Skip to main content

Tag: Lean

Why Use a Requirements Matrix? Part 1.

WhyUseARequirements1“Why use a Requirements Matrix (RM) when tasks are in the Project Schedule and requirements are documented in the Requirements Document?”

This question comes up each time I recommend using an RM to improve project performance. The project schedule is usually built around deliverables and most technical deliverables do not correlate well with business requirements. The requirements document is far too lengthy to serve as an easy tracking mechanism. A RM addresses two project problems, requirements tracking and scope creep. It also helps control the project in many ways, providing a short (2-5 page) snapshot of the project in terms business people can understand.

Requirements, according to T. Capers Jones, is, “…the statement of needs by a user that triggers the development of a program or system.” He goes on to say that 80% of projects are at risk of scope creep, and that an accurate measuring system greatly helps track scope changes.

William G. Smillie in the “Software Engineering Productivity Handbook” edited by Jessica Keyes, says, “But how do software developers know if they are meeting user requirements or even understanding them? Obviously, I.S. professionals and end users will have to agree on requirements and explore the types of systems features that are most valuable to the end user. Not so obviously, an agreed-upon process to measure whether or not the requirements are being met must also be established.” A RM can be one aspect of that process, along with formal conversations to determine the ‘rightness’ and reasonableness of user requirements.


The uses for a RM are legion, the most important being recording decisions, milestone dates, location of supporting documents, and who is responsible for each requirement from a specifications and a development perspective. It should always be physically posted in the project area and always available (read only…) in a central LAN location.
Use an RM for every project, not just I.S. development. To construct your first RM, have all of your project materials handy, especially the requirements document and detailed project schedule. If you are lucky enough to be in the first phases of a project, you can build your RM as you go. Feel free to experiment with format. I have had the best results using MS Excel, since it allows sorting to give you different views of your RM.

Title the first column ‘Requirements’ and use to record the highest level of business requirement you have. There should be between 2 and 8. Bold and increase the font size on these. Now under each, list the mid-level business requirements (bold), and then the low-level business requirements if needed. Now title more columns: Priority, Owner, Approved (date), Doer, Accepted (date), and Document. Priority should be kept simple, no more than 4 levels and preferably 3, such as Required (show stopper, without which project is useless), Like (demonstrable cost savings or income producing), and Nice (intangible or small benefits only). Now use meetings with the business owners to continually insist that each requirement be prioritized according to your 3 or 4 tiered scale. This is critical, so be professional and relentless over time. Without these priorities and documented cost/benefit, you will have little input for your schedule and scope decisions other than everyone’s emotions and ‘favors’.

When you have agreement on priorities, get signoff at the highest levels to record, and fill in the Approved column. You may have a few stragglers that you have not yet gotten priority for. You should not work on these until priority is resolved. If the Doer has buy-in to the scope at this point, fill in the Accepted column. If not, work these people who are responsible for doing the task until agreement. Also record the document name and location where the detailed requirements can be found. The completed (to this point…) RM should be a project management deliverable required before moving to the next phase of the project.

Title the first column ‘No.’ and use a WBS-style numbering system. This will make it easier to refer back to earlier versions if needed as the entire document will not renumber. Next is ‘Requirements’; use to record your highest level of business requirement. Now title more columns: Priority, Owner, Approved (date), Responsible (was Doer, updated from a reader suggestion), Accepted (date), and Requirement Document (was just Document…), along with an Approved (date) column.

The RM columns to add next should directly correspond to your project plan, as a high level view of your task list. Put ‘n/a’ in all cells that do not apply, so that blank cells represent work to be done. For your Analysis Phase, columns could be: Test Plan, Complexity, Security (plan), and other high level topics. For your Design Phase, add more technical areas such as Data Base, Prototype, and Proof of Concept. Design is also the time to add detail rows under the main headings for all your detail requirements at the level ‘handy’ to track. These will correspond to test cases, which is another column to consider adding now. Each cell can contain more than one name. Don’t worry if it wraps and takes up more room!

For your Development Phase, columns to fill in for more detail include making sure all detail requirements have at least one test case covering them. Columns to add here include Code and other deliverables, and the test names your organization uses, such as Unit Test & Integration Test, with columns for person testing and person approving with dates. Useful here are at least one Plans & Docs column, to insure that your initial plans are carried through and approved. Another is Defect Log, to make sure that defects are all being recorded after Unit Test and that they generate updated or new test cases as required. Carry this through the Test Phase, adding User, Business, Parallel, or other test types, with needed detail. For your Implementation Phase, add final sign-offs, user acceptance, and any turnover areas that should be tracked.

As your project progresses, use your RM to record and track all your important tasks, and all the detail that comes with a project. One great value of your RM will be in presenting much of the same data as a project plan, the system or other deliverable, and as the RM. Different views can make the difference between one of your major constituencies understanding where the project stands and their having unrealistic expectations. I keep an up-to-date copy of my RM in my organizer at all times along with an updated project schedule for all those impromptu hallway discussions or other meetings that come up regularly. The RM allows me to take planning and corrective action earlier than I could without it. Your RM is also a great ‘War Room’ candidate.

Improve or Reengineer Your Process?

“How do we know when to improve a process or reengineer it?”

This is a frequent question, usually about a specific process, especially from project and team leaders on their way to project management roles. As people start to view project processes as a critical success factor for projects, they naturally want to improve their processes to better fit their custom projects.
Project management encompasses process management for not only the main work of the project, but for the project processes. If project management does NOT include process management in your organization, perhaps it should…


When starting new projects for my clients and also when called in to ‘fix’ projects, examining project processes is at the top of my list. Many times quite a lot of the discord within a project team and between a team and management or other organizations can be traced to project process inadequacies.

Here are factors to mull over when deciding how to handle a process change: the size of the change, the number of and specific people involved, your organization culture, single or multiple organization involvement, complexity of the current process, if technology can be applied, the impact of the results you seek, if the process will affect multiple projects, and whether or not you will have management backing for your project.

