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The Effect of the Pandemic on the Business Analysis Profession

 

Young Business Analysts (YBA) Blog Competition

The Young Business Analysts (YBA) group have been doing great work, building a supportive community of early-career and aspiring BAs, providing excellent networking opportunities and most recently, running a blog competition, with prizes including publication here on the IIBA UK Blog, co-presenting at the upcoming Business Analysis Europe Conference 2021 and featuring in Blackmetric’s BA Digest magazine. The standard of entrants was high, but without further ado, here are the winning and runner-up articles, along the theme of ‘The Effect of the Pandemic on the Business Analysis Profession’.

 

Love in the Time of Covid

By Joanne Fahy, Business Analyst

YBA Competition Winner

Find Jo on LinkedIn

 

It was a warm June day back in 2017 when I recognised the sinking, sickening feeling that was taking hold in my stomach as I listened to a colleague describe their role as a Business Analyst. I’d had stints in different roles and had always felt like something was missing, that I hadn’t quite found the role for me. As that feeling took hold, I realised I had fallen madly, deeply, passionately in love. I had found my calling and knew its name, Business Analysis.

It was another 2 and a half years, and a sector shift, before I could act on this crush and embark on a Business Analysis apprenticeship. I was passionate about learning and putting my newfound skills to the test when suddenly, COVID hit. As my day-to-day work life moved off-campus to online, I was now learning how to be a BA and a virtual BA, at the same time. Much like trying online dating for the first time, adapting my techniques to fit virtually whilst honing new skills was a challenge.

So, for anyone new to the discipline, getting back into the saddle, or long-time admirers making the jump like myself, I’ve put together my tips for taking the first steps towards becoming a virtual BA:

1. Don’t overthink your techniques – we all go back to our favourite opening lines, no matter how many first dates we’ve been on, and moving online needn’t be any different. Tried and tested techniques that worked a treat in the office can be adapted to be just as successful, if not more so, online using interactive tools such as Miro or Mural. Although it can be daunting moving to virtual post-it notes, don’t overthink it.

2. Ask lots of questions – now this seems self-explanatory, what BA doesn’t ask lots of questions? BUT questions that could be prompted by slight changes in body language which would have been noticeable in person, can be a lot harder to pick up over a virtual session. No question is a stupid question!

3. Debrief with friends – get feedback from colleagues. Just as you might ask for romantic advice from loved ones, discuss your experiences with colleagues and get their perspective. Sometimes insight from an impartial party can give you the golden nugget you’ve been waiting for.

4. Be brave, put yourself out there – As the old saying goes ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. Approaching the unknown online can be much more daunting than having a quiet conversation in person, but if you don’t ask you don’t get. In my experience, BA colleagues are more than happy to lend you their ear to discuss issues, ask for advice, or simply ask those burning questions. Networking online is easier than it’s ever been, with the YBA network on LinkedIn, exciting online events such as Blackmetric’s BA Fringe, and a whole host of free webinars and workshops available through BCS and IIBA, it’s an excellent time get involved and join in the conversation.

With adaptability, analysis, and creativity being 3 of the top 20 skills in demand in the workforce it’s certainly the right time to investigate and pursue a budding romance with Business Analysis.

If you enjoyed this, Joanne will be presenting with David Beckham in his ‘Dude, What Just Happened? – Reflections on the Pandemic’ session at the upcoming IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe. Find out more and get tickets to this virtual event here.

 

The Business Analysis Guide to Surviving the New Normal

By Jodie-Ann Thompson, CBAP, Consulting Business Analyst

YBA Blog Writing Competition Runner Up

Find Jodie-Ann on LinkedIn

 

New normal, the phrase of the day. Newscasts, television shows and random commentators implore us to adapt to the new normal. But what does adapting to this new normal look like for a Business Analyst? For me it was terrifying. Nevertheless, I had to change quickly… I had to survive. Surviving was particularly important for me. With a new job in a new industry and diverse stakeholders, revising my approach to engagement was necessary.

The New Art of Elicitation and Collaboration

I believe that the Elicitation and Collaboration Knowledge Area is the heart of business analysis. Richard and Elizabeth Larson in their CBAP Certification Study Guide emphasize that “elicitation is focused on actively engaging stakeholders in defining requirements”.

Getting and keeping stakeholders engaged was a challenge in the virtual space. I remembered how strange it felt at my first elicitation session to be talking to pictures and worse, initials. There were times I felt I was the only person in the session… well not just me, there were also the crickets who were chirping. I gracefully ended the session and went back to the drawing board.

The new plan for the next session involved not just sending the meeting objectives beforehand, but also reviewing the objectives with participants and establishing expectations. Virtual interactions at times can be awkward and therefore icebreakers became an integral part of my sessions. I saw participants visibly relaxing; I was so happy for my ‘camera on’ ground rule.

