5 Ways Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity Can Improve Your Elicitation Skills

Nov 08, 2017

5 Ways Cultivating Intellectual Curiosity Can Improve Your Elicitation Skills

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO 

As we move on in life and in our careers, responsibilities increasingly demand more of our time and it’s easy to lose our sense of wonder and quite literally forget that our brains are muscles that need exercise to stay fit. Children do this without thinking twice, but there’s something to be said for adults who stay engaged, are always willing to improve on what they already know or learn something new by starting on an unbeaten path to see where it may lead.

There are two types of curiosity – Thinking and Unthinking.

Thinking Curiosity, more officially described as Intellectual Curiosity has very little to almost nothing to do with actual intelligence, albeit, an intelligent person may be more likely to engage in a higher pursuit of Intellectual Curiosity, but there’s no guarantee. I’m sure we’ve all met a very smart person who...

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Servant Leadership Isn’t Just for Scrum Masters

Aug 21, 2017

5 leadership principles to make you a better Business Analyst
By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

In the Agile methodology within a scrum framework, Scrum Masters engage and lead their team on a daily basis, fostering an atmosphere of trust, confidence and a genuine desire to realize team success by doing whatever they can to help the team realize its full potential. Scrum Masters serve their teams by removing impediments that may be blocking workflow, and routinely provide coaching to their team in agile best practices.

Based on a timeless concept called ‘servant leadership’, the Scrum Master role focuses on collaboration, respect, encouragement, empathy and the ethical use of power: five leadership principles that can make you a better business analyst.

The originator of the term Servant Leadership, Robert K. Greenleaf, first described a servant-leader in a 1970 essay as follows:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to...

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When Nobody Knows Nothing

Aug 07, 2017

What to do when Stakeholders and SMEs don’t have the answers

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

After taking a fair amount of business analysis courses, attending various webinars or reading countless articles about executing on successful elicitation techniques and activities to clarify requirements, we often come away with the impression that stakeholders and subject matter experts are omnipresent beings that know everything about and everyone involved in the project we’re trying to pull together.

While it’s true that these folks are usually the final reviewers and approvers of the project, is it fair and reasonable for us as BAs to expect them to have all the answers?

In a word, YES.

Is it also reasonable to expect them to be forthcoming with information and willing to knowledge share?

Again, YES.

In the real world, however, it can be like pulling teeth to get any definitive answers, not only about future state but also about current processes and systems.

This is...

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Wanted: BAs With Game

Jul 24, 2017

How Puzzles & Games can help us recognize functional and non-functional requirements

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

You’re not alone if you find yourself challenged when tasked with identifying or writing requirements. Because strong requirements are the backbone of any successful project, however, this is one of the most critical knowledge areas of business analysis to master.

It might help to step back and look at requirements from a different perspective: Games and puzzles.

If you’ve ever played a video, board or card game, or completed a word or picture puzzle, like most of us, you probably took it for granted that everything worked correctly in order for you to play and complete the game or puzzle successfully.

Think about how you viewed those activities before and after becoming a practicing BA. Any difference in your appreciation for ‘everything working correctly’?

Games, in general, can teach us how to recognize and appreciate strong functional and...

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Process Flows - Keep it Simple

Jun 26, 2017

I've seen this crop up quite a bit recently and I felt a reminder might be in order to remember that your value lies in keeping it simple...

The beauty of flowcharts lies in their simplicity...but only if you keep it simple.

You can use basic symbols to map out any job and you can use flowcharts for just about any situation.

People make processes complicated and people make defining processes complicated. I've seen process flows that are for a fairly basic process be drawn in a very complicated way. I'm always amazed when I see this.

Why do we have the need to turn something simple into something complicated? Are we trying to showcase our knowledge about the process? Are we trying to show off how great we are at process flow diagrams? Are we trying to make things look more complicated to ensure our value to the project is seen?

Yes, yes, and yes. I've seen all 3 of these scenarios played out in the workplace. But you can show your worth to the project without making it...

