Tag: Technical Project Management

BATimes_Aug18_2022

Did You Know That a Business Analyst Is as Important in Software Testing as a QA Specialist?

An IT Business Analyst is a member of a product development team. Such specialists are involved in all stages of the SDLC, from requirements gathering to software launch. They not only connect project teams with customers but also know the peculiarities of products in detail, resolve disputes and advise how this or that software solution should work according to the requirements. They are also an authoritative source of information for QA professionals. Let’s take a closer look at the role of a Business Analyst in software testing.

Primary responsibilities of a Business Analyst on a project

A Business Analyst represents an IT outsourcing company team at the first meeting with a customer and remains the main contact person for product development until the end of a project. This specialist informs developers about the client’s interests and makes it possible for the product owner to give feedback on the software. Business Analysts help to carry out business communication, and any project starts from their work. The main responsibilities of these experts can be briefly described in four theses. A Business Analyst:

  1. Helps businesses to study the market and current offers to learn about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and thus build the best application. Analyzing market trends, a Business Analyst foresees what will be relevant for users at the time of product release. As a result, the platform will be interesting for the target audience and function properly from the first day of launch.
  2. Advises the client on how to develop a product with minimal investment and maximum ROI in the future. Using the results of market research and relying on the capabilities of the client, they offer a “silver bullet” to solve business problems so that the customer achieves the desired goals at a lower cost.
  3. Prepares documentation for the project which is a kind of “bible” for the development team. Based on it, programmers write code, designers prepare layouts, and testers create test cases. Thanks to the specification, customers track the progress and make sure that the software meets their vision and the project goes according to plan.
  4. Advises the development team on relevant issues. Such an expert knows more about the product being developed than other team members. This fact makes them the main product consultant who will clarify any requirements.

 

“But what about testing?” you may ask. Let’s figure it out.

 

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What does a Business Analyst have to do with software testing?

As we have mentioned above, an IT Business Analyst prepares the basis for a project and launches the work of all team members. Requirements prepared by this specialist become a guideline for developers, testers, and designers. Business Analysts do not directly test the product, but participate in the following procedures:

 

Preparation of test documentation. A Business Analyst checks the correctness of test cases, helps to generate test data and suggests an improvement plan.

 

This specialist signs a test plan if authorized to do so and checks if existing scenarios match user stories.

 

A Business Analyst prioritizes requirements and features and changes the priority if the conditions on the project change.

 

Such an expert helps to make sure that the detected incorrect behavior of a system is a defect. QA specialists focus on requirements in their work, but if they do not understand certain points, they turn to Business Analysts to clarify the details, examine bugs, and tell if these are bugs indeed or the intended behavior of the program.

 

This IT professional resolves disputes between developers and testers. Even if the requirements are written and collected, this does not mean that everyone understands them in the same way. A developer and a tester may see the functionality of a feature in different ways, which can lead to arguments about whether this is a defect or a FAD (feature as design). To resolve the situation, a tester also turns to a Business Analyst. Their resolution is considered decisive.

The more accurate and understandable a Business Analyst describes the requirements for a product, the fewer mistakes developers and testers will make. This means that they will complete the work faster, the functionality will not have to be redone, and the project budget won’t be wasted.

BATimes_Aug18_2022

 

The role of a Business Analyst in testing

An IT Business Analyst is an authoritative member of a development team, whom QA specialists turn to for advice at any stage of testing. This expert knows the functional and non-functional features of the application being created, so their word on the project is the law. A QA specialist seeks advice from a Business Analyst when conducting:

  • Functional testing. A Business Analyst explains the business logic of the project and points that are incomprehensible to a tester.
  • Regression testing. Based on critical business functions, a Business Analyst advises which test cases to include in this testing phase.
  • Usability testing. For a Business Analyst, it is important that the application is as convenient as possible and has demand in the market. This will allow the customer to evaluate the performance of this expert and their foresight. They also recommend to testers how to improve a particular functionality to increase the quality and value of software solutions.
  • End-to-end testing. To create end-to-end tests, a QA specialist needs to understand an application, its business logic, and user scenarios. In this case, the tester will be able to use the important details for each function: the correct input data, the exact restrictions, the correct sequence of steps, and different ways to call a function.
  • Acceptance testing. A Business Analyst confirms that the product meets the business requirements.
  • Beta testing. IT outsourcing company testers are not involved in this type of testing. In this case, real users work with the application. A Business Analyst observes this process, notes what needs to be improved in the product before its release, and makes sure that the application is really valuable.

