Tag: Talent Triangle

Business Analysis Amalgamation with Product Management

In today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations constantly seek ways to improve their processes, products, and services. Business Analysis and Product Management are two key areas essential to achieving these goals. Traditionally, these functions have been viewed as separate disciplines, with Business Analysts focusing on identifying and analyzing business requirements, while Product Managers focus on the development and management of products and services.

However, there has been a growing trend towards amalgamating these two functions to create a more integrated approach in recent years. By combining Business Analysis with Product Management, companies can benefit from a more holistic understanding of customer needs, more effective use of data, and improved collaboration and communication between teams.

An Overview of Business Analysis and Product Management:

Business Analysis is the process of identifying, analyzing, and documenting business requirements, processes, and workflows. The role of a Business Analyst is to help organizations improve their processes and systems by identifying areas of improvement, gathering and analyzing data, and making recommendations for change. Business Analysts often work closely with stakeholders and other teams within an organization, including IT and project management.

Product Management, on the other hand, is focused on developing and managing products or services. The role of a Product Manager is to identify market opportunities, define product requirements, and work with cross-functional teams to bring products to market. Product Managers must have a deep understanding of customer needs and market trends and/ or the ability to manage budgets, timelines, and resources.

 Benefits of Amalgamating Business Analysis and Product Management:

While Business Analysis and Product Management are distinct roles, there are many benefits to amalgamating the two functions. Here are a few of the key advantages.

  • Better understanding of customer needs:

One of the key benefits of amalgamating Business Analysis and Product Management is the ability to better understand customer needs. By working together, these two functions can create a more complete picture of customer requirements, preferences, and pain points. This can lead to better product design, more effective marketing, and higher customer satisfaction.

  • Alignment towards Business Goals:

Amalgamating Business Analysis and Product Management also improve team collaboration and communication. These two functions can ensure that everyone is aligned on business goals, product requirements, and timelines. This can lead to better project outcomes and faster time to market.




  • More practical use of data:

Another benefit of combining Business Analysis and Product Management is effectively using data. Business Analysts are skilled at collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, while Product Managers deeply understand market trends and customer needs. These two functions can leverage data to improve product design, pricing, and marketing decisions by working together.

  • Faster problem-solving:

Amalgamating Business Analysis and Product Management also lead to faster problem-solving. By having a team of experts who can analyze data, identify issues, and recommend solutions, organizations can respond more quickly to changing market conditions or customer needs. This can help companies stay ahead of the competition and achieve their business objectives more effectively.

  • Better outcomes over outputs:

Finally, combining Business Analysis and Product Management can improve project outcomes. By working together, these two functions can ensure that products are designed to meet customer needs and that projects are delivered on time and within budget. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, increased revenue, and a stronger competitive position in the market.

The amalgamation of Business Analysis and Product Management can benefit organizations looking to stay ahead in today’s competitive business landscape. By combining these two functions, companies can improve collaboration and communication, better understand customer needs, use data more effectively, and achieve better project outcomes. Whether a small start-up or a large enterprise, an integrated approach to Business Analysis and Product Management can help you achieve your business objectives more effectively.

Leadership Lessons from a Grade School Teacher

Would you like to be a better leader? A more effective mentor?

If so, you can probably benefit from reflecting on past mentors of yours who have influenced you. For me it was a favorite teacher of mine back in 6th grade when I was 11 years old. Mr. Fernholz was a young and engaging teacher. He was to me the embodiment of what a good teacher should be.

Mr. Fernholz stands out to me not so much for any specific things he did. Rather it is because of how he approached his job and how he made his students feel. Well, I’m not sure about how others felt, but I hold him in high regard to this day.

1. Genuine Encouragement.

For one thing, he did not talk down to us or demean us like some of the previous teachers I had (oh the stories I could tell.) He genuinely respected his students and wanted to bring out the best in us. There was nothing obvious about it as much as his attitude. It took me years of reflection to realize how much he respected us.

One personal example was his encouragement of me. I wasn’t the best student at that time and did not work as hard as I should have. My 6th grade friends were not the best students either and there were strong social pressures to slack off. My grades were OK but not great. Mr. Fernholz frequently remarked that I was not working up to my potential.

