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  1. What is a Social Business Analyst and why YOU need one!

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    I have been kicking around this idea about what I want to do next and thought “It is a New Year, right!”  So I thought to myself “Hey if you write a job description so people can understand the role, skills, and projects I would be looking for!”  Additionally, people kept asking “What the hell is a Social Business Analyst?”

    A Social Business Analyst is a role, skill set is deeply rooted in understanding how businesses run and applying how that business can run within technology.  With the ever growing maturity of the Social Business architecture and operations, a Social Business Analyst comes with the above mentioned DNA, they also have infused not only living in the social business community, they know how to apply skills and techniques to build, document, test, and implement what it means for the business and it’s people.

    There are some similar architectural principles, processes, and tools, but every business, culture, and business DNA is different.  One size does not fit all and a great Social Business Analyst will be a huge asset to the team and company in making the shift to becoming a Social Business.

    Here is what a Social Business Analyst Job description would look like:

     

     

     

     

    Purpose:

    Business Analyst plays an important role in a lot of aspects of a company. A business analyst’s job involves a lot of research, data analysis and to some extent problem solving.  The BA is responsible for the success of the Requirements Definition (RD) Process including system requirement definition, business scenario development, conceptual and logical modeling, class diagramming, conceptual wireframing, and tools used to make information processing more efficient for initiative team.  The BA supports application development in the Systems Domain.

    The BA must understand the social landscape from an internal and external context. They must have participated in different online communities and technologies and be proficient at understanding the context and potential.  The BA must be a facilitator of training, coaching, and mentoring the utilization of new tools and cultures that develop based on people utilizing these new tools.  The BA works closely with tool vendors, social business consultants and other firms to ensure the business scenarios and technologies fit the Enterprise as well as individual units responsible for owning the context of the business execution.  The BA must navigate and integrate the ecosystem of people, processes, and technologies from a culture and community aspect for planning and execution for operational success.

    The BA understands the technology and business environments, application and process capabilities, and architectural constraints, and is capable of leveraging and successfully applying this information to bring the best solution forward.  The BA works closely with Business Representatives (Supply Chain, Distribution, Marketing, HR, Communications, Customer Service, Product Development, and any other Business Unit you have for executing the Business), Application Architects, Data Analysts and Software Developers to provide analytical support to ensure system and business requirements are clearly documented and understood during the design and development of the application.  The BA owns and manages system and business requirements definition. The BA participates in a supporting role in the overall design and development of the technology solutions.  The BA must be able to resolve conflicts in non-threatening manner.  The BA must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and written requirements.

    Job Duties:

    The job of a Social Business Analyst involves many aspects that span from business operations to technology implementation. It requires them to have constant interaction with the clients / customers and for them to be able to provide appropriate solutions in a timely manner. A Social Business Analyst will need to have good understanding of Business, Technology, and Culture of Social (eventually it will be the way a business is run, but must mature just like other business organizations like HR, Marketing, or Legal).  Here is a visual representation of where the job duties will fall:

    Social Business Analyst - Current

    Social Business Analyst - Current

    Social Business Analyst - Future

    Social Business Analyst - Future

    A summary of the job duties of a Social Business Analyst are given below.  Many of the job duties fall within each one of the specific spheres above and can be applied to Business, Technology and Social.  A Social Business Analyst is going to need to perform many of these duties simultaneously, which is part of BA’s DNA.  Many of these job duties can be spotted on a resume based on project work, but can only be assessed by interacting online and or face to face interviews.


