Monthly Archives: December 2013

Give it time…

One thing I continue to notice is the rush that everyone seems to be in all the time. “If we don’t act now, we’ll miss this opportunity!” they say. Or “I need this by the end of the day”. Pressure to complete tasks quickly can come from managers that you want to impress, co-workers that you feel in competition with, clients who you want to help and feel useful for, or even perhaps yourself. We feel pressured, stressed and stay back late to finish the work as quickly as possible. We sacrifice the quality of our work, or other areas of our life outside work, in the hope that we’ll make a good impression and be seen to be a team player.

But thinking about it, how many times has the work you just rushed to complete then sat on someones desk for the next few days? Or the deadline was suddenly changed? You start to wonder why you put in all the effort to get the work done quickly. Of course, you’re glad it’s out of the way. But at what expense? What detail was skipped over, or quality was lost, because you rushed the task? What personal commitments did you sacrifice?

To ensure you don’t unnecessarily rush to finish a task that could have been given some more time, it’s important to understand the drivers behind the deadline. When you feel yourself under pressure, ask some questions to get a true understanding of the reasons behind it. Some questions you will need to ask others, whilst some you will need to answer yourself. Below is a list of some example questions:

  • What is driving this deadline?
  • What will be lost if I delayed finishing this task by a day?
  • What detail can be removed to allow me to finish the task sooner?
  • Can I list assumptions for the information that I do not yet have?
  • What other tasks will need to be delayed in order for me to finish this?

The answers to these questions will allow you and others involved to discuss and understand the true priority of the task. And when we have a number of tasks to complete, it’s important to understand the true priority for each of them. This allows us to align our efforts appropriately and keeps everything in perspective. We don’t waste effort, lose quality and detail or delay more important tasks just because someone is screaming louder for you to complete their task first.

This isn’t an excuse to delay work or procrastinate. I’m not saying tight deadlines don’t exist. They do. All I’m saying is that it’s worth asking the drivers behind the rush, to determine the real deadline, so you can accurately prioritise your work. Don’t just propagate the panic. Keep cool and prioritise based on reality.

Tips for the “Generalist BA”

In my previous post, I mentioned the IIBA Professional Series day that I recently attended. As mentioned, the day was wound up with a panel discussion from Roxanne, Kevin and Tim Conventry (President of the IIBA Australia Chapter). The discussion topic was “How to promote the value of a Business Analyst”. From the discussion, it was clear that business analysts often face the challenge of coworkers, managers and clients misunderstanding the skillset held by business analysts, which results in BA’s becoming the “fill in” resource – capable of completing work such as testing, project management, development and so on.

What this says about business analysts is that many of us do come from various technical and non-technical backgrounds. We have various skills that complement our core competencies. This can be useful in small teams which rely on each other to ‘get the job done’. A generalist is often more useful than a specialist. However it can result in our core business analysis skills being watered down in the work environment.

The important thing is that we business analysts stay true to our aim of eliciting and understanding the true needs of stakeholders, and ensuring the solutions developed meet those needs. No matter what tasks we’re completing at the time. Below are some suggestions of how you can do this whilst performing a couple of other common “generalist BA” tasks:

Testing: Make sure the requirements your tests trace to exist and are complete, and represent the aims of the client. Have an informal chat to the stakeholders to truly understand where they are coming from and what they are hoping to achieve. Then question whether the requirements align to that vision. If your project has limited time or the solution is hard-set, talk to your techies to find out if there are minor adjustments that could be made to improve the alignment to the client’s vision.

Project Management: If you’re setting up a new project, why not start early with your requirements elicitation. In addition to the resources, timeframes and deliverables, start understanding the scope of the project. Maybe produce a high level business process flow, or high level use case model if your client’s major concerns are around business processes. Or perhaps a domain chart if you are working on a very technical project. If you’re managing the schedule, make sure you add adequate time in for requirements analysis!

Development: Similar to testing, have a chat with the stakeholders to try to understand their vision and what they are trying to achieve. Design the system to allow it to support their long-term goals, such as scalability. Keep in mind what is important to them when making all design decisions. They’ll appreciate it when you demo to them, when you show how you listened to what they were aiming for and designed it to align with that!

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below!