Stakeholder Matrix for Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder Analysis or Stakeholder Matrix, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

Building a Stakeholder Matrix requires analytical skills and soft skills. It is something you build as you interact with more and more people.

Business Analysis at the core of it is about introducing the change. The change could be related to people, processes or technology. But the main reason for the change is always linked to a business decision. The business has to introduce change to either stay ahead of the competition or chase the competition. The change could also be because of the changing business environment and that has been forced by the regulators, the government or the society.

Irrespective of the reason, change is always lead by people. People who are:
  • accountable to bring in the change,
  • motivated to bring in the change,
  • responsible for bringing in the change,
  • ideating the change and
  • paying to affect the change.

In Business Analysis world, we call them the Stakeholders.

I believe that, Business Analyst is a change agent. If you have to effective as a change agent, you have to ensure that you are interacting with the right stakeholders and eliciting requirements from them.

As Business Analysts we know that stakeholders are not always readily defined, when we join an assignment. A Business Analyst has to work hard to identify the right stakeholders.

A stakeholder matrix, like the one in the above diagram, is a great tool to identify the stakeholders and also classify them appropriately. The classification based on influence of and impact of the change on stakeholder, helps to reduce the number of stakeholders to a manageable size.

The four quadrants matrix can help as below:
  • Satisfaction is must: The stakeholder matrix also helps a Business Analyst to find the stakeholders who are high on influence but the change may not be impacting them as much. Please ensure that pay attention to such stakeholders and keep them satisfied with your solution or ideas.
  • Ensure Collaboration: The stakeholder matrix helps in identifying the stakeholders with whom a Business Analyst must collaborate and ensure that you have their support and agreement. These are generally the stakeholders who have high influencing powers and are greatly impacted because of the change.
  • Keep a check: The stakeholder matrix also gives you the list of the stakeholders who are low on influence and are not being impacted by the solution. You can safely ignore these stakeholders but keep an eye on them in case there is any change in impact or influence.
  • Keep informed: The stakeholder matrix helps you to classify people who just need to be in the loop but may not have high influence.

Some tips to build a Stakeholder Matrix:
  • I always keep a matrix, like the one shown above, in my notes. It helps me to classify people I meet into various quadrants. Since I keep it handy, I can easily update the quadrant of any stakeholder based on the latest information that I receive.
  • When you are new in the project start with the organization chart, that can give you the initial list of stakeholders and their influence and impact based on their position.
  • Next, when you meet the sponsor of the project as her a simple question: "who else could I contact to get more information on this?
  • In your meetings with various stakeholders you can deduce who has more influence. It will mostly be the person who is getting referred by most of the other stakeholders.
  • Prepare a RACI matrix.
  • Perform a process mapping exercise, it is a great tool to identify the impacted people.
Building a Stakeholder Matrix requires analytical skills and soft skills. You cannot just conduct a survey or an interview to find out the stakeholders and their influence level. It is something you build as you interact with more and more people.

Stakeholder Matrix is not a deliverable that a Business Analyst has to produce. It is a tool that is used by a Business Analyst to identify and classify the stakeholders.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{5 comments} /

Business Analysts must track the constraints

Business Analyst helps organizations fulfill the Business Needs within the constraints of Time, Budget and Regulations by defining an Optimal Solution.

Understanding Business Needs alone will not be enough, it is essential to spend time to gain knowledge about the constraints. Knowledge of constraints will help a Business Analyst define how the solution can be designed to fulfill the business needs.

Goal of Business Analysis, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

As Business Analysts we spend a lot of efforts to better understand the business needs and requirements. We use a lot of tools, techniques and methodologies to better elicit the requirements but in the rush of all this excitement we might forget to correctly capture the constraints. I have seen the instances where the constraints were defined at the start of the project but were never refined, confirmed and validated. As the project progresses, the constraints may become redundant or change, just like the requirements evolve with time.

Hence it is vital that we keep track of the constraints, just like we keep track of the requirements.

As a practice, always make it a point to capture the constraints with the requirements. Also a good practice is to capture the constraints as attributes of a requirement. If you are using a Requirement Management tool to capture, store and manage your requirements then it is easy to add attributes. Otherwise you can document the constraints at the time of recording the requirements.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{7 comments} /

Business Analyst's Tasks in an Agile Project

Only define requirement for new work when the Queue steps forward

In Agile projects the main task that a Business Analyst performs is to maintain a prioritized queue of work. Always remember the already discussed Mantra of Just in Time Requirements. And only define requirement for new work when the Queue steps forward. It is that point in a project when the development team selects an item from the Queue and BA starts elicitation of requirements for the next piece of work.

Business Analysts Tasks in an Agile Project, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

Just like it happens with most of the tasks in Agile, Business Analysis activities are also performed in an iterative manner. Once the new requirement has been added, Business Analyst should prioritize the requirements based on the Business Value, it will ensure that all the requirements are sequenced in correct order. Having the correct business perspective will help the Business Analyst to continuously scope the project. It is essential to keep a tab on the scope of the project else there is a possibility of project going on, forever.

There may be a case that a Business Analyst might take less time to elicit the requirement than the Development Team takes to develop the task; or a Business Analyst might take longer than the Development team. As it happens with the majority of the planning in Agile, by the third sprint, processes mature based on the experience in first 2 sprints. Hence keep improving your plan based on your experience in the last sprint.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{3 comments} /

Business Analyst's Mantra for Agile

Just in Time Requirements
Just Enough Requirements
that are constantly validated.

It is one of the simplest mantra yet, just like most other simple things, it is the most effective Mantra. One that every Business Analyst must follow, while working on an Agile project. Ensuring that Requirements are captured just in time before they are ready to be developed. A Business Analyst should ensure that the requirements are detailed just as much needed by the development team. Requirements should be constantly validated with the stakeholders.

Business Analyst's Mantra for Agile, Tarun Chandel the Business Analyst Blog

In so many ways Agile is about sticking to the basics and keeping things simple. The primary focus of any Agile project is the client. The requirements of client must be developed correctly. The second most important thing in an Agile project (after the client) is the development team, the team that will realize the client's requirements. If we remember the basic definition of Business Analyst was, a liaison between the client and the development team. In Agile we stick to the basics hence, as a Business Analyst please ensure constantly that the requirements are only captured when development team is ready to work on them. Detail the requirement only to the extent needed by the development team and ensure that the requirements are constantly validated by the client.

Do it only if it is required. By that I mean, only be there if the client and Development team needs a liaison.

It is easier said than done, but who says keeping things simple is easy :o)

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{0 comments} /

Mantra of Pre-requisites for Agile Projects

It is important to ensure, as a Business Analyst that, stakeholders have spent enough time to have a clear Vision for an Agile Project. It is then important that, you make them spend time on creation of a high level scope and initial design. Ensure that, you draft an initial features list which can be groomed later in the project.

Without Vision, Roadmap and Success Criteria Agile Projects can go on forever

It is important because, a lot of time people turn to Agile thinking it will solve all their problems automatically and just in time. Wouldn't we all love that magic wand :o)

Unfortunately, Agile is not a magic wand. It is just a project execution methodology that focuses on close customer collaboration. It is not a tool to reduce the efforts but it is a methodology that addresses the change in requirements and reduces the efforts to rebuild.

Mantra of Pre-requisites for Agile Projects, Tarun Chandel the Business Analyst Blog

It is important to focus on the three areas, mentioned in the above picture, before starting the execution of an Agile project. Just like any other project, it is essential for an Agile project to have a Vision, a Roadmap and a list of Requirements with success criteria. Without Vision, Roadmap and Success Criteria Agile Projects can go on forever.

The difference in Agile as compared to other project methodologies is that we do just enough detailing that is required for the next step. So don't go on creating a 50 pager Vision Document or a 100 pager High Level Requirement Document but capture just enough details to define what the Business Stakeholders want to achieve from the project. Spend time on defining the scope, creating a list of features and creating the initial design. These are not throw-away objects but are the core artifacts that you will enrich as the project will proceed.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{1 comments} /

How to handle tough Clients?

Tanya, an experienced and well appreciated Business Analyst, keeps running into Jen, a tough client who is always critical of Tanya's work. Jen makes it a point to criticize even the smallest of the shortcomings of Tanya's deliverable and always escalates it to crazy levels.

Rahul went for lunch after a hectic morning requirement gathering session with Jack. On returning he was shocked to see an escalation email from Jack complaining about the lack of quality of the requirement documents. It was shocking because Rahul had an interactive session with him and Jack did not even mention anything about the quality of documents.