Mr. Fernholz could have just accepted my under-achievement like my other teachers had. Instead, on many occasions I remember him saying “if you don’t go to college, I will hound you until you do.” HIs quiet encouragement was a constant motivation and not only through college, but during stressful times throughout my career. Thanks, Mr. F!

People on our teams and those we lead or mentor need encouragement like my 6th grade self did. It needs to be genuine, though, and not patronizing. People sense the difference and your interactions will be less effective.


2. Fairness.

A good leader/mentor is also fair, so when praise is warranted, they will give it. But when guidance is needed, (s)he will provide that too in a fair way. An incident in my 6th grade class illustrates this point.

Towards the end of my 6th grade term, the class took a major test. It was difficult, but I had studied for it (likely after some encouragement from Mr. Fernholz). Sometime during the exam, I accidently kicked some books out of the shelf below my seat. This was not surprising since I was a fidgety kid. I ignored the books so as not to appear like I was looking up answers in them.

When we got our exam results back the next day, I scored well, higher than any other exams I completed that year. It was astonishing, then, when Mr. F wanted to talk to me after class. He told me another student said she saw me cheating on the exam by looking up answers from the book that had fallen. My better-than-ever results probably added to the credibility of the accusation. Still, I was dumbfounded and hurt that someone would accuse me of something so untrue.

To this day I believe that my teacher had somehow perceived I was telling the truth. Maybe he was able to read my body language and other non-verbals to make his determination. He may have also factored in my past behavior, which if not exemplary, was at least free of any issues. He probably also took the context into account—such as some previous awkward interactions between “my accuser” and me. Maybe Mr. Fernholz understood it, but I’ll never know.

3. Set boundaries.

A final significant memory of 6th grade has to do with discipline. Our class had a disruptive kid who I recall was named Mike (it was a lot of years ago). Mike was a classic problem child, and today might be given special counseling or medication. Mike frequently acted out his feelings and disrupted the class on many occasions.

Partway through the school year, Mr. Fernholz set aside a corner of the classroom with masking tape that would be “Mike’s Area.” When class was in session, Mike was not supposed to leave his area, which reduced his disruption a great deal. It really did improve the classroom dynamics. In today’s world I fear that kind of treatment would likely get a teacher reprimanded if not suspended.

What I can now reflect on is that Mr. Fernholz’s treatment of Mike was pretty fair. The kid wasn’t ostracized since he stayed in the classroom. He could participate in discussions and was expected to do al his normal work. What “Mike’s Area” did for him was to set boundaries that he seemed to need. (Some kids today are said to have “boundary issues” when they overly pester others.) That certainly described Mike, and my teacher’s handling of it was appropriate and effective.

We need to be able to set boundaries with people on our team and with whom we mentor. The boundaries might be the amount of time they take up. They might be the kind of advice a mentee seeks. Over the years, people who I have mentored will easily stray from career advice to asking for consulting help for solving work problems. Every mentor’s boundary line is different, and my advice is to be aware of yours and set expectations up front.

To summarize, I have come to realize Mr. Fernholz was my first mentor. He was also an early example for me of a good leader. He may or may not have viewed these things as his role, but he was effective in them. We can improve our own leadership by thinking about and modeling the way effective mentors have helped us. You probably have good role models in your life that you can reflect on how they helped you and how they made you feel. Please share your tips for how your mentors have helped you.

Career choices for a Business Analyst – What Options does a BA Have?

Business Analyst is a great profile to begin your professional journey with and has always been a popular choice for IT and management graduates alike.

The definitions for Business Analysis & Business Analyst as per IIBA’s BABOK® guide (considered as the Bible for Business Analysis) are as follows:-
Business Analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.

A Business Analyst is any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organizational role may be. Business analysis practitioners include not only people with the job title of business analyst, but may also include business systems analysts, systems analysts, requirements engineers, process analysts, product managers, product owners, enterprise analysts, business architects, management consultants, or any other person who performs the tasks described in the BABOK® Guide, including those who also perform related disciplines such as project management, software development, quality assurance, and interaction design.

