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Don’t Miss the Wiki

IMPORTANT NOTE!: Just a quick reminder to visitors that while this blog section contains site news and other commentary by me, the majority of the site content is located under the Wiki section.  See the link in the main menu above.

I’ve noticed from the logs that some folks never seem to make it past the blog part so I am sticking this at the top of the blog as a gentle reminder on where most of the “good” stuff is.  🙂

Recommended Reading: Domain Storytelling

I came across a link on Hacker News to a new web site that describes the Domain Storytelling technique.  I haven’t finished reading through all of the content, but it looks like something worth reviewing especially if you work in a Business Analyst-type role in Agile processes. But as always, you might useful ideas even if you don’t work in Agile.

Here is a link:  Domain Storytelling

Are you still there, Dave?

I haven’t posted any updates to the site in a couple of months and wanted to assure you that it’s not because I have given up on adding new content.  Free time to research and write continues to be limited, but when I have the time I have been working on my attempt at creating a definitive article on Interface Analysis.  This has proven to be a surprisingly deep topic and so is taking much more time than I expected.  And in general, most of the ‘simple’ topics for the wiki have been written and the topics I have left on my list tend to require a great deal of research to generate an article that is worth posting.

There also seems to be a severe shortage of useful articles that I could point to for “Recommended Reading” posts.  Unfortunately, both Crosstalk and Requirements Engineering Magazine seem to have stopped publishing in 2017 (or at least have not had new content posted in 2018 at all), and Modern Analyst continues it’s decent into an ad-filled wasteland of useless information.  And I have not come across other Business Analysis focused or related sites that have high-quality content that I feel worth linking to.

So the site will continue to be updated, just a bit more infrequently.   But if you have topics or subjects you would like me to write on, feel free to mention it in a comment to this post.  🙂

New Wiki Page: Investment Logic Mapping

After a really, really, really long time; I have finally added a new page to the wiki.  This one is on the Investment Logic Mapping technique.  Investment Logic Mapping (ILM) is part of the Investment Management Standard that was defined by the Australian State Government of Victoria, and which has since been adopted by other entities in Australia as well as the Government of New Zealand.

I have added it to the wiki because I believe it’s a technique that could be very useful to Business Analysts who are trying to define stakeholder understanding and agreement of what the need is for an investment (be it a project effort or otherwise), what’s driving the need, what the benefits of addressing the issue would be, and how those benefits will be measured.

The ILM technique provides a way to get all of this BEFORE a project has kicked off.  As always, you don’t have to stick to the exact process defined here to find value in the technique.  Perhaps just the categories and information and way things are linked might be valuable to you.  I do recommend you review the technique as I think it provides an approach to a problem that seems to be little addressed by much of modern project management.

And as always, feedback is welcome.

Extracting Data from a concatenated string in Excel

Excel. The multi-tool in every BA’s tool-belt. Or if it’s not, it should be.

From capturing user stories, calculating cost basis, data analytics, metrics tracking, management dashboards, and it’s default use as the table-creation-tool du-jour; it does it all. It may not be the BEST tool for any of those but it’s the tool you can count on almost everyone in an office environment having and being at least somewhat familiar with.

It’s also the tool that most people I know turn to when you get one or more data dumps of some sort and you need to try and make sense of the information, or just make it more accessible for further analysis.

In this post I am going to discuss a specific problem I encountered with a data extract in the form of an Excel file. That problem was that:

  • Out of about 25 data elements in the file, only about 10 were in distinct columns
  • The rest of the data elements were concatenated together into one string in a single column
  • There were nearly a thousand rows of data and I would be getting a new file every month, meaning a manual solution was not desirable
  • The discreet data values in the string were not always consistently present (e.g. a value might be present in one row but not another)
  • The data values in the strings were not always in the same order

So in this post I am going to go through the logic and eventual Excel functions that were created to solve this problem.  Hopefully you find it useful.