How to handle tough clients, Tarun Chandel the Business Analyst Blog

Professionalism is what you display when the times are tough

How to handle Tough Clients:
  • Think from Client's perspective. Step into the client's shoes and think of the issues that are bugging them. It will help you to understand the situation from their standpoint.
  • Ask your fellow BAs for review. It is always a good strategy for BAs to work in packs. Make sure that you inculcate the practice of reviewing each other's work. This will not only to help you to reduce the number of client review comments but also to keep a tab on all the requirements that the client is listing for the project.
  • Involve more people in your session. To ensure that you don't miss out on any of the things that client is suggesting in the requirements workshops or any other session, you should involve more people in the meetings. You may want to add a scribe to take the notes (again use you fellow BAs), an SME to simulate the discussion around the domain areas. It is also sometimes a good idea to ask a senior BA to facilitate the session for you.
  • Professionalism is what you display when the times are tough times. Stay calm and always take your time to respond. If you are writing an email take a break and get something cold to drink before responding.
  • Cover your back; keep records of your dealings with difficult clients. You may be targeted for political reasons.
  • Take healthy criticism as learning. Criticism is not always bad; it shows that people still care for what you are doing. If there are things to learn from the criticism do learn them and become a better Business Analyst.
  • Look for shortcomings and plug the gaps ASAP. Do a self critical analysis to find out your shortcomings and make sure you work on them to improve as a Business Analyst. Due to the nature of our profession we only get feedback from our clients or self analysis. Ensure that you use both the sources.
  • Keep an eye on your deliverable. If they are not adequate do complete them.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{6 comments} /

Building a RACI Matrix

Recently over the lunch table I was talking to one of my colleague who is struggling to improve some stagnated internal processes in his project. I offered to help him in my free time. Post lunch we went to his cubicle to discuss the problem in detail. As I got more involved I asked him if he has captured the details of the process in the current form (AS-IS) and if he has a vision of the future form of the process (TO-BE). He had done some impressive work and captured his understanding in Visio diagrams as well. It was very helpful to quickly understand the problem. I asked him if he has verified these diagrams with anyone else in the team. He denied saying he knew the processes really well and is capable of introducing the changes. I immediately raised my concern that to introduce a change he will need to involve the people who are concerned with the process. He asked me who all should he discuss this idea?

I put forward 4 simple questions in front of him to identify the people he needed to involve:

  1. Who is/will be doing this task?
  2. Whose head will roll if this goes wrong?
  3. Anyone who can tell me more about this task?
  4. Anyone whose work depends on this task?
Building a RACI Matrix, The Business Analysis Blog, Tarun Chandel

These questions will not only help him to identify the people to involve but also identify what role they will play. I left him with a diagram that roughly looked like the one I have posted here.

Building the RACI Matrix:

RACI Matrix, The Business Analysis Blog, Tarun Chandel

List down the tasks on the vertical axis and list the team members on the horizontal axis. Now go to each task one by one and start answering the above stated questions. Add more names as they are revealed during the exercise.

I met him few day later to know about the progress he has made. He was able to create a RACI matrix for his assignment but he was still struggling to make any progress. He was blaming the RACI matrix for creating the confusion and stalling the tasks in his team. I was amazed as in my experience RACI matrix always helped to clarify the doubts and create clear ownership of tasks. His RACI matrix was looking somewhat like the following figure (of course with different tasks):

RACI Matrix Gone Wrong, The Business Analysis Blog, Tarun Chandel

He had made some simple mistakes while creating the RACI matrix and they were not that difficult to rectify. While creating the RACI Matrix please ensure that you do a Horizontal and Vertical check.

Horizontal Check of the RACI Matrix (helps you to analyze each of the tasks):
  • Too many Rs: Activity needs more analysis and may have to broken into smaller tasks.
  • No Rs: Is this task worth pursuing? Who will do this task?
  • More than 1 A: Who is taking the ultimate decision.
  • No As: There must me an A.
  • Too many Cs and Is: Do we need to consult and inform each one of them?

Vertical Check of the RACI Matrix (helps you to analyze each of the team member or the role):
  • Too many Rs: Do we need to assign more people to reduce his/her workload?
  • Too many As: Do we need others to take few more decisions? Is there lack of delegation in the team?
  • No blanks: Does this person/role have to be involved in all the activities?
  • No As or Rs: Do we need this person in the team?
After checking his RACI matrix on the above parameters my friend was able to prune it to a working level. The important step that he took after that was to get it validated with all his team members as they need to commit to what has been put on the RACI matrix. The team also realized that RACI Matrix need not be completely right to start with and can evolve over the time.

RACI Matrix provides an effective tool to:
  1. Identify the roles and responsibilities
  2. Get the commitment of the team for tasks/activities.

POWER TIP: The idea is to make it a collaborative exercise as that will start the discussion in the right direction and generally results in higher commitment from the people involved. Remember to make people comfortable about the tasks and ensure that they don't feel threatened to put their names against the tasks.

RACI in Agile:

Few days later as we were discussing how RACI Matrix has been an extremely helpful tool another colleague joined us for lunch. He works with the Agile methodology and he was not convinced that RACI is really needed as he never did that in his project.

One of the reasons I like agile is because it focuses on working effectively over documenting extensively. The term "RACI Matrix" is not there in the Agile projects but it is always there in principle. At the start of every Sprint while the team is committing to a Sprint Backlog team members volunteer for tasks or in other words taking the responsibility for that task. Product owner is the one who takes decision and is accountable throughout the agile project. Scrum Owner, SMEs, Clients are repeatedly consulted during an Agile project. Since everyone attends the daily standup meeting everyone is informed. Others who are not part of the team but need to know about the development of the team attend the Sprint Review (also sometimes called the Product Demo) meet at the end of each sprint to remain informed. Hence RACI is an integral part of any Agile project, but it is not referred to as RACI in Agile.
Just like so many things in Agile.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{4 comments} /

How to start and grow as a Business Analyst?

A lot of people have asked me how should they start their career as a Business Analyst. To answer I always end up saying it is a long process. It is not as simple as some of the other areas of work where you attend a few trainings, get certified and you are there on the job. To become a professional Business Analysis will take its own time. You will have to work, learn and practice the skills. I am writing this post keeping it generic and not focusing on any particular skills.

How to start and grow as a Business Analyst, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

How to start and grow as a Business Analyst?

  • Shadow a Business Analyst: It is a important that you learn from someone who is already working in the area where you wish to grow. Shadowing a Business Analyst is a great technique for a budding BA to learn. If possible always prefer to shadow an experienced BA over a new one. While shadowing take note of the tasks that the BA is performing.
    TIP: Make sure to spend extra time with the BA to clarify your queries. I have found that lunch time, coffee break, travel time works out to be the best time for such discussions. If there is time available with the BA ask him to mentor you.
  • Perform Business Analysis in your current project: There is no better place to start your Business Analysis career than the project you are currently part of. Seek guidance from the Business Analysts in your project and ask if you can move into their team. Taking up peripheral tasks to start with, the idea is to get into the team. This will give you unlimited time to shadow, learn and get coached from the experienced Business Analysts. It will always be easier for you to move into a different role in your current project than to get into a completely new project as a fresh Business Analyst. Since BAs are closer to the customer, I doubt any team will take a risk of hiring a completely fresh BA for the job. On the other hand if you move into the BA role in your current team they may accommodate you and shield you from the tougher responsibilities.
    TIP: Remember to soak as much as you can from this experience as it is going to define what kind of BA you will turn out to be in future.
  • Start as a junior BA in a new project: Once you have gained enough experience make sure you get to work in a completely new project. As we have discussed earlier in this blog that the role a BA changes with time in a project. Hence it is important that you get to work in different stages of a project. At the start of a project the senior BAs are responsible for a lot of important tasks. The good thing for you, a fresh BA, is that they are always looking for junior BAs to do some of the not so critical tasks or perform some critical tasks under their guidance. That I believe is a golden opportunity for a fresh BA. Make sure you spend a lot of time understanding the client, the tasks and also get on the job mentoring from the senior BA. In my personal experience this is the most difficult stage a BA's career. There is always a doubt and apprehension if s/he belongs there.
    TIP: Make sure you don't give up and keep seeking guidance from your seniors.
  • Take up another project as a Business Analyst: Now that you have learnt a few things about the profession and have already been part of a couple of assignments. Ensure that you test yourself once again in a fresh project. Use all your experience from the earlier assignments and reflect where you need to improve. Make sure that you are not repeating your mistakes and improving your weaker areas. Seek guidance from your seniors in the areas where you feel you are lacking.
    TIP: This is the time where you should challenge yourself. Seek more responsibilities from your seniors. Ask them for bit of freedom to test your ideas. Make sure you put in extra efforts to ensure that you deliver.
  • Mentor the new BAs as you move into the role of a Senior Business Analyst: It is responsibility if each senior BA that they mentor or guide the young ones who are striving to make a career in our area of profession. It is important that you impart knowledge which you have gathered over the years of working in this profession. Once you were mentored by your seniors and it is time to pass on that knowledge to your juniors.
    TIP: Imparting knowledge will always enhance your own knowledge.