     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Opportunity Analysis

     

    • Identifies cause-and-effect relationships and implementing solutions to address causes.
    • Selects the most appropriate course of action.
    • Develops initiates or leads an effort to improve procedures or implement new approaches for supporting solutions to problems or opportunities.
    • Modifies their own behavior with the need, priorities and goals of the organization’s changing circumstances.
    • Comprehends appropriate channels to quickly expedite customer services and deliverables.
    • Demonstrates knowledge of the IT organization’s customers, policies and practices.
    • Demonstrates a sufficient overall knowledge of technology to use internal and external resources of technology assistance effectively.
    • Formulates specifications for complex systems or application programs.
    • Stays abreast of new developments and attends professional development activities.
    • To be able to understand and collect all the business requirements of the clients as well as partners a part of the initiative
    • Making of proposals and interacting with the client to ensure that the solutions that are being suggested are what he or she want and that they are viable enough to be implemented.
    • Conducting basic analysis and research of the industry that the customer belongs to.
    • Prepare and define the scope of the project.
    • Determining the effort and the cost of the project.
    • Drafting business requirements.
    • Interacting and working with a team to ensure that they understand the project requirements and deliver solutions accordingly.
    • Sets an example by behaving in ways that are consistent with company vision and values.
    • Creates an environment in which employees have ownership of their jobs and area able to achieve job expectations.
    • Assumes ownership and accountability for own performance management.
    • Projects personal and company high standards and develops constructive, trusting relationships in all interactions.
    • Assesses one’s own strengths and weaknesses and takes actions to improve.

     

    Requirements Analysis

     

    • Translates pure business elements and functions as well as technological concepts into language that is understandable to the audiences receiving the information.
    • Identifies and analyzes problems and opportunities based on business and IT strategic and tactical goals, objectives, and visions.
    • Analyzes business processes problems and opportunities based on business strategic and tactical goals, objectives, and visions.
    • Works at one’s own discretion, independently of outside influence or control, contributing to high morale and group commitment that supports goals and objectives.
    • Originates action to achieve goals or influence events beyond what is mandatory.
    • Restates the content and feelings expressed in information received from the spoken communication of others accurately.
    • Communicates effectively, in both verbal and written form, with diverse groups, regardless of level or function.
    • Sensitive to hierarchical structures of groups and organizations.
    • Seeks ways of going beyond the limits set by structure to help bring out the best in individuals and groups.
    • Encourages highly energized, productive, inclusive and meaningful participation and knows how to engage people in planning and decision making.
    • Conducts meetings to obtain, qualify and evaluate information to support the definition and clarification of requirements and needs.
    • Understands what customers really want and then measures actions and improvements against that vision.
    • Provides friendly, caring service and handles any customer situation with confidence and a sense of urgency.
    • Develops rapport, mutual trust and understanding of customers overall business and related computing needs.
    • Produces and communicates the meaning of business process and domain models.
    • Creates business cases to provide support or definition to the strategic direction of a business area
    • Studies situations and actions, separating them into parts, and identifying common elements, themes, and risks.
    • Seeks growth of knowledge an understanding of customers, business, industries, technologies, processes and systems.
    • Identifies and analyzes system objects and presents the findings in a manner that supports facilitation to differing audiences.
    • Gathers, organizes and evaluates information in a logical systematic fashion, recognizes patterns and similarities between past and present and across customers and industries.
    • Produces and communicates the meaning of system process and domain models.
    • Understands the relationship of business processes and domain models to system models.
    • Identifies the specific data elements and their attributes as they relate to business needs for returning and reporting information.
    • Identifies the sources of data and how the data is used and interacts with systems and applications.
    • Identifies the specific data structures as they relate to the sources and targets in order to facilitate collection, storage, and extraction of data.

     

    Requirements Management

     

    • Identifies and determines the impact to changing requirements on scope and development effort.
    • Traces requirements to understand dependencies.
    • Utilizes people effectively by allocating responsibilities and authority to them as appropriate.
    • Mentors for knowledge, skill and behavior development.
    • Identifies and offers opportunities to learn and develop.
    • Participates in cross-functional teams to work on problems or opportunities.
    • Works cooperatively with other team members to accomplish goals.
    • Develops effective work relationships on all levels of the organization.
    • Plan, tracks, and manages the components required to support successful completion of projects.
    • Adheres to project management methodology to staff and projects or significant assignments.
    • Follows current enterprise standards and methods to provide consistency in the environment using preferred tools and techniques.
    • Identifies the need for new or improved standards and methods to provide better communication and stability within the technology and business areas.
    • Assigns resources, ideas, time and people to accomplish a goal.
    • Uses criteria to determine the relative importance of problems/goals/options.