Setting ground rules has always been an important aspect of my sessions; with them usually appearing on slide three or four of my presentation. However, due to the ‘camera on’ ground rule, they had to be shared before the session. Let us face it, work from home (WFH) has caused many of us to fall off fleek. Seeing the participants improved my ability to engage them. I could see facial expressions and body language to an extent. This allowed me to react to and address any unspoken concerns. I was also able to identify distracted participants and tactfully re-engage them.

The Virtual Bond

Stakeholder bond is a critical ingredient in achieving the goals and objectives of the project. Rahul Ajani in his article Engaging Stakeholders in Elicitation and Collaboration highlights that “building relationships with stakeholders involves spending quality time with stakeholders”. With the WFH regime, the usual lunchtime outing, after work hang out or the simple conversations in the hallways vanished. How can I possibly build a relationship with my new stakeholders virtually?

By logging into the sessions early, I could talk to participants about something personal: the family, the weekend, the new recipe that they wanted to try. In the event I have not been in contact with a stakeholder for some time, I would call to ensure they were okay.

While learning their language to facilitate bonding is not unique to the virtual space, my attempt gave us something to laugh and talk about.

Embrace the Change

The core of business analysis remains the same. However, this new normal has caused many of us to change our approach to business analysis. It has not been easy but we are change enablers. Let us set an example for our stakeholders of embracing change.

 

From the IIBA UK, congratulations and thanks to both Joanne and Jodie-Ann for their insightful and enjoyable reads. If you would like to find out more about the YBA, you can find them and join their community on LinkedIn here.

 


 

The Power to Change the Digital World: Business Analysis, Empathy and Ethics

Rachel Drinkwater, Senior Business Analyst

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/racheldrinkwater/

In his excellent book ‘The Rise of the Humans’, Dave Coplin  expounds that technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply an amplifier of whatever we, as society and individuals, choose to use it for.

And we’re using it for everything. We live in an increasingly digital world. Even before the pandemic, we shopped, socialised, played games, took courses, did our banking and so much more online, all of which rely upon  and using digital tools. Traditionally low-tech industries became digitally disrupted, further increasing our exposure to digital products and experiences. Fifteen years ago, a taxi company wouldn’t need an IT or Digital department. They would barely need a single IT professional. They might have a basic database or scheduling tool to manage their customers, drivers and allocate one to the other, but that would likely only be used by one or two people in the organisation. Back then, it would have been laughable to think that what is essentially a taxi service would not only be a significant employer of IT and Digital professionals, but that half of their product would be a smartphone app. Indeed, in 2006, we didn’t even know what a smartphone app was! I’m of course referring to Uber, but as more and more industries have become digitally disrupted, many companies now have a customer-facing digital product offering in addition to their core product or service – and many more now offer their digital experience as a part of that core product - be that a device, app or website.

As IT professionals and business analysts, this digital transformation of society has changed and shaped our roles, bringing us closer to customer-facing tools and products. This has subsequently increased the potential for our work to impact individuals and society, as Coplin says, for good or for bad. That’s a lot of power to hold and in the words of the great Stan Lee, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

Driven by the ever-changing trends online, and competitive technology markets, the pace of digital product development is necessarily fast and product-to-market time is often short. This however introduces a risk to our society. It seems that barely a week goes by when an organisation is not in the news for breaching users' privacy, losing user data, skirting along the edges of regulation around ethics or not 'doing the right thing', with tech giants and digital disruptors often being in the spotlight.

It's not just the tech giants though; many digital products and experiences are designed to capture attention, engage users and invoke some kind of action —- usually conversion to sales or brand engagement. We live in an age where some say the scarcest resource is attention (a great book on this is The Attention Economy by Thomas Davenport & John Beck) and subsequently, everyone is vying for their slice of the attention pie. Many of the techniques used to do this are souped-up versions of traditional sales and marketing techniques, exploiting psychological and neurological processes of the human brain.

Numerous studies and experts in these areas have concluded that these approaches can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of users. Techniques such as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), using amygdala-hijacking messages such as ‘Hurry, only 2 left!’ and the constant barrage of notifications and pop-ups trigger stress responses and hormones in users, reducing their ability to make rational informed decisions and in some cases, contributing to stress-related mental health issues. A heady, addictive cocktail of dopamine and oxytocin triggered by the nature of social platforms can lead to damaging patterns of device use, such as habitual device checking and smartphone addiction.