Hope the above ideas help you become a better Business Analyst. If you are a Business Analyst do share your experiences. If you are planning to become a Business Analyst, do share your challenges.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{11 comments} /

Business Analysis Skills

Business Analysis as a profession demands proficiency in multiple skills. In a nutshell, it is a role of liaisoning with the clients and making sure that software being developed meets their requirements. It is not the role that develops the software or even designs it. It is not the role that defines what is to be developed but merely a role that bridges the gap between the client and the technical IT team capable of developing the software product. Though I over simplified the role in the last statement, let me assure you it is a complex role that changes very frequently in the lifetime of an IT project. Right from the time you produce the Business Case for the project to the UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and user training, BA has to perform a variety of tasks. The skills needed at each stage of an IT project varies greatly.

Business Analysis Skills, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

In an attempt to simplify the skills that a BA needs to possess I have put together a figure that might be helpful for those who wants to become a Business Analyst or are currently practicing professionals and want to grow in this field. I personally find this figure extremely helpful and I have been using it for a while both for mapping personal skills set and identifying areas to grow in and also to fill the gaps in BA teams I have been part of on various assignments.

As you can notice there are 3 core skills that converge to create the ideal Business Analyst. There are 3 areas that you need to grow in as a Business Analyst. As you spend more and more time in this profession you will realize that you can select any of the 3 paths and grow in them as well. If you focus on building your domain skills you can become an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in your domain. Similarly, if your interest lies in IT and technology side, you can grow into the role of an Architect. If you are good in communication and build on your skills you can become a facilitator.

This also means that a number of people from various fields can become Business Analyst. If you are strong in any of the core skills work on building the other skills and you can become a Business Analyst.

The immediate next steps for you are to analyze which skills you already possess and which skills you need to work on. Once identified the area of improvement start building your skills in that area. So which pie are you working on today?

The Business Analyst
Tarun Chandel

{6 comments} /

Collaborate: Mantra of Business Analysis

Collaborate: Mantra of Business Analysis, Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel

"It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin figured it out a long time ago that Collaboration is the mantra to prevail. As I spend more and more time working in this profession of Business Analysis, I realize that if I have to reduce the whole profession to one word it will be Collaboration. The more effectively a Business Analyst achieves collaboration, more the chances of success of the project. Similarly all the problems in a project can be traced to lack of collaboration.

Spend more time in collaborating effectively.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{1 comments} /

Erin Brockovich: The Business Analyst

Recently I saw Erin Brockovich for the nth times (yes I can't remember how many times I have seen Erin Brockovich). It is needless to say that it is a great movie but at the same time it teaches you so much about how to go about your work. erin brockovich Business Analysis Blog Tarun ChandelHow can we Business Analysts learn from Erin Brockovich and perform our tasks better:

  • When you get a business case or a business problem investigate a bit further, just like erin did. 
  • Talk to people, visit them understand their problem. 
  • If the business is new for you talk to the subject matter experts no matter from where you get hold of them. Talk to them try to understand the business and the industry. 
  • Get involved in the project and keep the positive energy flowing. Be available for others to come and communicate with you. 
  • Always be aligned to the client, even when you are talking about their costs. 
  • Always take time out to build relationships with the client, it pays a lot. 
  • There will be resistance from some people in the client take that in your stride. 
  • Continue doing your good work and the resistance will melt away. 
  • Take good care of your loved ones, take time out for them as they are the ones who are going to keep your lifeline going on. You don't want to lose them.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{14 comments} /

How to stay on top of your work

As Business Analysts we face some very hectic days, especially at the start of the projects. All of us have seen days when we keep running in and out of Requirement Gathering workshops and meetings with the stakeholders. These workshops and meetings generally last the whole day and the routine continues for days.In midst of all these meetings the Business Analyst is supposed to make sense of the business problems and keep working on the deliverables as well. There are so many things going on that it becomes difficult to stay on top of your work.

Here are some tools that I have been using, it works really well for me. I hope it helps you.

  • Get Offline and maintain a personal notebook to record all the project related info: Yes it is very important that you get off your laptop. Your laptop is your workstation and it believe it will distract you with so many things like mails, pings from other people, your use cases and other documents and deliverables. It is important that you move away from your laptop to organize your work. Invest in a personal notebook to maintain all the project related information.
  • Notebook Sections Business Analysis Tool Business Analysis Blog tarun chandel Notebook Business Analysis Tool Business Analysis Blog tarun chandel Notebook Calendar Business Analysis Tool Business Analysis Blog tarun chandel
  • Keep calendar marked for important dates and tasks: As there are tonnes of things going around in the project you need to stay on top of the so many different dates. When is the next workshop, whne is the next meeting with the stakeholder, when is the deliverable due dats, when is the date to respond to all the queries, when is your boss visiting you, when is the meeting with the tech team .... Yes the dates will drive you crazy. We do use Outlook for organizing our meetings but it is also very important that we keep an offline record in our notebook. So that we can plan our work accordingly.
    • Tip: Paste prints of monthly and yearly views of the calendars
    • Tip: Color code the meetings.
  • Keep all the important numbers handy: We meet so many new people in a project and you never know who you might need at what stage of your project. Though we all have a phone and you have their number in it but it is difficult to remember all the name (yes it is not easy for me) and unless we have a phone with great search tool (my phone doesn't have it) it is better to have the list of number ready to use.
    • Tip: Take a printout and paste the list at the start of the notebook.
  • Divide the notebook into sections: Divide the notebook logical sections. This will help you to find the appropriate information quickly. Also it helps you to better organize the information.
  • Spend half an hour at the start of everyday to plan your day: This is the most important activity. When you start our day by going through the notebook you get a quick snapshot of the current status of the project. You should start your day with looking at the upcoming important dates and tasks for the day. It will help you to plan your day and keep tab on the day's activities.
  • Spend half and hour at the end of the day to fill the gaps and updating the work book: End your day with updating the notebook with the learnings of meetings and workshops you attended during the day. You must do this exercise without postponing it to the next day. It doesn't take more than half an hour to complete this activity but it will help you to stay on top of your work.
  • Carry the book to every meeting and keep taking notes: Do carry this notebook to every meeting you attend and make small notes. This will help you to sync up at the end of the day. Believe me when you are attending more than one meeting everyday it takes a lot out of you and it becomes difficult to remember each and everything. These notes will help you to retain pointers to important decisions or discussions you had in the meeting.
  • Over the time it will become the most important BA tool: If you maintain the notebook properly it will become the most important BA tool as it is going to help you to do you Business Analysis tasks better.
Points to remember:
Not easy to do, there is a learning curve.
Tip: Keep doing it religiously for a month and it will definitely help you to stay on top of your work.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Back with a Buddha Moment

Alrite it's been a really long time that I have posted anything here. Blame me, curse me but please excuse me for the long absence. I promise I will make up for the lost time in coming months.

I was recently reading a book from the Dalai Lama the leader in exile of Tibet and a quote just got stuck in my head. I modified the quote to make it relevant to the Business Analysis Blog (the embolden words are my modification).

We must ultimately develop more than mere academic knowledge of the Business Analysis. We must integrate the truths of the Business Analysis teaching into the depths of our very being, so that they become reflected in our lives.

Collaboration is of little value if it remains an idea. It must become our attitude towards others, reflected in all our thoughts and actions.

- Modified version of The Dalai Lama's Golden words, taken from his book An Open Heart
Buddha momemt for the Business Analysis blog!