When it comes to advancing in career, sky is the limit. However, this article lists down the career choices one can logically look forward to after working as a business analyst:

1. Consultant/SME rolling up to a Solution architect role or a pre-sales consultant:

  1. Being a Consultant/ SME (Subject Matter Expert), you should be a specialist in your particular domain/technology. This is suitable for someone who has a specific interest in a domain/technology and wishes to be a master of one rather than being a jack of all.
  2. Being a solution architect, you would need to understand the linkage between the various systems and then be responsible to approve/reject/suggest technical changes to the systems.
  3. Being a Pre-sales consultant, you would be expected to know your product and it’s capabilities. Your primary job is to support the sales team who are trying to sell your company’s product. This would be the case if you are a vendor side Pre-sales consultant. Likewise, you can also be the client side Pre-sales BA. Following are the differences in the two roles:-

As a Client Side Pre-sales BA, you are supposed to

  • Create RFP/RFI
  • Raise the right kind of queries related to the service you seek from the vendor whose product you intend to buy/use 
  • Respond to RFP/RFI

As a Vendor Side Pre-sales BA, you are supposed to <

  • Manage the queries of the client related to your product

2. Product Manager:

You would take the calls about how the product should evolve. Help in creating a roadmap for the product. You would have to collaborate with the different stakeholders to understand their latent needs. At the same you would have to keep an eye on the competition.

3. Lead Business Analyst / Project manager/PMO:

These roles are about understanding the bigger picture.

  1. Lead Business Analyst: You would be having responsibility of either managing a team or a module.
    You would be mentoring your team of business analysts to help them do better business analysis, leading from the front.
    In this role, you would be accountable for the deliverables your team creates but not necessarily responsible for creating them yourself.
  2. Project Manager: Business Analysis is a subset of Project Management. As a Project Manager, you would be managing teams, streamlining processes, growing towards more of a management profile. Here the responsibility is end to end delivery of the project, leading towards career path of a program manager, portfolio manager, etc.
  3. PMO: You would be responsible for governance of the projects, programs or portfolios. Also depending on the PMO type followed by the organization, the level of authority and responsibility would change. In some companies you would be expected to lead/ drive the project (Directive PMO), whereas in some you would only have a supporting role (Supportive PMO) or somewhere in between (Controlling PMO).

4. ITIL operations process specific roles:

These are roles as defined in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. The BA can transition into any of the following process roles responsible for managing respective functions:

  1. Incident Manager: The Incident Manager is responsible for the effective implementation of the Incident Management process and carries out the corresponding reporting
  2. Problem Manager: The Problem Manager is responsible for managing the lifecycle of all Problems. His primary objectives are to prevent Incidents from happening, and to minimize the impact of Incidents that cannot be prevented
  3. Business Relationship Manager: The Business Relationship Manager is responsible for maintaining a positive relationship with customers, identifying customer needs and ensuring that the service provider is able to meet these needs with an appropriate catalogue of services
  4. Service Design Manager: The Service Design Manager is responsible for producing quality, secure and resilient designs for new or improved services.
  5. Release Manager: The Release Manager is responsible for planning and controlling the movement of Releases to test and live environments.
  6. Information Security Manager: The Information Security Manager is responsible for ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of an organization’s assets, information, data and IT services. He/She would have to do a continual gap analysis of the system’s security depending on the on-going customization the product


5. Agile/Scrum Team related roles:

A Business Analyst can also slip in to the shoes of Scrum Master/Product Owner/Development team member:

  1. Scrum Master ensures that Scrum is understood and enacted by the team.
  2. Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the development team
  3. Development Team Member is responsible for helping the team come up with a shippable product at the end of each iteration aka Sprint.

6. Quality Assurance & Control

Having a strong knowledge of product as well as processes, moving into a Quality Assurance/Control would be an easy transition for a Business Analyst.

  1. Quality Assurance ensures that the processes are being followed and highlight/escalate deviations to the Project manager
  2. Quality Control ensures that the product being delivered is defect free. Hence, it would involve manual/automated testing. Business Analyst can use his/her functional knowledge of the product and business acumen, to design better test cases and envisage a myriad of scenarios

As mentioned earlier, sky is the limit to advance your career in any direction. The above career paths are just for your reference. I hope this article was able to help you broaden your horizon.

Wishing you all the best for a bright career!

5 Reasons Why Developing Your Coaching Skills is so Important for Your Career

The ability to coach has become a requisite for all professionals. I have delivered this message many times when working with business leaders and professionals.