     

     

    Knowledge and Skills

    • An understanding of .NET/J2EE/HTML/PHP/JS/HTML5/FBML
    • Understanding or working knowledge of API’s, Integration Technologies, Mobile, Data Modeling
    • An understanding of Social Technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Youtube, Disqus, Pluck, WordPress, Posterous, Sharable Widgets, JIVE, Newsgator, Sharepoint, RSS Readers and Socialtext.  Must have an understanding of integrating these tools and technologies internally and or externally or both
    • An understanding of Social Monitoring Tools configurations, implementation, and reporting such as  Radian6, Crimson Hexagon, Lithium, Google Analytics, and Google Alerts.  Must have an understanding of what is needed and how to use working knowledge is a must.
    • An understanding of applications for managing customers, employees, and businesses management information such as Siebel, MS Dynamics, Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Peoplsoft, SAP, Kenexa, Taleo
    • An understanding of analysis concepts, database design, SQL, UML and software engineering is an added advantage.
    • Excellent presentation, written and oral skills.
    • Working knowledge of Software Development Lifecycles and methodologies and tools to get technology.  These would include Visio, Quality Center, Jira, Caliber, MSTFS, BluePrint, Sharepoint, Clarity, Basecamp

     

    Educational Qualifications and Experience

      • B.A. or B.S. degree in Information Systems, Computer Science, Marketing, Communication, Journalism, or related field, or equivalent work experience
      • 10+ years of systems and/ or business analysis or design experience in a systems or technical type role (e.g., application development, use of SDLC)
      • 5+ years of personal experience with utilizing and participating with Social Technologies and Online Communities
      • 10+ years of Business experience within Retail, Healthcare, Financial Services, Product Management, Software, Government, and or Non-Profit
      • Works on extremely complex problems; assignments involve new technologies or new applications; recognized as enterprise-wide resource
      • Assist in the definition of objectives to support project success, review and track the completion
      • Mentor other associates within the IT and Business disciplines.
      • Assigned projects of critical importance to support of key customers, development of new projects of strategic importance
      • Exercises independent judgment in developing methods, techniques and evaluation criteria for obtaining results.
      • Prior experience in dealing with technical teams.
      • Prior experience working on rapid technical development and collaborative project environments.
      • Experience in drafting proposals.

     

    So this is the job description I am looking for in 2011.  Does this job description exist yet?  No it does not?! That is why I am proposing it so the folks figuring out their 2011 plans and budgets may take this into consideration.  If companies have these types of questions going into 2011; “What do we need to infuse Social into our company?” “What types of jobs and people do we need to hire?” “Do we have the job descriptions for hiring new types of roles at our company?” Hopefully this job description would answer some of those questions.

    What do you think? Would you add to this job description?  Please feel free to use this within your companies it can only further my chances of landing this career path somewhere in the near future!  Happy planning and budgeting for 2011 and make sure to make room for me, my skills, and my job description!

     

     

  2. 4 Tactics to evaluating, buying, and implementing Vendor technology packages

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    Being a Business Analyst nothing drives me more up a wall when I hear “Oh it is a vendor package, we don’t have any requirements.” My first response to that is Really?  Or depending on the political and relationship of the environment a little attitude will be thrown in with the response of Really?  In this post I will lay out 4 tactics as to why this thought process dooms your project before you even start. Yes it dooms it, sorry no nice way to put this. In my career I have seen many many many vendor technology packages suck companies dry because of not following these 4 tactics.   If I added it all up in the last 10 years, I have seen at least $500 million dollars wasted because the company did not know the technology they already have, what they really wanted or what they really needed.