Continue reading

A BAwiki 2017 Year in Review

2017 was a busy year personally. I wrapped up a 3-year enterprise-level project; which led to me accepting a management position (managing a very small team of business analysts); I bought a house; and generally dealt with a number of the curve-balls that life throws at you.  All of which unfortunately meant that this site did not get nearly the attention I hoped.

On a positive note, my goal of writing content that has a longer shelf life and having this site act as a sort of reference resource seems to be working even with a bit of inattention.  2017 saw the following improvements in site metrics over 2016 (as measured by Google Analytics):

  • Individual users  were up just under 16% to roughly 56,000
  • Individual sessions were up a bit over 17% to 67,000
  • The bounce rate dropped 12% from 52% to 40%
  • The % of visitors who spent at least 5 minutes on the site was up 14%

Other interesting statistics include:

  • Over 82% of site visitors are using desktops, with 15% on mobile.
  • The U.S., U.K, India, Canada and Germany are the top 5 sources of traffic
  • And the following site pages remain the most visited:
    • RASCI Matrix
    • Context Diagram
    • Stakeholder Onion Diagram
    • Decomposition
    • VMOST Analysis
    • Stakeholder Communications Matrix

I am hoping in 2018 to get back to regular writing for this site and finally finishing some of the longer articles I have had in progress for a while.

Thank you again to all those who visit and find something of use here.  I remain committed to having no advertising on this site, so my only reward is your attention and the occasional positive comment.  🙂

May your 2018 be a story of success, both personal and professional.


Recommended Reading – The Goal is to Solve the Problem

Every once in a while I come across an article that discusses some subject in an incredibly clear and thoughtful way.  Issue 2017-02 of IREB’s Requirements Engineering Magazine online contains just such an article.  It’s titled “The goal is to solve the problem” and it’s an article that I recommend any Business Analyst or Requirements Engineer read.  And if you are relatively new to the field I recommend it even more.

This article is full of highly quotable text and I have included some quotes below to give you a sampling, but it’s just that.  You really need to read the whole article to gain the full value.

As the authors state in the opening paragraph, they use to the article to:

“… critically explore the concepts and look into the relation between problems and goals through solutions. We will also pay attention to their recursive nature. We will end up with several (slightly provocative) thoughts on the subject, including practical implications for the work of the requirements engineer.”

Continue reading

Recommended Reading: The Crucial Art of Pre-Project Problem Analysis

If you haven’t read it yet, last month Modern Analyst published an article by Adrian Reed titled The Crucial Art of Pre-Project Problem Analysis that I really, really, really recommend you read.

The article talks about how BA’s can add value both inside and outside of the project environment.  It’s relatively short but it speaks to issues I have seen over and over again; and that other BA’s I have spoken to have mentioned many times as well.  So it really speaks to issues that I think are important to all BA’s whether you are a “project” BA or not.

The four main sections of the article give you a good idea of what it covers.  Those are:

  1. The ‘First Solution Trap’
  2. What problem are we trying to solve?
  3. What Are the desired outcomes
  4. What is the current state? Understanding the problem (and its root causes)

So if you have a bit of time to spare, give it a read.  In my opinion, it’s definitely worth your time.

Site Availability / Connection / Server Issues

This site has been offline occasionally for at least the last 2 days with messages such as “Internal Server Error” and similar messages.  It turns out this is a server issue with my hosting provider and they are working to get it fixed.

So if you have trouble accessing the site, please check back later in the day.  Thanks!

Recent lack of activity

It’s been a few months since I posted something new, but I haven’t abandoned the site or my work on it.

The lack of updates has been been due to a combination of factors including my having started a new job, some family requirements, a need to focus on other things, a lack of content elsewhere that I thought warranted a “Recommended Reading” post here, and the fact that the articles I have in the works are all ones that require quite a bit more time than I originally expected to research and write.

So things may slow down for a while longer with blog and wiki articles coming more infrequently, but they will come.