I hope all of you are doing good. There is lot more to say so please keep coming back :)

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{4 comments} /

Matt's Journey for a Perfect Business Analysis Role

Matt was recently looking for a job shift. Matt is a Business Analyst and is open to relocate to any place given that the work he gets should be good and in the profile of a Business Analyst. When Matt started his search on internet job portals he stumbled upon a lot of job openings for Business Analysts. He soon realized that BAs are required almost all over the world be it USA, UK, Rest of Europe, South Africa, Australia, India, Singapore or New Zealand (place he always wanted to visit).

Here are some of the Business Analysis Job Ads that Matt found:

USA Job Profile and Skills Required
Job Description 1 
  1. Ability to lead working sessions with client to capture product requirements and translate those requirements into structured Product Definition Documents
  2. Experience developing process flows from high-level concepts
  3. Ability to ask the right questions at sufficient detail in order to capture the essence of the product requirements
  4. Experience in devloping software under a standard SDLC methodology.
  5. Expert in MS Offices tools. Expert in Powerpoint, Visio and Project

  1. Demonstrates strong interpersonal skills, with team members, clients and counterparts.
  2. Builds personal expertise in a business area.
  3. Contributes to and/or delivers products that drive client satisfaction by performing tasks such as organizing and preparing business documentation in support of implementation of new business processes/procedures; and gathering and organizing data.
  4. Supports own Performance Management Process, including but not limited to, managing own time and expenses involved in work.
  5. May serve as a Peer Advisor for newly hired Senior Business Analyst(s).
  6. Applies BearingPoint Delivery Framework methodologies to work.
  7. Supports business development and proposal efforts by assisting with the development of written material and/or developing cost proposals.
  8. Supports, and may contribute directly to, engagement financial management activities.
  9. Participates in recruiting activities.
  10. Will serve as client representative in briefings, meetings, and conferences.
  11. Conduct functional business analyst activities across the systems development life cycle.
  12. Produce interface specifications, user documentation, and systems/customer acceptance testing.
  13. Conduct client interviews and produce high quality requirements documents. These requirements will include functional capability for DoD disbursing systems and the interface requirements between these systems and SAP and Oracle Financials ERP systems.
  14. The qualified candidate will need to possess an understanding of the functional needs of the client. This entails the ability to review and analyze an end-to-end process, understand abstract business concepts and processes, and revise to meet the client's goals.
  15. The candidate will need to facilitate the clarification of functional specification and relay those specifications to internal and external stakeholders for review and acceptance.
  16. Throughout both the functional and implementation activities, continuously develop and maintain all required and pertinent documents, to include memorandums, agreements, and management plans.
  17. Must have at least two years of analytical experience in a business or technical environment, and have demonstrated experience in: preparing and reviewing engineering and technical analyses, reports, change proposals, and other technical documentation; developing white papers, needs assessments, feasibility studies, cost benefit analyses, and flow charts; building and analyzing test plans and strategies.
  18.  The candidate should posses an understanding of enterprise architecture, different IT frameworks and related principles, as well as software improvement processes.
  19. The candidate will not only need problem-solving skills but should be able to see the larger picture and decipher the steps to get the client from problem to solution.
  20. Direct experience with business planning and execution for business continuity including implementation, post implementation support, role emphasizing configuration, testing, and project management to develop an integrated system that delivers a strategic business advantage to a client or company.
  21. Have experience establishing and updating systems' requirements. 
  22. Excellent communications skills, including the ability to clearly articulate client and customer requirements and objectives and serve as an on-site representative as requested.
  23. Developed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), Interface Control Agreements (ICAs), system test strategies and scripts and other system documentation.
  24. Experience providing technical implementation support following system "go-live".
  25. Experience supporting a project management office (PMO) for a major system implementation.
Job Description 2
  1. Analyzes and evaluates computer and business systems.
  2. Supports design, implementation and testing.
  3. Performs cost/benefit/risk analysis.
  4. Assists in ensuring that the methodology is compliant with information technology guidelines.
  5. Works with Program Manager to identify tasks and scheduling.
  6. May work closely with or delegate assignments to other members of immediate workgroup.
  7. 3-5 years work related experience is required, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  8. Strong understanding of software architectures, Microsoft products, software lifecycle methodology and information systems development required.
  9. Sound problem resolution, judgment and decision-making skills required.
  10. Must be able to communicate effectively.
  11. Strong technical design and process analysis skills may be required.
  12. Strong business related background preferred. Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Information Technology or related field required.

  1. People who delight in discovering the real problems to be solved and defining them in a way that the business community can understand and devising solutions the development community can develop and implement.
  2.  Business Analyst will lead the analysis, documentation, and management of business requirements and will ensure that requirements are fully understood by the technical team before solutions are designed and implemented.  
  3. This role will mentor and coach other Business Analysts.  
  4. You will have experience of formal methodologies (preferably more than one) and will adhere to the established System Life Cycle (SLC) and Computer System Validation (CSV) procedures in facilitating innovative solutions that meet the specified requirements and add value to the business.
  5. Modelling the processes and data of the business area
  6. Create prototypes and simulations thereby facilitating successful solution design and development
  7. Resolve conflicting end-user requirements
  8. Model processes to clarify business requirements, and to enhance or re-engineer business processes, prior to, or in parallel with, solution design and implementation
  9. Produce and review data/information models and preliminary system architecture, as needed
  10. Help manage BA resources in accordance with project schedules
  11. Identify initial Business Case requirements and other pre-project activities
  12. Work closely with the designated Project Manager to facilitate progress of the project
  13. Minimum 5 years experience as Business Analyst
  14. Prefer experience in a regulated environment

UK Job Profile and Skills Required
Job Description 1
  1. Business Analyst, Project Management, scoping and planning, requirements gathering, gap analysis, Documentation,
  2. UML, Development /​ programming knowledge
  3. well renowned business.​ Methodology experience (e.​g.​ Prince2, UML, SSADM) and/​or a background within a blue-chip, consultancy or large-scale technical environment (e.​g.​ banking a nd finance)
  4. Your main responsibilities as a Business Analyst will include scoping and planning, detailed analysis of requirements, documentation of requirements, managing sign-off with the business
  5. managing /​ looking after other relevant work stream and 3rd parties where appropriate.​
  6. You will need to be a confident and articulate Business Analyst with excellent all round skills as outlined above in full project delivery from requirements gathering through to implementation and delivery.​ 
  7. A knowledge or programming and development is also key as there will be a lot of interfacing with the technical teams however ongoing training and development is available when required.​
  8. Experience in Business Analysis /​ Requirements gathering, Documentation, Successful Project Delivery and Development /​ programming knowledge /​ experience (due to contact with development teams)
Job Description 2
  1. looking for a Business Analyst who enjoys engaging with end users to gather their requirements and delivering innovative solutions.​ 
  2. If you would describe yourself as someone who thinks outside the box this is the role for you!!
  3. As a Business Analyst you will be required to analyse and gather requirements, which will involve facilitating meetings and coordinating workshops.​ 
  4. Successful Business Analyst /​ Business Systems Analyst must have demonstrable experience in business process analysis; 
  5. Proven track record when it comes to gathering requirements, managing stakeholders and dealing with all levels of management within an organisation.​
Job Description 3
  1. Managing a team of 3-5 individuals.​
  2. The overall purpose of the job is to ensure the successful delivery of solutions to business problems.​ 
  3. Identify solutions to business problems, defining and documenting the requirements in conjunction with the business and operations, in a clear structured manner to the relevant development teams.​
  4. Lead initiatives to identify, document and design enhancements to existing services and processes in order to continually improve the business process.​ 
  5. Prepare Users Requirements.​ Documents and functional specifications for new systems and extensions to existing systems.​ Documentation of business process and data flows Business Process Re-engineering.​ 
  6. Prepare and evaluate business cases and cost-benefits analysis.​ 
  7. Prepare and execute test plans and scripts Assist with UAT and Implementations Test Analysis Preparation and execution of test plans and scripts.​
  8. Attention to detail throughout all aspects initiation, specification, testing and implementation.​ Ability to work and communicate effectively with people from different disciplines, business, technical levels and geographic bases.​ 
  9. Ability to implement new process Uses initiative and original ideas to develop, tailor and modify approach, in order to tackle new issues and situations.​ Self-motivated and confident working across all levels.​
  10. Experience of methodologies: UML, RUP or Agile preferred.​
Job Description 4
  1. Senior/​ Lead Business Analyst experience
  2. Experience leading a team of Business Analysts
  3. Experience working on complex business change projects
Job Description 5
  1. You will be involved in the conception stages by taking time to understand the needs of the clients
  2. occasionally visiting them to understand the requirements of the software solution they require.
  3. You will then be required to liaise with the IT developers to produce the most appropriate package and pre-empt any design problems, in order to help develop the software in to a user friendly and need related format.​ 
  4. On completion of the product you will be required to assist in the testing phase of the product life cycle to help identify any problems with the software and to train new users on the new software as it reaches delivery stage.​
  5. producing systems specifications

