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Leading Change in Business Analysis: Part II

Leading Change Part 2

 

In my last business analysis blog, I detailed Harvard Professor John Kotter’s process for completing successful projects. In case you missed it, read the first installment before you continue learning this simple but powerful business analyst tool.

By now, you’ve already learned how to build a coalition of the willing—industry leaders and stakeholders who help everyone else get on board with your project initiatives. Now it’s time to take that one step further.

In the final steps, you will discover how you can easily satisfy all stakeholders. But there’s something more at stake—the trajectory of your business analyst career. As the Analyst Coach, I help professionals move up and up.

Each success story builds your portfolio. Use these projects as case studies as you make the case for a higher salary.

Step 4: Enlist a volunteer army.

When you read the first installment of John Kotter’s project process, you discovered how to build a guiding coalition. These are the stakeholders who will communicate the benefits, overarching strategy, and smaller milestones to others.

Think of it as a testimonial—your social proof. You can spout off benefits all day, but until an outsider backs up your claims, you won’t gain much traction.

The major goal for your volunteer army is to communicate the plan’s ideas and get more people on board. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; the more people who join the cause, the easier it is to reap the benefits of a 100% coalition.

Step 5: Enable action by removing barriers.

Progress silences all doubt. When you lose momentum, you encounter unnecessary obstacles that deter full support.

When you place the focus on a continuation of action, you won’t have to tackle as many stumbling blocks. Once you get people to agree to your plan, prove yourself right. The best course of action is to start the milestone completion immediately so that you show people they made the right decision.

Step 6: Generate short-term wins.

Small wins start to build the big picture of transformation. If you can start completing successful milestones quickly, you will not lose momentum and will get people excited about the final results.

Continuous motivation is pretty important as business analyst projects tend to be mentally and emotionally taxing during the whole process.

Step 7: Sustain acceleration.

Keep swimming. Short-term wins are a big plus, so show stakeholders that you know what progress looks like. However, the big-picture goal is a sustainable process, so keep the focus on repeated wins.

Step 8: Institute change.

Once you make change, make said transformation permanent. Here’s the way to do this: anchor the change with the culture of the organization, and make it an integral part of everyday working life.

As you make continuous efforts to ensure that change is accepted and communicate with stakeholders, they will see the project as a saving grace, not to mention an opportunity for further growth in a more agile environment.

Leading Change in Business Analysis: Part I

John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, wrote a book that details how to tackle a leadership role and conquer all of the many objectives involved. He did the smart thing and simplified the process.

In business analysis, no matter if you’re working in Waterfall or Agile methodologies, you will complete a before-to-after transformative process. The trouble is that process might have some major roadblocks that curb the desired outcomes.

Enter Professor Kotter. When you use his process of project completion, you will satisfy your stakeholders and create sustainable resolutions for every business analysis initiative you tackle.

This system can be boiled down to eight words: create, build, form, enlist, enable, generate, sustain, and institute. I encourage you memorize these eight words and use them as a guiding light as you work to satisfy your clients and bosses.

Since there is so much to cover (though I promise you that this process is simple), we’ll split the process into two blog articles. Be sure to tune in later this month so that you gain all the information you need.

Step 1: Create a sense of urgency.

Business analysis involves change. Even when change is positive and welcomed, there will still be some resistance. Stakeholders, end users, and even fellow business analysts may seem reluctant to create a new dynamic.

You beat this resistance by creating urgency. Only if you provide a compelling reason to make a transition will you build a cavalry behind you. Create a sense of urgency so that people understand they need to join the cause sooner rather than later.

Spotlight the principal goals of the plan, and show how those milestones create benefits.

Step 2: Build a guiding coalition.

Though business analysis requires a leader to spearhead the process, it’s not easy to do this job alone. You’ll need a coalition of the willing who will advocate for the change. If you sway the top stakeholders, they will act as your most persuasive ambassadors.

Think of it as trickle-down business analysis. You get the leaders on board, and then they do the heavy lifting with persuading other stakeholders. After that point, you’ll work toward getting everyone else on board.

Step 3: Form the strategic vision and initiatives.

People won’t jump to your campaign simply because you and its supporters say that it’s awesome. There will be more than a few stakeholders who require additional information before rallying to the cause.

Develop the detailed strategy that will need to be communicated to the larger group—those who are not necessarily in leadership positions.

