Business Analysed

Observations from a Business Analyst

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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

The Social Local Authority

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I was recently made aware of Bracknell Forest Council Web Development Blog by a tweet from someone who is working towards encouraging councils to become more social. This got me thinking about the work Bracknell Forest are doing and also the work of organisations such as MySociety and FillThatHole as a way of empowering the citizen to interact more with their local authority.  

Such sites and projects raise questions about the response the local authority will give to the information that is delivered from a variety of sources.

Firstly, what happens if the local authority chooses to ignore the information submitted? In which case the site is outdated unless a third party takes the time to update and respond where possible. There’s a number of ways that council can choose to respond to submitted information which could include RSS feeds giving updated status, or automatic emails reporting changes to the status of the call, or more complex solutions such as full interfaces allowing integration between trusted sites and the local authority. All these ways of interfacing and responding will have to be processed by the 3rd party site – but getting a response in the first place is the biggest battle.

Secondly, why are such sites successful in the first place? I believe the answer is simple – sites such as FixMyStreet offer an interface for members of the public to report problems to their local authority in a way that they want. I am sure that citizens are not deliberately shunning the council in favour of a different site it is just that the council does not have the same interfaces as the public expect.  The solution for local authorities is just as simple – adapt! – change the website to meet the requirements of the pubic and learn from those sites that have gone before and developed public solutions.

There is a mindset that Local Authorities are a service delivery just as any other company such as telecoms, high street shops, utilities etc.. whereby the customer can sit back and expect everything to be delivered without having to lift a finger and having the right to complain should something not be done right.

In a way this is true – however citizens, and businesses, need to update their opinion of the council and realise that they are not customers but actually shareholders and need to take an active part in the running of the organsiation. As with any company the better the relationship with its shareholders and customers the better the service will become. The organisation relies on feedback to improve the services delivered, without that feedback the organisation needs to beome a mind-reader.  There is a limited number of ways that

Citizens need to become more involved and be prepared to take responsibility for their actions – no longer is it ‘The Council’ it should now be ‘Our council’ and the work done by Bracknell Forest and other authorities are helping breaking down the barriers.

Written by Paul Jennings

December 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm

The bad practice of best practice

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The young mens’ organisation Round Table has a motto – Adopt, Adapt, Improve – and derives both its title and its maxim from a speech made to the British Industries Fair in 1927 by the then Prince of Wales – “The young business and professional men of this country must get together round the table, ADOPT methods that have proved so sound in the past, ADAPT them to the changing needs of the times and wherever possible, IMPROVE them”.

Even though these words were spoken in 1927 the concept of adopting, adapting and improving can be applied to many situations, both business and personal, today. To me the key is not so much what to do, but more that this tells us the order in which to do it.

“ADOPT methods that have proved so sound in the past…”

In my experience organisations understand the concept of best practice but are reluctant to implement it as they feel that they are different to all those organisations that have gone before. Therefore best practice is not the best for them. These organisations inevitably jump to adapting the best practice without actually seeing if it will meet their needs.

Organisations need to take more time to understand best practice rather than making the rash decision that firstly they need to implement best practice and then secondly conclude that they are special and best practice is not for them.

My advice is take your time; understand why you are looking to adopt best practice; develop a knowledge of the best practice chosen; plan to implement it; understand how it will affect your business and how you are going to manage those effects.

“ADAPT them to the changing needs of the times…”

As mentioned above organisations have been known to jump to the adapt phase and skip the adopt, how can an organisation adapt something when they don’t know what will happen when they adopt it?

Once best practice has been adopted it has to be reviewed to ensure that it is meeting the business needs. Every organisation has got different needs and ways of working and so the best practice needs to be tweaked to meet those needs, but fundamentally the practice remains the same.

Think of best practice as a wheel and the adapting is making the wheel fit with the cart – size, width, materials etc. After the adapting has taken place it is still a wheel.

“…wherever possible, IMPROVE them.”

It is possible for an organisation to improve best practice but this comes after the time and experience of adopting and adapting. All best practices evolve and an organisation can contribute to that evolution through working with peers, dissemination of ideas and gathering feedback from users.

Best practice has to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of business and industry. Using our wheel metaphor, over the years the wheel has improved from wood to alloy – can you imagine a formula 1 car racing around Silverstone with wheels from a 15th cart..?

And finally…

A thought to take away, if best practice is a wheel allowing the cart to move, by chipping bits away without, understanding what it does, you turn it into a triangle – put that on your cart and shove it!

Till next time.

Paul.

Written by Paul Jennings

November 26, 2008 at 10:38 am

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

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