Let’s take a quick look at three different tactics to consider when one of your processes needs updating: Tweaking, or normal continuous improvement changes; Redesign, for those processes needing significant changes; and Reengineering, when you are in trouble or need a ‘big hit’ productivity improvement.


If most of the factors above are low, then gently improving your process is the way to go. Without a lot to gain, there are other areas where your efforts will be better spent. Minor, controlled changes can be planned and adapted to optimize or to address small process problems. An example would be switching your change control meeting day from Thursday to Wednesday to make a weekly document update schedule for your public internet pages. This type of change generally requires input and action from those whose work is affected by the change. Management may want to be informed, however will not be concerned. Tweaking of this nature can be successful without using many change agent tactics. Tweak at your whim!


If many of the factors above show above the minimum, and the change required is not too complex nor does it involve many organizations, redesign may be your best option. Significant problems or bottlenecks in several areas can also lead to process redesign. An example would be to reform your change control team around the Marketing and Customer Support functions rather than software maintenance.

Perhaps prior, your change control function was driven by production MIS or in-house users. Now management needs different responses as the product may be farther along the product life cycle or for other reasons. Redesign may point you to delete or add a step or two in the process and tweak many of your steps. Redesign normally keeps many of the same process steps, and in this case perhaps changing only the priority setting functions and the major players. Your effort expended during redesign working the people side of the change equation will not be wasted. Redesign any time you see gross inefficiency, when technology in common use in your organization can be leveraged, or when business goals or climate change.


Market changes or at least one significant factor that is clearly in need can be enough to trigger a process reengineering effort. More normally, higher rankings in multiple factors may lead you to attempt to reengineer one of your project (or feeding!) processes. Make sure up front that you are not changing for change sake, and that you will have enough allies and management support to finish what you start. Reengineering is definitely riskier, defining risk here as the chance to gain higher rewards or to lose your investment, in this case your clout, time, and effort. Sometimes the downside to a failed reengineering effort is that NO changes will then be addressed for a long period of time.

Reengineering a process requires a thorough ‘as-is’ process review, setting your goals, and a complete re-charting of all the tasks and responsibilities that are now deemed worth doing. Today, technology almost always plays a critical role in our capabilities. Many techniques we now use, or at least are familiar with, may not have been available when your process was first laid out, or even as it evolved.

Questioning each step of your process, really getting down to whether or not each step adds value to the overall process, is a painstaking process in itself. Ask yourself when deciding to reengineer, whether your team has the knowledge, the time, and the patience to walk through all the steps one by one, probably with multiple groups multiple times. While your group may have something to gain, another group may end up feeling like they lost, whether it be people or control. Remember, just because you have an AH HA moment and realize where great savings can be had, your associates may well take some hard convincing, over a period of time. Reengineer (at your peril…) when you see huge gains from cutting or crafting many steps, when your change may make the difference between success and failure, or when adopting a new technology will allow you to leapfrog your current, out of date, processes.

Watch for Part 2 of this article in next week’s Business Analyst Times

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Darrel Raynor is a Principal Consultant at Advanced Management Services, Inc. (AMS), a full service management consultancy servicing a global client base. Darrel Raynor is a senior technology executive, consultant, and turnaround specialist with over twenty years of leadership experience streamlining operations, systems, people, and projects. Darrel increases margin and profit, and decreases organization friction internally and externally with customers, vendors, and partners. Problem solving, process improvement, and operations optimization are his passion. For more information, visit

© Advanced Management Services, Inc


Team Training For Successful Projects: Use A Skills Matrix For Planning!
Published in: American Programmer, premier journal of software engineering
Datamation, international large systems journal
Datamation Europe, international large systems journal
Interact, journal of Hewlett-Packard computers

Technology in Business, newsletter

– IEEE Standards Collection, Software Engineering especially IEEE Std 830-1993 IEEE

Recommended Practices for Requirements Specifications. Azusa Pacific University,

Department of Computer Science, CS 524 Software Engineering I is a good, beginning outline for Requirements.
– A Guide to the PMBOK – Project Management Institute

Is There Life after Business Requirements? Part 2.

lifeafterpart2-1Make Ready – Do – Put Away

(Click here for Part 1 of this article)

In taking a close look at each of our daily tasks, we find that there is more to each operation than bare perfor­mance to complete the job. It is preceded by some time-consuming preparatory activities and followed by clean­ing up and putting away the tools and equipment used to do the job.

Idle time is a waste that should be eliminated wherever possible in any operation in order to increase productiv­ity. Smoothness of operation, the changing of sequence to improve the motion pattern, and the elimination of unnecessary motions or delays are other important factors that contribute to increased productivity.

Any kind of work can be classified in three general phases.

  1. Make Ready
  2. Do
  3. Put Away

“Make ready” refers to all the preparatory activity required prior to performance of the productive “do the work” operation. “Do the work” is the production operation of the activity. “Put away” is the activity required after the production operations have been performed to complete the cycle of work. If the “do” operation cannot be eliminated, the “make ready” and “put away” phases offer the best possibilities for eliminating or simplifying those motions required. These phases should be subjected to close scrutiny and nothing should be taken for granted.

The following is an overly simple illustration of a “make ready-do-and put away” chart, which indicates the steps taken in signing one’s name when using a fountain pen. Although the items may look petty, they are there nevertheless to be counted: five steps in the “make ready” and three in the “put away”.

Make Ready

1. Search for pen
2. Remove from pocket
3. Take off cap
4. Replace on other end
5. Position for writing


6. Sign name

Put Away

7. Remove cap
8. Replace on other end
9. Replace in pocket

How to Improve the Process

Now, if we wanted to improve the job, where should we look for improvement? Probably not in the signing operation. After all, the signer is an expert and has been practicing all his life. He probably can do this job better than anyone else. Hence, the place to look for improvement is in the “make ready” and the “put away.” These items can be eliminated, combined, or simplified without in any way affecting the quality of the job.

Following is an enumeration of the steps involved if we choose to reduce the “make ready” and “put away” by using a desk pen stand.

Make Ready

1. Remove from stand
2. Position for writing


3. Sign name

Put Away

4. Replace in stand

By comparison, nine steps have been reduced to four. Normally, each operation is not broken down to the make ready-do-put away details, but it is an interesting and useful method to keep in mind.