Switzerland Job Profile and Skills Required
Job Description 1
  1. You will be involved in a variety of projects in the energy trading area, initially in the Credit Risk environment
  2. Your remit will be to take an active part in the full life cycle of projects from business requirements through to the design and implementation of business solutions
  3. Maintaining and supporting the existing applications will take up about 20% of your working time
  4. You should have a working knowledge of technoloiges, particularly .Net/ Access/Excel and VBA
  5. You should be an excellent communicator in English, other languaes are a plus
  6. You should be skilled at managing expectations and have a good awareness of cultural differences
Job Description 2
  1. To lead and mentor a small team of Business Analysts in their daily work
  2. To take a proactive role in the development of new global solutions
  3. To liaise across all stakeholders at a senior level, advising, setting expectations and as Project Manager, setting the pace for the whole project lifecycle
  4. To take a leading position from the business side working very closely with the technology to create global cutting edge solutions
  5. You will be an experienced business analyst with some project management experience
  6. You will be familiar with the complex technology that drives a leading investment company
  7. You will be interested in setting high standards for your team, mentoring them in business analysis proceses as will as coaching them and using the substantial company resources to ensure they are fully trained for the jobs they need to do
  8. You should be a good communicator in English, German would be nice but not essential. You will need to work with colleagues and external vendors at all levels of the business
Job Description 3
  1. As Business Analyst, you will collect and formalize business and user requirements. 
  2. You will deal with process modeling and improvement as well as functional specification. 
  3. You will participate to the process or functional track of the analysis and design phases, producing the relevant parts of the deliverables (high-level and detailed process or functional specifications).
  4. Business and user requirements collection through workshops or interviews
  5. Business process modeling, redesign and improvement
  6. Writing of high-level and detailed functional specifications
  7. Writing and validation of test scenarios
  8. Excellent analytical skills
  9. Excellent communication and writing skills
  10. Analytical mind
  11. OOA/OOD, UML/RUP methodologies
  12. Workshop facilitation skills
  13. Very good level in English and French or German
  14. Industry knowledge in banking, consumer goods, telco or pharma a strong plus
  15. Experience with Service Level Management, Business Process Management/Improvement a strong plus
  16. Experience of Business Process Modeling with tools such as Mega, IDS Scheer
  17. At least 2 years of development experience .
  18. At least 2 years in business/system analysis
Job Description 4
  1. Translation of business needs into IT requirements
  2. Preparation and definition of IT projects to address business needs
  3. Management of alignment of project deliverables with business requirements throughout the project life cycle
  4. Understand Business Requirements and Strategic Group objectives, by collaborating with the Business Community to capture business needs accurately
  5. Interact with peers to ensure a smooth integration of the processes/unit output with the rest of the IT environment
  6. Liaise with other IT stakeholders in project management, architecture, governance to ensure alignment
  7. Manage external resources: from finalization of deals with external vendors within authorized budgets (cost and time) to monitor implementation resources and recommending any necessary corrective actions
  8. Coach any Application Specialists involved within the implementation project
  9. Communicate on projects by issuing regular status updates, and managing communication with Key Account Managers, IT team and Business people
  10. Keep updated skills on the most important deployed applications
  11. Conduct market research and observations across all concerned specialist areas
  12. Secure high business acumen by attending any necessary business oriented training sessions
  13.  Ensure the compliance of global IT services processes
  14.  Apply the marketing strategy and process of IT services
  15.  Provide applications team with functional support to secure compliance with SLA and high customer satisfaction
  16.  Provide infrastructure team with input on business applications needs within the application domain
  17.  Understand Business Requirements and finalise Functional Specifications
  18. University degrees or equivalent either in Computer Science or Business Management
  19. Fluent written and spoken English
  20. Min 5 years experience in Business Intelligence applications and tools (implementation and support)
  21. Strong analytical and problem solving skills
  22. Good project management skills (ability to manage external consultants)
  23. Strong communication skills
  24. Negotiation skills
  25. Coordination capabilities and team spirit (ability to work in a cross-functional team)
Job Description 5
  1. Analysis of business processes in controlling aspects, optimize existing business processes and create new business processes
  2. Development of business concepts and specifications in close cooperation with specialists
  3. Analysis and handling Change Requests
  4. Close collaboration with departments and IT
  5. Goal-oriented implementation of solutions
  6. Creation of Management Information Reports
  7. Quality assurance tasks
  8. Several years experience
  9. Good technical knowledge of databases and web applications
  10.  Ideally SQL knowledge
  11. Strong analytical and conceptual skills
  12. Own initiative, reliability and high operational readiness
  13. Dynamic environment
  14. Good communication skills
  15. Team player
  16. You have the opportunity to develop our business, such as support you with our employee development program.
  17. Very good German and English language skills

Singapore Job Profile and Skills Required
Job Description 1
  1. requirements gathering and documentation
  2. requirement to product gap analysis
  3. functional and business specifications
  4. project documentation and help screens
  5. test plans and execution
  6. liaising with the business, project managers and developers
  7. previous BA experience
  8. previous exposure to financial markets
  9. an IT or business related degree
  10. an analytical and detailed approach
  11. excellent written and verbal communication
  12. cash equities experience
  13. middle and back office (settlement) experience 
  14. exposure to Asian Pacific markets
  15. experience with vendor or in-house back office systems
  16. technical background favourable
Job Description 2
  1. Assist in execution of all the activities within Client (APAC) workstream’s scope of business transfer.
  2. Work with the Cross Business Delivery lead in maintaining visibility and coordination of all required business activities to effect a business transfer (eg. client onboarding execution, ops / tech readiness status, trade novation timetables, etc).
  3. Work closely with the Product Integration programmes to understand and help prioritise the various business transfer activities.
  4. Facilitate and actively participate in all required (global and regional) business transfer processes.
  5. Where required be prepared to conduct detailed analyses as necessary engaging with parties outside the team to further the resolution of issues arising during the course of integration
  6. Engage with Product and Country programmes to ensure allotted tasks are understood, are being attended to and that any queries raised are answered.
  7. Highly numerical with excellent excel skills including Macro and Pivot table
  8. Chase and follow-up with stakeholders on tasks, approvals and other necessary action to facilitate business transfers.
  9. Ensure that all business related issues are recorded and actioned in a timely manner.
  10.  Minimum 5 years of relevant financial markets and banking experience with product knowledge in Banking and Markets;
  11. Graduate with a good degree;
  12. Understanding of business transfer methods such as risk transfer and novation;
  13. Good presentation and communication skills;
  14. Understanding of Global Markets businesses;
  15. Prior experience in Operations or Middle Office desirable;
  16. Must be able to interact with Management;
  17. Ability to communicate with all levels of management;
  18. Strong problem solving and analytical capabilities;
  19. Excellent organisation and coordination skills;
  20. Ability to identify root cause of issues and propose solutions based on supporting facts/evidence/analysis;
  21. Capable of quickly establishing credibility with business and support areas and be capable of contributing to the overall teams.
  22. Able to plan and prioritise projects workload efficiently and effectively;
  23. Adaptable and resourceful. Ability to handle change in dynamic environment.
  24. Ability to work under pressure to tight deadlines. Good time management skills.
  25. Self-starter, inspiring, motivated to achieve excellence. Willingness to be hands on.
  26. Ability to be an effective team player and also work independently when required.
Job Description 3
  1. Requirements gathering for pre-existing ISS software products via stakeholder meetings and interviews
  2. Requirements gathering for new / custom software solutions via stakeholder meetings and interviews
  3. Undertake Business Requirement definition and associated documentation working alongside key business representatives
  4. Work with implementation team to ensure alignment of project/product documentation and training materials with software development.
  5. Analyzing existing business processes and IT solutions and providing consulting on business process changes/technology enhancements
  6. Design of IT Solutions (GUI, Back End, Architecture)
  7. Work with implementation team to ensure alignment of project/product documentation and training materials with software development.
  8. Production of Functional Specification documentation
  9. Facilitation and co-ordination of IT Estimates
  10. Provide technical assistance to Development and Testing teams on assigned projects
  11. Driving cost effective business outcomes related to assigned projects
  12. Degree in software engineering or equivalent
  13. Experienced in Microsoft Office suite (Excel, Word, PowerPoint etc.)
  14. OO language (C#, C++, Java etc)
  15. Web services, HTML, XML, Asp,, JavaScript
  16. Databases: Oracle, SQL Server
  17. Experience in the Process domain (Oil and Gas, Mining, Manufacturing etc) is beneficial
Job Description 4
  1. Scope of responsibility: Product analysis within consumer CFU.
  2. Understand, access, manipulate, analyze and provide customer and business insights 
  3. through applying advance analytical capabilities (statistical, financial and business) through leveraging on Business Intelligence Solutions and Analytics Software.
  4. through analysis papers/reports depicting trend analyses, spending and usage patterns of customers, and probability that certain situations may or may not occur.
  5. Interface regularly with Product Marketing - team, keep abreast of the activities, new product / service initiatives, promotional activities.
  6. Work with Product Marketing team in driving acquisition activities, designing campaign testing on communications, offers and other marketing activities.
  7. Prepare analysis on on-going campaigns and / or any marketing initiatives and recommend appropriate course of actions.
  8. Prepare post mortem analysis and share finding on completed campaigns and / or marketing initiatives.
  9. Work with Data Mining Manager in designing test campaigns pertaining to predictive and descriptive models.
  10. A good university degree in Statistics, Business or Finance.
  11. Competent in MS Office applications and knowledge in data manipulation language / package (SQL, Cognos, SAS).
  12. Minimum 5 years relevant working experience. Telecom industry and pricing experience will be an added advantage.
  13. Good knowledge in business and marketing.
  14. Effective communication, listening and people management skills.
  15. Strong organizational and negotiation skills.
  16. Fast learner with a sharp analytical mind and a strong drive to excel.
  17. Able to work independently and effectively under minimum supervision and a good team player. 

