Showing posts from August, 2010

Business Analysis Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

To gain and maintain global success, enterprise business organizations must keep a scorecard of their activities, no one is immune executives, managers, team leaders, and individual employees cannot make effective decisions if they don’t have a scorecard of key performance indicators or KPI’s. Remember what good is trying to run a successful business if "You can't manage what you can't measure".

Global business have a hard time identifying and defining KPIs, because being a “global business” poses global challenges to the business analyst. Analysts sometimes are confused thinking that KPI’s are just gathering data on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually basis or the organization.

It is important to that these units must be measured by:

1. Key to the operational and financial success of the company.

How many units are sold each week by each sales agent is a KPI. This is a measurable indicator because they are key to the financial and operational success.


Business Analysis in Cross-functional Teams

Organizations that are serious about forming successful cross-functional teams can try this formula during the planning stages:

An experienced, trained leader who has worked with multidisciplinary (waterfall, XP, agile, scrum) teams in the past and has an experience in both the potential and challenges that each framework introduces.
Team members who have had training in some of the frameworks and coinciding skill sets can anticipate both cultural and practical management crises.
Functional departments that are flexible enough to provide technical and management support to the team and are not territorial with their knowledge and expertise, success means success for the whole business.

Business Analysis can provide a number of supportive techniques to cross-functional teams:

Business Analysts can help a cross-functional team draft a clear vision statement with detailed goals.
Business Analysts can also train Scrummaster/Project Managers to recognize and solve leadership crises …

Business Analysis Interaction among Functional Areas

While traditional frameworks like waterfall use functional areas and become the staple of organizational structure, companies especially technology companies have come to realize that cross-functional teams (agile, XP, Scrum, frameworks) maximize their performance especially global organizations wishing to maintain a competitive edge while retaining top talent and reducing the cost of doing business. The frameworks take out the rigid concentration of decision-making in functional managers and seek collaborative partnerships throughout teams in the enterprise. These teams (scrum, agile) cannot be formed simply by pulling individuals from departments and grouping them in any manner. High-functioning Agile framework teams need to be formed with careful planning, adequate resources, and a number of crisis management techniques at hand.

Cross-functional teams face a number of practical challenges:

Teams are much more than simple groups. Teams not only share goals and a vision for their …

Business Analysis Structure of Organizations

Global economies and companies that compete in the global market place must use a structure to guide function. Structures like this give the organizations the framework to provide the necessary opportunities to monitor, control the quality of products and services. There role is also to facilitate the communication between all teams and departments, and streamline decision-making. Business structures define the relationship amongst participants within an organizational unit or units while they also set up the guidelines for duties, responsibilities, channels for authority and internal and external communication.

Organizational structures provide answers to the “what is the structure of the organization” question:

• Who is the leader of any particular unit?
• Who do team members of the particular unit report to?
• How does the unit function in the enterprise/organization?
• How does the unit or units relate to the overall enterprise/organization?

Organizational structures aim to defi…

Business Analysis Roadblocks of Success

Business Analysis Roadblocks of Success

Business analyst’s roles in any company large or small are to provide management and other product owners/business/stakeholders with ways to address business needs. When the business analyst has done his or her job correctly then these needs often lead to improvements in organizational structures, processes, schedules, budgets, resource constraints and technical processes. While BA’s are delivering solutions to business problems, there are also many times that roadblocks will become an impediment to working on a successful project?

Roadblock impediments are listed below:
If project team roles, responsibilities and skill sets are not defined, then you as the BA will not gather the accurate information necessary to uncover/create useful solutions.
No matter what framework (agile, waterfall, scrum) is chosen for the project, if management is not behind the projects commitment then your role of uncovering and solving business problems will become u…

Business Analysis Business Problems

Business Problems

Business problems range from resource issues, late schedules, over budget projects, and falling sales for an organization. The first thing that a business analyst MUST do is to understand the business problem, then to attack the problem and come up with ideas to solving it. Business Analysis don’t just prepare and create paperwork for the enterprise, they need to provide insights to the team into the nature and scope of the business problem. For business analysts to gain insight into the issues surrounding the business, the businesses analyst can ask him or herself a few questions. Some of these questions might seem like no brainers but you still must ask these questions often.

What is the business problem? (why are we starting this project)
What is the impact of the business problem on the organization's goals and objectives? (sales, competition)
To which business process does this problem relate? (online ordering, bricks and mortar stores)
How do you d…

Business Analysis Disciplines

The definition for sub-discipline is “A field of study or work that is related to one aspect, but not the whole, of a broader field of study or work”. There are a few sub-disciplines that are areas of expertise for business analysts, they can and are used in any frameworkagile, scrum, lean or waterfall. Business analyst roles differ from organization to organization, and sometimes the framework that the organization is using will define the BA’s role further. But I believe that there are a few disciplines that all business analysis will incorporate into their job no matter what framework or how the organization is set up.