This big-picture strategy will not only be detailed but also defined in a clear-cut way. If you can describe the initiatives and the benefits in bullet points, then these bite-sized aspects will speed up the project.

In addition to big-picture benefits, outline nitty-gritty points for reaching small milestones that direct the organization toward its end goal.

Dont miss the follow-up.

Now that you know how to build a base that propels you forward, you’ll soon discover how to make transformational change in your business analysis career.

Benefits and Challenges of Creating Use Cases

uml unified modeling language  teamwork design modelling software development systemAs you develop a use case document, you are creating a map to your project’s end goal. In my years of facilitating successful business analysis projects, I can confidently say that having clarity will be a make-or-break factor in satisfying stakeholders.

And you can’t gain that clarity without solid use cases. The caveat: though there is a long list of use case benefits, these documents don’t come without their challenges.

To give you a clear sense of your end goal with respect to use cases, we’ll start with the benefits. 

Benefits of Creating Use Cases

The use case helps us to understand and shape both the problem we are trying to solve, as well as the solution to that problem. Think of it as a guideline to the solutions that you are going to implement.

In addition to the clarity, use cases capture operational requirements from the user’s perspective. This will give you even greater foresight of the end goal to facilitate a seamless user experience.

At the end of the day, use cases outline a clear and consistent description of what the system should do and are understandable by all stakeholders, including…

  • Users
  • Developers
  • Business Partners.

We’re not finished with the list of benefits just yet. Here are a few more major advantages to consider:

  • Use cases are an excellent source for the testing team.
  • Use cases help testers with test script writing and as a source for information during testing.
  • Use cases provide the ability to trace functional requirements into actual classes and operations in the system.

Challenges of Creating Use Cases

Business analysis certainly comes with its fair share of challenges. Use cases are no exception. But like anything worth doing, the stumbling blocks are well worth the prize. (Which is a high salary and respectable position.)

As you create your use cases, be aware of the following obstacles, so that you can overcome them. Look out for…

  • The Language Challenge. There is a bad habit among business analysts—and that is to revert to tech-speak. Instead use natural language that clarifies your logic and overall mission.

Instead, write your summary goals first, then the main flow, then alternate flows, and finally the process flow diagram.

Or you can reverse the order and start with the process flow diagram—either way is acceptable. There is no right or wrong here. Complete the use case process in the order that works best for you.

  • The Perfection Challenge. You don’t have to be perfect. You’re not looking to pen the Constitution here; you simply want easy readability and clarity.

Do You Know How to Craft the Best Use Case Possible?

Get the Training You Need.

Why IIBA-Endorsed Training?

Picture of training class

IIBA-endorsed training is what separates the business analysts who shoot up the corporate ladder quickly and those who struggle for years. When you go in to a project without comprehensive training, finding the right solution equates to feeling around for a light switch in the dark.

It’s hard—and needlessly so.

On the other hand, IIBA-endorsed training prepares you for multiple scenarios that you’ll inevitably face. As a brief overview, getting the training you need means…

  • You will elicit requirements the right way.
  • You will communicate effectively with stakeholders.
  • You will create nearly perfect documents—use cases, BRDs, process flow diagrams, the works.
  • You won’t have to learn as you go.

The moral of the story is: on-the-job training won’t get you very far. In this industry, stakeholders and bosses expect business analysts to be prepared before a project begins.

The only way to achieve that is through IIBA-endorsed training. Here are a few situations that illustrate my point.

Requirements elicitation.

Do you know the right questions to ask?

Specifically, do you know how to extract requirements from a stakeholders mind, so that you have a clear set of goals in front of you?

You will have that clarity with IIBA-endorsed training. Knowing the right questions to ask means that you will be able to create a process flow that ends at the right spot. In other words, you are able to create the right goal, and then take the steps toward getting there.

Effective communication.

Whether it’s a reliance on tech-speak or a lack of clear purpose, communication breakdowns stop a business analyst project dead in its tracks. If we’re being honest here, we need to face an important truth…

Not everyone is the best communicator.

When the communication wires cross, then you end up with hours (if not days or weeks) of additional work. When you get the training you need, you will understand how to communicate effectively and understand every project objective.

Creating documents.

 BRDs.

Use cases.

Process flow diagrams.

Data flow diagrams.

FDDs.

Screen mockups.

These documents will be your saving grace when you’re on a project. Use cases, for example, serve as a map of how the users will interact with the system.

Only with IIBA-endorsed training, such as this one, will you be able to create documents that move your project forward without issue.

