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Tag: Techniques


Contribution as a Form of Professional Development

As practitioners of change, we are probably all acutely aware that we need to continually develop. There is always more to learn, and there are countless ways of learning it. The fact that you are reading this article now, on a business analysis website, shows that you are interested in your professional development—and kudos to you for doing so! After all, it is those that develop and keep up to date that will thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.


However, professional development is often seen as a consumption-based activity. Ask a typical BA what development activities they have undertaken recently, and they’ll likely respond by telling you about articles they’ve read, training they’ve been on, webinars they’ve watched and so forth. All of these are fantastic ways of hearing different perspectives, and it is great that there are so many cost-effective (and free) options out there.


From Consumption to Competence (Through Practice)

Yet consumption alone rarely enhances a skill. I could ‘consume’ (read) a book about how to fly a passenger jet, yet you probably wouldn’t trust me to fly one if that’s the only experience I had. In fact, even if I’d been on a one-day course and we’d done some group-work simulating flying, you’d probably argue that isn’t enough. And of course you’d be right, pilots (presumably) need lots of time in the simulator, and hours flying generally, before they are qualified to fly a commercial airliner.


Although you or I are unlikely to be racing to the cockpit of an Airbus A380 any time soon, it’s likely that we will need to learn new skills, techniques and concepts. The broader point here is that just reading about them, or watching a YouTube video about them isn’t enough. Actually using them is crucial. This is where the ‘rubber meets the road’, where even more learning happens, as the technique or concept is put into practice within a particular context. It’s often the case that some adaptations are necessary—a technique that works just fine in the classroom may need some finessing to work in the real world. And that’s just fine, deliberate and selective adaptations to the nuances of the world are precisely what we should do as analysts.




From Competence to Contribution

It’s often been said that if you want to really test your knowledge of something, try and explain it to others. There is a strong element of truth in this, as anyone who has ever created a presentation or training course will tell you! Putting together an article or presentation tends to highlight any gaps in thinking, and it’s an opportunity for reflection.

This is where contribution to the BA community can become part of a deliberate professional development strategy. Perhaps there’s a technique that you’ve mastered: that would be a fantastic topic for a ‘skills exchange’ session with your colleagues. Perhaps that would involve a short presentation and a Q&A. Your colleagues would learn about the technique, within the context of your organization and by creating the presentation (and responding to the Q&A) you’d likely learn more too.  A real win/win.

It’s possible to go even further. While we may be members of a Community of Practice within our organizations, we could also consider ourselves to be members of a global Community of Practice of interested BAs. You and I are connected via this article and this website. Others are connected through social media networks such as LinkedIn.


This provides us with the opportunity to write, blog, create videos and share experiences with people outside of our organizations too. Of course, it’s crucial not to share anything confidential or commercially sensitive, but sharing ‘how to write a user story really well’ or ‘how I used use cases to clarify complex requirements’ is unlikely to be controversial! It also has the advantage that it helps us all to connect with other interested BAs around the world. Hitting the ‘publish’ button can be scary, but the act of creating something is hugely worthwhile, and others will benefit from it.

Incidentally, if you’re reading this thinking “I’m too inexperienced to write or create anything” or “I don’t have anything worth writing about”, in my experience you are probably doing yourself a disservice. BAs tend to be somewhat modest, and everyone has an interesting professional story to tell!


Take a Blended Approach

Community contribution can be part of a blended professional development plan. Alongside consumption and practice, it can be a great way of reflecting, while also sharing experiences and building BA networks.  The nature of the blend will vary depending on practitioner, but considering the options is key.

And if you do decide to create and share something, be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know about it!


Beware Indecision Inertia: The Importance Of The “Do Nothing” Option

Organizational change can be hard. People get into routines, and convincing people to adapt the way that they work can be difficult. This is a seemingly human trait: think about how hard it can be to adapt when an icon or menu option moves in a new version of Windows. We have probably all taken a while to adapt to things like this, occasionally wishing that we could reinstate the older version of the software that we are so used to. If even a simple change like this can cause initial confusion and frustration, no wonder a larger change such as an office move or process change can be challenging.

When a potential change is being discussed, there are usually supporters and detractors. It’s important to understand the different perspectives, and work together to understand the best way forward. Yet beneath the overt support and reluctance, there are other subtler things to look out for too.  One is indecision inertia.