Another area of concern is unintended impacts and uses of technology - those cases where technology is used by an unintended audience, where it is misused, where groups of people are excluded from using technology or where bias is unintentionally built into digital products. No social media platform is designed with the intent that children would use it for ‘sexting’. No digital product provider would actively build a solution that profiteers from a terrorist attack through AI-driven surge pricing. No photo gallery would be intentionally built not to recognise dark skin tones. But these are all situations that have arisen, causing distress and harm to users – and each of these cases could possibly have been preempted and therefore avoided with more analysis, wider user research, by introducing greater diversity in the personas used to map customer journeys and by investing the time in mapping out potential ‘unhappy paths’ through the user and customer journeys. For those who need more convincing about ‘doing the right thing’, each of these cases and numerous others have been widely covered by the media, with detrimental effects to company reputation and brand confidence.

As business analysts, we are well-placed to challenge. We have the power and therefore I would argue, the responsibility, to push for ethical practice and ethical product design, to use our toolkit to carry out more thorough customer and user journey analysis, impact analysis, risk analysis and to use empathy to truly understand our customers and users. The more empathy we employ, the wider the range of stakeholders and users we speak to and the more diverse our personas, the more accessible and inclusive our digital experiences will be.

We will never identify every single ‘unhappy path’ and niche scenario, but the more time we invest upfront, the more chance we have of identifying unintended use patterns and ‘unhappy paths’, of building in accessibility and diversity and avoiding bias. We can help to protect our organisations from making these errors and contribute to a safer, more ethical, inclusive digital world, where we can leverage the many, many benefits of technology, whilst mitigating against potential negative impacts.


Re-published with thanks to Adrian Reed and Blackmetric Business Solutions. Originally published in Q2 BA Digest. View this and many other great articles from the Business Analysis community – and sign up to receive future editions here

Rachel Drinkwater has been a Business Analyst for almost 20 years. She is passionate about the profession, is a practicing Senior Business Analyst and volunteers as the Blog Strategy Manager for the IIBA UK, helping to bring quality knowledge and information to the BA community. Rachel is fascinated by the effects of the digital world on society and following her Masters degree in 2016, continues to undertake academic research in the areas of ethical digital practice, digital in society and cyber-psychology and enjoys sharing her findings as a guest lecturer at various universities in addition to speaking at industry conferences. You can catch her talk ‘Digital Neuroscience 101 and the Importance of Empathy in Digital Experience Design’ at the Business Analysis Europe Conference, tickets available here

 


 

Making Workshops Work: Creative collaboration for Business Analysts

You've been asked to run a workshop. It's a tricky one, with high stakes, senior leaders, challenging timescales, and high expectations. Like many business analysts, you have no training in facilitating workshops for creative collaboration. You've developed some skills on the job, but you feel a bit stressed and suspect that you could do even better. But how?

This blog will give you an overview of some ideas from my new book, 'Making Workshops Work: Creative collaboration for our time' (published on 13th July 2021). Starting with an idea for a workshop, it takes you through three stages:

  • preparation (which is absolutely key),
  • running the session
  • getting actions done afterwards.

Preparation

Let's start with preparation. It's so important: the planning that goes into your workshop will have a direct impact on how smoothly your workshop runs and the quality of the outcomes. Design your workshop for collaboration. Three key things here are:

  • What's the purpose?
  • Which people should be involved?
  • What is the process - how you will take the group from the beginning of the workshop to the end, having met the agreed purpose?

Let's focus on each in turn. The purpose answers: 'What is the point of this session?' What are you having this workshop for? Express this by completing the sentence: ‘We are here to...’

Make sure this is high level - aim to use no more than five to seven words. (It can be tricky to stay out of the detail!)  Here are some examples: 'We are here to learn and practice BA facilitation skills', 'We are here to understand and agree the requirements for project X.'

People, comes directly from the purpose. Given that purpose, who should be there, and, just as important, who should not be there? Make sure that the right people are available and that they have the right roles to play and everything they need to succeed.

The next step is to design the process: the different activities that will take you step-by-step from the start of the workshop to the end, having accomplished everything you need to. There will be a wide range of activities, from setting up your workshop for success to agreeing actions at the end. In between, activities may include generating ideas, sharing information, making decisions, analysing and discussing, and much more. Think about how, given the unique purpose and the people present, your activities will need crafting to handle challenges such as any potential conflict or getting the best from diverse people. The likelihood is that you'll need back-up plans too - I tend to start with Plan A but also have flexibility with other ideas up my sleeve, sometimes as far as an outline of Plan Z!