    This goes back to very simple premise; know thy business! Sorry to break the news, but your business is run by good technology and good technology selections.  Using these 4 tactics when evaluating, selecting and implementing a Vendors software package you will save time, money and whole lot of headaches.  The tactics focus more on using a more iterative, collaborative, and co-creation methodological process (Please insert your methodology definition of what that is, most software development lifecycles SDLC’s are basically all the same  with different terms, thought leaders, and definitions.  These tactics still do not change).


    1. Understand your requirements from a business scenarios context:

    Organize all your business scenarios and collaborative processes and technology that will be touching the Vendor package.  Yes in todays world there is no longer the black and white of process vs technology.  They are and always will be interwoven.  No more of this separation of process from technology!  Sorry “I only worry about the business process without technology” people!  The business scenarios will allow for the project team to put information into containers for easier decomposition, decision making, gap identifiers, and nice to haves highlighting.  Without organizing into containers the project team ends up trying to make decisions on a laundry list of requirements and never can answer the question “Do we have everything we need and want?” Having this layer of information will help people find vendor software packages that support their business scenarios.  Below is an example of how to model those business scenario containers.

    Business Scenario Goals and Users

    The Business with Circles and Stick Figures

    You also will avoid buying software built for the aviation industry and retrofitting to use in financial services (this never works, I have seen this once).  This model will help you organize around decisions based on core vs nice to haves.  It will also show you how many different users there are for a particular implementation. It is simple circles, arrows, and stick figures to depict how big is this “bread box” (this is the term thrown around when trying to figure out scope).  Gather as much information from as many different users, process documents, technical specifications, and industry users as possible. At all costs do try and avoid requirements gathering overload (this is the art that a good Business Analyst brings to the team)!  Estimated time for producing a model like this 2-3 weeks.

    Now that you have you have identified your business scenario containers you can beginning filling those containers with requirements based on the process diagrams each business scenario has in regards to business rules, functional or user interface requirements, data requirements, non-functional requirements, and security and information requirements.  Within the world of software development a project team could provide details of your business scenarios with 57 different types of requirements, that all come with their own set of attributes.  All these requirement types make up the ecosystem of requirements management including traceability, impact analysis and conceptual design of the technology.  Here is how the information is linked together to understand your whole picture of requirements:

    The Typical Requirement Types

    How Requirements Trace

    This is typically how requirements trace to each other. The names may slightly differ depending on the methodology you are using, but the model will be somewhat the same across a multitude of methodologies.  These are the details that will fit inside each one of the circles above according to your business scenarios.  Keep in mind,  some of the business scenarios above kick off other business scenarios within the model, that is ok!  This will help establish input and outputs of successful completion of that business scenario. This is why having a team that understands the complexity in very usable containers is key to evaluating, buying and implementing vendor software.  Without this, good luck and may the force be with you……

    The Management Work

    The Requirements Management Hard Work Model

    This model depicts the process a project team goes through to manage all the information within the business scenario containers. Without this for guidance, project teams often find themselves in chaos, analysis paralysis, or worse stuck on what comes next.  All three paths lead to wasting time, money, and resources, not only the Clients, but the Vendor also.

    2. Download a free copy make screen shots

    This step will be critical in your evalaution process.  Start taking screen shots of evalaution copies of software and bounce your business scenario processes and requirements up against the technology you are researching.  Yes I know, this causes rework.  You have this either way.  I would rather do a whole lot of rework on information, than in production when your audience can now see the garbage on the lawn.  It is not pretty, trust me!  I also said this was not going to be easy and take a couple of hours to do either. Taking the information from tactic 1 will help you bounce your business scenarios up against the vendor’s interpretation of your industry. Start running through your business scenarios in these evaluation copies.