The Open Mind

In order to be receptive to new ideas, we must have an open mind. It has been said that the mind is like a para­chute, it works only when it is open.

The largest stumbling block to simplifying work does not lie in the technical aspects. Rather, it is in the minds of people doing the work who feel they are already using the best possible method. The minute you say a job cannot be improved, you are through – no matter how much you know and even if you are an expert. Someone knowing nothing about it, but whose thinking it can be improved, is now a better man for the job than you.

Charles F. Kettering, whose accomplishments with General Motors Corporation are legend, struck at the heart of the problem when he stated, “It seems to me that it is pretty much of a definite law that man is so constituted as to see what is wrong with a new thing, and not what is right.” The open mind, once obtained, is not a static thing. It must be continuously cultivated in every waking moment.

So much for the history and background of work simplification. It is now time to talk specifics. What are we going to do to get the objective approach to our jobs, and how are we going to analyze them? First, we should recognize the basic elements of each job.

1. The Open Mind

A willingness to listen and give a fair hearing to new ideas and suggestions will go a long way toward overcom­ing some of the obstacles. This does not for a moment imply that we should blindly accept all suggestions. But it does mean that we should try to see the merit in the idea as well as the flaws. And if there is real merit, we should try to work out the rough spots.

2. The Questioning Attitude

We should try to approach our analysis work with these questions: How can this be done better? Is this step or function truly necessary? Or, how can I simplify this procedure? These questions and their answers will help us overcome the obstacle of complacency.

3. Reassurance

When we try to make a methods change, it’s important that we reassure all persons involved that it won’t have an adverse effect on their job security or stature. It’s also quite necessary to make sure that the people involved fully understand the proposed change so that they will be able to adjust to it.

4. Teamwork

Perhaps the best way to overcome fear of criticisms is to have the person responsible for the present system and the person with the new suggestion working together as a team to develop and install the new method.

5. Participation

Participation is the keystone. It is the major factor that distinguishes the work simplification way from other means of accomplishing methods change. If participation is truly practiced, and the people doing the work are the ones responsible for changes, then most of the obstacles mentioned above can be overcome smoothly and successfully.

Remember, a good slogan to keep in mind as we attack these obstacles is:

“There’s always a better way.”

Dealing with Resistance to Change

One of the most baffling and stubbornly rebellious problems analysts face is resistance to change. Resistance may take a number of forms – persistent reduction in output, increase in the number of “quits,” strikes, and of course, the expression of a lot of pseudo logical reasons why the change will not work. Even the more petty forms of this resistance can be troublesome. Let’s face it, in order for an organization to progress to a successful position in the world, changes must continually occur. So why not deal with resistance to change – management does not have to and, in fact, cannot force changes down the throats of resistant people.

People do not resist change as such, and most of the resistance, which does occur, is unnecessary.

The key to the problem is to understand the true nature of resistance. Actually, what people resist is usually not technical change but social change – the change in their human relationships that generally accompanies technical change.

Resistance is usually created because of certain blind spots and attitudes that staff specialists have as a result of their preoccupation with the technical aspects of new ideas.

Analysts and their customers can take concrete steps to deal constructively with these attitudes. The steps including emphasizing new standards of performance for staff and encouraging them to think in different ways, as well as making use of the fact that signs of resistance can serve as practical warning signals in directing and timing technological changes.

Top executives can also make their efforts more effective at meetings of staff and operating groups where change is being discussed. They can do this by shifting their attention from the facts of schedules, technical de­tails, work assignments, and so forth, to instead discuss what these items indicate about developing resistances and receptiveness to change.

The Work Simplification Formula


SWS represents successful work simplification

PWS represents philosophy and attitude of work simplification

TWS represents tools and techniques of work simplification

HF represents consideration of the human factor

This formula, which is not a mathematical formula, indicates the importance of the HF term. All terms in the formula are important; however, consideration of the human factor is by far the most important. Success with work simplification is impossible without adequate consideration

The Business Analyst’s Role

The business analyst today occupies a strategic position and is not limited to the traditional role, with well-defined activities of staff personnel, as in the past. As the specialist in the use and application of work simpli­fication techniques, they will be more frequently brought into what was considered the exclusive territory of managers.

As the business analyst is working closely with the manager, their job expands from just using the techniques of work simplification. Now the job also involves instructing the supervisor in the use and application of tech­niques and obtaining the maximum involvement between themselves, the supervisor and the employees in developing, testing and installing improvements made.

The Basic Process

Before discussing the basic tools of work simplification, there is one more preliminary item to bring to the fore­front. This technique will make certain that nothing is overlooked.

As you now know, a systematic, organized approach to any job or problem will find the best way more times than the haphazard approach of trial and error.

A technique of analysis based on this philosophy of work simplification is the 7-step pattern.

Step 1. Select the Job or Process to be Studied

Bottleneck – Work seems too time-consuming; too many steps; too expensive; unsafe; lot of overtime; fatigu­ing; holding-up service; stop waste; etc.

Step 2. Record from Direct Observation All Aspects of the Job Selected

Gather all the facts as they are (job classification, organizational relationships, etc.). Use all or some of the mod­eling and creativity tools of work simplification. There are various ones available. These may include flowcharts and models, graphics, prototypes, operations management and the like.

Step 3. Analyze the Recorded Facts

Critically looking from a constructive point of view

Step 4. Develop a Better Method

Again, directing yourself to each detail.

Can you Eliminate?
Change Steps?
Physical area?

Step 5. Analyze the New Method

Give attention to one thing at a time – challenge for constructive improvements.
Why is job being done?
If you decide that the job is necessary, start questioning each detail.
What is being done? Why?
Get facts, not opinions!
Where is it being done? Why?
Could it be done better elsewhere?
When is it being done? Why at this time?
Could it be done better some other time?
Who is doing it? Why is that person doing it?
Does it tie in with the rest of his/her work.
Could someone else do it better?
How is the detail being done? Why is it being done this way?
What method is being used? Is there a better way?

