Business Analysed

Observations from a Business Analyst

Archive for the ‘Delivery’ Category

Business Analysis – the basics

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I thought that I would go to basics and create a quick presentation that highlights what, to me, are the essential elements of any business that need to be considered when looking to apply Business Analysis.

The main message is:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Technology

They are all intertwined and together they form the ‘business’.

Business Analysis looks at each of these elements to ensure that they support each other and that they are right, timely and affordable for the business.

Till next time

Paul

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Written by Paul Jennings

June 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Solace – Day 2

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We are now two thirds of the way through SOLACE 2009 and I thought that I would let you know of my observations  since my last post.

As far as I could tell day 2 was all about leadership and the power of communication (led by Drs Peter & Susan Glaser). This comes as a useful reminder to any Chief Executive, no matter how many years ‘under the belt’ they have got to the name. As organisations Local Authorities have to treat people well to ensure that they will give their best. The definition of corporate leadership has been defined and redefined over many year and I doubt that 1 of the Chief Executives attending have never heard this message before in someway or other.

Although local authorities have been challenged before and each have managed these challenges it’s still useful to review the approach to ensure that it is still gaining the objectives as it was intended. My question is how many people heard the message, realised that it applies to them, and decide what are they going to do about it?

The main surprise for me has been the attendance – or lack of it. ~350 delegates were registered, however when passing the registration desk at least 40% of the pre-paid badges had not been collected. It was also clear in the exhibition area when speaking to other exhibitors that not many Chief Executives were making the rounds and as 1 Chief said ‘he could not be bothered with the hard sell’.

I also feel for Oracle who invited myself, along with all the delegates, to a free evening reception prior to the conference dinner. I would estimate that 60 people showed up for an event which Oracle would have expected at least twice that amount and catered accordingly.

I wonder if these major companies will think twice about signing up to sponsor next year. BT was a major conference sponsor but did not take a stand in the exhibition hall. I wonder if we’re seeing the start of the end of ‘conferences’ in their traditional sense.

If delegates have more pressing engagements that force them to give up their conference seat then maybe the conference is not working. I would imagine that at least it will be scaled down next year.

I am going into day 3 of the conference glad to know that I am going home in a few hours. I feel that the people we did speak to benefited, however we did not get the message across as widely as we had hoped.

Make sure you follow the ‘action’ on Twitter using #solace09.

Till next time,

Paul.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

Solace 2009 Day 1 – what we’ve learned so far

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Well the first day of Solace 2009 is over and I suppose it is a time to reflect on what I have observed during the conference, the exhibition, the curry house and the bar.

The general messages that was being delivered out were “the hard times are here to stay” “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency, save, save, save” “must do more to save more”.

What I did not hear were the ways that our Chief Executives were supposed to get over these hard times, maybe this will come over the next couple of days.

It is a different perspective as an outsider watching the happenings of SOLACE 2009, I feel somewhat remote, but on the other hand passionate about what is happening on the other side of the wall. Digital Beacons at SOLACE 09To explain, I am here as an exhibitor and my day-to-day role does not normally trespass on the Chief’s territory so this is a rare opportunity for me to see what goes on behind ‘closed doors’.

My role this week is to help promote the use of IT to deliver services that benefit the customer to local authorities Together with my colleagues from the other digital inclusion beacons we are working to enlighten the minds of chief executives one authority at a time.

Today was the first day of the conference and the passing footfall included some of the other exhibitors, a couple of delegates and a few interested parties. In short, not as many of the Chief Executives as we had expected. I had hoped to be able to ask our CE’s what their authority was doing to meet the digital challenge and how IT was perceived within their organisation. Maybe tomorrow will bring better fortune!

From the observations that I have made today I feel that the general impression is that each authority needs to focus on generating savings to minimise spend as income is only going to get less. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, not much was being said as to how this should be delivered.

A positive presentation came from Jeff French who talked about the perception of the public towards local government who started the discussion as to how local authorities can understand their shortfalls by ensuring they as the right questions.

Philip Hammond challenged the Chief’s by saying “if we want innovation, we must learn to embrace failure” – I am not sure that many councillors will feel the same way and will lend their support to their chief.

Personally I view the issue as a 3 sided triangle (or as Andy Sawford put it at the bar tonight – a 3 legged stool) with PEOPLE, PROCESSES & TECHNOLOGY supporting the future. I can see that the drive to improve PROCESSES was being discussed today and I would imagine that it will carry on being discussed till the end of the conference.

The TECHNOLOGY was being discussed at the SOCITM Conference 2 weeks a go and I could imagine that at a similar HR event the PEOPLE element of the triangle would have been discussed.

So far SOLACE has not combined the 3 legs of the stool, and without this top down understanding the “savings, savings, savings’ and ‘efficiency, efficiency, efficiency’ cannot be delivered. We need to build the business case that will allow us to embrace the failure and through combined effort transform into stronger local authorities.

I hope that the speakers tomorrow will help strengthen the triangle and I hope that more Chief Executives will come to the Digital Inclusion stand and not be distracted by the opportunity to drive around Silverstone in a F1 car!

Till next time.

Paul

Written by Paul Jennings

October 21, 2009 at 1:16 am

SOLACE 2009

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Stormy Times for Chief Executives in Brighton

Stormy Times for Chief Executives in Brighton

This week I will be attending the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) Annual Conference in Brighton.

A lot has been happening in recent months, not least the demand that all chief executives face – do more for less.

I am interested to see how feedback from other events, such as the SOCITM Conference and Digital Britain will be demonstrated on this high power stage.

The people who attend today have the final say about what programmes for transformation stay and which ones go. ICT has a huge part to play in the future local government and I hope that the case for ICT will be put across fairly and that the delegates will have an opportunity to ask and understand how ICT will affect their authority.

