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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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mar 16, 2017

What this line from a Mother Goose Nursery rhyme can teach us about negative communication skills.

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

There are different interpretations of this Mother Goose Nursery rhyme, none of which applies to business analysis.

Therefore, I am not interested in the historic meaning of the poem or any of the remaining text, which also has no correlation to business analysis.

However, I’d like to focus on the first line as it relates to communication skills and social behavior in the workplace.

When I was a kid, maybe around three or four years old, I went through the typical obtuse stage of thinking I knew everything. I had opinions; argumentative, albeit childish points of view that the adults in my life just didn’t care or want to understand. I had preferences and made them known. My mom could write a book full of stories on how I wouldn’t wear dresses that were too frilly, formal, or pastel. I hated wearing black shoes…especially black patent...

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Are You a Lightweight BA?

Feb 20, 2017

10 Valuable Underutilized Analysis Tools to Improve your Analytical Standing + Five More to Consider

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

The term ‘lightweight’ when not describing a professional boxer or down comforter, usually comes with negative connotations. It implies lack of substance or ability, one-dimensional importance or a category positioned below another. Commonly used to describe a person of little influence, inept politicians or less than stellar skill sets by an otherwise qualified individual, ‘lightweights’ are often found on the losing end of a competitive fight.

We know the role of a business analyst is to perform a set of tasks to gain an understanding of a company and the vision for the project initiated. We know that our project analysis comes with the responsibility of recognizing that stakeholders at all levels are impacted. However, it is also incumbent on a BA to pay attention to internal/external policies and corporate structure.

Therefore, to...

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Top Ten Ways to Guarantee Failure in Requirements Sessions

Jan 23, 2017

Use these bad listening habits to guarantee an unsuccessful meeting, after which you’ll walk away with little to no helpful information – not to mention the wasted time for everyone who attended the meeting.

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

1.       Interrupt stakeholders
If what you have to say is so important that it just can’t wait, go ahead - interrupt the person who is speaking. For maximum failure, interrupt a stakeholder or a SME. You’ll succeed in showing your disrespect – to the person who is speaking as well as those who are trying to listen.

If you’re interrupting – then ask yourself ‘why?’ Is it because you’re so eager to get your point across that you just can’t control yourself long enough to wait for a pause in the conversation?

If so, work on managing your emotions. Take deep slow breaths and count to 10. This forces you to slow down.

If you’re worried that if you wait for an...

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BA Agility & Adaptability: It’s All About Trust

Jan 16, 2017

Transitioning to Agile can be scary…but you can do it!

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

As a BA, when you first join an Agile team, there may be an element of fear associated with letting go of familiar, traditional BA processes and activities. This usually stems from a ‘fish out of water’ feeling, or as some put it – ‘working without a net’. It’s hard to let go of 72-page BRDs, FSDs and multi-tabbed spreadsheets containing everything we think we need to know about a project. Without these artifacts, it can feel as though we’re on a steep staircase that has no banister, or riding in a roller coaster car with no seat belt or safety bar for protection.

Things are different in Agile, that’s for sure…but don’t let it throw you.

One thing to keep in mind is that trust is an antidote to fear.

Yes, overall, the agile methodology requires a team to trust one another, but most importantly, for the purposes of this article, I’m...

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Are You Committed to CPD?

Jan 06, 2017

You probably won’t see it listed as a requirement in a job description. It’s also not likely to show up as a trait of strength on your résumé – but on both counts, it should.

By Phyllis Rieff, CSPO

What is CPD?

CPD is Continual Professional Development. Without it, the best resumes are nothing more than a laundry list of experience doing this or doing that. While experience is good, and for the most part is responsible for getting us from point A to point B, it inherently implies ‘the past’. Continual Professional Development suggests furtherance, persistence, and maintenance.

Commitment to CPD is a smart way to increase your marketability to potential employers. It demonstrates that you are taking an active role in improving your skill sets, cognizant of reachable thresholds in your profession, and someone who takes their chosen line of work seriously.

Many learning surveys indicate that employees who demonstrate mindfulness towards their...

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What Makes a BA a Senior Business Analyst?

Dec 14, 2016

The journey to becoming a business analyst is different for everyone. There is no single education, experience, or career route that says “ok, now you are ready to be a business analyst”.

By Teresa Bennett, Founder of The Analyst Coach

There are traits that separate a junior BA, from a mid-level BA, from a senior BA. There comes a point in their career that the senior BA exhibits confidence, understanding of context, and critical thinking that separates them from junior and mid-level BAs.

These traits are what separates a BA that ‘gets it’ from someone that needs direction in order to get it. A business analyst that is able to confidently make connections quickly, turn complex to simple, and can apply critical thinking to problem-solving is a senior business analyst.

Confidence is a Senior BA Trait.

Confidence comes from taking risks. It starts with confidence in yourself and your...

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Use Mirroring to Connect With Others

Nov 09, 2016

Mirroring is a technique we cover in our IIBA endorsed Mastering Business Analysis with Waterfall and Agile Methods course.

By Teresa Bennett, Founder of The Analyst Coach

In the training course, we talk about mirroring the words of the other person, but Sue Shellenbarger tells us in the below article that we should also mirror their gestures and even their posture - and that we're probably already doing it without even realizing it.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think taking the mirroring technique to this level in requirements session will help you get better quality requirements?

Use Mirroring to Connect With Others

Adopting the same gestures, posture or tone can enhance bonding and help with networking or negotiating—but be subtle about it

It is a common experience: You’re deep in conversation with someone and suddenly realize you’re both holding the same pose, leaning forward and propping an elbow on the table. Or you notice you’re suddenly...

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Business Analyst Job Information

Oct 07, 2016

I love that this article from National Career Services mentions "tact, diplomacy and good negotiating skills" as something necessary for business analysts.

By Teresa Bennett, Founder of The Analyst Coach

Communication skills are hands down the most important skills in your toolbox and I think too many people are lacking in this area - and I don't think traditional education emphasizes it enough.

I think that's one reason the IIBA is so important. The IIBA gives you access to endorsed education providers that focus on courses and training specific to business analysis skills and careers.

Here's what they had to say about the BA career:

Work activities.

As a business analyst, you will work with senior managers and other professionals to support changes to the way an organisation works.

If you like solving problems, are good at analysing data and have excellent communication skills, this could be an ideal career for you.
Work activities
As a business analyst, you will work with senior...

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