Step 6. Test the New Method

Look for additional improvements. Do not overlook anything, no matter how trivial you may think it

Step 7. Install New Method

Everything we have done so far is fine, but if we don’t convert to action, what good is it?

  • Document the new method
  • List what it will do: cost savings, time, effort, safer area, etc.
  • Sell it to those concerned
  • Trial run
  • Give credit to contributors
  • Standardize
  • Follow-up

Consulting with the people involved is a real help in job improvement. No one can resist a new idea when it is partly their own.

Be sincere when you deal with people; read their reactions and feelings; recognize their importance.

Become familiar with this “Technique of Analysis.” By using this formal pattern, you will be able to approach and solve any problem.

Remember, participation is the keystone; if you do, you will be successful.


So you have a requirements plan. You have elicited functional, non-functional, and quality of service require­ments. You have validated and verified them, and your stakeholders are satisfied. Now what? The requirements part of a business analysis project answers the questions “What do we have and what do we need?”

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Dr. Victor Teplitzky, an independent consultant, has more than 34 years’ experience in training and development, project management, organizational development, and business analysis.Dr. Teplitzky studied industrial engineering and quantitative analysis, holds an MS in organizational development and a Ph.D. in theology, and is a board-registered naturopathic doctor. He is a member of the Project Manage­ment Institute (PMI®), the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Dr. Teplitzky is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by PMI and as a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) by IIBA. He is also a contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR), an EAM-approved advanced environmental management system (EMS) auditor for quality and environment (ISO 14000), an ANSI-RAB accredited EMS auditor (ISO 14000), and a quality systems development and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) master.For more information about Global Knowledge or to register, visit or call 1-866-925-7765.

Is There Life after Requirements? Part 1.

IsThereLifeAfter1Tools that Support Business Process Improvement

So you have a requirements plan. You have elicited functional, non-functional, and quality of service require­ments. You have validated and verified them, and your stakeholders are satisfied. Now what?

I like to think of the requirements part of a business analysis project as the analysis function; that is, to answer the questions “What do we have and what do we need?” The next step is to evaluate and answer the question “Is it any good, and what improvements can be made to the process?”

The overall process may look something like this.


Business process improvement is based on a model-oriented approach that requires a robust set of tools for a consistent and thorough application.

Relationship of Tools and Techniques

Commercial modeling and analysis tools are usually designed to be as general-purpose as possible to gain the widest possible base of users. The tools typically focus on specific modeling techniques; but in some cases, the tools may not enforce the modeling syntax and procedures. Enforcement of the appropriated modeling syntax and procedures of these techniques must be a basic requirement for consideration of individual tools.

Note that the same technique can play various roles within the entire improvement program. A repository capa­bility is generally required to integrate the myriad techniques and tools within the context of an overall method­ological approach. An example would be a standard requirements document and a list of organization-accepted models.

Tool support for AS-IS modeling needs to facilitate data gathering and synthesis of the model. Once built, the model must be analyzable to identify improvement opportunities. As a minimum, tool support for TO-BE mod­eling must allow easy modification and reorganization of the AS-IS model to generate the TO-BE model. Ulti­mately, TO-BE modeling support should allow modeling teams to easily incorporate “best practice” templates. Deriving the TO-BE process model from the AS-IS is a difficult task that must be supported by other techniques.

Business rules define the fundamental structure for business management and are relatively stable when compared to processes. Many different business processes can use the same set of business rules. A change in business rules, however, can facilitate a significant modification of the associated business process. Current business rules, reflected by an AS-IS model, can help define and clarify the basic nature of a business process, independent of the current organization and resources. New business rules, depicted by a TO-BE model, define fundamental changes that can lead to significant streamlining of a business process. At a minimum, a modeling tool must support rigorous definition of business rules and facilitate easy modification.

Basic Tool Functions

Within an emerging, business process improvement effort, support tools should satisfy the following requirements.

  • Model Management. Versioning, keeping straight the different versions, and configuration control of models are required to keep track of various iterations of AS-IS and TO-BE models and the interrelation­ship between the functional focus of various teams.
  • Model Authoring. Both graphical and natural language facilities are required for the rapid and effec­tive creation of models. Unlike mere drawing tools, modeling semantics and rules must be enforced by the supporting software.
  • Model Analysis and Validation. An advanced set of functions are needed to validate models for logical consistency and completeness. Once validated, these models must support the analysis to help discover opportunities to improve the overall effectiveness of the business processes.
  • Model Integration and Mapping. A total enterprise-wide, broad, multiple-organization process model cannot and should not be created as the result of a single project. Instead, specific views should be created and validated and then integrated on an evolutionary basis to create a comprehensive, enterprise-wide definition.
  • Model Presentation. A comprehensive set of graphing and textual reporting tools are required to facilitate effective presentation of modeling results at both technical and managerial levels. These reporting capabilities should include the ability to generate English-like statements of complex business rules.
  • Model Transformation. Modeling results need to be fed directly to a variety of tools and other implementation environments through the use of model transformation functions and custom inter­faces. Possible transformation capabilities might include the ability to automatically generate relational database structures to support heuristic prototyping of conceptual business rules.

Tool Integration Strategy

No single modeling tool is currently capable of performing all the types of modeling and analysis needed for business analysis, and new types of analyses will continue to evolve as the business analysis discipline matures. Therefore, an open-tool architecture that allows multiple tools to share model definitions through common languages is required.

Business rules define the fundamental structure for business management and are relatively stable when compared to processes. Many different business processes can use the same set of business rules. A change in business rules, however, can facilitate a significant modification of the associated business process. Current business rules, reflected by an AS-IS model, can help define and clarify the basic nature of a business process independent of the current organization and resources. New business rules, depicted by a TO-BE model, define fundamental changes that can lead to significant streamlining of a business process. At a minimum, a modeling tool must support rigorous definition of business rules and facilitate easy modification.

Work Simplification

In this age of automation, we have a tendency to become so involved in the designing and programming of the ultimate system that we tend to forget the art of “Work Simplification.” This is a serious omission, because work simplification is the foundation of the systems and business analysis concepts.