India Job Profile and Skills Required
Job Description 1
  1. Business Analyst with health care Domain Knowledge.
  2. Requirement gathering through client interaction at onsite
  3. Use cases
  4. Strong Analytical skills- Ability to analyze requirements form client and developer perspective, ability to keep the larger picture in mind.
  5. Understanding of entity relationship diagrams/ domain models and process flows 
Job Description 2
  1. Exp as Business Analyst in Securities Lending business
  2. Excellent Communication and Inter-personal Skills.
Job Description 3
  1. Experience in Solution Design, Business Analyst (BA), Architecture, Consulting
  2. Understanding of OSS Business Processes
  3. Very Good Understanding of Telecom Networks
  4. Excellent Communication and Presentation Skills
  5. Very Good Customer-Interaction
  6. Very good Analytical and Problem Solving abilities.
Job Description 4
  1. looking for Business Analyst having exposure into Brokarage Applications.
  2. Very good analytical and problem solving skills.
  3. Should posses in-depth knowledge of the Software Implemenation Life Cycle (SDLC).
  4. Hands on exp in Intrenet Technologies Java/J2EE/.NET is mandatory.
  5. He/She should possess good communication skills.
Job Description 5
  1. Understand the business requirements and appropriately document the flow, business logic and presentation formats.
  2. Liaise with technology team to provide constant business understanding and support
  3. Independently structure complex data analysis requirements and professional presentation formats and provide small automation/data management support on ad-hoc basis
  4. From time to time involve in various reporting and analysis requirements.
  5. Review and suggest improvements to the existing reports and data structures
  6. Ensure that all service level agreements (SLAs) with clients are met
  7. Provide analysis, recommendations, consultation, and expert advice on improving processes
  8. Develop a high level of product and business knowledge for the industry
  9. Ensure quality of work meets the department standards by establishing quality control checks into the processes

After going through the Ads Matt found that the Job Description of a Business Analyst role differs at various places. The Business Analysis skills needed at different location varies as well. He decided to make a list of similar qualities that were needed at all the locations, at the same time it made sense to make a matrix of special skills needed depending on the location.

CountryJob Profile and Skills Required
  1. Business Analyst will lead the analysis, documentation, and management of business requirements and will ensure that requirements are fully understood by the technical team before solutions are designed and implemented.  
  2. This role will mentor and coach other Business Analysts.  
  3. You will have experience of formal methodologies (preferably more than one) and will adhere to the established System Life Cycle (SLC) and Computer System Validation (CSV) procedures in facilitating innovative solutions that meet the specified requirements and add value to the business.
  4. Modeling the processes and data of the business area
  5. Create prototypes and simulations thereby facilitating successful solution design and development
  6. Resolve conflicting end-user requirements
  1. Business Analyst, Project Management, scoping and planning, requirements gathering, gap analysis, Documentation,
  2. UML, Development /​ programming knowledge
  3. well renowned business.​ Methodology experience (e.​g.​ Prince2, UML, SSADM) and/​or a background within a blue-chip, consultancy or large-scale technical environment (e.​g.​ banking a nd finance)
  4. Your main responsibilities as a Business Analyst will include scoping and planning, detailed analysis of requirements, documentation of requirements, managing sign-off with the business
  1. You should be an excellent communicator in English, other languages are a plus.
  2. To lead and mentor a small team of Business Analysts in their daily work
  3. To take a proactive role in the development of new global solutions
  4. To liaise across all stakeholders at a senior level, advising, setting expectations and as Project Manager, setting the pace for the whole project lifecycle
  5. To take a leading position from the business side working very closely with the technology to create global cutting edge solutions
  1. Requirements gathering and documentation
  2. Requirement to product gap analysis
  3. Functional and business specifications
  4. Project documentation and help screens
  5. Excellent written and verbal communication
  6. Work with the Cross Business Delivery lead in maintaining visibility and coordination of all required business activities.
  1. Requirement gathering and documentation through client interaction at onsite
  2. Use cases
  3. Strong Analytical skills- Ability to analyze requirements form client and developer perspective, ability to keep the larger picture in mind.
  4. Understanding of entity relationship diagrams/ domain models and process flows
  5. Excellent Communication and Inter-personal Skills.
  6. Liaise with technology team to provide constant business understanding and support

After reading a bit more about the Business Analysis profession on internet and talking to his Business Analyst friends and seniors Matt realized that these qualities are not really geography specific and the categorization doesn't present the true picture of the Business Analysis practice all over the world. He decided to look at the whole picture from a different perspective, ignoring the geographies for a while. Matt decided to look at definition of Business Analyst, a liaison between the Customer and the Development team. There he found the correct axis for his measurement:
  1. Where is the customer and
  2. Where is the development team?
The role is varying due to location of Customer and the Development team. He decided to classify the responsibilities that a Business Analyst handles at both these ends.

Responsibilities of a Business Analyst at Customer Location:
  1. Lead working sessions with client to capture product requirements and translate those requirements into structured Product Definition Documents.
  2. Developing process flows from high-level concepts.
  3. Ask the right questions at sufficient detail in order to capture the essence of the product requirements.
Responsibilities of a Business Analyst at the Development Team Location:
  1. Liaise with technology team to provide constant business understanding and support.
  2. Serve as a client representative in briefings, meetings, and conferences.
Now things were getting clearer to Matt. Yet he thought that there was something missing. What about the situations where development team is distributed, team is working from more than one location? A very common occurrence in the present world of outsourcing. Matt decided to list down the responsibilities of a Business Analyst from this perspective as well.

Responsibilities of a Business Analyst in case of Distributed team (thanks to outsourcing):
  1. Liaise with offshore and onshore teams to provide constant business understanding and support and keep both the team on the same page.
Matt was happy that the bigger picture was getting clear in his mind. He was now surer that what kind of project setup he would seek at the location of his choice. Though Matt had gained clarity on the responsibilities of a Business Analyst, yet he was not comfortable, he was still missing something. Matt thought and realized soon that the understanding of responsibilities alone is not enough; he needs to understand the different Business Analysis skills that are needed to fulfill the identified responsibilities. Matt decided to list down the Business Analysis skills as well:

Business Analysis Skills needed at the Customer end:
  1. Experience in Solution Design, Business Analyst (BA), Architecture, Consulting
  2. Ability to lead working sessions with client to capture product requirements and translate those requirements into structured Product Definition Documents
Business Analysis Skills Needed at the Development Team location:
  1. Demonstrates strong interpersonal skills, with the members of the Development Team.
Business Analysis Skills needed at with distributed teams:
  1. Excellent Communication and Inter-personal Skills.
Now that Matt had identified the responsibilities and the skills needed for various roles that he could play as a Business Analyst, he had a clear idea of what kind of project setup he was looking for and what were the skills needed to perform his job. Thanks to Matt for sharing his analysis with us and wishing Matt all the luck for his new job :)

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

*With the help of a fictional character Matt I tried to capture the Roles and Responsibilities of a Business Analysts in different situations. I am sure that the list can be extended further, please share your expereinces so that we can have a comprehensive list.