Disciplines of Business Analysis:

• Requirements Gathering: Activities and processes that are designed to gather information from product owners/business/stakeholders.
• Requirements Planning: Plan that charts the requirements activities of a project and will detail project scope changes.
• Requirements Analysis and Documentation: Analyze organizational processes and…

Business Analysis Requirements

Gathering/Preparing Requirements

In any framework that your business enterprise has chosen the business analysis has to explore business needs by requirements gathering and preparation. If you are using an agile framework or more traditional types of frameworks like waterfall, most of the business analyst job descriptions remains the same, they must analyze, structures and define information in the requirements document. It might be a word document, product backlog or a work breakdown structure but the ultimate goal is to define and describe the characteristics of a viable solution to a product owner/business. This will ultimately help the project team develop a clear understanding of how to design, construct, test and implement the new application. The main focus of gathering requirements is to develop the analysis models, perform gap analysis for the gathered information for the product owner/business/stakeholders.

The application development team (or scrum team) use this documen…

Business Analysis and Project Managers

Some of the differences I have experienced between Business Analysis and Project Management. As you can see (below) when you are using one of the agile frameworks there are things that the scrummaster will do that in traditional frameworks (waterfall, RUP) the business analyst does, like define issues to product owners, maintain product owner contacts and develop plans to implement solutions just to name a few examples.

It is very important early on in whatever framework you have decided to use for the development of the application that the Business Analysis is distinguished from Project Management. I found that this is best to do early and I mean as EARLY as possible in the SDLC lifecycle. Business analysts provide investigative insights to business needs and Project Managers provide on-going resource management of a project. If you are using an agile framework you will be working as a small team with the product owner more closely aligned then legacy frameworks. Your business an…

Business Analysis Trends

New Trends

The new breed of business analysis have to integrate people skills, technical skills, creativity, and critical thinking throughout the product life-cycle. A business analyst gathers business requirements (or user stories) from various product owners/business/stakeholders in the organization. Then, the analyst explores this information in depth to arrive at the business problem and suggest viable solutions. The current crop of business analysts must have ONE very important skill above all others, the ability to effectively communicate with the product owners/business/stakeholders.

An effective analyst must be able to speak to all stakeholders involved in the product that the development team has undertaken. Today business analysts must clarify their roles in every project because of the variety of frameworks that are being employed in the workforce today. Every product owner/business/stakeholder must understand what the analyst does and does not do on a project to prov…


Competition/Economic Conditions

The world has truly become a “global economy” and the forces of competition and economic conditions combined with intertwined financial markets drive the economic conditions. Although competition and economic conditions are unique, they can exert many of the same influences on your cost and schedule of your projects.


Competition is the force that most often causes organizations to launch new projects, and propels a new project into the strategic initiative category. If we did not have competition there would be a reluctance to spend money on new projects. When competition is nonexistent, organizations seldom kickoff strategic initiative projects. When competition is strong (and global) more projects are launched to fight the global competition, and many of these projects become strategic weapons, that’s why agile frameworks are becoming increasingly used in organizations. Current numbers from survey’s respondents indicate that about 46% o…

Agile/Scrum- Schedule and Costs

Schedule and Costs

There are many control processes that you can implement to manage your agile/scrum project schedule and associated costs. But speed is the motivator in the tools you choose; you cannot spend the time to devise these complex processes. Here is a quick 3 step process that can help you with your schedule and costs control. You can build this process and add it to your agile framework.

1. Control Perimeter. You cannot control all of the factors that will affect your schedule and budget, agile frameworks help you know what you can control. That is where your team will focus, sprint reviews, product backlogs, resource management, assigning stories.
2. Process Description. Describe the process that will address all of the components (sprint reviews, product backlogs, resource management, assigning stories) you have control over within the perimeter in step one. Baseline the variances to reveal the schedule and costs you've estimated.
3. Process Use. Make …

Agile/Scrum- Project Progress

Project Progress
How you measure and report progress in your agile/scrum project is very important to your credibility as a scrummaster. I never had the opportunity to use the new crop of agile project reporting tools like Rally Software, Mingle or Version One, we didn’t have the resources but the list of application continues to grow. I have found that if you use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to help in managing your progress it will become an invaluable tool. Using the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) you will dissect and know what tasks are required to build and how long to build your application. Without using some older legacy methodologies from waterfall development like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) you will be making guesses as a team instead of estimates. Creating the (WBS) will assist the team in breaking down the tasks into smaller work units, so you will have more control over the assignment, management of them.

Here are a few techniques that will assist you in a…

Agile/Scrum- Team Development

Team Development
All agile/scrumframeworks will help to provide the opportunity to develop your team. Here are a few activities during your agile/scrum project that you can turn into team building exercises. Even though the framework for these methodologies is all about empowering the “team” there are always a few old school techniques (waterfall) that might and do come in handy. These are powerful frameworks for team-building that will result in a cohesive, well-informed and committed agile/scrum team.