What Is Work Simplification?

Work simplification is the organized application of common sense to eliminate waste of any kind, such as time, energy, space, and imagination, through simpler or better ways of doing work.

Elimination of waste implies getting results, not merely talking about it. Results come from better methods only when they are enthusiastically employed by the people concerned. Work simplification never overlooks the importance of acceptance of the new method by the people who will use it. The leaders in scientific manage­ment have long recognized the importance of enthusiastic cooperation. They developed and installed better methods only to return shortly to find that the people on the job have reverted to old methods. These leaders recognized the problem involved the most difficult and highest type of selling – the selling of an idea. People buy what they want rather than what is good for them or what they need. The first and most important problem is to get the individuals involved into the act. Participation built on understanding stimulates interest, initiative, and imagination and results in enthusiastic cooperation.

Work simplification is not a speed-up program. It does not mean asking anyone to work harder or faster. It is an attempt to “work smarter – not harder.” If it were a speed-up, we might commit the error of speeding up all parts of a job, both the necessary and unnecessary. The stimulating thing about this course is that it recognizes that no one knows the details of a job better than the person doing the job. If we can help maintain an open mind, think objectively about work, and systematically apply some of the simple tools of analysis, the worker will do a better job and be a better team member.

A Brief History

People from the earliest days have been inventors and builders of machines. The Chinese invented a method of block printing to replace slow hand lettering. Around 1450, the first crude printing press was invented using movable type, and productivity increased again.

The 18th century changes from hand labor to machine came so fast that this period is called the Industrial Revolution.

In 1764, the spinning jenny superseded the manually operated spinning wheel.

Then came the loom in 1785 and the steam engine with motor power in 1787.

The great-grandfather of our modern lathe was introduced in 1784, and the milling machine in 1808.

The invention of the electric motor in 1837 opened up new fields for machines to replace hand labor.

All through the 19th century, more and more machines were developed to take over the jobs done by hand. Writers called this period the “period of invention and mechanization,” lasting from 1785 to 1885, about 100 years.

Now let’s look at the next period, which was a continuation of the mechanization but with something new added.

In 1885, Frederick W. Taylor introduced what was later called “scientific management” when his scientific stud­ies of fatigue in the steel pits increased productivity 400%. In the same year, Taylor introduced time studies and, later, wage incentives. On many jobs, productivity doubled. His research in the art of cutting materials revolu­tionized machine shop production.

Mr. Taylor was followed by the Gilbreths, Frank and Lillian. The Gilbreths introduced a more refined technique; scientific management but with some new angles: motion analysis and motion study. As a contractor, Frank Gilbreth developed methods and materials in the brick-laying portion of the contracting business in the possibil­ity of laying 350 bricks per hour compared to 120 per hour with the old method. Gilbreth was really applying another form of scientific management, the principle of motion economy. Consider this the second phase of the industrial development of improved productivity, namely the “Period of the Expert.” This period extended from 1885 to about 1935 and, of course, in reality, still continues.


The period 1910-1940, characterized by greater industrial development and increased capacity, saw the spec­tacular rise of the efficiency expert who flashed his stop watch here and there and ultimately doomed himself to failure. He left a psychological scar on the labor force of America. It was apparent that people could not be pushed, predicted, and calibrated by using the same approach to them as one would use on a piece of machin­ery.

Clerical and Administrative

There is somewhat of a parallel in the administrative and clerical fields to the industrial developments. Starting in 1885, with the invention of the typewriter, there was a transition period from the quill pen and male secretary to the typewriter and the female secretary. There was a transition from bookkeepers at roll top desks to folks at calculating machines. We moved from manual sorting to IBM, with the latest electronic machines capable of sorting six digit numbers at the rate of 10,000 cards per hour. And today, on a computer, we can sort half a mil­lion characters per hour and print 1,500 lines of type per minute. Compare this with the manual method of 300 and 500 cards per hour. We have adopted many other mechanical ways making it possible to increase productiv­ity by mechanization. In the office we have been, for the most part, strictly “expertizing.” We had the efficiency expert who tried to do a good job. However, most times he didn’t even have the support of management.

Approach to Work Simplification

The basic approach to achieve our objectives of doing a better job, with less effort and time at the lowest pos­sible cost is to:

  • Eliminate the unnecessary parts of a process
  • Combine and rearrange the rest of the process
  • Simplify the necessary part of the process

The sequence cannot be changed, because it incorporates fundamentals of mental discipline we must follow in order to acquire and keep our objectivity. If we are to have an open mind to review a job, the first question is whether or not it is necessary. If it isn’t, stop right there. Too often effort is made to combine, rearrange, or simplify jobs that should not exist.

A method-minded member is usually a good employee and their method-mindedness is usually contagious so that other employees will also be method-minded. Such people are of great aid to procedures personnel. The objectives and benefits of work simplification can be more easily and readily obtained through the participation of as many employees as possible; it cannot be achieved satisfactorily merely by a particular group assigned to study such matters.

Obstacles to Work Simplification

If the objectives of work simplification are not new, and it is obvious that everyone should wish to find simpler and better ways of doing work, why don’t we get more action? The best improvements in the manner of office work performance may produce discouraging results because of employee attitudes and reactions. This has been summarized in four words, “employee resistance to change.”

There are four definite reasons why we resist change.

  1. Change disrupts work habits.
  2. Change disrupts complacency.
  3. Change implies criticism.
  4. Change affects security.

1. Work Habits
How do you feel when you try to change a habit? The same is true with work habits. Work habits are very diffi­cult to change. It has been said that habit is a cable. We weave a cable piece every day until we cannot break it. Habits are a curse, in a sense, because they take control of us and, in effect, force us to resist change. We want to avoid the situation where an improved routine is put in place over someone’s “dead body.”


2. Complacency
Complacency is the “Leave me alone, don’t change it” attitude. It is easy to acquire.

One of the main obstacles we find in industry is the resistance to change. Changing methods, apparatus, equip­ment, systems, forms, routines, and even people, meets resistance. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that there always is and always will be change. Resistance to change is not new; history is full of classic examples of people who assumed that certain things were good just as they were. Here are a few examples involving names you will recognize are,

Commodore Vanderbilt, when approached by George Westinghouse about an air brake, replied, “I have no time to listen to fools who want to blow air on wheels to stop trains.”

