Business Analysed

Observations from a Business Analyst

Posts Tagged ‘Project Management

Who’s your BA..?

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I was recently talking to someone about issues they were facing with regards to the co-ordination of data at work. The problems that they were describing seemed quite normal for an office with an increasing workload and the challenge of maintaining that information.

They started to ask me about possible solutions and floated the idea of a small database which could be used to track workload between the suppliers and the team members. My first impression was that this could do for  short term fix, however what about the long term.

I then started to ask questions about what was corporate objectives with regards to information management, where was the work being handed down from, what information needed to be shared with other users outside of the team. Some of the answers were available, but understandably not all of them as they just did not have access to that level of knowledge. I then asked the killer question – do you have a business analyst that can help you? The answer was ‘I don’t know’.

The role of a Business Analyst (BA) in any corporation is varied, but most importantly it is to act as a translator between the business departments and the IT departments. The most important thing about being a translator is that you can communicate to both sides at the same time in a language that they understand.

Business areas all have ICT requirements which could include information feeds, data exports, catalogues and work-flow. The organisation also has ICT requirements which could include data security, information returns and performance monitoring. It does not help the corporate objectives when business areas are allowed to develop solutions to requirements in isolation. It is the job of the BA to help ensure that when choosing a solution it fits with the corporate goals and that the business needs are represented at a corporate level.

If I was to give advice it would be: if you’re thinking about a ICT project to deliver a solution, make sure that you have identified who your BA is.

  • They will help you understand what options are available and should help you to think about alternative solutions that you may not have considered.
  • They will be albe to keep you informed about the corporate direction the organisation is moving in with regards to ICT.
  • They will help you take advantage of corporate wide solutions that as a small area may not be considered but could provide a business case if a number of areas worked together.
  • They will support you when dealing with ICT ensuring that you get what you need, not what ICT think you need.

Remember the swing…

    What the Customer Wanted

    What the Customer Wanted

    What was installed

    What was installed

Top Tips:

  • Find out who is your Business Analyst
  • Find out where the organisation is heading with regards to ICT
  • Ask them to help you in understanding your needs
  • Don’t assume that you know best – they might surprise you!

If in doubt – ask me and I will tell you what to ask!

Till next time

Paul.

Written by Paul Jennings

February 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Management of Transformation or Transform Management

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In a previous post I mentioned the big stick of transformation and how it was important for transformation managers to realise when to get the stick out. In this follow up post I would like to discuss the role of management in transformation.

So the drivers are there – thou shalt save money, thou shalt be more efficient, thou shalt do more with less, thou shalt increase productivity – what now..? How do you deliver? How do you transform to meet the drivers? Where do you start?

The first question that any organisation needs to answer is who has the responsibility for transforming the organisation to meet the drivers? There are possible answers to this the first is everyone. Everyone has the responsibility to deliver changes to meet the current drivers, everyone needs to be aware of what is happening. The problem with this answer is that everyone is many people with many ideas and understandings of the problems facing the organisation, therefore everyone is not a true answer.

The real answer is the big cheese, the grand formage, the man himself, the boss, guvnor or him in charge (this could well be a her). The person at the top is the person who is responsible for the successfully delivery of transformation within an organisation. It could well be that this is delegated to a senior director or other post, but they should still be involved.

Without that top level buy-in the project is doomed to failure as managers will duck, dive and avoid commitment, challenge authority and fail to deliver. A transformational leader can inspire business areas to greatness but without corporate commitment there is a danger that the project will go off the rails before it delivers success.

I have mentioned before the importance of a big stick, it is the role of management to define the look and feel of the big stick and also deliver it if necessary. A transformational leader with a big stick without the authority to wield it is a dog with no teeth, it’s bark is worse than it’s bite. Business areas will see through a toothless stick in no time and once that happens motivation for change drops and the challenge of delivery increases.

Business areas are willing to change, to an extent, they will meet the transformational leader part way and without the stick the process will stall. To deliver a successful transformation it is essential that management support the transformational leader and realise that they are the stick and use it to ensure that the project proceeds to plan.

In summary…

  • Management have to be 100% committed
  • Management have to define the Big Stick
  • Management have to be willing to use the big stick
  • Management support the transformational leader
  • Business areas need to know that the big stick is real

Till next time.

Paul

Written by Paul Jennings

October 17, 2008 at 7:48 am

The big stick of transformation

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I recently challenged some senior managers to tell me when does the big stick enter their transformational planning. They were surprised by the question and tried to reassure me that the large public sector organisation we were discussing was ready to change and really willing to do what was necessary to deliver.

 

In my experience business areas are very willing to change and point out failings – in other business areas, but never within their own area. When dealing with transformation, as opposed to service reviews, it is essential that the aims and objectives of transformation are drilled into the business area and these have to be lead to be achieved.

 

There will come a time within every transformation project that progress against expectations will have to be reviewed. What happens if progress is not as expected and the drivers that started the original transformation project are knocking at the door? It is time for the Big Stick of Transformation.