How Excellent Requirements Bypass Development and Testing Errors

"what if i press this button" written in the sky with contrails left by airplane

Development and testing errors…

After you’ve invested so much time and effort into the business analysis for a project, only to see a technological glitch disqualify your progress…

Well, it’s not fun.

The old adage rings true: you can’t have a solution without eliminating the problem. In fact, this idea is the core principle behind successful business analysis. In this role, it’s up to you to eliminate obstacles that decrease profitability, waste time, and create a weaker organization.

In order to save time, gain respect, earn credibility, and eliminate needless stress, it’s vital to elicit really solid requirements before you start a project.

In this way, you will mitigate the risk of development and testing errors—which could reveal holes in your plan, add hours to your workday, and make stakeholders dissatisfied.

So how do you elicit the project requirements you need? Though in-depth, IIBA-endorsed training will deliver the nitty-gritty details that stop development and testing errors before they happen, here are a few vital details about requirements elicitation.

Solid requirements focus on the big picture.

Finances.

Operations.

End Users.

Customers.

CEOs.

CMOs.

There are quite a few factors that go into the solution you provide. As you figure out whether or not you have the requirements you need, consider what the whole-picture outcome of your solution will be.

Don’t forget to ask about system requirements and previous issues, as you may uncover something that stops testing errors from happening.

Quality requirements take all stakeholders into account.

Stakeholders aren’t just the people you have meetings with. If I’m being honest, not all stakeholders are people you receive requirements from.

In fact, you may never see this person/these people.

Think of everyone who will be impacted by the work you’re doing—especially those who use the software you test. If you can’t satisfy all parties, then you need to elicit more requirements, or at a minimum have deeper discussions about the requirements you’ve already elicited.

Error-proof requirements are sought out, not given.

When you’re a top-tier business analyst, you won’t be given all the requirements you need. You’ll need to go find them, which means asking questions to stakeholders about what their organization experiences.

That means doing research, looking at old reports, going over company history, and most important, asking questions. When you do this, you uncover the requirements that will stop testing errors before they have a chance to derail your success.

It takes training to learn how to elicit these error-proof requirements.

 I mean comprehensive training—a BA leadership course that reveals how to…

  • Define business analysis and requirements.
  • Create a Requirements Elicitation Plan.
  • Elicit requirements from stakeholders using a variety of effective techniques.
  • Practice communication skills to engage stakeholders and uncover needs.
  • Understand communication and conflict resolution techniques and how to use them.
  • Understand how to select the analysis technique(s) that will most accurately help you identify requirements and communicate information to your stakeholders and project team.
  • Reduce development and testing errors by creating excellent requirements.

This (and much more) will ensure you elicit requirements that bypass testing errors.

Upgrading Careers from Software Tester to Business Analyst

Upgrade Career Pic

Did you begin your career as a software tester?

If you did—congratulations!

The reason I say this is because, if you’re a software tester, it’s much easier to upgrade your career to a business analyst position.

The caveat: making this transition requires a certain set of tools that allows you to tackle the multiplying responsibilities you’ll take on.

In your new role as a business analyst, one of the first things you’ll soon realize is that you didn’t simply upgrade your career—you took a wholly different path.

While there is more money to be made in business analysis, there are also crucial skillsets that you will need before you achieve any measure of success.

The Foundational Tools for Business Analysis

Look back to when you were a teenager. Did you walk into a new job, maybe your first one ever, and not know a single thing about the systems and operations? Chances are, you did.

But that was okay, as the company offered you on-the-job training.

Unfortunately, business analysis isn’t like that.

After you move out of your software testing position and into your BA position, you will need to know the basics on day one.

And those foundational tools include…

  • Catering to stakeholder needs.
  • Discovering stakeholder needs (which is completely different than what I mentioned above).
  • Approval of your proposed solution.
  • Creating a laundry list of documents, such as BRDs, use cases, and more.

When you have these skills in your back pocket, you will be able to more effortlessly upgrade to the career you want. Though you need formal, IIBA-endorsed training to truly master these foundational skills, not to worry.

I’ll reveal the must-know information in this article.

Catering to Stakeholder Needs

The managers, employees, and decision-makers who have a say in how the company works and how it performs—these are the people you have to satisfy as a reputable business analyst.

It’s important to elicit requirements from these stakeholders, as you’re creating a list of core objectives to complete the project successfully.