Recommended Viewing: Impact Mapping with Innovation Games by Gojko Adzic

If you have never watched one of Gojka Adzic’s presentations, you really should.  This one is about 3 months old and in the first part is one of the best discussions I have seen on why so many projects and requirements efforts, including those that are “Agile”, fail to deliver value.  He also some valid comments on Business Analysis at around the 32 minute mark, and provides some suggestions on addressing some common pitfalls with Impact Mapping starting at around the 37 minute mark.

In my opinion, this one video has more value to Business Analysts than any webinar I ever attended.  If you have the time, give it a watch.

Keynote – Impact Mapping – Gojko Adzic from Italian Agile Days on Vimeo.

Recommended Listening: The Value Proposition of the BA Role

Back in January I was interviewed by Dave Saboe for his Mastering Business Analysis podcast.  The interview came about as a result of the LinkedIn discussion that resulted from my “The Role of the Business Analyst – It’s Time for a New Perspective” article that I had posted on this site.

The podcast episode has some discussion of that article, this site, and my own background (briefly).  If you are interested, the Mastering Business Analysis link above leads directly to the episode page on Dave’s website, as does the image below.  Or you can download the episode via iTunes.  This was episode 114 of Dave’s excellent podcast, so there are lots of back episodes for you to listen to as well.

Feedback and comments are always appreciated.  🙂

Certification News – IREB, REQB, and UXQB

Just a couple of quick news bits from the world of Business Analysis certification that I came across recently and which I thought worth sharing here:

  1. First, the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) announced that they were merging with the Requirements Engineering Qualifications Board (REQB).  With both organizations continuing under the IREB banner and with some options for those with REQB certifications to migrate over to the IREB certification scheme.
  2. Second, the IREB also announced that they were joining forces with 3 other certification organizations to launch a ‘Shaping the Future of IT’ initiative “whose aim is to create an interdisciplinary body of knowledge fit for the challenges of software development in digital society”.  Most of the organizations seem to be European-based, but you might want to keep an eye out for whatever they produce in the future.
  3. Third, one of the qualification boards that was part of the ‘Shaping the Future of IT’ initiative was new to me.  This was the International Usability and UX Qualification Board (UXQB).  It’s made up of organizations in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, and the UK and they seem to be building out what looks like a decent certification program for UX practitioners.  Therefore I added information on this certification program to the Certification page of the wiki.

If you want to know more, just follow the links above.

A Mind-Map View of the BA Decision Focus Argument

I use mind-maps in my day-to-day business analysis work, and I use them more often when exploring subjects I want to write about in a blog post.  So it should come as no surprise that I built a mind-map for my recent article The Role of the Business Analyst – It’s Time for a New Perspective.  And I have continued to expand on it and I continue to think about my perspective on the subject.

Given that, I figured some of you who are not as familiar with mind-maps might find it interesting to see the mind-map I have been working with (updated as of today) and maybe get some ideas how you might use them for your own needs (either professional or personal).  I am currently using the MindMaple ‘Lite’ software, but you can find links to it and several other mind-mapping packages on the Mind-Mapping Software page of the wiki.

Here is the mind-map.  Click the image to see a larger version.

A mind-map view of my argument for BA's to take a decision-focus.

As always, comments and feedback are appreciated.

The Role of the Business Analyst – It’s Time for a New Perspective

The conceptual role of the business analyst has evolved over the years.  Unfortunately, in my opinion it has not evolved enough in either the minds of most business analysts or in the minds of those who employ them.  For far too many the role of Business Analyst is still one that is focused only on project work and for most of those it is one that begins and ends with requirements.

But that concept of the role of the Business Analyst is one that I emphatically disagree with.  I believe that it inhibits the application of business analysis skills to situations where they could benefit the organization and which thus reduces the value the business analyst can provide to an organization.

While the IIBA has attempted to change this view with the new definition of what a Business Analyst does in BABOK v3.0, I think that definition also misunderstands and short-changes the role that the business analyst can play in an organization.  I believe that even the newest IIBA definition  continues to tie business analysis (as both a function and a job) too closely with the project environment.  And that this close conceptual tie to project work is holding back the profession and limiting its value.