 

Conclusion

Thus, a Business Analyst is not just the owner of the requirements on a project or a translator of a customer’s ideas. Any development team needs this expert at every stage of the SDLC, in particular during software testing. Business Analysts are responsible for quality and compliance with requirements, that’s why they participate in many project activities: from the specification of requirements, and approval of test cases to UAT testing control. Only in this case, the planned functions will be correctly implemented, end-users will be satisfied, and the client will receive the desired profit.

BATimes_Aug17_2022

Prepping Project Tech: A BA’s Guide to Finding the Right Technology

Technology helps business analysts — and the companies with which they work — thrive. However, that depends on how well a business analyst implements tech trends to incite growth.

Finding the right technology to optimize your duties as a business analyst and catapult a business to its next level is the hard part. Fortunately, this post can help. Let’s look at five modern tech trends that business analysts can use to help facilitate growth.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT refers to physical devices connected to the internet on a shared network and the technology that enables communication between these devices. IoT also collects data on the way these devices are used.

Many devices are connected to the internet these days. An ATM, for example, is one of the most common IoT devices used in the finance industry. Instead of needing a banking associate, you can conduct much of your financial business at an ATM. You can even save your preferences to streamline your interactions going forward. This wouldn’t be possible without IoT.

IoT is beneficial for business analysts because they typically use multiple tech devices at once. You want it to be easy to transmit and sync information across all your devices to ensure you’re making decisions with the most up-to-date information, no matter where you’re accessing it from. Essentially, business analysts can use IoT to take full advantage of a digitally connected world.

 

5G Networks

The internet is an integral part of navigating your personal and professional life as a business analyst. 5G networks are growing in popularity not only because they are helping more people get online, but also because they offer secure, reliable, high-speed internet connections. With access to high-quality internet, you can have constant, quick access to the digital tools you need to incite growth and improve business efficiency.

You can also better connect with internal teams and external audiences when you use 5G. For example, let’s say you’re working with an educational institution and you’re tasked with analyzing the budget to find where to cut costs. In that case, you will want a fast, secure network connection due to the confidentiality needed when working with educational and financial information.

You want to ensure that when you access sensitive data, the information isn’t vulnerable to cybersecurity threats because you’re using low-quality internet. 5G is also beneficial because you can communicate seamlessly with your team by tracking tech sign-offs, holding brainstorming sessions, and fielding questions.

Consider purchasing a 5G service if you want to use the internet with peace of mind and speed.

 

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Machine Learning

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence. It uses data and algorithms to learn — and, eventually, mimic — human behavior from experience. Computers or software essentially learn to do what humans do without direct programming.

For example, machine learning is incredibly impactful in agriculture. The data collected is used to predict the quality of crops, reduce food production costs, and find defects in the irrigation system.

Business analysts can leverage machine learning to collect, process, and analyze vast sets of business data. As a result, you can pull more meaningful business insights from the information that prompt better decisions throughout the organization.

 

Automation Tools

Automation tools require little human intervention to carry out various tasks. Almost any business in any industry can find a use for automation tools. The tasks well-suited for automation are typically repetitive and mundane in nature.

For example, the healthcare industry uses automation software to queue up automated calls to remind patients of scheduled appointments. Email sequences and data collection are often automated in medical facilities, as well.

Business analysts can use automation tools to help streamline their repetitive tasks. You can also implement them in the businesses you work with to improve operational efficiency and free up team members’ time for more crucial projects.

