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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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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