some of it is art.

 

Requirements Governance:

1. Who do you take direction from your PM or your BA Manager:

The first place to start as a Lead BA is establishing your own personal Requirements Governance. Who do you provide status updates to and who do you take direction on requirements from – PM or your BA Manager? The scenarios I’ve encountered are:

  1. You as the Lead BA take your BA requirements direction from the PM and provide status updates to your BA Manager.
  2. You as the Lead BA take your BA requirements directly from your BA Manager and provide status updates to your PM.
  3. The third and most often scenario is where both the PM and your BA Manager are of the opinion that you take requirements direction from them and provide status updates to the other.

Tip: Right at the beginning of the project start the conversation with your BA Manager and clearly establish the relationship you’ll have with him or her and with the PM (in my experience coaching BAs too many Lead BAs don’t have the conversation upfront and then find themselves in a bind when scenario C) above becomes an issue during the project itself). If the answer is taking your requirements direction from them, set up a short meeting with your BA Manager and the PM to establish this relationship as PMs generally don’t like that arrangement, and it’s best to get them to discuss it face to face. If the answer is taking your requirements direction from the PM, then simply follow-up the meeting with a confirmation email to your BA Manager and just let your PM know that you’re effectively going to report to them and take, where appropriate, BA approach direction from them.

 

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2. Establish your role as Lead BA on the BA team:

Make sure it’s clear to the BAs you’ll be leading that you are the Lead BA, and they will work with you in that capacity. A couple of ways to communicate this:

  • Ensure you’re called out on the project governance as the Lead BA and ensure the BAs you’ll be leading review the project governance
  • Where you’re taking your Requirements direction from your BA Manager have them send out an email to the BAs you’ll be leading that you’re the lead and that you’ll be guiding the approach etc. to the Requirements deliverables

 

3. Start by learning about your BAs:

At the beginning you’ll need to establish how experienced the BAs are with eliciting, documenting, and analyzing requirements, how familiar they are with the project subject matter, etc./ by scheduling quick little chats with the BAs you’ll be working with

  1. If you’re dealing with Sr. BAs with lots of experience, then your focus with them will be on making sure things are going smoothly and that they working to the timelines for their requirements work packages; You can give them fairly large and complex requirements work packages
  2. If you’re dealing with more Jr. BAs then you will be in a more guidance/ mentoring mode – periodically reviewing their requirements and providing feedback, mentoring on approach to different types of requirements such as documenting process flows and business rules, etc.; Initially limiting the scope of their work packages to small well-defined pieces of requirements; have little chats with them about how things are going

 

4. Develop a view of the requirements work packages:

Typically, a group of BAs is assigned to a project because the project is complex and there are multiple “groups/ categories” of requirements that need to be created to deliver the scope of the project. At the outset understand the drivers and objectives of the project and establish a view of the requirements work packages. Some examples of this are:

a. Achieving compliance with regulations or another compliance-related purpose:

    1. You may need to look at work packages focused on complying with different sections of the regulations
    2. If the compliance covers multiple departments or Lines of Business (LOB) you may need to focus on requirements for each department/ LOB to comply with the regulations

b. Developing and implementing a large technology system or platform:

      1. You may need to look at requirements work packages focused around different groups of users with the system – for example if it’s a workflow system you likely have work packages for customer-facing components, back-office-facing components, etc.
      2. You may need to look at requirements work packages focused on different functional features. For example, a customer-facing platform for a direct investing platform may consist of trading-related features, viewing account holdings, researching different securities, etc.

 

5. Managing the requirements work packages:

a. Establish a view of the project timelines with respect to the requirements work packages based on their complexity etc. I prefer a matrix like this to do so (using the direct investing platform as an example) based on the requirements lifecycle – plan, elicit, analyze, document, get sign-off (note do this in Excel or Project to track progress, etc.)

Plan Elicit Analyze Document Sign-Off
Trading requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22
Security Research requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22
View account holdings requirements 01/01/22 to 10/01/22 10/01/22 to 25/01/22 25/01/22 to 02/02/22 02/02/22 to 16/02/22 16/02/22 to 28/02/22

b. Based on what you learned about the BAs you’re leading assign them to different work packages – and monitor their progress on their work packages against the. I’ve found the best way to keep track of this is using a matrix like this that I update on a weekly basis:

Legend:

P – Plan, E- Elicit, A- Analyze, D- Document, S- Signoff

BA1 BA2 BA3
Trading requirements P – Jan. 1/22
Security Research requirements P – Jan. 1/22
View account holdings requirements P – Jan. 1/22

 

With these 2 matrices, you can keep track of who’s doing what and how they are doing against the target dates so you can provide status reports to the project team as required.

 

6. Monitoring progress and connecting the BAs as a team:

The most effective approach that I’ve found to monitor the progress of my BAs is to hold weekly meetings – with a twist. Most people just do a status check-in during their weekly meetings – how are you progressing against your timelines. I believe that weekly meetings are a good chance for the BAs to inform and help one another. I encourage them to talk about challenges they are having – someone else in the team may have encountered this and have a solution/ approach to tackling it. I encourage them to talk about effective approaches that they’ve found to doing things that may be helpful to other members of the team. Finally, I ask each BA to give a brief overview of the requirements they are working on. As most projects with a BA team have a common goal – by talking about requirements it will quite often identify synergies or conflicts between requirements/ work packages that will help move the project forward more efficiently.

 

Conclusion:

Hopefully, these approaches will help you become a more effective BA Lead. There are lots more approaches and in future articles, I may expand on them.

 

Published on: 2022/01/27