What is indecision inertia?

Although you might never have heard the term ‘indecision inertia’, you’ve almost certainly experienced it. Imagine a stakeholder needing to make a key decision, which is pivotal to a particular project progressing. It is a key dependency, and it is going to block progress if the decision is not made. They very reasonably ask for some data or a report in order to make the decision.

It takes some time to assimilate the information provided, but when it is played back to them (with a recommendation) rather than making a decision, they ask for more information. Or they raise a set of new questions, and more investigation is required. On the one hand, this is useful as they are helping to mitigate risks. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like the ‘can is being kicked down the road’.

Put simply: Sometimes the perception is that the least risky thing to do is nothing. In order to build a case for doing something a stakeholder might feel there needs to be watertight evidence and data. Yet, in reality, ‘watertight’ data rarely (if ever) exists. Can you say for certain the benefits that a project will bring? Or how long it’ll take? Or how much it’ll cost? Sure, these things can be estimated, based on a set of assumptions, but any certainty that is provided is entirely illusionary.


Indecision inertia occurs when the path of least resistance is doing nothing even though, when analyzed holistically, that might not be the most appropriate thing to do.

Incidentally, this pattern plays out in personal life too. People sometimes stay in jobs longer than they should (I know I did!) for fear of the ‘risk’ of applying elsewhere. People keep the same old car for too long, even when the maintenance is a nightmare, because it’s the car that they know and love…




The Role Of Holistic Analysis

This is an area where business analysis is crucial.  In many cases ‘doing nothing’ isn’t a cost-free, or risk-free option. Imagine an organization running an older, legacy, packaged IT system that is going into extended support. Soon it’ll be out of support entirely. It’s been extended and customized over the years, and the development team affectionately define it as a ‘bag of spanners’. It works, it’s reasonably reliable (at the moment), and the prospect of spending money to replace it is a hard decision to make.

Yet doing nothing will lead to increasing maintenance costs, risks that it’ll become unmaintainable, and when support eventually expires there won’t be security patches and updates which leads to an even more worrying risk. Just like a beloved old car that is kept too long and breaks down at the worst of all times leaving its passengers stranded, this beloved old IT system might implode, get hacked, or develop other issues at the worst time. And if it’s a core system, every minute it is down is probably costing significant sums…


This is a hypothetical example, but it shows the importance of understanding that doing nothing is an option, and it has costs, benefits and risks associated with it. This is important as it is a way of reframing the decision.  Often a decision is seen as:

  1. Stay as we are (which is safe, and nobody gets sacked for doing nothing)
  2. Do something risky / costly (and put the sponsor’s neck on the line if it goes wrong)


Whereas, the real decision is often

  1. Stay as we are, and things will get progressively worse, riskier and more costly (and action will need to be taken at sometime)
  2. Do something, understanding the risks and costs (but do so at a time of our choosing, rather than when some major risk event forces us to)

This is simplified, but it illustrates the point.



In summary, change is hard, and decision-making is hard. As analysts, we can help decision-makers to make informed decisions. Analyzing and presenting the ‘do nothing’ option can be part of this.


Mastering Business Analysis: 7 Strategies for Effective Internal Best Practices Sharing in Teams

Effective transmission of internal best practices within a business analysis team is crucial for fostering consistency, efficiency, and continuous improvement. As business analysts navigate complex projects and evolving client needs, harnessing collective knowledge and refining methodologies can significantly enhance outcomes. Here are some essential tips and approaches to facilitate this process:

  1. Document and Standardize Processes:

Begin by documenting existing best practices and standardizing processes. This creates a foundation for consistency and clarity within the team. Utilize tools like process maps, checklists, and templates to outline workflows, methodologies, and key deliverables. Ensure these documents are easily accessible and regularly updated as practices evolve.


  1. Establish a Knowledge Sharing Culture:

Promote a culture of knowledge sharing where team members are encouraged to contribute insights and lessons learned. Facilitate regular team meetings, workshops, or brown bag sessions focused on sharing best practices, case studies, and success stories. Encourage open dialogue and feedback to refine practices collaboratively.