Once you get to detailed planning, my Magic 6TM can be really helpful, and it’s shown in Figure 1. These are six questions to run through at the beginning of any session:

  1.  'We are here to...' which gives the purpose
  2. 'Today, we will...' gives four or five objectives, which go into more detail on what you'll cover on the day
  3. 'Our plan...' gives the time-plan for the session
  4. 'Who's doing what?' covers the roles people will play. Make sure that everyone is clear on these. If you are in a virtual or hybrid session, you'll find roles such as action scribes, timekeepers and digital buddies in the room for remote participants are especially helpful.
  5. 'How we work together...' is really important. It sets what some call ‘ground rules’. (I find it is better not to call them rules as this sets the wrong tone!) These cover how the group will work together. It is far better to talk about how things might go off course, and agree up front how you’d tackle them. Having 'how we work together' agreed takes a lot of the pressure off you as facilitator and means that, if something difficult happens, you will already have discussed and agreed how to handle it.
  6. 'What's next?'  where you explain how you'll capture actions and follow them up

Running The Session

Now, let's shift the focus to running the workshop. I've noticed something that can negatively affect business analysts' abilities in workshops: stress. Figure 2 shows many things that cause business analysts stress in workshops. Anticipating these and working out how you would respond is very helpful. Tapping into some helpful neuroscience and social psychology can really help here. For example, we know that under enough stress we go to a fight-flight-freeze response, which is hardly helpful in high stakes sessions! Instead, reduce the stress to make this less likely. One way to do this is to focus on the ‘metaphorical spotlight’ that many of us have trained on us throughout workshops. We may feel that everyone is looking at us and that we have to be perfect and the pressure builds up as a result. Instead, I find it helpful to focus on serving the group, which means that if I trip up over a flip chart or if I happen to speak when muted, it's not the end of the world. I'm not aiming for perfection; I'm aiming to serve the group. Think about moving that spotlight off you and onto the group in your workshops. (There are more neuroscience and psychology tips in my book.)

When running your workshop, start off with Plan A. You'll soon see whether that's working for the particular people in front of you. You may need to shift things. Watch your language: I explain in the book how the language you use reveals what's happening inside your brain and what your own mental models are. It's fascinating stuff and well worth checking with recordings or asking others to give you feedback on how you refer to people. One example is whether you tell people what to do or invite them to join in. These land quite differently with groups!

Getting Actions Done Afterwards

The final hurdle is to make sure actions get done. All too often, they just don’t happen. In your meetings, make sure that actions are captured in a way that's visible to all and agree how they will be followed up, so that everyone is clear what will be happening. Lack of effective follow up means that actions get forgotten about, which is unfortunately far too common.

To sum up, creative collaboration is critical to success in our time, whether workshops are in-person, hybrid or virtual. Business analysts too often take on workshops, without real confidence and competence in facilitation skills. I hope that my book will be very helpful, along with the webinar I'm running for the IIBA UK on 29th June: 'Making Workshops Work: Creative collaboration for our time', where we'll dive deeper into these topics in an interactive and very applicable way. (Find out more and book your place at https://iibauk.org/events/1027-virtual-making-workshops-work).

My new book will be available from all good bookshops from 13th July, priced at £19.99. IIBA members can access a Kindle copy for 99p on 12th July only here, after which it will revert to full price: Making Workshops Work

Dr Penny Pullan is well known in the BA world as the host of the BA Summit and the author of a number of books related to our field. She is the founder of www.makingprojectswork.co.uk and her previous book was the CEO Today Top Five book in lockdown: ‘Virtual Leadership’.

 


 

Mindful Stakeholder Engagement

 

Effective stakeholder engagement can mean the difference between successful project delivery and project failure. We BAs work closely with stakeholders to understand their needs and ensure they are translated into solution requirements. If we don’t engage with our stakeholders successfully, requirements may be missed or misinterpreted leading to products and services that fail to deliver the outcomes expected.

There are many barriers to stakeholder engagement, including:

  • Lack of vision or not understanding the project context

  • Resistance to share information

  • Failure to understand what’s in it for them

  • Misinterpretation of their needs

  • Lack of available time

  • Poor communication

  • Lack of trust

  • Previous history or negative perceptions from past experiences and projects

  • Fear of change

Also, stakeholders often have very different expectations on what is, or is not, going to change. Something that seems like an improvement to one group of stakeholders may be perceived as a retrograde step for others. For example, an energy company that wants householders to download an app to submit meter readings and receive bills – the householders just want to keep things the same as they are now - it’s much easier!

So we must plan our approach carefully to establish, maintain and monitor effective working relationships with our stakeholders. Conducting stakeholder analysis helps us understand various stakeholder types, perspectives and attitudes to ensure they are engaged and will work with us to deliver successful project outcomes. There are many tools and techniques to perform stakeholder analysis including power/interest matrix, RACI, personas, and onion diagrams etc. However, we also need to analyse the mindset of our stakeholders – a deeper level of analysis - to understand how they will react in various situations, and how we may respond to them. 