Discovering Stakeholder Needs

Even more important than completing objectives is discovering objectives. Uncovering serious issues a company faces (and solving those hidden obstacles) is what will help you rise above in the industry.

Approval of Your Proposed Solution

It’s up to you and the entire team to implement the big solution that will transform the company; however, you must first defend your proposal to stakeholders and receive approval. This means presenting evidence of the benefits and projecting a brighter future.

Will you receive pushback? I have. My colleagues have. Most business analysts do.

IIBA-endorsed training will reveal how to handle these tough situations.

Creating Documents  

BRDs, use cases, process flow diagrams, and screen mockups—you need these to transition into a BA career. And it’s not so simple to get the information needed to create these documents flawlessly.

Luckily, you have that training right here.

How to Navigate Politics as a Business Analyst

Chess

I posted this article on LinkedIn in February. I’m sharing it today with my blog community. If we’re not connected on LinkedIn and you’d like to be, just send me a connection request via LinkedIn.

Now for the article on navigating politics…

We all experience it, and we wish we didn’t have to. Politics and corporate culture vary among companies and clients, but they’re always there to some degree…and sometimes you as a BA are caught in the middle. But there are ways to navigate the political waters and stay afloat.

The first thing to understand is that many times, people guard their positions or roles within the company. If you understand and respect that, you’ll have no problems with the politics or the prevailing morale and culture. The situation may be hard to swallow sometimes, but if you can do it, you’ll be an invaluable part of the team—sometimes without trying.

Listen and learn.

Any time you go into a new situation, listen to what is said and how it’s communicated. You can learn so much if you merely observe and listen. Find out who the key players are and what their roles are. People will tell you all they need to know about themselves if you’ll only listen to them.

Take notes if you need to, because you need to know who you’re working with and why. You also need to know how they interact with others and how well they work together.

Watch what you say and whom you say it to.

Unless you’re making general positive statements, be very careful about the people you confide in. If you make the time to listen as I suggest above, you’ll already know who to talk to and who to leave alone. If you need to make negative comments, be certain the people you tell them to are the right people.

For example, you should be able to confide in your team members, but you need to be careful of what you say to the head of the department you’re analyzing. If in doubt, be quiet. It’s much harder to take back words that are said, but if you stay quiet, you can always talk later after you’ve gotten to know people better.

And if you do need to break bad news, be sure you have ample documentation to back up everything you say.

When in doubt, ask—but do it carefully.

This is a tricky one. If you have something to say that is less than positive, you need to know the right people to tell. It’s not always easy to know who they are. If you have a confidant on the team, he or she can help you decide how to communicate what you need to say.

Can Questions Change Your Life?

ChangeYourLife

I have read many articles and books this year that tell us we can change our lives by starting the day with questions; asking ourselves the same questions every morning.

I am committed to doing this in 2016 and I’d like to challenge you to do it with me.

The key is to ask empowering questions – questions that will empower you, make you feel better, and can even help others as you begin helping yourself.

Below is the list of questions I’m going to ask myself each morning. Feel free to use these for yourself or create your own empowering questions.

Just remember to make sure they are not disempowering questions. Examples of disempowering questions would be “Why does this always happen to me?” or “Why don’t I ever seem to have enough money to cover the bills every month?”

  1. What 2 things am I most happy about right now in my life?
    1. What is it about those 2 things that makes me happy?
  2. What 2 things am I most excited about in my life right now?
    1. What is it about those 2 things that makes me excited?
  3. What 2 things am I most grateful about in my life right now?
    1. What is it about those things that makes me feel grateful?
  4. What is the number 1 thing in my life that I’m enjoying the most right now?
    1. What is it about that thing that makes me enjoy it?
  5. What one thing am I most committed to right now?
    1. What is it about this thing that makes me committed to it?

As an example, for # 5 I’m most committed right now to helping other people succeed. What is it that makes me committed to that? I get great satisfaction from being a part of helping others get a new position, improve job performance, attain a goal, have a better life, support their families, and improve their own lives in some way. That’s why I’m committed to that; because I feel accomplished when I help others succeed.

Will you do this with me? My challenge to you is to do this every morning (when you first wake up) for the month of January and then send me an email at teresa@theanalystcoach.net on February 1st and let me know if it has made a change in your circumstances, your attitude, your outlook, etc.

Let’s make changes in our routines that allow for great changes in our lives in 2016!