  1. Mentorship and Peer Learning:

Implement a mentorship program where experienced analysts mentor junior colleagues. This not only facilitates the transfer of best practices but also promotes professional development and skill enhancement. Encourage peer learning through shadowing opportunities, joint project assignments, and cross-functional collaborations.


  1. Leverage Technology and Tools:

Utilize technology platforms and collaboration tools to facilitate knowledge sharing and practice transmission. Implement a centralized knowledge repository where team members can access resources, templates, case studies, and recorded training sessions. Leverage project management software for task management, progress tracking, and documenting lessons learned.




  1. Conduct Internal Trainings and Workshops:

Organize regular internal trainings and workshops focused on specific aspects of business analysis. Topics can range from requirement elicitation techniques to data analysis methodologies and stakeholder management strategies. Invite external experts or senior leaders to share industry insights and best practices.


  1. Encourage Continuous Learning:

Support ongoing professional development by encouraging team members to pursue certifications such as CBAP or PMI-PBA. Provide access to relevant courses, webinars, conferences, and literature. Foster a learning culture where individuals are empowered to stay updated with industry trends and emerging best practices.


  1. Measure and Improve Effectiveness:

Establish metrics to measure the effectiveness of internal best practices in transmission. Monitor key performance indicators such as project success rates, client satisfaction scores, and team productivity. Solicit feedback from team members through surveys or focus groups to identify areas for improvement.


In conclusion, transmitting internal best practices within a business analysis team requires a strategic approach focused on documentation, culture building, mentorship, technology integration, continuous learning, and performance measurement. By fostering a collaborative environment where knowledge sharing is valued and supported, organizations can enhance their capabilities, deliver superior outcomes, and drive innovation in business analysis practices.


Beyond Jargon: Bridging the Gap Between Precision and Clarity

A while back, I was taking a flight from London City airport. It’s an airport I don’t fly from very often, and I was looking for a place to fill my water bottle. Unlike other airports, I couldn’t find a water fountain anywhere. The airport staff all seemed busy, so I did what any good BA would do, I took to Twitter (or is it X?) to ask the airport social media team where I could get some water.

I got a reply really quickly, with the social media team letting me know that I could get water from any food concession in the airport. So, I went to one of the food shops to grab some sandwiches and got them to refill my bottle at the same time. Problem solved.

However, another Twitter user pointed out at the time that it’s a little odd they used the term food concession and not food shops or food stalls.  I mean, what even is a concession? A little bit of digging uncovers this definition:


“A retail concession is a dedicated space within a single-brand store that is used by a non-related but complementary brand. Retail concessions are essentially shops within a shop…“ (Quote from Unibox site)

So here, the airport is technically correct. The food shops are technically concessions, they are ‘shops within a shop’, or in this case ‘shops within an airport’ (let’s face it, airports feel like one big shop these days!).

But who, outside retail, regularly uses the term ‘concession’? And in the context of my query, does it really matter that it’s technically a ‘concession’ and not a ‘shop’?


A Balance of Precision and Understandability

As it happens, I did understand what was meant, so this wasn’t an issue. But I wonder if a tourist who has a basic grasp of English would understand (this was an airport after all). It strikes me that with communication there’s a balance of precision and understandability.

Some terms will communicate things very precisely, but only to those who are within a domain. My career started in insurance: words like “cover”, “peril”, “loss’, “policyholder”, “insurable interest” have very specific meanings. Those things are important within the insurance company… but outside most people just want to “insure their car” or “protect their house”.  Of course, for all sorts of legal and regulatory reasons, there needs to be precise and formal T&Cs and policy wordings. But the way that the organization communicates needs to be in a way that’s understandable.




Does Your Internal Lingo Accidentally ‘Trickle’ To The Outside?

This is an area where BAs can help. Often, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) will be defining the text that needs to appear on websites, letters, emails and so forth. SMEs are usually fantastic stakeholders with so much knowledge. They are great to have on board!

Yet, the challenge of having so much knowledge is they might forget what it’s like not to know so much. An SME who has worked in insurance for 30 years might not easily remember what it’s like to buy your first insurance policy. Yet, it’s likely that the solutions we define (and the communications that go out) will need to be understandable to someone completely new to insurance too.