By examining their perceptions, beliefs and opinions we can identify how we can best work with them to understand their needs, while maintaining healthy, productive relationships. This means we must also know ourselves sufficiently to adapt to situations that arise with them, while avoiding causing misunderstanding, confusion or conflict. We must be willing to look within ourselves to understand how our behaviour, words and postures may be perceived. This is where mindfulness is needed.

Mindfulness enables greater self-awareness to help us remain conscious of how we are acting and being perceived when engaging our stakeholders. It allows us to put our own perceptions and beliefs aside to see things accurately, as they are with clarity, free from our own assumptions. We remain open to new ideas and willing to see things differently, from their point of view, dropping our own preconceived notions. Mindfulness helps us be more aware and attuned to our stakeholders’ needs and attitudes while remaining calm and considered in our approach even with the most challenging stakeholders.

Mindfulness also helps us focus, remain present and truly listen to our stakeholders to better understand their needs. They need to feel as though their needs are important. They want to share their challenges, wishes and insights. And stakeholders can sense whether you are listening or not. As this great quote from Maya Angelou says, “People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel”. We can help our stakeholders feel heard, understood and that we care about their needs.

The ‘Stakeholder Engagement Canvas’ is a technique I developed that helps us perform that deeper level of stakeholder analysis. This new tool looks at various aspects of the stakeholder’s mindset in context to the project as well as examines how best we can be more mindful during our engagement with them.

 

 

The canvas contains nine areas to analyse to develop a clear picture of how best we can engage with the stakeholder. By examining each element thoroughly, we can formulate a mindful engagement plan to assure successful engagement. While best used to analyse one stakeholder at a time, it could be used to analyse a group or category of stakeholders.

Here’s an example Stakeholder Engagement Canvas for a stakeholder, John McKenzie, a marketing manager of a medium sized furniture store:

 

 

With all the elements explored and considered, now we can put together an action plan that will ensure we can effectively work with John and employ various mindfulness techniques to build rapport, trust and engagement.

Successful stakeholder engagement starts with understanding ourselves. Mindfulness helps us look deeply at ourselves and our stakeholders to build effective, and harmonious, stakeholder relationships.

 

To learn more about applying mindfulness to stakeholder engagement, and to use the ‘Stakeholder Engagement Canvas’, join one of my “Successful Stakeholder Engagement” or “Mindful Business Analysis”, courses – new courses being announced soon. Keep in touch via Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathy-berkidge/ or check out my website https://mindatworkconsulting.com.au/

 

About the Author

Kathy is a BA professional with 30 years of experience in I.T. She delivers BA and agile training and coaching to many organisations in Australia and around the world. Since 1999, Kathy has been studying, practicing and teaching mindfulness. Kathy works with teams and individuals to implement mindfulness practices to improve teamwork, be more innovative and deliver better customer value. She is passionate about seeing people, teams and organisations succeed and thrive in an environment of collaboration and harmony.

 

 


 

BALIFE

So here we are 43 days, 21 hours, 59 minutes and so many seconds away from launching our first-ever “Business Analysis Learning and Innovation Festival Edinburgh”. Aka BALIFE.

By the time you read this blog, who knows, maybe it’ll be 40 days or even 35 days and so many hours and minutes! It’s as if time has started to accelerate!

As I write this a group of volunteers, with full-time jobs of our own, are currently up to our necks in extra work. To get this, our very first BA learning festival in a day, off the ground.

And we couldn’t be happier, because today all our hard work starts to come to life as we complete our training on our virtual platform and start to upload the wealth of information we’ve already gathered. Suddenly, BALIFE has transformed from a pipedream to something very, very real.

We’ve been talking about this for a few years now, after attending other conferences, combined with many years of building a great community of BAs in Scotland and the North through IIBA and other meetups. And in that time, a few like-minded BAs realised there was a gap to be filled.

Let's face it… we all prefer to stay more local and even the best of us needs encouragement to travel to these bigger conferences!

What’s more, we felt we could work alongside such conferences by running a smaller single-day event, showcasing the learning opportunities gained from coming together as BAs for a learning and innovation event.

Coincidently, IIBA had also been considering the merits of such an event and were keen to get involved… and so a partnership was formed.

First, we had to come up with a great name and of course, being BAs, we went about this methodically, drafting a mission and then extracting the name. 

The first part of the name was pretty easy: “Business Analysis”! Then, it was all about the two key themes, “Learning and Innovation”. But how to turn this into a nice acronym? (Which as we know is key to the success of any product!)

After a bit of head-scratching and a few rounds in the pub, we had it: Our event was going to be held in Edinburgh, the ‘home of the festival’ (with the largest arts festival in the world every year) and so it became “Business Analysis Learning and Innovation Festival Edinburgh” BALIFE! Perfect!