    At this point start refining your requirements.  They are not set in stone and never will be.  If you have a multiple disciplines (SME’s, PM, BA, Tech Lead, Architect, Infrastructure Architect, Support personnel) co-creating you ensure continual buy-in and a successful implementation.  You may even discover some requirements for your business using two different vendor packages.  Document this information and use them in tactic 4.  This information can sometimes lead to changes on the vendor side, which will lead to a better partnership of trustworthy sharing and collaboration (This is a behavior that is missing in most vendor client relationships to begin with)

    Sometimes you may find a software package has found a better way to do your business scenario.  That is ok!  Your business does not always have to have all the answers to weaving business scenarios and technology solutions together.  Do not get caught up in thinking this is where your competitive advantage lays for your business. It is your people and empowering decision making with the use of the information in and out of the vendor packages is where your competitive advantage lays. I have seen where companies have gained huge competitive advantage by allowing the vendor package to dictate the process and technology of particular business scenario.  The reason is the company gets back to focusing on delivering top notch business services and products to their audiences, this is where you earn your keep with your audience.  Additionally,  it makes getting to market a lot shorter.

    The Vendors you buy packages from focus on one set of  processes and technology for a particular industry.  These companies live and breathe making the industry specific business scenarios the most efficient, intuitive, and easy to manage within their software package (for the most part….).  Take salesforce.com for instance.  They focus on making the sales process the most efficient it can possibly be with sound business scenarios and technology to support those business scenarios.  Your business scenario is selling a certain product or service to your audience.  Let the experts in the sales process and technology worry about that while you sell the product, that is how your business makes money.  Your business does not make money by re-engineering your sales process, so partner with the process and technology experts that live and breath certain business scenarios, trust me finding these partnerships will lower costs and increase revenues!  I hope this analogy make sense?  If not drop me a comment and we can discuss further

    3. Get your Business Analysts, Testers, Developers, Subject Matter Experts, Infrastructure, and Project Management disciplines collaborating on the information:

    This tactic is probably the most difficult to manage or implement depending on the whole culture of your organization, the behaviors of your people towards collaborating and sharing, and do your disciplines have the street and book smarts in regards to discipline collaboration.  A company can state that they are agile or iterative until the cows come home, but  if the people don’t process the information in a culture of collaboration and co-creation it just isn’t true.  Disciplines must have the comfort and trust built up in their relationships to encroach respectfully into each others disciplines.  I show these overlaps in the Business Analyst 3.o post.

    The team you pick for performing these tactics must be full time on this effort, any thing less you will not make it a priority and the project will fail.  This tactic also brings everyone to the table for the demonstrations of the Vendor package to satisfy all parties involved and will facilitate making a good technology decision.  These decisions can not be made in the vacuum by strategists or leaders that will not be using this package on a daily basis.  Great, the vendor package has great executive reporting dashboard for executives, but the tactical and operational information going into the package is garbage and slows down your business scenarios. Garbage in Garbage out, this affect is more prevalent in vendor packages, if the decisions to buy and implement is done at a too high level away from executing the actual business scenario.

     

    4. Take control of the dog and pony shows based on requirements

    This is where your gathering, analyzing, and scope definition will pay huge dividends.  If you allow the Vendor to run these reviews you will be sold to.  This is not the fault of the Vendor!  They are trained and coached to sell the cool features that cost money.  The fault really falls on the Client for not preparing, understanding, and knowing thy business working within a technology platform.  This step is where Clients can take back the control and get what is needed and on occasion what is wanted for their business scenarios.

    This collaborative demo really makes for a good working relationship with your potential Vendor.  Let me explain.  The Vendor will not have to waste time helping the Client figure out what they need and can focus more on being a true partner in consulting, recommending, and creating for the Client based on a clear vision.    The Client should not be paying $200.00 per hour to figure out their own business…..this to me does not make good use of the of a scarce resource called money!

    An additional suggestion I would make is have two demonstrations of the vendor software package.  The first one would be completely understood as a time for the Vendor to do their sales, dog and pony show, and offer up their road-map for their product(s).  The second demonstration would be completely controlled by the Client with reviewing the product through the lens of their requirements, process flows, and wants and needs of the product features based on their business scenarios.  The mood and behavior of the second demo should be collaborative, co-creative, and sharing of “garbage on each others lawns.” All along the way refining the requirement information.  There may even be a resource on the project team completely dedicated to keeping information up to date.  This is where your triple AAA BA’s learn their craft!

