Role of BA is critical to building a successful product, service or program – Part II of II

Role of BA is critical to building a successful product, service or program – Part II of II

So why BA, why here, why now? While writing this, I couldn’t stop thinking of the opening scenes of the Matrix where Neo, living a boring, unfulfilled life, could hardly make it out of bed in the morning.  He barely made his way to work and when he did he was unhappy.

Of all of the technology roles to be fascinated with, why does the role of Business Analyst or BA intrigue me so? You can be just as successful as a Project Manager, Software Developer, Manager, Director, Sales in all other sorts of verticals..but an inner voice calls out, “Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist the quote from Agent Smith..

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to. 

Fortunately, we’re not battling some version of the Matrix here, although I find the stories told by the Wachowski Brothers extremely interesting and eerily relevant.  Recent history is also on our side, for why the BA role exists and continues to become more relevant, daily(especially in startups).

Recently, the role and knowledge base has become more significant since the IIBA’s founding in 2004.

The BABOK or Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, was just introduced in 2006 (compared to the PMBOK for Project Management in 1969!)  And the OMG which is Object Management Group has only been in existence since 1989. “OMG has a proven track record of developing communities of practice around cutting edge technology concepts. OMG manages or co-sponsors end-user advocacy groups focused on Cloud, and Software Quality.”

OMG is helpful in developing ‘standards’ used for middleware, distributed computing, etc. Each work toward building a marketplace around ‘standards’ so everyone involved can ‘know’ the product or solution being implemented can ‘get the job done’ before being implemented.  According to OMG, half of the community are end users while the other half are vendors like Oracle, HP, SAP, IBM, etc.  

Just as the web and it’s tools have evolved, we’re also “creating transferable skills and skill sets” that cross all verticals.  It’s been said, “technology is eating the world.”  That may be a trend you want to tap into..(be sure to read the above, if you don’t know what that means.)

Why here:

It doesn’t matter where you start, every locale (place) deals with the VERY same problems as it relates to capital and talent (i.e. lack of capacity) so we need to ask ourselves, why not here?  With the advent of the internet and even more importantly, “mobile technologies”  work can be done from anywhere.  We can understand the (local) world better by being ‘out there’ (like a sales person).

We’re no longer tethered to a desk or cubicle (just had another vivid image of the The Matrix.)  We all need to think about where we are right now in this “place in history.” It’s important to understand and know how the devices we use ‘on our person’ help us in our jobs and how they improve our lives daily(and more importantly, how they don’t).  We’ll begin building critical analysis skills about how we like to operate and how we like to be engaged, by reviewing and analyzing our own use of technologies.  By the way, we are quickly approaching the ‘the moment of singularity’ as predicted by Ray Kurtzweil around 2025!

As good BA’s we listen and we ask ourselves and each other “what is it(problem)?” and “how are we going to do(fix) it?” IT is not necessarily information technology, but it is the answer or solution to a solvable problem.  While Information Technology, continues to play a more significant role in our lives everyday.  How are we going to implement a solution without continuously asking the questions: Whose going to be using this product or service?

“all the time and everywhere we go?” Constantly, asking of our customer or user feedback “why, is it done this way or that way?”

The other closely related discipline is Project Management which is responsible for making sure IT is on time and on budget (the when and who.) The BA ensures ‘business value’ and that all ‘stakeholders needs’ are being met throughout the entire process (by doing the work). It’s the difference between management of a project and execution or delivery of a solution.  Both roles are needed and they overlap and interact in different ways throughout the entire project life-cycle.