Bankers told Arthur Pitney that his proposition to print postage on envelopes was impossible. “Can’t you under­stand that allowing private individuals to print postage directly on envelopes amounts to allowing them to print United States currency?”

Chauncey Depew admitted late in life that he advised his nephew not to invest $5,000 in Ford Company stock because “nothing has yet to come along to best the horse.”

In the industrial field, one man stands out as a pioneer in breaking down resistance to change; that man is Mr. Charles Kettering. Kettering had many troubles; one was painting automobiles. Back in 1922, General Motors and other automobile manufacturers had trouble delivering enough cars. The warehouses were full of unfinished cars because they couldn’t paint them fast enough. Kettering called in some paint experts. They sat down and began to tell him why it took 33 days to paint a Cadillac and 22 days to paint a Buick. He told them he didn’t want to know why it takes so long, but what could be done to improve it. They spent three days discussing it and then advised him that they were sorry but nothing could be done to improve or reduce painting time. “Because,” they said, “painting time is controlled by nature: everybody knows that nature governs the time of drying and you can’t possible hurry nature.” So they went away, figuring that they had convinced Kettering.

A few days later, Kettering was in New York and walking up Fifth Avenue. He saw a small pin tray in a store window. This tray was painted with a peculiar kind of lacquer. His curiosity aroused, Kettering found the name of the manufacturer and visited him at a small plant in Newark, New Jersey. He asked if he could purchase a gallon of the lacquer. The fellow said, “Why in the world do you want a gallon? I haven’t used that much since I first started to make it. This stuff is still in the experimental stage.” Mr. Kettering informed him that he would like to paint an automobile with it. The manufacturer said, “Mister, you can’t possibly do that. You see, this stuff dries too fast. You can’t do anything about it, you just can’t slow it down.” So, one expert said you can’t do anything about the process because it takes nature just so long to dry paint, and the other said you can’t do anything about the process because the paint dries too fast. This was the beginning of the quick-drying lacquers that are used today.


3. Criticism
Fear of criticism is a rugged obstacle. When you change a method, you are, in effect, criticizing the person who installed it. It is natural for someone to ask, “Why should I accept so-and-so’s idea? He is just trying to make a fool out of me. The boss will think I am a fool because I didn’t think of the idea first.”


Again, participation helps. If we can get people to participate, to take part in solving their problems, the barrier of criticism automatically disappears. The same individuals who resented intrusion will offer unreserved coop­eration when they are let in on the problem at the start, and hence, become members of the team.


4. Security
The fourth and final obstacle is fear of job security. Let’s face it. Every time there is a proposed change in an of­fice, the employees get momentary jitters. What will this change do to my job? Fear of the unknown contributes to the employees’ resistance to change.

We must realize that increased productivity per person leads to increased job security. Better service or lower prices increase the market volume and create more work. Obviously, there are more people today who are en­gaged in the automobile and allied industries than there were in the carriage-making industry when it became defunct.

Every time the customer pays more than the most scientific methods of production and distribution require, there will be less buying than there might have been. This, in turn, results in less employment and a further shrinkage of the consumer’s dollar.

A company’s, division’s, agency’s, or office’s very existence depends largely upon the quality of the work per­formed by its employees. Every employee must continually look for a better way to improve that quality. When an organization’s functions fail to improve, it may be eliminated or forced out of existence by other units, which have, as part of their objectives, the constant review and upgrading of their functions. No strike, war, or disaster can so completely destroy a person’s job as that. It is not a matter of whether we wish to improve our opera­tions but the security of every person in the organization who depends upon it.

In summing up, I think that we will all agree that all four obstacles can be overcome by letting the people who are involved in any methods or procedures alteration participate in the planning. When we conquer these ob­stacles, we will have these same people learn to laugh at complacency and poke fun at the complacent fellows who are so close-minded. Since they themselves advocate the change, we are able to alter more of their habits with little or no confusion. Criticism vanishes when a person participates, and of course, he feels more secure because he had a part in the planning and naturally will not jeopardize his own status.

Watch for Part 2 of Is There Life after Requirements? in next week’s Business Analyst Times which will be posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Dr. Victor Teplitzky, an independent consultant, has more than 34 years’ experience in training and development, project management, organizational development, and business analysis.Dr. Teplitzky studied industrial engineering and quantitative analysis, holds an MS in organizational development and a Ph.D. in theology, and is a board-registered naturopathic doctor. He is a member of the Project Manage­ment Institute (PMI®), the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Dr. Teplitzky is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by PMI and as a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) by IIBA. He is also a contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR), an EAM-approved advanced environmental management system (EMS) auditor for quality and environment (ISO 14000), an ANSI-RAB accredited EMS auditor (ISO 14000), and a quality systems development and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) master. For more information about Global Knowledge courses or to register for a course, visit or call 1-866-925-7765

© Copyright Global Knowledge

“Show Me the Money” – Value-Driven Requirements!

For those of you who follow my posts you know that I’m incredibly passionate about the Agile Methods. I’m not some youngster who is blindly following the newest game in town. No, I have many scars related to other methods and approaches. However, I’ve discovered that they’re the best way to do software development and come away with a life.

I’ve been exposing some of the core practices or thinking models of agility here. Another that I’d like to share is the importance placed on business value when it comes to the Product Backlog (requirement lists).

Now trust me, I realize how hard it is to quantify true ROI on a per requirement basis. I think it’s virtually impossible to do that and it’s not what I’m implying. Instead though, what if we could get a group of key stakeholders together and have them analyze requirements or themes of requirements and assign some sort of relative business value? You could then use this valuation (priority in some sense) to guide your further refinement of the requirements, or to decide on UX efforts required, or to decide on where to invest more heavily in design and construction rigor. This sort of value-driven analysis might prove incredibly useful in guiding your work.