Building Credibility with the Technical Team

Picture of the word credibility

Credibility for Business Analysts

This is from an article I recently posted on LinkedIn. One of the problems I hear about frequently from clients is related to trust and credibility with the technical team – you can have it if you follow these tips.

As the liaison between the business and IT department of an organization, all eyes are on the BA when each side needs answers. But trust is not given outright with the BA title. Instead, a BA must earn the project team’s faith and prove their credibility.

Consider the development team. To them, the BA is the voice of the customer–if they trust what he or she says. Ideally, the team should be able to ask any question regarding the process and functionality and they should believe in the answers that BAs provide.

If they start having doubts on the answers BAs provide they may get tempted to develop something that is not needed by the business or spend extra time in clarifying the doubt from various sources.

To build a foundation of credibility with the development team, try these tips:

  • Interact with the developers regularly and ask them regularly if you can clarify anything for them. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it–they might think you are trying to micromanage their work. Instead, keep it simple and friendly so they know they can turn to you if they need any explanation about the requirements.
  • Be sure to talk the development team through the requirements before they begin the implementation. Do it on module-to-module basis, and plan with the Project Managers and Team Leads. The goal here will be to help them understand the business pain points rather than leading them by the nose with instructions.
  • When team members approach you and it’s an issue outside of your department, direct them to the correct person to consult. The main idea is to be helpful and knowledgeable whenever possible.
  • It is a good idea to explain the business side to the developers and also let them know about the domain, as you have that knowledge. The more informal these conversations, the better. You want to make sure you don’t come across as a person bragging about their knowledge. Rather, you want to be seen as the person who is genuinely interested in helping others out.
  • The best rule of thumb is to keep all your interactions honest and always come from a place of being helpful.

Learn more ways to build your credibility with your team and to communicate effectively. Contact The Analyst Coach at info@theanalystcoach.net to find out how we can support you and/or your team of business analysts.

Confessions of a Business Analyst Coach

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I published this article on LinkedIn this morning. I think all of us – every single person – needs to take a look at what they don’t like about their lives and then make a plan, take action, and change it.

Confession #1 – I’m a hard ass.

My family tells me that; my friends tell me that. I know it to be true. You will not her me say “oh, you poor thing” when you tell me what’s going wrong in your life.

What you will hear me say is something like “so what are you doing to change that?”

Hence the hard ass label. I don’t believe people should dwell on what’s wrong; they should make a plan to change it and then actually take the action that will put the plan in motion – and keep taking action until they are getting a different result.

Confession #2 – I believe you are personally responsible for all of your successes and all of your failures.

I hear people say things like “my manager is awful”, “my company won’t invest in training”, “my department only gives us 3% increases, doesn’t matter how good a job I do, I can’t make more money”.

You can’t make another person change and shouldn’t bother wasting your time on that. If your manager is really bad – and it’s not just your excuse for why you aren’t doing well (there’s that hard ass thing again), then leave. Get a new job; don’t stay where you aren’t happy.

Your company isn’t responsible for your training and development – you are. Is it a benefit that some companies offer? Sure, but don’t wait around for them if they aren’t getting you the training you need to advance your career. You take the action to advance your career. In the last 5 years I have spent over 100K on my own learning and development so you definitely will not get sympathy from me in this area. If I see an area that I need to improve on, I find the right person/company to help me, I register, I pay, I do the work, and I gain the knowledge/skill that I set out to get.

Just like the training, your company is not responsible for your level of income. That’s right – you are! If they are not willing to pay what you want, then you find someone who is. If you’ve tried that and can’t get a position making what you want, try looking at your skill set and see if maybe there’s improvements you need to make there (see the training point I mentioned above).

The point I’m making here is that you are 100% responsible for your current circumstances and that’s a good thing. Actually it’s a GREAT thing. That means you have 100% control to change them. As soon as you are willing to accept that you are responsible for where you are at, you can start making a plan to get where you want to be.

Confession #3 – I would suck as a life coach.

Because my attitude is “stop whining and start doing” I probably would not make a good life coach. However, I’m a great business analyst coach. I can teach you the skills you need to be successful in your job, but it’s up to you to take action to first get the skills and then take the steps needed in order to use those skills and improve your own circumstances.

Job security isn’t about staying where you’re at for 30 years and getting your company pension and that watch they give you at your retirement party. These days you’re more likely to get laid off before that ever happens! Job security is knowing you can get a job whenever you need or want one. Period. Make your own job security by making it a priority to be great at what you do.

3 Must Know Techniques

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