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How to Navigate Politics as a Business Analyst

Jun 12, 2017


We all experience it and wish we didn’t have to. Politics and corporate culture vary among companies and clients, but they’re always there to some degree…and sometimes you as a BA are caught in the middle. But there are ways to navigate the political waters and stay afloat.

The first thing to understand is that many times, people guard their positions or roles within the company. If you understand and respect that, you’ll have no problems with the politics or the prevailing morale and culture. The situation may be hard to swallow sometimes, but if you can do it, you’ll be an invaluable part of the team—sometimes without trying.

Listen and learn.

Any time you go into a new situation, listen to what is said and how it’s communicated. You can learn so much if you merely observe and listen. Find out who the key players are and what their roles are. People will tell you all they need to know about themselves if you’ll...

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Building Credibility with the Technical Team

May 29, 2017

One of the problems I hear about frequently from clients is related to trust and credibility with the technical team - you can have it if you follow these tips.

As the liaison between the business and IT department of an organization, all eyes are on the BA when each side needs answers. But trust is not given outright with the BA title. Instead, a BA must earn the project team's faith and prove their credibility.

Consider the development team. To them, the BA is the voice of the customer--if they trust what he or she says. Ideally, the team should be able to ask any question regarding the process and functionality and they should believe in the answers that BAs provide.

If they start having doubts on the answers BAs provide they may get tempted to develop something that is not needed by the business or spend extra time in clarifying the doubt from various sources.

To build a foundation of credibility with the development team, try these tips:

  • Interact with the developers regularly...
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Why IIBA-Endorsed Training?

May 15, 2017

IIBA-endorsed training is what separates the business analysts who shoot up the corporate ladder quickly and those who struggle for years. When you go in to a project without comprehensive training, finding the right solution equates to feeling around for a light switch in the dark.

It’s hard—and needlessly so.

On the other hand, IIBA-endorsed training prepares you for multiple scenarios that you’ll inevitably face. As a brief overview, getting the training you need means…

You will elicit requirements the right way.
You will communicate effectively with stakeholders.
You will create nearly perfect documents—use cases, BRDs, process flow diagrams, the works.
You won’t have to learn as you go.
The moral of the story is: on-the-job training won’t get you very far. In this industry, stakeholders and bosses expect business analysts to be prepared before a project begins.

The only way to achieve that is...

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A Good BA Knows the Importance of Control

May 01, 2017

7 Key Benefits of Requirements Management

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

I once was at a lunch with a group of product managers who were kicking around end-result visions of an upcoming Feature.

In reality, their Feature was more of an Epic – they were actually starting with nothing but a good idea, expressed as the Feature’s title. Somehow, they succeeded in justifying the project to gain sign off and budget by the executive steering committee.  At some point, there had to be a discussion on the purpose of the Feature, yet no record of what came out of that discussion existed.

Misunderstanding this tenet of the Agile Manifesto: Working software over comprehensive documentation seems to be a common mistake among new agile teams, believing that eliminating documentation altogether adheres to this principle. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Somewhere, someone needs to document something: requirements, business rules, pre-conditions, use cases or user stories,...

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User Story Breakdown - 5 Effective Analysis Approaches to Story Splitting

Apr 21, 2017

Learning how to story split is a skill that takes some time and practice to master, so don’t beat yourself up if you still find it to be more of a challenge than you thought.

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

Once you get it though, you’ll see team metrics increase exponentially. The concept is simple – the more a team can accomplish the better they feel about themselves, the project, and the product they’re producing. Confidence is an indicator of morale. When morale is high, motivation comes naturally. Stories are ready for acceptance at an impressive pace.

If you were to ask most agile teams, they would agree that splitting a story in order to bring it down to its smallest, most valuable self is quite logical – but not always easy. Teams new to agile in particular who have not yet learned the concept or value of smaller stories can find the breakdown process so daunting, that they avoid the task entirely. Eventually, velocity declines and unfortunately takes...

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