Recently, I was speaking with a group of professionals. One of them asked what skill-set was required within business analysis. My response was, many skills are required. Business analysis requires one of the most rounded, professional skill-sets. Being a business analyst is not just about knowing business analysis, project management, and process modeling; it’s about developing your leadership skills. One of the leadership skills that will work in your favor is coaching. Here are five reasons why developing your coaching skills is so important.

Employees Expect It

I can hear what you are saying right now: “No one reports to me; I have no employees.” As a business analyst, you have to think beyond the employee/manager relationship of the traditional business environment. We have shifted to a professional world where employees expect to be coached and mentored. People are looking for partners that understand that part of relationship-building is to focus on the growth and development of others. Therefore the professional needs to embrace that and work with others as if they are their employees.

New Employees Need It

When someone new joins your team or the team of the stakeholder you serve, you have an opportunity to coach and mentor them. So, you establish a positive relationship fast. Besides, new employees don’t have some of the basic skills that are needed to survive in the workplace. Some years ago, I worked for a company that expected me to use a specific system to monitor escalated events. I went to a meeting one day, and someone asked me about how I had been handling the issues within the event system. I had no idea what they were talking about. They explained that there was a system that should be monitored every day. This conversation occurred three months after I had started working in the company. It would have been useful if the person responsible for the system had coached and mentored me on the system use and protocols. Maybe you use a system or support a system that someone new has to use. It might be a good idea to help them out.


More Seasoned Employees Require It

These people might think they know it all. In reality, these people often need help to adapt to changing conditions in their workplace. In this case, coaching is focused on mastering increasingly complex and diverse tasks, and activities often brought on by the rapid changes in technology. There also might be an aspect of coaching to increase responsibility and autonomy in the professional environment. I recall a time when there were many staff changeovers in a client organization. Mostly the middle and senior management lost their administrative assistant. At the time, it was no big deal to me as I was tech savvy, but for the all thumbs professional for whom other people did stuff, it was a real challenge. Losing resources was a change that shocked a lot of people. Suddenly, autonomy and self-directed teams became important. Today you are expected to be self-reliant, independent and able to handle autonomy. But within business analysis, you have to coach and mentor the more mature workers in adapting to change and developing these skills sets.

Organizations Use It

Everyone wants better results, a return on their investment. Added value can be defined beyond the monetary. As a business analyst, you need to think beyond the “me” and “us.” It is part of the alignment between individuals, teams and the organization. I once was having a coffee with two of my peers, and one of them said, “The three of us; we know more about what was going on in the organization than anybody.” He was correct. Not because we were special. As senior strategic business analysts, we had a combined stakeholder portfolio that cut across the organization and penetrated every aspect of the business.

Our initiatives and the decisions we made, created ripples throughout the organization. We all understood that we needed to forge a more cohesive and effective stakeholder engagement to ensure the organization achieved its objectives. That meant coaching and mentoring our leaders, and assisting people in bettering their performance; in making better, more informed decisions.

Leaders Benefit from It

I often think that I am a better man because I had kids. Not because I ruled with an iron fist but because I had to learn a set of skills that are not innate. I learned as much from my kids as they learned from me. In other words, sometimes my kids were the coach and mentor. This situation is similar to the practice of business analysis. Your manager, team leader, director, and executive do not know it all. Sometimes it is all about reverse coaching – where you end up coaching the person you are reporting too. I have worked with a lot of executives, and there have been many occasions when I applied simple coaching models when working with executives to build their skills, capabilities and decision-making abilities. There are times, through coaching, when leaders learn more from their employees than employees learn from their leaders. And that is all right.

Final Thoughts

It is a mistake to think that as a business analyst or project manager you are not a coach or mentor. Coaching and mentorship are not some private domain of management and the executive. Organizations and professionals who think that way will struggle to survive the next wave of changes that are going to hit the economy. Especially organizations that exist in traditional thinking economic and community sections. They are in for a huge shock. The professional who is balanced between the hard and soft skills, tech-savvy and wired will reign in the next economy. They will use their coaching and mentorship abilities to develop other people, their stakeholders around them. Good luck.

Remember, do your best, invest in the success of others and make your journey count.

5 Competencies that help Business Analysts Connect the Dot

What do detectives, entrepreneurs/innovators, doctors, lawyers, and effective business analysts all have in common?