Per the BABOK, a business analyst “is any person who performs business analysis activities, no matter what their job title or organization role may be.  Business analysis practitioners include not only people with the job title of business analyst, but may also include business systems analysts, systems analyst, requirements engineers, process analysts, product managers, product owners enterprise analysts, business architects, management consultants, or any other person who performs the tasks described in the BABOK Guide, including those who also perform related disciplines such as project management, software development, quality assurance, and interaction design.” Source BABOK Version 2, IIBA

The “Requirements” for a BA Role are:

  • Business Analysis Planning & Monitoring
  • Elicitation
  • Requirements Management & Communication
  • Enterprise Analysis
  • Requirements Analysis
  • Solutions Assessment and Validation

Some would say, some requirements are more important than others depending on what stage or life-cycle your business is in. Or the level of ‘maturity’ your organization is in. I believe ‘timing’ has become irrelevant and here’s why, after being fully indoctrinated into the world of ‘lean startups’ and ‘agile project’ management, I’ve come to realize the BA is ‘critical at every stage of business development (even before the business is conceived and is simply an ‘idea’ or a possible solution to a ‘problem’.) This is what Steve Blank calls, ‘Customer Development, which should take place long before the startup is considered a business. Remember in Part I, a startup is just a ‘temporary organization’?  

I’ve also been playing around with the terms, Business Analyst & Customer Developer.  If you switch them, they become ‘Business Developer’ and ‘Customer Analyst’!   These terms or ‘roles’ seem to make more sense when you consider folks rarely know what a BA actually does, but when read as Biz Dev, or Cust Analyst, it makes a whole lot more sense, to me.

Do you find this as interesting as I do?

Why Now?:

Due to the advent of the internet, if you’re in business, you’re also a publisher.  1. You have to produce some form of content in order for your potential customer to learn and potentially ‘take action’ on your product or service. 2.  The web is also a very useful tool in eliciting feedback in the form of comments or discussions.  3. Finally, eliciting this feedback and analyzing the data presents ‘actionable insight’ to the future startups and stakeholders.  Therefore, those BA’s who have an understanding of the publishing industry and data analysis are going to be particularly well-suited to ‘any’ (or at least a majority) of the positions that become available.

Even though this post is growing long, last nights speaker at the GLI’s Signature event, Ben Yoskovitz, was extremely insightful.  Beforehand, he provided a workshop on “Lean Analytics” to local entrepreneurs.  He discussed the ‘5 stages’ of a  startup development which include:

Empathy: This is where you work to identify a problem worth solving, mostly by engaging in customer interviews and collecting qualitative feedback.

Stickiness: Now you build an initial MVP and test it with early adopters. You’re looking for usage and retention.

Virality: Next you want to attract more users/customers. Virality (inherent or artificial) helps lower customer acquisition costs. At this stage you’re not only focused on virality, but also interested in experimenting with other acquisition channels, to see if you can bring in quality users/customers cost-effectively.

Revenue: Now you need to focus on the economics and make sure they’re sound. Are you earning more per user/customer than it costs to acquire them?

Scale: Finally, you get to scale. At this stage you have a product that’s solving a problem, a good number of active & retained customers, and the economics of your business (perhaps at a small scale) make sense. You now pour more fuel on the fire, or expand in other ways (through partnerships, targeting new markets, etc.).

You, as a BA, are able to help by ‘listening’ to the problem as told by the end user or customer and not developing a solution right away, but through a process of elicitation, prioritizing, managing and monitoring the requirements (with data) necessary to deliver a solution that’s acceptable to all stakeholders (over a pre-determined period of time) using iteration through a Build/Measure/Learn or Agile PM approach.)

Now add an additional layer of “subject matter expertise through experience’ and Vwa-laA you’ve just made your-self an irreplaceable presence and ‘go to’ person for your knowledge and experience.  With this recent expertise, you’ve also just become an authority in ANY particular field or industry of your choosing.

If you noticed, we’re trying to answer the problem we’re facing of a shortage of technology talent in our region, by sourcing inquisitive students who are ‘searching for a relevant career path, just as we’ve been taught to search for a relevant business model- through a continuous cycle of life-long learning.) 

Frequently used words

advent analysis analyst analysts anderson any ba babok being businesscould customer even fighting going help management manager more mr not now omg organization person product project requirements role service software solution technology why work

For later..capacity via people and process

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