With the name and logo set, we worked through 2019, confirmed a date for early June 2020, booked a great venue and arranged an array of amazing speakers. Busy as we were, our excitement levels were high, and we were all systems go… then… well, we all know what happened next.

After a few months of lockdown, it was clear the conference would be a no go for face to face, and so we decided to cancel and regroup for the following year, hoping by then face to face would be possible.

2020 passed and following a well-earned rest, we picked up the challenge again, but this time we made the decision to go with a fully virtual event.

And so here we are today!

We are now in the final stretch, still with a long list of things to do, selling tickets and facing the very exciting prospect of being about to (finally) showcase BALIFE!

So, what’s in it for you, the BA?

Well, as a BA I’m sure you’ve heard others say or even thought it yourself:

“I don’t join formal meetups because so many people don’t understand what BAs do as a job”

Or

“Where are the Business Analysts at these things?”

Those days are over, because BALIFE is designed by BAs for BAs and like I said earlier, it’s all about learning and innovation… in Business Analysis.

The 15 presentations and 2 brilliant keynote talks have been brought together based on the experiences of working BAs, who are facing the same issues and challenges that many practicing BAs face today.

In essence, the subjects have been picked with you, the BA, in mind, showcasing old and new techniques that are important and relevant to our community, including reflecting on you as an individual and the importance of self-resilience.

During the BALIFE ‘festival in a day’, you will have access to 15 amazing and varied presentations over 3 different parallel tracks entitled:

  • Thinking about Design
  • The Human Touch
  • Driven by Process  

On top of this, we have two brilliant keynote speakers in Tom Meade and Michael Christon, both with a unique message. Tom is a former CIO and true IT leader, whilst Michael is an unconventional business trainer and a master of language. Michael’s keynote promises something quirky that’s not to be missed!

You will have the opportunity to meet and chat with speakers, other delegates, sponsors, and committee members in an active learning environment. Attending could also earn you IIBA Credits toward your next certification.

And that’s not al. If you fancy it, you can even join us for a (virtual) Gin tasting afterwards!

As a committee of BAs, we’ve learnt a lot as we’ve set about bringing BALIFE to you, not least about collaboration and connectedness. We know you’ll learn so much more when you join us at BALIFE, your BA festival in a day.

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.”

…anonymous

Our journey so far has certainly been an adventure - and now it’s your turn.
Join us on the 3rd June 2021 as the adventure continues with BALIFE2021!

So what are you waiting for? Grab your ticket now from www.balife.co.uk and I’ll ‘see’ you there!

Linda Parker

 


 

Mapping Business Analysis to the SFIA skills framework

Do you remember what you were doing on New Years Eve 2020? Staying at home, following Covid guidelines, of course! So was I. But it was a memorable day because I had my first conversation with Peter Leather from SFIA about forming a collaboration with IIBA UK. Peter had been guided towards me to discuss the potential to map the Business Analysts Body of Knowledge – the BABOK- to the SFIA skills framework. 

What is SFIA?

For those who don’t know much about SFIA, here is a crash course. SFIA is a common reference model for describing and managing skills and competencies for professionals working in Information and Communication Technologies, software engineering and digital transformation. It is a global common language for describing skills and competencies in the digital world.

SFIA v7 has 102 Professional Skills including some which directly map to our profession such as “Business Analysis” (BUAN) and “Requirements Definition and Management” (REQM). But what about the other 100 skills – do Business Analysts not apply any of these too?

I examined this question myself some years ago. When I first started leading BA teams, I was looking to clearly define the levels within our BA job family and our overall remit as BAs. A contact outside of my organization explained how they had used SFIA for this very purpose. Knowing that it had worked for them gave me the confidence to use it to underpin the re-definition of our job roles and career path.  But I had to do this myself locally. IIBA didn’t offer an off-the-shelf set of mappings to SFIA.  So, when Peter approached me on that cold and dreary New Years Eve, I jumped at the chance!

What do we map SFIA to at IIBA UK?

Chances are that you have heard of the BABOK or BA Body of Knowledge, written and maintained by IIBA, but here is a super quick overview for those less familiar with it. Wikipedia defines a “body of knowledge” as “the complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a professional domain, as defined by the relevant learned society or professional association". In our case, that professional association being IIBA.

The BABOK contains six key knowledge areas as follows.

Peter threw down the gauntlet and I took up the challenge to map each of the six BABOK knowledge areas to the SFIA skills, with a little help from my colleagues on the board at IIBA UK. On February 15th Peter and myself shared the draft mappings with the community via an IIBA UK webinar, the recording for which can be found here. In this session, we introduce the mappings and explain how we think they can be used. The recording is around 60 minutes – please note that you must be logged in as an IIBA UK member to access this.