Larson 032817 1Among other things, they all have to connect the dots1 to be successful. Like detectives sorting through objects at the scene of the crime, or doctors sorting through sometimes disjointed information provided by patients, business analysts need to sort through information—lots and lots of information—in order to identify problems and uncover requirements of the solution. This process requires the ability to connect the dots.

And although the phrase “connecting the dots” has been around for a long time, it has crept into our popular culture, thanks in part to Steve Jobs. He talked about it in August 2011 when he described what connecting the dots meant to him. He said, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future.” 2

Well, that sounds good. But what does it actually mean? How do we go about connecting the dots? Here are some prerequisites:

  1. Experience. We cannot look backwards if we don’t have the background or experience to make sense of the new information we’re taking in. That does not mean we need to have specific industry or project experience. But it does mean that we need to have learned from similar situations. We need to apply appropriate business analysis skills to new situations, guided by what worked and what did not work in the past.
  2. Understanding context. We need to understand the context of the current situation. “Context” is one of the core business analysis concepts in the BABOK® Guide 3.0, an important concept indeed. Understanding the context provides important information about such things as the culture of the organization and the stakeholders, values and beliefs of the organization and the stakeholders, processes followed, conditions that affect the situation like weather (think shoe prints in the snow, or clues washed away in the rain), terminology, and technology—just about anything that can affect identifying the problem and the creation of the solution.
  3. Ability to recognize patterns. Recognizing patterns requires an ability to take in information from a variety of different sources, to synthesize lots of disparate information and make sense of it, to rearrange it, to understand what is important, to stay focused, and not get distracted by the irrelevant. Larson 032817 2The ability to recognize patterns is what allows us to understand which “clues” are relevant, because we’ve seen them, just in different situations. It’s about the ability to see a problem and say with confidence: his particular solution will work (and this one won’t and here’s why).
  4. Using both the rational mind and intuition. BAs need to use both their rational minds and their intuition.3 Several years ago there was a heated discussion on a social media group about which would serve the BA better—being “analytical” or being “intuitive.” Most discussion participants saw it as an either/or. Effective BAs were either more logical or more intuitive.
    We do need to be analytical. We need to break down information into smaller pieces and determine which pieces are needed. We need to use our analysis to uncover the root causes of a problem which helps separate facts from hearsay, gossip, and opinion. But we also need to use our intuition if we have any hope of being able to think critically and conceptually, as well as to be able to synthesize a lot of information quickly and be able t make sense of it.4
  5. Ability to thrive in ambiguous situations. We often hear about the need for BAs to tolerate ambiguity. I think that effective detectives and business analysts are those who not only tolerate but actually thrive in ambiguous situations. The ability to thrive in uncertain situations allows business analysts to create structure from chaos. When business analysts can synthesize all the information they have accumulated during elicitation activities, put it together in meaningful ways, and are able to create understanding and gain consensus—that’s a true thing of beauty.Larson 032817 3

Having these competencies does not necessarily mean a BA will be successful. But these skills are necessary to connect the dots and connecting the dots is necessary if we BAs are going to do our jobs of finding problems and recommending solutions that provide value to stakeholders (BABOK® Guide v.3).

About The Authors

Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.

Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.

Rich loves to combine industry best practices with a practical approach and has contributed to those practices through numerous speaking sessions around the world. He has also worked on the BA Body of Knowledge versions 1.6-3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation.

1 “To draw a conclusion from disparate facts.” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/connect-the-dots?s=t
Originally a form or puzzle involving drawing lines between numbers to form a picture, as in “To draw connecting lines between a seemingly random arrangement of numbered dots so as to produce a picture or design.” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr07uR75Qk0 4:41 minutes in

3 The term “intuition” has a variety of meanings and is used differently in different contexts. Although there are different nuances, the term basically is “There are a variety of definitions of intuition. This is from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intuition?s=t “direct perception of truth, fact, etc. independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension; a keen and quick insight.”

4 Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action from The Critical Thinking Community, http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766
Conceptual thinking “…make sense of large amounts of detailed and potentially disparate information.” Conceptual thinking is applied “to find ways to understand how that information fits into a larger picture and what details are important, and to connect seemingly abstract information..” BABOK® Guide 3.0, 9.1.6.

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