However, implementing automation tools in any team’s workflow may be met with pushback. Many employees will hesitate because they fear that automation tools, such as artificial intelligence, will replace their jobs. However, you can get staff on board for tech transformation by sharing the bigger picture. In this case, that would mean showing them how the tools are intended to enhance their work rather than replace it.

 

Smart Devices

There isn’t an industry that can’t benefit from the responsible use of smart devices. Smart devices are intelligent, electronic devices that can connect to the internet, Bluetooth, apps, wireless connections, and other digital devices. Smart devices also interact with the person using them.

For example, you can connect your smartwatch to your smartphone and share data between the two. Both can also monitor specific vitals of the person using them, like blood pressure and heart rate, to reveal important health information.

You can absolutely hop on smart devices to facilitate growth as a business analyst. When you can access your work on devices that understand how you work, your decision-making and efficiency improve.

 

Conclusion

Business analysts need technology to succeed. You don’t have to adopt every technology trend you come across. Instead, thoroughly research each trend and weigh it against your needs to ensure it will help you and your clients blossom if you decide to implement it.

BATimes_July13_2022

Why Good Business Analysis Involves More Than Gathering and Managing Requirements

While the basic function of a Business Analyst (BA) may be broadly understood as gathering, developing and managing business requirements, so many more activities contribute to effective and authentic business analysis practice.

Good business analysis ultimately results in wide-scale improvements and value creation as well as a deeper and clearer understanding of technology and its purpose across an entire organization.

Outside of requirements management, here are just a few of the important elements of effective business analysis.

  1. Budgeting, financial forecasting, modelling and reporting

Generally, BAs are engaged with a project after the project is approved with defined budget and timelines. However, this practice can produce many challenges and limited project success. Challenges include not fit-for-purpose solutions, scope creep, budget variations, limited usage of existing enterprise platforms, multiplying applications of similar functionality … and an end result of insignificant business value.

To address this, BAs at VU conduct a minor but critical analysis prior to projects commencing in order to approve and assign budget to the project.  We call this a short mandatory analysis to check the viability of the project, focus on identifying the value of the project and aligning it with VU’s IGNITE framework Value Identification Phase.

Running for 3-4 weeks, this process is led by BAs to understand the business problems and various solution options (internal/external) with a priority of assessing internal enterprise platforms first. The short analysis consists of:

  • Understanding the business problems through user journey maps.
  • Building a blueprint of high-level AS IS process.
  • Identifying gaps in AS IS process.
  • Building blueprint of TO BE process.
  • Identifying Minimal Viable Product (MVP) deliverable within a few sprints.
  • Devising context solution overview that shows the overall system with user interaction and dependency on other systems (this identifies the impact on existing systems and their integration points, and the impact on other business areas).
  • Providing solution options keeping future in mind.

The outcome of the analysis is shared with vendors for quotation. The MVP option becomes vital in establishing realistic budget and timelines for the project. Post analysis, BA inputs become critical to submission of New Initiative Funds Request (NIFR) to justify the existence of a project through its value and benefits.

A pilot of the short analysis was conducted in 2021 with VU’s introduction of a new Academic Integrity Register. The Academic Integrity Register is an online system developed to record, report and support academic decision-making in relation to academic integrity concerns and breaches of students studying in the higher education and vocational education sector.

 

  1. Identifying stakeholders and managing expectations

Identifying relevant stakeholders at the commencement of the project is as important as assigning stable budget to the project. At VU, BAs identify stakeholders and map them through a tool known as a Stakeholder Power Interest Map. The mapping is conducted collaboratively by the business team, communications team and the BA. This helps stakeholders visualize the importance and relevance of the project. Stakeholders can vary from business sponsors to business owners and end users to operational support teams. Mapping demonstrates the stakeholder’s power and interest in the project which tells us how we have to manage their involvement and expectations.