Show me the mappings then!

The set of six mappings are found here. Below you can see one of them, so you can appreciate what each page contains and how it is laid out.

This is our first draft based largely on my experience of 20 years in Business Analysis but of course, the BA role is somewhat fluid and ever changing. With that in mind please take a look and let me know what you think; all feedback is welcome – just drop me a line at saffron.house@iibauk.org.

We are also keen to know how you make use of the mappings. Here are some of the potential uses we have identified, but there may of course be others. Let us know!

We also have plans to collaborate further with our friends at SFIA now we have begun this work. The ideas we have are set out below but again, do tell me what else you would like to see by dropping me a line at saffron.house@iibauk.org.

Signing off for now then

Saffron

 


 

The magic is in the questions
 

Will Izzard, Head of Business Change, CMC Partnership Consultancy Ltd

In my work as a change facilitator (I prefer that to change manager – ‘management’ seems to imply a degree of control that I’m not sure any of us have in human activity systems…certainly not the change-ists!) I spend a lot of time in the process of what I call change therapy. Sure there’s always artefacts to produce and workshops to design and run and so on, but for me at least a typical day includes a great deal of what I suppose many think of as the softer side of change – the listening, the empathy, the perspective-taking, the coaching and so on. And that is a successful day; a valuable and worthwhile day. I am on a mission to bring emotion right into the foreground of organisational change work. Emotion is present in even the most analytical activities of organisational life and it would be a mistake to disregard it – for learning, for memory and for just making sense of things.

The thing is, how do we go about doing that? How do we authentically tend to this and provide much needed change therapy, without retraining as psychological and therapeutic professionals as well as change professionals?  I think there are things we can do which require us to go a little deeper than our methodologies and frameworks can. Take figure 1. This is what I refer to as horizontal and vertical change. It shows that a change framework (like the excellent Prosci®), bookended by some change design at the start to let us know what it is we’re facilitating the change of (overlapping, we are interested in it) and some Business As Usual at the end (so that changes stick) form a sort of time’s arrow, left to right horizontal perspective of the change. It moves us from an idea on the left to embedded and adopted behaviours on the right. It doesn’t matter if that is achieved in a traditional project approach, or a more iterative agile manner – ultimately we are working our way from left to right.

 

 

Now our frameworks are fantastic at telling us where to put our attention as we go along that horizontal plane and what to do once our attention has been suitably directed, but they do not always tell us how. For that, we need a vertical dive for some extra skills.

This is not a criticism of any methodology. They can only go so deep – how can they do anything other than that? They can’t be everything. However, words like ‘coaching’ are thrown around with multiple meanings and with the assumption that everyone is good at it or wants to do it…

…and suggestions like simply having a deep or meaningful or difficult conversation if someone is having a bad time with a change…

…or even just to listen exquisitely.

These are all interpersonal skills and there are many approaches to them. What I’m offering (and what I talk about at length in my upcoming webinar, which you can sign up for here (https://www.iibauk.org/events/1013-virtual-clean-language-) is one option for going deeper. A technique derived from psychotherapy but used in coaching and business too, which works on the principle that asking questions and listening exquisitely will give you far better information than second guessing and sticking to a process in a rote fashion.

The magic is truly in the questions.

“But what kind of questions?”

Well, that is a good question 😊. In fact, that is a Clean Question. One from a set of highly honed therapeutic questions collectively called Clean Language. These incredibly powerful, yet seemingly ordinary, questions work in conjunction with exploring metaphors and are perfect for taking a deep dive and sensitively finding out what is going on for someone or for a team. Come along to my webinar at 5pm on 3rd March to learn about where they come from and leave with a model you can use straight away to move your clients and colleagues from stuck, problem spaces and into positive, desired outcome spaces. Now that is magic.

 

Will Izzard biography

A professional coach and facilitator of change, Will Izzard is Head of Profession for Change Management at CMC Partnership, with over 25 years’ experience in projects and change in business. He is an Experienced Prosci® Practitioner, Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Certified Symbolic Modeller (therapeutic metaphor work). He is interested in the blend of change facilitation (directing attention on what to do) with interpersonal skills (how to actually do it). He believes that lasting change is brought about by small interventions that build the confidence and skills of others so that they achieve more and experience a deep level of learning.  His latest development areas include helping clients construct metaphors from personal outcomes to visions and change initiatives, and exploring the neuroscience of change.  Will thrives on applying novel ideas for an organic and developmental approach to change – building on what works to create something new.

 

 


 

World’s most ambitious automation project
 

World’s most ambitious automation project – what’s it all about?