To be honest, the agile methods have surfaced just such a technique that I want to share. It’s called Planning Poker and here’s how it goes—


Planning Poker

Mike Cohn originated the popular method that the agile methods use to estimate the size of user stories. (I’ve explained those in previous posts). Planning poker is a collaborative technique where team members get a series of cards marked with values that represent relative level of effort. A modified Fibonnaci series is normally used for the card values: 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100, and infinity.

As each user story is examined and discussed, there comes a point where you want to “size it”. Each team member thinks about the size and then “votes” by selecting and throwing one of the cards down to represent the relative size.

Once thrown, the team discusses the high and low values and explores the why behind everyone’s selection. It’s a wonderful way to drive relevant discussion. The team continues to re-vote until they feel they have sufficiently narrowed the values into a uniform selection for level of effort. Then they move onto the next card and so on. So this works for estimates…

Value Poker

What if you use the base technique, but change up the cards? A very interesting and healthy extension to Planning Poker is Value Poker. While the basic technique remains the same, the setup is different. In this case, you place monetary values on each card, say: $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, and $100,000. The list is really determined by your product and business domain and mapping relatively realistic cost/ROI amounts to the cards.

Once this is done, you view each user story (requirement) and try to apply a value to it. Again, team members throw their cards simultaneously and discuss the differences in value perspective. By recasting and further discussion, each story is assigned a value that relative to other stories and relative to the overall value that the product or project will deliver to the business.

In agile shops, this helps initially with prioritizing the work on the Product Backlog, in that business value drives prioritization and delivery flow.

However, I also find that these value discussions creep into all aspects of the project. From a BA perspective, it can help determine the true “Top 20%” of requirements that need your utmost care and attention. You might review these first, or use different tools and techniques to refine them, relative to the other requirements. You might review them with different sets of stakeholders, etc.

The point being, that valuation matters not only in the ordering of the work, but in all aspects of the project. For example, imagine you’re a tester and the top 10 of 100 requirements have a cumulative value of 67% of the overall project. Would that change how and what you tested? I suspect yes!

Value Poker Twists

There are several twists you can make to the technique.

One is to maintain different values based on the functional role of the team member. So you might have red cards for QA participants, blue cards for development participants, green cards for business facing participants, and yellow cards for BA participants.

This differentiation allows the entire team to quickly view distinctions in level of effort, or value in this case, from a constituency point of view. If, for example, the business values a user story at a very high level, but development does not, then some functional alignment discussion should occur.

Another twist is to give each valuation team member a fixed pool of funds to spend. This is my favorite approach, in that it encourages each member (project stakeholder) to not only consider relative value, but to spend their funds well (wisely) across the user story mix for the project.

It’s common to come out of sessions where the business has valued a small set of user stories quite highly. This information has then led to increased care, diligence, and quality on the part of the team when they get to defining and implementing that set of stories.

There something different about saying-

This is our #1 or highest priority feature and…..


This is our #1 feature AND it provides 42% of our overall project valuation / ROI

Don’t you think?

Wrapping Up

I hope this discussion on value has perhaps opened you to another perspective when ordering and prioritizing your requirements…and work. Another positive side-effect of the technique is that it starts to skew our perspective more towards the business side. I think that’s a very healthy point of view.

So, poker anyone?


Don’t forget to leave your comments below

The Tyranny of Best Practice and Its Effect on Requirements Elicitation

tyranny1How effective is today’s requirements elicitation? What do the statistics say? How long is your change request log? Did you ever wonder why there are so many changes during requirements definition? And why can so many project failures be traced back to the requirements?

I’d like to apologize because it’s partly my fault. I don’t mean just myself personally, but rather the generation of business analysts who crafted the foundation for today’s requirements elicitation best practices. That said, the blame shouldn’t be placed entirely on the shoulders of my generation. You see, part of the problem is our inability to learn, organizationally. Organizations have adopted a best practice approach to learning. And therein lies the problem. Let’s examine the serious drawbacks of this learning approach.

The best practice approach is based on evolution. It is slow, agonizingly slow. I don’t know what nature’s purpose is, but I can say with some certainty that in nature it is the strong and the prolific (great in numbers) that survive. Nature is not necessarily interested in keeping the “best”. So it is with best practices. How do best practices emerge?

It all starts with personal experience. We all have it, and we all develop personal practices around it. At some point, an organization may decide that it doesn’t want that many personal practices and it prefers a single organizational practice. So it sets about establishing one. A team is assembled, and based on their past experience, usually 5 – 10 years, they develop an organizational practice. But the one that ends up the winner, isn’t necessarily the best, but rather the one that gets consensus. Often this is a compromise close to the majority practice. Of course, we all know that the best is rarely in the majority. Practices are rarely subjected to verification. And so the strong survive, and we get an organizational practice. Now this practice needs to be propagated to the organization. The time-frame for this can easily be 5 – 10 years or even longer. So at the end of the day we have a practice based on experience that is 5 – 10 years old and which takes 5 – 10 years to spread through the organization. So we have a timeline of 10 – 20 years or more to develop an organizational practice.

Then along come consultants who notice these practices. In some they see an opportunity for business. And so, they get behind these practices. Of course, of the many practices out there, the ones with the greatest opportunity for them, are the ones that will get the most support. And so, these practices start to show up at conferences, in articles and in books. As more and more organizations are convinced to try them, we reach a critical point where hundred of organizations have tried the emerging “best practice”. Among the hundreds, we search for three to five organizations that are both well known, respected and successful. These become the poster boys for the marketing campaign to follow. Their success serves as the fuel for pushing the practice forward. The fact that failure rates for the practice exceed the 90% mark, are never revealed. All we need to show is that it can work, and that it has worked. Eventually, after 10 to 20 years or more, enough organizations are convinced, so we get a dramatic increase in adoption. Now it’s out of the hands of the proponents, the pushers, and into the hands of the adopters. The adopters now begin to talk to each other and stories of failures begin to increase. The true effectiveness begins to emerge. And within five to seven years, another best practice hits the dust.