To return to our Academic Integrity Register Project as an example, there were business owners, business sponsors, and roughly 2000 academics as end users of the system. At the commencement of a project, BAs should work closely with business owners to develop a communication plan which includes who needs to be involved at which stage of the project. For example, with our Academic Integrity Register project, business teams led by business owners were involved at all design related workshops and system testing phases. However, it was not possible to involve thousands of end users in User Acceptance testing (UAT), so we asked for senior representatives from each stakeholder group to participate and ensure transition to the new system was successful. These senior representatives became champions of VU’s Academic Integrity Register digital transformation.

Another critical aspect of stakeholder engagement is formulating a Project Control Board. The project owner (business sponsor) assembles a Project Control Board (PCB) and its members to assist in oversight and decision making needed to drive delivery of the project outcomes. BAs identify risks and issues and provide recommendations on approach which are presented at PCB for approval. The PCB also helps in maintaining buy-in and interest of senior leadership.

 

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  1. Seeking opportunities for greater value creation/realization beyond the immediate solutions required

A system implementation is successful only when the system is used and exploited by end users to a level that value is generated, and business benefits are realized during a defined period of time. For a system to continuously generate value, it has to be designed with future needs in mind. In all projects, though we focus on resolving immediate business needs through delivering MVPs, the entire system architecture should be designed based on future needs and solution expansions.

It goes without saying that implementing a system, deploying it to end users, and asking them to use it without bringing them on a project journey is a big risk to value generation. That’s why it’s essential to ensure representation of each user group at all stages of the project. Taking users along the journey with you keeps them invested and interested. This practice becomes a critical part of value realization. Users must not only accept the system but use it to a level that more opportunities are identified to improve the system, processes and solution itself.

A successful project with high acceptance from end users automatically opens doors for further opportunities in terms of engagement with other strategic prospects, process improvement, building branding through enhancing reputations. For instance, our Academic Integrity Register project enabled many across the business to learn more about CRM products which helped in product selection for other business areas. Project teams, including BAs, became recognized for their expertise and engaged in other strategic initiatives where learnings from this project could be applied.

 

  1. Building beneficial relationships – not only with stakeholders but with developers, architects and partners

BAs lead the analysis of business needs, articulate the needs, perform market analysis and internal platform analysis, Request for Information (RFI), Request for proposals (RFP), product selection and vendor on-boarding. Though the BA leads these initial activities, they require Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from other areas to ensure all the ends meet. For example, BAs collaborate with architects for establishing architecture vision and solution design, and with cybersecurity teams to ensure cyber risk assessment is conducted prior to vendor and product selection. If a decision is made to leverage a third-party provider for implementation to achieve cost saving or shift special functions to more experienced providers, BAs collaborate with partners to ensure the product is built per the business requirements and is fit for purpose. Partnering with external providers comes with its own risks and BAs have to manage these risks and ensure the project continues to be managed effectively.

Historically third-party partners have worked in a more siloed way, creating systems based simply on what was presented to them in the business’ technical specifications document. However, today there is a set of expectations on partners and their developers to add further value to the system implementation and its processes by providing their expert views and leveraging past experiences. This requires a great deal of collaboration, trust and strong partnership between BAs and implementation partners.

Our Academic Integrity Register solution was developed by a third-party partner. Over the duration of the project, a great relationship was built between BAs and the third-party partner. Post success of the project, the third party became VU’s strategic partner in managing the services through a managed service agreement. Win-win.

In summary, experienced and effective Business Analysts observe the pattern of business operations. Findings through these patterns become essential in driving solution recommendation, direction in investments, and alignment in the strategic roadmap.

How to optimise resources in matrix organizations?

Matrix organizations have prevailed for decades, predominantly in multi-project environments.

Gallup states that 84% of organizations are matrixed to some extent. A resource pool allocated to cross-departmental projects is typical in a matrixed organization, which means employees have dual or multiple reporting managers. 

Matrix organizations have proven beneficial in terms of breaking traditional silos within the organization, enhancing collaboration, and helping in better decision making.

However, critics have adjudged that managerial conflicts and challenges in monitoring and controlling resources limit such organizations’ effectiveness. Moreover, in matrix organizations, several projects across departments and locations are on the boil. So, shifting priorities that skew resource utilization is quite common. 