{4 comments} /

Business Analysis Tools: Storyboards

What are Storyboards?
Storyboards are graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a motion graphic or interactive media sequence, including website interactivity. [Wikipedia]

How Storyboards are used by the Moviemakers and Business Analysts?

Movie makers use the storyboards to illustrate the story better. They break the story into scene and then they work on the details of one scene at a time. It is not necessary that they do the storyboarding of each and every scene. Sometime movie makers do the storyboarding of only few important scenes. In the software industry we learn from a variety of fields and storybording is something that we have picked up from movie makers. As a Business Analyst we try to see the bigger picture of the business problems of the client. To get it right storyboards help a lot.  Just like movie makers we break the bigger picture of Business into smaller sections and then focus on one section at a time. This way we enrich our knowledge of client's business piece by piece, section by section. We can easily identify where we need to more research, where we need more analysis. Storyboarding not only helps BA in creating a bigger picture but a High Definition bigger picture where you can zoom to finer details.

Uses and Benefits of using Storyboards:

  1. Helps a BA in identifying the areas where more information is needed.
  2. Helps a BA in identifying the areas where more analysis is needed.
  3. View the bigger picture (in High Definition)
  4. Easy to communicate the understanding to clients
  5. Helps in organizing the work.
Storyboards The Business Analysis Blog Tarun Chandel
Storyboards help a Business Analyst in creating a High Definition Bigger Picture of client's business.

Where do BAs use the Storyboards:
  1. In the Enterprise Analysis Phase, for creating the Business Case.
  2. In the Requirement Elicitation Phase just before the Prototype is created.
Views of other BAs
CGarison: I only use story boards when mapping processes in realtion to new software implementation. Yes, before proto as well. But only for new processes (screens/systems) into existing flows.
Ranjan: I used storyboards after the use cases were written. Prototyping and story boards go in parallel. It can only be done after the detail requirements are written. It takes a lot of skill to do it, MS-Visio is a great tool to use for Storyboarding.

How much should a Business Analyst Storyboard?
Ranjan also shared a very important point that, Storyboards are good only if your project needs it and you have to decide to what extent you want to do it. I completely agree with him on this point depending on the time at hand, the complexity of the business problem, the budget and the resources, you take a decision to go for detailed Storyboarding. You can make your picture as High Resolution as you want but, there is a cost involved to it. So decide in advance when you want to go for detailing. May be you can pick certain areas and go for detailing of those. What I typically do is I use the brown paper wall and story cards to make a quick storyboard and then decide which section to detail right now and which section to pick up later.

Business Analysis Tools Storyboards Tarun Chandel Business Analysis Blog
Creating a Storyboard on a brown paper wall with help of Storycards and Post-its helps in identifying the right sections to focus on. I use legend post-its (notice pink one) to identify sections where I need to do more analysis (dark pink) and where I need input from the client (light pink). Also I keep myself reminding about the Horizontal Analysis and Vertical Analysis.

Points to keep in mind while Storyboarding:
  1. Keep it simple: Keep the story simple, do not make it complicated. 
  2. Break the story into scenes: Breaking the story into scenes or sections will help you to organize the story better. It will also help you in identifying the shortcomings, if any, in the story. While making a Storyboad, do the Horizontal and Vertical analysis of storyboard, that will ensure completeness of the story.
  3. Make it collaborative: The idea behind storyboarding is to make the complete picture clear. To make sure that you have covered every aspect of the story, involve your clients in the storyboarding session. Check the logic flow (“necessary and sufficient” arguments)
  4. Tell a good story: In the end keep in mind to tell a good story.
Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Business Analyst: Face of the Organization

Business Analyst is the person who interacts directly with the client. Business Analyst is the face of implementation team for the client. As Business Analysta we have to communicate a lot with our client, it's important to keep in mind that we represent the whole team and the whole organization (especially in the current scenario of outsourcing). All our actions will make a difference in the manner client perceives our team or our company. It's the responsibility of a Business Analyst to build the confidence of client in himself and that in process will build the client's confidence in our team and in our organization.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

{7 comments} /

Business Analysis Tool: Mindmaps for documenting Brainstorming sessions

One of the tools that I have recently started using for carrying out my work as a Business Analyst is Mindmaps. It is a simple yet very effective way of organizing your thoughts. I personally find it very useful during the brainstorming sessions. During the brainstorming stage a Business Analyst has tons of ideas flying all around. Mindmaps allow a BA to clearly organize these ideas.

It is not necessary to use a Mindmap software to draw the mindmaps, we can simply use a notepad and a pencil. I personally tend to use the brown paper and stickies to make the mindmaps during the brainstorming session and after the session is over, I quickly make a soft copy of the final map using the software.

The Business Analysis Blog Mindmap Brainstorm Tarun Chandel
As the brainstorming session progresses keep adding the stickies on the brown paper. Keep grouping the stickies as the things get clear.

The Business Analysis Blog Mindmap Brainstorm Tarun Chandel
As the brainstorm session approaches end, arrange the stickies in form of a mindmap. Things get much more clear and missing information becomes clearly visible.

The Business Analysis Blog Mindmap Brainstorm Tarun Chandel
After the brainstorming session is over convert the stickies and brown paper map into a softcopy and mail the same to all the participants.

Is mindmap a deliverable of a Business Analyst? NO, mindmap is not a deliverable. During the time of brainstorming stages BAs do not have to deliver as they are in the process of understanding the business and the issues of the client. Mindmap is a tool that helps a Business Analyst in documenting the brainstorming session better. As a good practice I send a copy of the mindmap as an email attachment to the stakeholders to validate my understanding of the business. Because mindmap is a very small pictorial presentation of the business it hardly takes any time for the stakeholders to go through it and it gives a clear picture of the understanding a BA. This helps me in keeping everyone on the same page after the brainstorming session.

A brainstorming session is a very effective way to get loads of ideas in a short span of time but at the same time it gives a false feeling to the client that they have revealed all the necessary info to you. After a brainstorming session it is necessary that you set the expectations of your client right by letting them know what have you understood and what areas were you focusing on. In case you don't do that it may lead to a situation that the client is under the impression that you know a lot while you are still in the early stages of making sense. Mindmaps is an effective way to let the client know how much you have understood from the session and dissipate the confusion, if any.

Do let me know how do you take down the learning from a brainstorming session.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Business Analyst - Why to Stay Updated?

As a Business Analyst we should always keep ouurself updated with the future plans of our client. If the client is planning to change their strategies for future where can we fit in?

If we don't it may happen that one day we will wake up and project will be over as the client decided to move on to something else. Remember the idea is to be a trusted partner with our client.

Also we should keep your eyes and ears open about the market state of your client. It should not happen that your client is going bankrupt and we are the last one to know about it. We want to make sure that our company has sent the invoice to the client before such calamity hits them.

Follow the KYC Policy (Know Your Customer Policy) it will lead to less surprises and much less shocks.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Business Analyst Focus on your Client's Customers

A Business Analyst should focus on the customers of his client.
I have written about this point a couple of times in past and I got some mails asking me why the Business Analyst should focus on all this?

As a Business Analyst our primary role is to get the requirement for the current project right, no matter what that has to be correct and our complete focus should be on that. As a Business Analyst, while performing our day-to-day tasks we interact a lot with the stakeholders and we get the best opportunity to understand the business of our client. We can use the knowledge that we gather in our day-to-day work, to gain more business from the same client.

You got it; the idea is to get more business from the same client.
If we need more business from the same client, we need to focus on things that are important to their business. The most important thing for any business is the satisfaction of its customers. Bingo, that is where we should focus as well. If we can tell them how our solution will help them serve their customers better we have good chances of getting the business.

