The blue ocean business analyst

Agile is about maximizing value to the customer by delivering great functionality at a reasonable cost, that helps him to win at his market. It is about helping him to serve his customers better. Gone are the days when the business analysts used to just note down what the end users asked from the system, and transferred them to the development team without any value addition. This shift in focus from conformance to requirements to maximizing value to the customer’s business opens up a plethora of opportunities for the competent and qualified business analyst.  The mind map provided below depicts the ‘business analyst’ at the center of the stakeholder map.

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Blue ocean business analyst

  • Determines the actual problem to be solved in the organization
  • Understands the business issues and challenges of the organization and industry
  • Identifies the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and suggests areas of improvement
  • Reviews and edits requirements
  • Documents the solution to the problem
  • Creative problem solving
  • Identification of process improvement opportunities
  • Feedback collection and sharing
  • Communicates functional product and business standards
  • Facilitates business community transition from problem state to solution state
  • Evaluation of alternative solutions
  • Product stakeholder management
  • Augmenting the change readiness of the organization
  • Product evaluations
  • Facilitation and moderation of meetings
  • Presentations
  • Effective communication
  • Enough technical knowledge to converse effectively with technical stakeholders
  • Conflict resolution between the business and the technical teams
  • Generating enthusiasm about the product
  • Facilitates decision making
  • Effective management of requirements changes
  • Effective tracking of product issues to closure
  • Leads the acceptance testing efforts

Development team is not the differentiation to the customer’s business any more. It is the availability of great business analysts who can identify those killer functionality,  that will differentiate his organization from the competition is the key to value maximization. It will even better if those great functionality articulated by the business analyst can move the organization from the bleeding red oceans to the blue oceans.

Feature exploration, a top down approach for the #CIO #CXO #Business analysts

Clarity in what we want, why and when helps in maximizing the amount of unwanted work not done, which is one of the key foundations of agile. Agile frameworks provide great opportunities to add value to the client’s business better and faster, than the waterfall model. Lot of proactive agile thinking is required from the client’s (CIO, CFO, Business analysts, PMO, Portfolio management) side to leverage these opportunities of agility. Alignment of the Organizational strategy for growth, Project portfolio, I.S portfolio is of great importance before the start of development of the products, features which really deliver the strategic competitive advantage to business. Here is the opportunity for the CIO, and the business analysts to deliver great value to their organization by inquiring about the following;

What is the organizational strategy for growth?

Every CIO and the business analysis group must understand their business goals and the organization’s strategy for achieving the business goals, so that they get the larger picture which will trigger thought.

What are all the projects the organization is performing to support the strategy for growth?

A peek into organization’s project portfolio management system (You are lucky, if there exists one, else treat it as an opportunity to attempt one) will provide you with the necessary details of all the key projects the organization is embarking on and the rationale behind them. This is a great input to identify the information technology component vital for making these projects successful.

Developing the I.T project portfolio which supports the organizational project portfolio

What is the Information technology’s role / potential to make these organizational (functional) projects maximize their contribution to the achievement of the stated business goals?. Develop the I.T project portfolio.

Decompose the products of I.T project portfolio into wishlist of features (product backlog)

This is the time to develop the product backlog (wish list of features)

Classification of the features

Prioritization of the features

Developing the user stories for high priority features

High level estimates (budgets)

Identification of the agile vendors

Vendor engagement 

First cut release planning, along with the agile vendors

Architectural, technology, financial, schedule considerations

Signing the contract with an agile vendor, where the contract type is cost + benefit sharing or T&M, or Fixed price with a cap on the features (story availability is a must here to estimate effectively)

These may seem like a hill of impediments, when we look at these aspects after starting the I.T project, and at the same time these steps are not that difficult for the CIO and the Business analysts to implement. In fact these are great enablers for them to open meaningful dialogues with the functional managers and the senior management. Doing this much proactively will help in maximizing the value by aligning the product backlog, user stories to the organizational strategy for growth and by identifying truly agile vendors who believes in partnering with their clients to create win-win situations.

Agile Readiness, Implementation and Institutionalization

If we just call a group of people into a room, train them one of the agile methodologies and ask them to do the project in the agile way, things may still work with the illusion of agility. They may get some benefits as well. It is more like someone who buys a DSLR camera and keep clicking in the auto mode. The results could be better than the past, but it is designed to give much more benefits. For optimal and sustainable implementation of agile, one must focus on the organizational readiness, implementation and institutionalization.

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Readiness 

  • Requirements management
    • Approvals
    • Product backlog
    • Prioritization
    • Stories
    • Estimation
    • Release planning
  • Stakeholder management
    • Identification
    • Orientation
    • Communication planning
  • Risk management
    • Identification
    • Prioritization
    • Management and tracking
  • Team
    • Selection
    • Training of the agile framework
    • Special training for product owner and scrum master
    • Team seating arrangements and resources
    • Common understanding of the framework
    • Common understanding of ‘Done’
    • Understanding of the agile principles, values and agile manifesto
  • Communication
    • Methods and tools
    • Frequencies

Implementation 

  • Management practices
    • Sprint planning meeting
    • Sprint backlog
    • Information radiators
    • Sprinting
    • Daily stand ups
    • Burn down chart
    • Sprint review
    • Sprint retrospectives
    • Velocity calculations
  • Engineering practices

Institutionalizing  

  • Commitment to agile even under pressure
  • Motivation
  • Alignment with the performance appraisal systems
  • Interfacing with other systems within the organization

An integrated and systematic approach will help teams and organizations to reap the real benefits of agile like;

  • Better productivity
  • Faster return on investment (ROI) for the customer
  • Better quality
  • Better predictability
  • Highly motivated and capable teams