Optimizing resources against their availability and competencies is easier said than done.

To meet dynamic resource demands, resource managers end up over or under allocating resources, unintentionally. 

So the question is: How can matrix organizations optimize their resources amid the changing demands of multiple projects?

Many project-intensive businesses are still relying on clunky spreadsheets and homegrown solutions to manage their resources. These legacy systems are cumbersome and fail to mitigate the resource optimization challenges within the modern business ecosystem. To optimally tap your resource pool, you need enterprise-level resource planning and scheduling software. 

The following tips will ensure effective resource optimization in a matrix organization:

1) Enterprise-wide visibility:  Matrix organizations have multiple dimensions, so enterprise visibility is a prerequisite for effective resource optimization. Matrix organizations can benefit from resource management software that provides 360-degree visibility of all your resources and work demands.

Also, complete visibility helps keep track of tasks, resource availability changes, and impact on project health and workforce capacity. Hence, appropriate resourcing treatments are applied to optimize resources in a multi-project environment.


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2) Set clear expectations: According to Gallup, matrixed employees are more engaged than their non-matrixed counterparts. But they lack clarity on expectations at work. Therefore, maintaining open communication, including actionable performance feedback, is necessary for role clarity. It helps keep employees and managers on the same page, but it also drives outcome-driven alliances and informed decision-making.

Mc Kinsey’s research on Organizational Health Index (OHI) reveals that role clarity improves accountability, a critical component of OHI. Role ambiguity is highly pervasive for matrix organizations. So, leaders must ensure setting clear expectations aligned with business objectives is a continuous process. So, instead of annual performance reviews, regular feedback on employee progress can improve overall engagement.

3) Prioritize projects before allocating resources: In a matrix organization, it is common to have multiple active projects demanding a common skilled worker. Ideally, the allocation of highly skilled members should be prioritized for high priority projects. However, the distribution of skilled workers across all the projects is essential, otherwise, one project will get all the focus. 

The organization should also have an out rotation strategy to kick start new projects by pulling out the niche resource from ongoing projects. Accordingly, backfills can be trained and allocated to fill in the vacancies. This way, the current projects can continue their course, while new projects get off the ground on time. 

4) Identify and allocate competencies: One of the crucial steps for resource optimization is competent resource allocation. Most resource planning and scheduling tools help identify and assign the right resource to the right job. Based on criteria like skills, experience, qualification, location, and cost rate, resource managers can make optimal use of the resource pool. 

Besides, these tools’ self-serving model enables users to update their skill and training information, which undergoes verification before approval. So, the resource competencies are up to date in real-time. Subsequently, seamless resource requesting in matrix organizations takes place. 

5) Measure capacity vs. demand: Matrix organizations can vastly benefit from a resource capacity planning tool. It can forecast capacity vs. demand from multiple perspectives like role, department, skills, location, team, etc. The scientific forecasting model helps in identifying excesses or shortages ahead of time. 

Accordingly, resources can be hired, reskilled or upskilled, or juggled around project timelines to attain resource optimization. Besides, predicting resource demand for future or pipeline projects buys you time to have an optimally balanced and skilled resource pool. Having a judicious blend of full-time, part-time, casual, and contractual staff prevents last-minute hiring and firing costs. 

6) Minimize bench time: In large organizations, especially in IT firms, unplanned ramp down on current projects are common. Additionally, if pipeline projects are absent, the bench strength increases. This adversely affects the bottom line and narrows project margins. Foresight into future project vacancies helps identify resources on the bench due to under allocation of work. 

Proper capacity planning will minimize bench time by mobilizing resources from non-billable to billable work. In case benched resources lack the skills needed for a task, upskilling and reskilling them eliminates the hasty hiring process. 

The Takeaway:

Efficient and effective resource optimization within matrix organizations is achievable using modern resource management software. This tool breaks traditional silos within multi-project intensive organizations and facilitates quick reshuffling of resources across departments and locations. As mentioned above, these tips will resolve utilization issues and optimize your resource pool for enhanced profitability.