Highlighting where internal lingo has inadvertently trickled to the outside world can be useful. Asking questions like “would an average customer understand this phrase?” or “what about someone who has never bought our products before, would they know what this means?” can help. Having a set of personas can be even more helpful.


Prototype, Test and Learn

Another stage that is often missed when defining and designing websites, emails, letters and other forms of interactions with customers is to take the time to test and learn. Showing a customer a rough prototype with the wording and seeing how they react would be a great way of getting an early steer. Prototyping a letter that is going to be sent to 150,000 subscribers and getting input from 100 might help uncover misunderstandings or ambiguities. This might save thousands of confused calls to the call center, and thousands of quizzical emails.

In summary, communication is always a balance of precision and understandability. Knowing the audience, testing and learning helps avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding. BAs are well-placed to foster these types of activities.


Learn Business Analysis From A Chameleon

Professionals in the dynamic field of business analysis must constantly adjust to shifting surroundings and a wide range of stakeholder needs. Surprisingly, there are a lot of lessons to be gained from the natural world, especially from chameleons, which are known for their remarkable adaptability.


Let’s discover useful insights that can be applied to the subject of business analysis as we examine the striking parallels between a chameleon and a business analyst (BA).


  1. Flexibility: The Skill of Adjustment

Chameleons are renowned for their extraordinary adaptability and ability to blend in with a variety of environments. Business analysts also need to be adaptable and capable of wearing many hats to take on issues head-on. When working with testers, QA teams, or product owners, BAs must modify their methodology to suit the unique requirements of each stakeholder group. Because of their flexibility, BAs can manage expectations and communicate with effectiveness in a variety of teams.


  1. Communication and the Language of Colour

Colour is a potent means of expression and communication for chameleons. They communicate their goals, feelings, and responses to their surroundings through colour shifts. Likewise, the foundation of a good business analysis is efficient communication.


  1. A 360-degree view

Chameleons have a unique 360-degree view of their surroundings due to the ability of their eyes to move independently. They can see openings and threats from every angle because to their broad vision. Business analysts also employ a comprehensive strategy when doing project analysis. Strategic decision-making is guided by the comprehensive perspective of business analysts (BAs), who examine corporate processes, identify potential risks, and evaluate market trends. This wide-ranging viewpoint ensures that all aspects of a project are considered, leading to more knowledgeable and useful answers.




  1. It’s not about size, but about essence

The small Parson’s chameleon and the superb dwarf chameleon are two examples of these species that vary in size but share similar traits. Business analysts of all levels can benefit from an understanding of the fundamental concepts of the field. All BAs, no matter how experienced, must adhere to basic analytical processes, stakeholder engagement tactics, and problem-solving approaches. By following these uniform guidelines, it is ensured that all BAs, regardless of “size,” offer meaningful insights and advance project success.


  1. Using a Strategic Approach to Issue Solving

Chameleons use clever problem-solving techniques to navigate their environment when hunting or evading predators. In a similar way, business analysts (BAs) identify and resolve complex business problems using their analytical abilities. Business analysts (BAs) play a critical role in assisting businesses in accomplishing their goals through the application of problem-solving approaches, root cause analysis, and practical recommendations. Their ability to think strategically and solve problems effectively demonstrates their value in any undertaking.


  1. Flexibility in the Face of Adversity

Chameleons are excellent models of resilience since they can live in hostile and unpredictable environments. BAs also frequently encounter obstacles to successfully completing projects, which might range from shifting stakeholder objectives and financial constraints to technological disruptions. Resilience is a critical trait for BAs as it enables them to overcome setbacks and maintain focus on the project’s objectives. Their ability to remain composed under pressure and be innovative is crucial to overcoming challenges and keeping the project moving forward.


  1. Expertise in Transition Management

Chameleons go through metamorphosis throughout their lives, changing from hatchlings to fully grown adults at each stage. Likewise, BAs thrive in leading teams through stages of evolution and transition and managing change.


To sum up
The comparison between business analysts and chameleons highlights the latter’s remarkable ability to adapt, communicate, and observe from multiple perspectives. BAs may successfully navigate difficult project environments and achieve desired results because to chameleon-like traits like adaptability, strategic thinking, resilience, and change management abilities. As we continue to learn from nature, the chameleon serves as an inspiration for the dynamic work of the business analyst.