    Implementing these 4 hard work tactics (yes sorry to tell you, you will be doing some hard work here, no silver bullet!) will pay dividends for your short term and long term success for your projects to implementing vendor technology packages.  These techniques can work for Software as a Service (SaaS), Off the Shelf Install products, Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Social Technology Ecosystems (sorry no silver bullet in this area either).  I have seen both sides of this equation and utilizing these techniques has led to buying and implementing the correct technology for true return on investment of time, money and resources.

    If you have additional techniques that you have seen be successful on a project please leave a comment.  This old dog loves learning new tricks! One added thought on these 4 tactics is swap out the word “business” for “technical” in front of scenarios and it works the same way just a slightly different type of language used in your requirement statements.  So you technical infrastructure (servers, routers, modems, switches, wireless hardware, pbx’s, ivr’s, mainframes, etc.) folks we have you covered too!

  3. What does the C-Suite and other Senior Leaders value about a Business Analyst

    1 Comment

    Being that the Business Analysis discipline and role is becoming more standardized and consistent with the IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis), BABOK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®) and a Certification called the CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional™). What do senior executives and leadership feel about this discipline and role?   There is no right or wrong answers just starting a dialogue to find out the views and opinions that are out there within the Social Platforms community.

    Would also like to know how Business Analysts can play a vital role in the era of companies moving towards Social Business Architecture, Enterprise 2.0, Social Media, and Social Technology Platforms.

    I obviously have my biased opinions and views on the subject, but would really like to know other views.  Especially from the people that make strategic decisions about an organization.   They ultimately sign off on spending money on this discipline. I would love to get a cross section of senior leaders from the C-Suite to the Rank and File (which is where I am at on the ladder) to weigh in on this often overlooked or generalized role in most companies (believe me I have worked at many).

    The one main stereotype I am trying to break most of all is “Well anyone can be a BA, so just give them the title” Additionally, I am always interested in new ideas.

  4. The Business Analyst 3.0 Model

    9 Comments

    Yes the Business Analyst (BA) role is changing rapidly right before our eyes.  That is why I have reclassified myself as a Business Analyst 3.0.  I think BA’s really need to educate themselves on all the social technologies and software as a service models both from a external perspective and internal perspective.

    We will be called upon to integrate and implement these two worlds both from processes and functions seamlessly!  For the first time in technology history we as consumers and employees have better access to technology than our employers.

    We as Business Analysts better learn how our skills can help the business and technology groups converge on these platforms for quicker, more robust, and often ever changing technologies that can keep pace with the ever changing business environment.

    Expect the ever looming skill that needs to be there is curiosity and willingness to collaborate with all kinds of disciplines.  This challenge I think faces all disciplines but ours in particular because we need to make all the disciplines and information work together (biased perspective I know).  Soft skills of finding new people to interact with outside the typical corporate industries is where our learning and evolution as Business Analyst 3.0 needs to take place.

    For example check me out on twitter and the people that are following and interacting with me…..it is for the most part an eclectic group of individuals from a wide range of industries.  Which I think helps enhance my analysis and design skills as a Business Analyst!   I think the pendulum swung too far to Generalists then back too far to Specialists.  I am proposing a new paradigm Specialties.  This paradigm understands the fact of specialties each discipline brings to the table and learns how to work within the encroachments.  The “it’s not my job or role” mentality is out the window with the bathwater and the baby of 2009!  If you can not bring together strategy, process and technologies for problem solving or innovation, I would highly encourage to find those that can and learn from them as quick as you possibly can!

    Look forward to seeing more and more people within the SDLC community embrace the social scene online.  Look top left at the icons click on your favorite channel and let’s connect!

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