And how long does all this take? It takes 10 to 50 years to discover that a best practice may not be that good. Can you afford to wait that long to try a practice developed by people based on experiences from decades ago? Six Sigma was branded in 1986 by Motorola based on principles that date back to 1920. It is just now beginning to achieve the level of adoption that immediately precedes abandonment. Lean was primarily developed following World War II by Toyota. The majority of Lean principles taught today were developed between 1945 and 1965. That’s practically ancient history. Again, it is just now beginning to achieve the level of adoption that immediately precedes abandonment. Now abandonment doesn’t mean it’ll completely disappear.

Hindsight is 20/20 – Until You Turn a Corner

Best practices are based on hindsight. The best practices for your job were developed primarily by people of my generation, based on our experience with Requirements Elicitation and Project Management. Unfortunately, our experiences were based on a completely different reality than today’s. We have turned a corner. Didn’t you get the email?

Today’s reality is considerably different. Our job was to automate well defined clerical jobs. Yours is to improve process performance. We dealt with departments with single points of authority. You deal with cross-functional groups with functional biases. We didn’t have change control. Change control has been introduced to fill an apparent oversight on our part. But actually, there was no oversight. We just didn’t have that many changes – our requirements were stable. Today the opposite is true. In fact you can view the length of your change control log as an indicator of risk. The longer your list, the more risky are your requirements.

I appreciate the compliment you are paying us, by basing your approach on ours. But you really shouldn’t have. We were working on cars, and you’re working on jets. Our world moved slowly so we could rely on personal practice to develop best practices. The timelines fit. But at today’s speeds, this approach doesn’t work. We were the more educated within the organization. We worked with dedicated but less educated employees, performing simpler jobs and were willing to be told what to do. You are working with a workforce that is more educated than yesterday’s most educated. Their work is more complex and more varied. And it changes more often and more quickly. As a business analyst, or process analyst, you have little hope of being able to understand to any level of detail all the work required in a complex process simply through interviewing, workshops and software.

But let’s review the conditions prevalent at the time:

  1. Computers were new and expensive.
  2. We didn’t have users yet. We had job experts.
  3. The job experts knew their jobs.
  4. The job experts didn’t know what computers could do. So they didn’t know what they wanted and we didn’t ask them what they wanted.
  5. Departments were full of people who did the same repetitive work and had been doing so for a long time.

So how did we gather requirements? We asked people what they did. We usually asked a few people knowing that everyone didn’t do things exactly the same way. Then based on what we understood from what they did, we designed a computer system to automate their job.

There are a few really important things to understand:

  1. We didn’t get many changes, because there was no opportunity for changes. If you ask someone what they do, and they have been doing it for years, they are not going to come back two weeks later and change their mind about what they did. We asked the job experts a question to which they had a firm, correct, and unchanging answer.
  2. The job experts didn’t have any notions of what computers could do, and so they didn’t interfere in the design process.
  3. The power of the computer to automate the simple jobs was so great, that it was difficult to fail.

How does that differ from today:

  1. You don’t ask subject matter experts what they do. You ask them what they need? The first is a question to which they have the answer. The second is a question to which they do NOT have the answer. The result is that the answer keeps changing. Hence, the long list of changes requests. Answering the question becomes a learning process.
  2. You aren’t in control of the design process. In fact, for most organizations, the design process has been abdicated to the SME committee. The assumption is that because you know how to assemble a car, you must also know how to design an assembly line. Clearly this is a false assumption. Designing and doing are two different disciplines. The people who design race cars are not the ones driving them, and vice versa.

We designed processes by looking backwards to what worked – best practices. We had the time. We had the stability. You have neither. You have little time and lots of change. You need to drop the best practice approach, because “best practices” are no longer a “best practice”. The world has moved on and so has your job. The paradigm has shifted. But the methods have not. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the future business analyst job is more sophisticated, more impressive, will produce greater results for which you will be rewarded. You will be appreciated for your talent and your unique abilities. You will be seen as part of the business and not just a necessary appendage. But since your job has moved, so must you. Your new approach must be based on designing forward, rather than looking back. This requires that you move away from best practice and towards engineered design driven by performance. It means you have to move away from waiting for the market to accept a principle and towards testing it yourself to see if it works in your environment. It means that you can no longer speak to subject matter experts from across the table to elicit requirements they don’t have, but rather you must lead them in discovering what the higher level process needs in order to produce the desired value. Subject matter experts are not your customers in this exercise. They are part of a team. You are part of the same team, but you have a different role. So do they.

Designing to performance is a totally different paradigm from designing from experience. Designing to performance requires the introduction of science to the art of design. It requires concepts to be tested in real time, rather than distilled through generations of experience. Designing to performance takes the profession to a true profession based on scientific based knowledge, not committee-based knowledge. When medicine was based on best practice, leaches and blood-letting were accepted practices for centuries. Today’s medicine, based on science, has had more advances in one year than was possible in a century under the best practices approach. Best practices dissuade new approaches. Science kills ineffective approaches.

The choice is simple. You can continue to look behind you, after you have turned the corner. Or you can design to the future, while retaining not past practices, but rather enduring principles. You can continue to struggle along a winding mountain road on foot or switch to an automobile on a highway. For sure, it will take some time and effort to learn to drive, but isn’t it worth the ride?

How do you know when it’s time to shift to a new paradigm? When the conditions that lead to the current paradigm no longer exist, then we know we have turned a corner. The time to develop a new paradigm is just before we turn that corner. Unfortunately, we have turned that corner over two decades ago. Best practices are now holding us back. We must shift paradigms before someone switches us.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below

Angelo Baratta PMP, CMC, President of Performance Innovation is a practitioner and researcher. He has combined 25+ years of practical business experience with over 10,000 hours of research and development to produce ePPM Future Blue DesignTM – the art and science of discovering near perfect requirements. Used with Lean or Six Sigma it can help you to deliver from double to 10 times more value and turn Lean into a living and evolving methodology. Angelo’s experience comes from services, consulting, financial and manufacturing sectors allowing him to apply solutions across industry sectors. He is also a writer, presenter, instructor, consultant and coach. Angelo can be reached through