Friday, March 25, 2011

Make a Difference with your BA Skill Set

In today’s age, Business Analyst has become a key role in an IT or any other Organization. But as a BA he should not be confined to limited skills. Though he is not responsible, then also he should have working knowledge on each and every process that happens in a project life cycle.

It is all about differentiating from others with the advanced skill set which will make an employee irreplaceable in an organization. So as a BA, he should be equipped with the most advanced skills present in the industry. Out of my experience, I have tried to list out all in the form of a diagram being displayed below.

BA Skill Set
If anything can be added to this, let me know your suggestions or thoughts on the same.

Qualities to become a Business Analyst

A Business Analyst is a person who acts as a liaison between business people who have a business problem and technology people who know how to create automated solutions.

A Great Business Analyst:
  • must be flexible, customer-focused and outstanding communicator
  • must be skilled at organizing and managing large amounts of information in various forms
  • must understand the SDLC and other software development methodologies
  • must like very detailed research and analysis
  • must possess a toolkit of techniques to elicit and gather requirements
BA Qualities

Planning Skills for a Business Analyst

Many people do not understand that business analysis work involves a lot more than just “gathering” the requirements. In addition to requirements gathering skill, a BA should have a structured plan and approach to elicit, analyze, document, review and validate system requirements. 

Stakeholder Analysis and Communication Planning are the two of most important tasks that a BA should be well versed with. These two items are mostly related to the planning activities of BA. BA should be able to showcase the plan containing the achievable milestones to all the stakeholders of the Project. 

Business analysis planning should be done for every project but it doesn’t have to be an enormous, time consuming process. Many of the planning tasks can be finished very swiftly, while some tasks may require a little research and analysis.

The following process map depicts the Business Analyst Planning Skills.

Planning Skills for a BA

Requirements Facilitation Skills for a BA

Facilitate means to make easy or easier. Hence facilitation sessions are repeatedly conducted during project initiation and requirements gathering phases. The core objective of the facilitation sessions is to make requirements gathering simple. Facilitation sessions are not meetings. They are very structured, planned, working sessions where every participant is carefully chosen and has a critical role to play. 

A facilitator is one who is a planner, designer, helper, instrument, or agent. Facilitator should have the art of bringing people together, face-to-face or remotely, to elicit requirements and get agreement on solutions.

Facilitation sessions are mostly helpful for BAs to elicit and gather requirements from various stake holders. The following flow diagram explains the how a BA needs to take care of Requirements Facilitation sessions.

Requirements Facilitation

Business Analysis - In Sync with Global Standards...

Business Analysis is one of the most essential steps in developing a software application. It is the discipline of identifying business needs, requirements and determining solutions to business problems. It is very important to identify the business needs of client and other stakeholders in order to provide appropriate solutions.

Generally the solutions include development of new systems, but sometimes it may also consist of business process re-engineering, strategic planning, developing a new product for a customer, enterprise analysis, etc. Business Analyst is the person who takes care of all these activities.

In business analysis, core focus is on requirements analysis sometimes also called requirements engineering. We understand the importance of analysis and documenting business requirements and work with clients to elicit or gather requirements and prepare business specifications, translating them into application functionality. 

So for a Business Analyst, it is very important that his works should be in Sync with Global Business Analysis Standards, which will be accepted by all across the world. Below process flow depicts the key phases in Business analysis and how those are interconnected with each other.

Business Analysis Phases

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why does a Project need both: a PM and a BA?

Having a strong, experienced Project Manager and an efficient, knowledgeable Business Analyst in a Project, is the best way to assure its Success. Both roles are essential because they are each accountable for a diverse set of activities and they each possess a set of skills that complement each other. Both of them work together from the start of the Project and set a platform for success by their proper Planning and Executing skills.

At times, only one person plays both the roles in some organizations. This article discusses the significance of assigning different individuals to each role to ensure project success.

Responsibilities of PM & BA

When One Person Performs Both Roles

In SMEs or when the Organization is short staffed, one person is assigned to act as both the PM and the BA. This kind of cases have been seen, where there is lack of understanding the roles and responsibilities of BA Role and people feel that Business Analysis is one of the activities that PM needs to do. When only one person is assigned to both the roles, the challenge is to be aware of the conflicting focus and try to act in one role at one point of time.

Skill Comparison: PM Vs BA?

Each role provides focused capabilities that make the difference between whether a project succeeds or struggles. PMs and BAs each have distinct skills and knowledge areas and both of them produce a high quality product. Both of them want the project to be successful and want to satisfy all the Stake-holders as well as the client. They understand the ultimate purpose of the project – to meet the project objectives. There are many other areas where the two individuals diverge and do very different types of tasks.

PM Vs BA - Skill Comparison
Dynamic Duos

When assigning PMs and BAs to a project, the success depends on their experience, knowledge and skill sets in the respective areas.

If a strong, experienced PM is assigned to work with an inexperienced, unskilled BA, the requirements gathering and analysis tasks may be quick and key requirements may be missed. This situation will result in rework on requirements analysis & development, missing deadlines, over budget, etc.

In contrary, if a weak PM is assigned to work with a skilled and experienced BA, too much time may be spent in requirements gathering and the project will fall behind schedule as BAs want to get every single detail to be captured 100%.

“The best way to guarantee success of any type of project is to have a strong, experienced Project Manager and a strong, experienced Business Analyst.”

Joint Application Development - How to handle JAD Efficiently ?

Chuck Morris and Tony Crawford, both of IBM, developed JAD in the late 1970s and began teaching the approach through workshops in 1980.

JAD Philosophy
JAD Concept
What is JAD?
JAD is a technique that involves the client or end user in the design and development of an application, through a succession of collaborative workshops called JAD sessions.

In contrast to the traditional approach, JAD leads to shorter development period and better client satisfaction, both of which stem from the constant involvement of the client throughout the development process. JAD sessions are structured and focused and participants of these sessions would typically include a facilitator, end users, developers, observers, mediators and experts.

JAD process generally used in the prototyping life cycle area of the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) to collect business requirements while developing new application for a client.

When to use JAD?
JAD can be successfully applied to a wide range of projects, including the following:
  • New systems
  • Enhancements to existing systems
  • System conversions
  • Purchase of a system
Key participants
Participants of a JAD Session

How to Plan and Conduct an efficient JAD Session
  • Most JAD sessions span a three- to five-day time period and occasionally last up to two weeks.
  • The success of any JAD session is dependent upon proper planning and effectively carrying out that plan.
  • To successfully conduct the session, the leader should follow these guidelines:
  • Avoid the use of technical jargon.
  • Apply conflict resolution skills.
  • Allow for ample breaks.
  • Encourage group consensus.
  • Encourage user and management participation without allowing individuals to dominate the session.
  • Make sure that attendees abide by the established ground rules for the session.

How to handle JAD Sessions Efficiently

Handling a JAD Session Efficiently

The end product of a JAD session is typically a Formal written document:
  • This document is essential in confirming the specifications agreed upon during the session(s) to all participants.
  • The content and organization of the specification is obviously dependent on the objectives of the JAD session.
  • The analyst may choose to provide a different set of specifications to different participants based upon their role.