With 61,000 people delivering services to millions of customers, Capita believes its own businesses need to embrace automation to maintain their competitiveness, retain customers and secure new ones. Based on our Chief Executive's expectation that every Capita business will have at least one automation project implemented, we embarked on what we believe to be the world’s most ambitious automation project.

Automation – less “Halt who goes there” and more “Allow me"

So, when we say automation and robotics, what do we mean? Well we promise you our vision of the future does not involve C3PO, Robocop, iRobot, cogs, chains or oil. We’re talking about the 4th industrial revolution, software automation. Our solutions take the robot out of the human, they complete the mundane non-value add tasks leaving people to be creative and do the things that people are great at and help our organisations to grow.

Software automation comes in many forms. The most talked about is Robotic Process Automation, (RPA). RPA refers to software robots that can complete actions sitting on your desktop as a virtual assistant or completely on their own. According to the latest forecasts from Gartner, the RPA sector is forecasted to grow 19.5% to $1.89 billion in 2021.

Other automation solutions include;

• Artificial Intelligence (AI) – A broad term that covers a multitude of technologies that provide intelligent decision-making capabilities. Examples of which include Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.

• Cognitive Services (AI) – A combination of technologies that provide functions such as converting speech to machine readable text to facilitate automation. Another example would be text analytics, reading strings of text and making decisions as well as understanding the sentiment of the text being read. 

• Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – Reading and extracting data from scanned images, e.g. Passports.

In Capita, we have a number of these technologies embedded into our Hyper-Automation platform to solve critical business problems.

I know what you’re thinking – sounds great, but I don’t want to be replaced by a Robot

Let’s address the key burning question.. Does this mean we will all be replaced by Robots? The short answer, no. Automation is designed to augment an existing workforce with supportive capabilities. Without the key aspect of humans, we wouldn’t get very far.

From our experiences to date having designed and implemented automation solutions for multiple organisations within both the private and public sectors, the benefits are broad.

Saving money isn’t the only outcome. Automation increases efficiency across organisations. It improves employee morale as it allows workforces to focus on more challenging and thought-provoking activities. It allows for organisations to increase compliance. It reduces error introduced by the burden of volume within administrative tasks. It opens the door to deeper insights and analytics regarding performance. Furthermore, it allows organisations to adapt quickly, a digital workforce can be scaled instantly to allow you to respond to real time problems in real time.

An automation project in the life of a Business Analyst

A Business Analyst is key to the success of an automation project. Our role is to firstly understand which technologies are out there, what’s available and how we could use them.

Secondly, we need to understand the organisation problem at hand. Rarely is a process suited to automation from the get-go. The golden rule is that “a bad process automated is still a bad process”. We would look to incorporate a journey of process improvement first, optimising processes and eliminating waste. Factoring in automation as we go, ensuring processes are designed to maximise automation where it best fits.

So we have all of that, what happens next? Clear requirements gathering and documentation. We begin to create the To-Be state in collaboration with key stakeholders. The automation elements could be a mixture of attended or unattended automation. We translate the business needs into technical language for our development teams to develop and work with process owners to re-engineer. One key measure of a successful automation project is being able to understand all the possible variants to the core process. Capturing these exceptions and defining how they will be handled will ensure a smooth roll out. 

Planning is key, a monsoon of change into the business will likely not work out well. A clear plan is required to ensure all elements of the new To-Be state are rolled out in a structured manner allowing the business to implement it.

What can you take away from our experiences?

1. Business maturity is key – don’t forget that “a bad process automated is still a bad process”. We found a need to re-engineer and use LEAN methodologies to improve processes before introducing automation.

2. Not all processes are followed by everyone all of the time– the As-Is process written down isn’t always what actually happens ‘on the floor’. This is important to address to ensure any automations are based on the truth of the process being followed. Avoiding any nasty surprises on go-live.

3. Capture hearts and minds – key to successful delivery is stakeholder engagement. Automation is a fast-evolving world and can be quite a daunting one. By supporting our clients with training and knowledge sharing, we ensured that they were on the journey with us. Ultimately leading to better engagement and understanding.

4. Sell the many benefits – some people think automation is a solution to replace people. This is untrue, automation is a support solution, not a replacement one. To reduce these concerns, you need to work with and educate the work force on the wide-reaching benefits of automation.

5. Solve the problem – don’t shoehorn automation where it doesn’t fit. Always focus on resolving the business problem, and that is nearly always done via a combination of approaches.

 

Found this interesting? Why not book onto Mani and Aimee's webinar 'Taking the Robot Out of the Human' on 23rd February by clicking here.

 

Contact the authors;

Zohaib Ahmed – Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.
Gavin Clarke – Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.
Mani Basra – Lead Consultant Business Analyst, Automation Practice at Capita.

automation@capita.com
www.capita.com
https://www.capita.com/expertise/software/automation