Everyone seeks people who can work as partners and treat the problem as their own. While performing the Business Analysis activities, the understanding of business that we gained and relationship with customer that we build, will help us in this area. But, only if we are helping them meet their requirements (back to our primary task of Business Analysis, a vicious circle :))

A Business Analyst’s success should be measured in terms of how he helped the client in serving their customer better. If we can help our customer to create value for their customers, we will never run out of business and will help us beat the 1000s of other IT Solution providers (there’s our appraisal ☺).

What are the things that a Business Analyst should look for when gathering information about the client?
  1. What are the numbers they (client) are interested in?
  2. Who are their customers and what do they serve to them? It is important that you do your share of research. It will help you understand better how your solution is going to help your customer.
  3. How are they better/worse than their competitors? It is important because in case their competitors start eating the market share it will hit you someday.
  4. Who are the decision makers? It is important to know the organizational hierarchy of the customer and at the same time do a RACI mapping of it. That way you will know the exact role everyone plays in the organization. This will help you to target right people to build your bonds with.
  5. How can you help them?
These are some of the things that I could think of right now. Do share your thoughts and experiences on how you gain that extra bit of business from your clients and how you help them achieve excellence.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Business Analyst, Build your Credibility

A Business Analyst acts as a face of Customer to the Development team, most of the time. A Business Analyst should be credible enough and the team should have absolute faith in him. Development team should be able to ask any question regarding the system 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.

The development team should trust a BA; this was the first lesson that I got from a senior BA. When I asked him how to do it, he told me that you have to figure that out for yourself there is no proven formula. Some of the things that I tried and how they helped me in building a good rapport with the development team. 

  • Interact with the developers regularly and keep asking them if they have any doubts. The idea is not to overdo it as they may get a feeling that you are trying to judge their work. Keep it simple and just make sure that they know you are there if they need any clarifications in the requirements.
  • Make sure you run the development team through the requirements before they start with the implementation. Do it on module-to-module basis, plan with the Project Managers and Team Leads. Make sure you keep these sessions as informal as possible and try to make them understand the business pain points rather than teaching them (as they may switch off).
  • Encourage the team to approach you for any clarification in the requirements. When they approach you make sure you clarify their issues or get the issues raised to correct person, if you are not the right one.
  • It is a good idea to explain the business side to the developers and also let them know about the domain, as you have that knowledge. Have these talks at non-work timings like lunch, coffee or while traveling. Make sure you don't come out as a person who is bragging about his knowledge but as a person who is genuinely helping. Keep it honest; if you are not comfortable don't try it.
I tried these things and they helped me immensely in building a good relation with the development team. Do let me know what works with you and how you achieved it?

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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BA - Business Analyst OR BA - Business Ambassador

Stephan (name changed), a Business Analyst, was handling a small project. It was in very initial stage and he was interviewing the stakeholders, trying to understand the business problem. Somehow he was not able to link the problems, stakeholders were narrating, to their business. After a lot of interviews he realized that they were trying to automate a very small portion of a complex process. He prodded further and realized that this would solve their problem for just a department and overall time taken to complete the process may not shorten, it may even elongate as the other department will suddenly be dealing with high work volumes. He shared his findings with one of the board member of the client; he had become friend with while interviewing. Board member realized that they have to automate the overall process and not in bits and pieces. Stephen shared his calculations that if they automate the process across the departments then only the delivery time to client's customers will reduce else it will hardly make any difference. Stephen was asked to study the processes across the department and come up with a plan. Stephen studied the overall processes and mailed his findings back to his sales team, realizing that this project can be 10 times of the existing one. One month later Stephen's employer got a project that was more than 10 times of the existing project. Stephen later on got two more projects from the same client.

As the business is getting more and more dynamic, the requirement changes with every passing day. In such a dynamic scenario the role of a Business Analyst is becoming more and more important. With more and more IT solution providers in the market the role of a Business Analyst has evolved from being a mere requirement gathering person to a business ambassador of the IT Solution provider. BA has to use a lot of his soft skills, negotiation skills and social skills to build relations with the stakeholders on the customer side. Strong relations only will not help you to get more business from the customer but it will help you to understand what the customer needs and also what the customers of your customers need. Once you have understood the business needs of your customer, you should map out clearly where you can provide a solution that will help your customer to satisfy his customer better. Remember only having strong relations will not help unless you can provide solution that help them grow.

As a Business Analyst you should focus strongly on:

  1. Building strong relations with the stakeholders
  2. Build a strong understanding of the business of your customers
  3. Learn about the customer of your customers
  4. Keep mapping how your solutions will help your customer to satisfy their customers.

Guess what would have happened if Stephen had just got the requirements for the project he was assigned to? The client would not have been happy and later may have contacted another IT solution provider. A BA is a Business Analyst for the employer but for the customer a BA has to be a Business Ambassador of the employer.

Tarun Chandel
The BA

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Multicultured Business Analyst

A Business Analyst (BA) works with different clients, clients from different cultures and in today's world clients from different geographies. It is imperative that a BA is comfortable working with people of various cultures.

I have faced differences in cultures on three levels:

1. Personal belief: Every individual is different and you need to treat them like that. The best way to handle such clients is not to judge them but accept them as they are, just like we do with friends in real life. In a way a BA needs to replicate a lot of things that he does in real life to the work environment.

2. Corporate culture: Evey organization has its own culture. The one that you will notice very early in your assignment is the hierarchy of the company and how employees treat their co-workers. In Capgemini we follow a very informal way of interacting and address everyone by their first name. But when you are working with your client, they may have a completely different way of addressing. One of my recent client had a culture of addressing people with their second names using appropriate salutation. Calling anyone by first name was considered disrespectful. Then there was another client where every senior was addressed as "sir" or "madam". I was lucky that my friend in the sales team informed me about this before I started my conversations with this client. Now I make it a point that I check this before I start working with any client. A small thing but it helps a lot in making the right connections.

3. Different geographies: This is the most natural difference. You can help yourself by reading about that particular geography. Though personally I have hardly found reading about cultures useful, but this does give you a lot of things to talk about at dinner, lunch or coffee. If you are thinking why it doesn't help to read about the cultures, as we discussed in the first point that every individual is different, so it is difficult to categorize people just by geographies. Try reading about your own culture on internet and you will realize you are hardly like what it states. So do not make perceptions about people depending on their geographies but reading will help you in having great and involved conversations :)

As a BA you should be able to adapt as quickly as possible to different people and places. If you are that kind of a person- great! However if you are not, you should work on yourself. This will help you in the long term and make you a better BA.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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Business Analysis: Foresight

The most exciting and yet difficult part of being a BA, is at the start of a project. Let me be more precise, the first time you meet the client. This is the time when client introduces their business and the problems that they want to solve with your help. This is also the time that, you introduce yourself and try to make a good impression on the client. What do you do to be at your best when you walk into that first meeting with the client? To start with, it always helps to do a bit of homework before the meeting.

As a Business Analyst you are involved in understanding the Business Requirements of your client and documenting them. It is essential for a Business Analyst to understand the requirements and for that it is necessary for a Business Analyst to understand the Business of the client. Hence it is imperative that you spend time on understanding the business of the client.

Steps to better understand the client before the first meeting:

  • Talk to the people in the same account: Meet people in your organization who have worked with this client before.
  • Search the Knowledge Base: Dig deeper into your organization's knowledge base.
  • Use internet: If the client is new or there is lack of data, start searching on the internet.
  • Past Communication: The most important is to read the communication that your organization has already had with the client. Go through the documents that have been exchanged, typically you will get some RFXs. These should give you a good ground to start your research.
As a Business Analyst it will be even better if you can gather knowledge about the market in which your client operates and also about the client of the client. It will help you a lot in doing your work if you are thorough with your homework. The client will have to spend less time to explain each and every thing about his business to you. If you are an informed Business Analyst it will only help you to build the confidence of the client. At the same time you will be able to suggest solutions to some inconsistencies in the Business Requirements of the client or at least you will be able to pin point some inconsistencies.

As a Business Analyst it will be really helpful to you if you can analyze the markets and the business of the client. If you have time before you start your assignment with the client, you should do a thorough analysis of the client's business, especially in the field of your project. It will be helpful if you can do some analysis about the competition of the client.

All these activities will enhance your knowledge about the client and will help you in carrying out your work better. It will help you to build a foresight about where the business of client is heading and where the system that your team going to develop fit in the bigger picture. Clarity is always good.

Tarun Chandel
The Business Analyst

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