1. Determining Scope. Bring the whole team together especially the product owner to gather the requirements. Go over and analyze the gathered requirements as a team, this will immediately create team spirit as members work together on this important first step towards agile/scrum development.
2.Planning Sessions. Construct the work breakdown structure (WBS) as a full team so you can estimate time and costs for the project. Forming the work breakdown structure (earlier post) as a team…

Agile/Scrum- Performance and Scope

Performance and Scope
We (all of us) at times forget some of the most important things that are related to your project, performance is one of them. I have been on many projects that we are so wrapped up in the development of the application that we forget about the “performance” of the application in real world use. Your product owner expects no DEMANDS a certain level of performance from the end product delivered by your agile/scrum team. I have found that the product's performance is closely associated with how well you control the agile/scrum project scope. Scope control is an element of the project that will affect all of the other project elements in the project. If you fall into the trap of “scope creep” you will lose control of the project, also it will affect the speed and the quality of the agile/scrum project. As risks increase so will the schedule, that will in effect will increase costs, thus slowing down the late and over budget project. Scope Creep is like a …

Agile/Scrum- Issues-Nonverbal/Verbal


Communication is a multiple lane highway, the agile/scrum framework tries to elevate this by having daily stand-ups and face to face communication. You ask questions, listen and try to un-block any impediments that might arise within the team. As a scrummaster you build your communication plan, think of how you want to communicate with each individual (face to face) and the group as a whole. Face to face is good for the team but sometimes you need to ask yourself, “What are the results you expect from these communication channels?” It's important that you build your communication plan (prior post) because communication is a tool that will help you avoid unauthorized changes, unclear directions, miscommunication, resource issues, risk, scheduling and scope creep. Agile/scrum team members MUST have input into the resolution of issues, the root of some many problems with development projects is a communication failure between the team, product owner and sc…

Agile/Scrum- Communication Plans

Communication Plan
Communication is the key that brings together all of the vital components of your agile/scrum project. Without a stable communication plan, your ability as a scrummaster for your project will be adversely impacted in all the wrong ways. In agile/scrum your communication plan will document the needs of the scrum team and product owner. We all know that a hallmark of agile/scrum framework is the face to face communication style, but as we all know that sometimes there needs to be a more formal document (depending on your organization) The communication plan documents the information and communication needs of the project stakeholders and all other parties that are involved with the project. The plan states who needs what information, what format they need it in, when they need it, and how it is transmitted to them. At the bottom of the post I have attached an example of one of my communication plans that I have used in my previous work experience.

I also ask a few…

Agile/Scrum-Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned
Ok so I know that one of the agile/scrummanifesto items is “create just enough paperwork” and I have in earlier posts said that this sometimes is easier said than done. There are a few documents that I have found to be useful no matter what framework your project has adopted. One such document is the lessons learned document where you analyzed results of failures and successes of a project. Try to capture good and bad practices (lessons learned) earlier in the project, if you can do this you will be far ahead when it is time to close the project and deliver the application. When you make discussions as a team try to keep track of decisions that turn out well and ones that don’t. Document what you believe was the reason the decision turned out well or what made it turn out bad. Always include all the team members (agile/scrum) the members of the team are usually very straight forward and insightful on what was a positive or negative decision. Also this is not a “…

Agile/Scrum-Change Control

When using agile/scrum frameworks for application development, change is a constant factor in your project and is welcomed. In these frameworks you don’t want to prevent it or you will have a complete shutdown of the project. How well you control your product backlog and the prioritizing of items for your next sprint will dictate the success you'll have at the finish. Even though the business/stakeholders will be responsible for prioritizing the most urgent requirements your ability as a scrummaster to be a success will start with a well thought out change control plan. What changes? Who controls them? How do you control them? Every sprint will have both minor and major changes and it is almost impossible to prepare for everything, but you can plan for the most likely ones that might arise. Below are a few “things to look out for” that might assist you preparation before and while the project is underway.

Change Control (things to look out for)
1. Scope. Product owners will alway…

Agile/Scrum-Risk Control

Agile/Scrum Risk Control
When you are using the agile/scrum framework one of the principals of this these frameworks are creating “just enough paperwork” easier said than done. There are some things that you will still have to document so they don’t fall by the wayside, I believe that one of them is your risk plan and the way you will control the process of risk evaluation. You will still have to document HOW the team will handle control of the risks after you have identified them and WHO will control the outcome. You will need to document and assign multiple risk response options, not if risk happens but WHEN they happen to the development of the application, control of the risk can involve some of the processes located below. Here are 2 of my risk templates I have used for previous jobs, the Risk Tracker and Risk Plan template.

Risk Control Processes
1. Schedule Risk Sessions. Even though you are meeting in a stand-up every day and uncovering impediments from team members, new risk…