So with this article I want to build on the concepts I started putting forward in April 2016 with my post “Have we mis-identified the core purpose and value proposition of Business Analysis?”  I want to put forward for discussion a new perspective of business analysis that I hope will both broaden and clarify the concept of what a business analyst does, and how it can provide value to organizations.

I want to do this not only because I believe it represents a needed change for the field, but because I feel that that the recent entry of the PMI into the business analysis arena, and especially their role definition for business analysis, threatens all of the progress made over the last decade in moving the concept of business analysis away from a requirements focus.  And that if those of us who practice business analysis can’t make a broader, clearer, and more robust definition of business analysis the default understanding of the field; we may soon be back to being thought of as just “those people who write software requirements”.

Continue reading

2016 Site Overview

Due to work and other commitments I ended up taking December 2016 off as far as new material for this website goes.  But I have several articles and wiki pages in progress and hope to get the new material coming soon.  In the meantime, here are some quick statistics for the website for the 2016 calendar year vs. the 2015 calendar year:

  1. Unique site visitors were up over 45% to roughly 48,400
  2. Returning visitors increased from 13.1% of site visitors in 2015 to 15.5% of site visitors in 2016
  3. Mobile traffic was up over 100%, but still made up under 15% of visitors (no surprise)
  4. The top countries that visitors to the site came from were:
    1. United States (27.0%)
    2. United Kingdom (9.8%)
    3. India (6.7%)
    4. Australia (6.6%)
    5. Canada (6.1%)
    6. Germany (4.0%)
    7. Netherlands (2.4%)
    8. France (2.0%)
    9. South Africa (2.0%)
    10. Philippines (1.6%)
  5. The most popular pages on the site in terms of page views (other than the home page) were:
    1. Responsibility Matrix wiki page
    2. Context Diagram wiki page
    3. My blog post on Why I Chose not to Renew my IIBA Membership
    4. Decomposition wiki page
    5. Stakeholder Onion Diagram wiki page
    6. My blog post on using OneNote for Meeting Notes
    7. Stakeholder Communications Matrix wiki page
    8. Benchmarking wiki page
    9. Stakeholder Salience Diagram wiki page
    10. Data Dictionary wiki page
  6. But the pages that people spent the largest average time actually reading were:
    1. Interviews wiki page
    2. My blog post “Better Business Analysis through Problem Statements”
    3. Decomposition wiki page
    4. VMOST Analysis wiki page
    5. Observation wiki page
    6. Unified Process wiki page
    7. Stakeholder Salience Diagram wiki page
    8. Data Dictionary wiki page
    9. Kano Model Prioritization wiki page
    10. My blog post “We are not Business Analysts”

For a web site that I work on during my personal time, without earning any money from and as a way of giving back to the community, this was a tremendously successful year.  The increase in returning site visitors to over 15% of unique traffic is extremely gratifying given that most users find this site through search sites like Google and DuckDuckGo.  That means that people are finding the material I write valuable enough to come back.  I am also very happy that several of my posts are attracting attention and being read.  It’s good to know I’m not just spouting off into the wind.  At least some of the time.  🙂

But honestly two of the things in the list above that I really appreciate is that the wiki pages for VMOST Analysis and Kano Model Prioritization are among the articles people spend the most time reading.  Both of those pages are (in my opinion) probably the best references on those subjects you will find on the internet.  The fact that they are there tell me that there is an audience who appreciates the occasionally months of work I put into researching some of these topics.

So to all of you who come here and find value in what I have put together with this site, I thank you.  Especially those of you who continue to come back, and those who take to the time to read some of the very long pages I put together when I try to make an exhaustive resource.  You can get a quick summary in a lot of places, but I hope that this will be where you come when you want detailed information.  And that continues to be my goal for the site.

I hope you all enjoy nothing but success and happiness in this new year.