If you’re around feel free to stop by and say Hi! I will be on the Digital Inclusion stand or you can follow me on twitter. Some of us will be trying to give live feedback using the twitter hashtag #solace09.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

Educating the Authorities

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There has been a lot of talk recently regarding ways for Local Authorities to embrace ‘social media’, ‘web2.0’ and other key words such as ‘engage’ and how they can deliver better services by using technology. Although some people are passionate about embracing new ways of working there are still plenty out there that are not yet ‘with the programme’.

I was recently brought into a discussion about web forums and how they might be used in a local authority to try to engage the staff to feedback ideas to improve the council. What I learned from these discussions was not so much that there was negativity towards working differently, but it was more the fact that some people did not even know that an alternative solution existed, let alone what to do with it.

In my experience those at the coal face are usually quite good at creating the business case for a new tool or a process if they understand what it is all about. The biggest challenge is getting that message understood by those that can and will make a difference by using the tools. I talked recently about the role of the Business Analyst and how it was important that they were a translator between ICT and the business area. It is this skill that is essential when trying to promote new technology, translating the tools into words that the end users will understand. There is a key question that needs to be answered ‘What’s in it for me?’ if that cannot be answered then the changes will stay on the shelf.

Tip 1 – When trying to get business buy-in ensure that you can relate the tool to the individual that you’re talk to.

Secondly, and this is always the biggest problem to overcome, is culture. Moving towards a 21st Century way of working means changing the culture of an organisation to understand what is happening ‘out there’ in the world.

We are living in a very exciting time. The world of social media, micro-blogging and user engagement is expanding at a rapid rate. This means that our next generation of workers will be web aware and will be expecting to deliver their tasks using the tools that they use on a daily basis. Think if you were changing jobs and you got offered 2 positions, exactly the same money, benefits etc.. however one company expected you to work with a typewriter and post letters while the other gave you a laptop with email. Who would you work for..?

Currently organisations, and local authorities in particular, are in a battle of culture. Councils are never going to be seen as leading edge adopters of technology (some would say that they could be compared to scavengers coming along after the battle has been fought and and grabbing what they can) and as such councils are never going to attract the risk takers that can deliver the wins expected by the private sector. The downside of this is that they have become risk averse and failing to keep up with the expectations of the public. The culture needs to change, and to do that education is required.

In discussions I often break an organisation into 3 key elements:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Technology

Each element is just as important as the others and no one element can save an organisation, they have to work together and constantly evolve. It is often the case that organisations throw money at technology expecting it to deliver but without the people understanding why they are using the technology or how they will use the technology it is a waste of money.

Changing the culture means changing the people – this could be both figuratively or literally. Are you willing and capable to change the culture..?

Tip 2 – Be expected to change people to change the culture.

I mentioned above that to advance we have to understand what we are delivering but also be willing to change the culture to ensure that it evolves with us rather than against us. The big question for us now is – where do we start?

A number of sites have been publishing top tips recently  about where to find information a couple are below…

Another exciting recent development has been the advertising of the post of a Director of Digital Engagement for the Cabinet Office. This post will be there help change the culture and educate local authorities to how it is possible to embrace the future and build the business case.

Till next time.

Paul

Written by Paul Jennings

February 18, 2009 at 11:00 am

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

Shared Service Sorcery

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The concept of Shared Services has been on the Local Government agenda for some time as a way to combine resources and save money. Over the years some of the big consultancies have been touting for business, tempting local authorities into bed, some classic examples include Birmingham City Council’s deal with Capita and IBM’s deal with Somerset. Other local authorities are looking to move to the next level and including a strategic partner to deliver multiple services for the group.

When embarking on the path of Shared Services it is essential that the whole organisation understands what they want to get out of it and what they are willing to put in to the deal. I fear that when Shared Services appears on the agenda no-one asks what do we want and instead focus on how much can we save.

ICT is a key enabler of successfully delivering Shared Services and one of the reasons it is so important to understand the requirements and expectations up front. When explaining shared services I treat it as a journey that takes an organisation from in-house solution through to a fully managed solution. The first question I always pose is – where is the line..? The line defines what one organisation gives up and the other takes up.

Having worked recently with 2 authorities looking to join up their financial services I was interested to learn that different departments had different opinions as to where the line was going to be. Some thought that it was a fully managed service while another department felt that it would be a hosted service. In the end the project was split into 2 phases, with phase 1 looking to implement a hosted solution where one authority would be responsible for the hardware while the other would be carrying on as normal but with a new infrastructure. In phase 2 work would be undertaken to pass some of the operational tasks from one authority to the other.

In summary: Get the line in the right place, avoid the confusion up front.

The second question that I raise is what does the organisation want to get out of the agreement. Is it money, does the authority want to make a profit..? Is it efficiency, by working together does the authority want to deliver a better service for users..? Is it experience, does the authority want to learn more about shared working with an aim to increase usage in the future..?

Profit is always a bit of red herring and no authority should go into a shared services agreement expecting to make money. It is the nature of business to only create an infrastructure that is required for the current service with limited room for expansion. Taking on the work of another authority could mean doubling the infrastructure to support and so will require investment to meet the needs of the agreement. The cost of this investment will affect the price that needs to be charged but this will need to be balanced with the need to be competitive and so the profit margin suddenly stops looking so good.

In summary: If you’re looking to offer shared services, be wary as all that glitters is not gold.

The third question that I ask is what impact will this have. In a shared services agreement, no matter how far down the road, there is a giver and a taker. It is essential that any changes to processes are fully understood before entering the agreement as substantial changes will affect efficiencies and therefore the ‘bottom line’ of the agreement.

Finally – shared services are a good way of delivering better services to customers by utilising the skills in place, however be wary and ask the right questions before taking the plunge.

Till next time.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm

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