 

It is at this point that the leader needs to take action. Some view transformational leaders as people who get the best out of business areas and encouraging them to ‘do it themselves’ but do not appreciate that leaders also have to wield the big stick.

 

There is a quote that goes something like – an army would never follow a manager into battle but an inspirational leader could lead them through the gates of hell. This is true, but looking deeper, that leader did not sit back and ‘facilitate’ allowing the troops to come up with their own ideas and strategy, that leader inspired them to greatness and shook the big stick, showing them what would happen if they did not deliver.

 

The transformation project needs to understand when the big stick needs to come out, but more importantly what the big stick will be and how it will be implemented – and be willing to implement it. Without this knowledge and commitment the war is lost, transformation will never happen, and the hounds of hell will be cocking their legs on your campfire.

 

A transformational leader should be able to accept that the business are the experts and that the ideas need to come from the inside while inspiring the troops to make more efficiencies, cut more jobs, increase sales further or blow open the gates of hell while painting graffiti on the walls.

 

Till next time.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 16, 2008 at 11:54 am

Getting Accountant Buy in

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As a person and as a career I investigate various ways in which new technology and new ways of working can be implemented within the modern business environment. In the past I have investigated using handheld devices, home working, computer based training and a whole raft of other solutions that have been implemented.

Currently the flavour of the month is collaborative working and how to use web 2.0 theory within the work place with tools such as VOIP / mobile phone convergence, rich content websites to deliver messages and the use of wiki and blogs for project working.

As you are no doubt saying to yourself, these tools have been around for sometime, however in some organisations these are either unknown or seen as dark arts. This is where the problem lies.

Today’s organisation is risk adverse and is driven by the need to save money and you don’t have to be a genius to realise that the the first area to be hit by this thinking is ICT. So how can I get buy-in from the accountants!

There are plenty of papers published almost all saying the roughly same story “Innovate or die!” and we all agree with the theory but how do we get over that first hurdle; how do we convince the accountant that this is a risk worth taking.

There is a popular saying amongst accountants – “Show me the business case and I’ll think about it”. Which after the work is done is closely followed by a second popular saying “It’s a great idea, but I just don’t think that the business is ready for it”.

The business case is one of the most important elements of the equation, not so much for the accountant to see that you have done your sums, but also for yourself to ensure that you have asked all the right questions and challenged yourself in the process. I see the business case as a check list or a reality check to justify that the project you wish to embark on is as sound as the glittery wrapping the salesman gave it to you in.

A second key point is knowledge and understanding. The ICT department is in a difficult position, they cannot start a project without a business sponsor or need, however the business is not expected to fully understand all the tools that are available to complete the task, hence catch 22. To encourage your accountant to agree that the risk is worth it, they need to understand what it is you wish to do. Example – try explaining SharePoint to someone who is not in ICT and has never heard of it before (if you want to make it more difficult, add in the fact that they are a Mac disciple!) – if you can convince them that it is more than a website then your 1st step is in the right direction – and we have not even got to the collaborative working quickstep.

In short – it is important that your accountant knows the product and has seen it in action to be convinced by its benefits.

Risk – it is amazing that a four letter word (not including swearwords) can make an accountant breakout in a cold sweat. It is vital that you explain the risk in the way that they want to hear it. Don’t assume that you know what they want to hear – they will always ask something else. Try to include them during the initial discussions so that you can get them ‘on-side’ earlier.

Partnership working – How do you eat an elephant..? In small chunks! – if you can look to the business areas to take a share of the risk your accountant will be happier. A possible route for this will be partnership working, it is easy to see this when dealing with infrastructure based projects but when dealing with business unit solutions this may prove more tricky. It might be that other local organisations may wish to join your project, or possibly local colleges or universities may wish to achieve the same goals.

Cost – it cannot be ignored and your accountant will be staring intently at you till you mention it. The important part is understanding what is included in the cost. In this savings driven world all costs have to be accounted for, down to the penny. This could include: software, hardware, maintenance, consultancy, internal charges, replacement costs, training, upgrades, revenue implications – you name it, put a cost to it!

Savings – this is the word that makes your accountant smile. Savings can come in many forms, but the bottom line will be that the savings will outweigh the costs. Savings could include, software licenses, headcount, management information – try to make it as tangible as possible but intangible savings are also good. In addition to listing the potential savings it is important to justify them and indicate when your accountant will get his paws on the cash.

Finally 3 key questions…

When trying to convince your accountant that this project is the next best thing, make sure that you can answer these questions…

What is the total cost of ownership..?

What is the challenge of delivery..?

What is the benefit to the organisation..?

Think of these on a scale of Red, Amber & Green – the more green the better, the greater the amber the greater the risk to be accepted, the more red the more chance that your accountant will be telling you… “It’s a great idea, but I just don’t think that the business is ready for it”.

Till next time.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 9, 2008 at 9:22 am

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