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What are the traits that differentiate a great leader from and a good leader?
All leaders are usually rather intelligent and many possess hard skills and technical skills that help them perform well. But more important than IQ or hard skills is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor your feelings and those of others to guide your behavior.  Studies have found that emotional intelligence is twice as important at all levels of leadership. And when studying top tier leadership positions emotional intelligence accounts for nearly 95% of the difference between average and star performers.
What is the 90-9-1 rule and how can a business analyst take advantage of it?
The 90-9-1 rule is a popular concept among marketing professionals, but has a much wider application which can serve a business analyst well.  The basic principle is that the behavior of a community of people (or a group of users) naturally falls into 1 of 3 groups with the relative  population sizes of 90%, 9%, and 1%. 
How do you effectively manage time, both personally and at an organizational level?

Companies manage their capital budgets with intense rigor. So why do so many fail to manage their time with the same level of commitment and structure?

It has been found that on average executives spend 2 full days each week just attending meetings. To make matters worse the last 40 years have shown an explosion in communications. Executives received only about 1,000 external communications per year in the 1970s. This has ballooned to 30,000 communications per year in the 2010s due to emails, phone calls and virtual collaborations with people external to the organization.

By applying rigor to the way companies view time allocation, organizations have the opportunity to free up as much as 20% of their collective hours.

What is the difference between horizontal and vertical prototyping?
Horizontal and vertical prototypes are sometimes used during the analysis and design phases of application development. They are useful for requirements elaboration and visualization, but can present some pitfalls.  As long as analysts and teams are aware of the pitfalls to avoid, the pros of using prototypes generally far outweigh the cons.  The type of prototype that should be used (horizontal prototype versus vertical prototype) depends on the specific goals of the team and the stage within the analysis and design process.
How do you prevent your application from being a confusing suite of features rather than one that meets a user's goals with ease?
Many applications are designed and completed only to result in a confusing suite of features that is difficult for the user to navigate.  So how can an analyst avoid this pitfall.  The answer is Design Thinking, also sometimes referred to as Human Centered Innovation or Human Centered Engineering.
What strategies can the BA and project team use to facilitate stakeholder sign-off on requirements?

There are several steps that the BA and project team can take beyond just publishing requirements with a sign-off deadline, in order to ease the process for stakeholders and expedite approvals:

  • Make sure the right people are signing-off on requirements. It sounds simple and obvious, but this can be one of the biggest contributors to challenges in obtaining requirements sign-off, particularly on complex multi-stakeholder projects.
  • Help stakeholders understand the sign-off process. Provide a clear explanation of the commitment that stakeholders are making to the project by signing off on requirements. Be sure to communicate the process for identifying and managing subsequent changes after sign-off (which may be just a reminder of the project’s established change control procedures).
  • Help stakeholders interpret the requirements documentation. Where feasible and applicable, provide supporting or reference material to assist interpretation and understanding of the requirements. This may include glossaries and data dictionaries, diagrams, etc. It is also very helpful to maintain a log of all decisions that are made throughout requirements definition, and publish this decision log with the requirements to avoid revisiting past decisions.
  • Make sure stakeholders have enough time to review the requirements during sign-off. Plan ahead for review and sign-off cycles as much as possible. Remind stakeholders of this commitment 2-3 weeks prior to each review cycle, so they have enough advance notice to plan for the time needed.
  • Foster collaborative ownership on multi-stakeholder projects. If a single document contains requirements that are shared or jointly owned, individual stakeholders may be reluctant to sign-off on requirements that they do not individually own. Joint review sessions can be used for collaborative discussion with the goal of obtaining verbal approval from the group during the session. Stakeholder questions or concerns can be addressed through the group review, which will help expedite sign-off from each individual participant.

Sandy Lambert
Business Architect
LinkedIn Profile

What are some key AI product design principles?
As artificial intelligence (AI) technology advances and AI products become more prevalent and more powerful, the line between machines and humans starts to blur. AI products can perform a variety of tasks from synthesizing data and presenting helpful insights to behaving independently, learning new tasks, and predicting outcomes with astonishing precision. 

Advancements in AI are beginning to change how people react to AI products and what they have come to expect out of a product's design. By following a few basic user experience principles, clarity can be brought to the increasingly complex world of AI products. 

Describe Artificial Intelligence and how it might impact the Business Analysis profession?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an overarching term used to describe how computers are programmed to exhibit human-like intelligence such as problem solving and learning.  This definition of AI is broad and non-specific which is part of the reason why the scope of AI can sometimes be confusing.  As machines become increasingly capable of performing "intelligent" tasks, those tasks slowly become commonplace and as such are removed from the scope of what is generally accepted as artificial intelligence. This is known as the AI effect.  A more precise definition might be any device that takes in information from it's environment and acts on it to maximize the chance of achieving its goal.  
What sort of existing documents should Business Analysts refer to when starting on a new project?

Few analysts are brought on to a project at the very beginning.  For those that are, they will often have a hand in creating some of the important documents that other analysts should reference when they first join.

What is Business Capability Mapping and why it is beneficial?
Business capability mapping depicts what a business does to reach its strategic objectives (its capabilities), rather than how it does it (its business processes). Business capabilities are the connection between the business strategy and business execution.
In which document do you include the Class Diagram (business requirements, functional requirements, software specification document)?
Just like any other diagram, the Class Diagram is just a tool at the disposal of the analyst. In the absence of a set process, it is at the analyst’s discretion to determine when to use a class diagram. Therefore, in which analysis artifact/document a class diagram should be included depends on its use.
How is the Purpose Alignment Model used to prioritize requirements?

The Purpose Alignment Model aids in prioritizing requirements and guiding investment decisions by rating requirements (which may be capabilities, processes or tasks) along two dimensions:

  • whether it creates market differentiation or contributes to the value proposition
  • whether it is critical for ongoing operation of the organization

What is a Sentiment Score Chart and when might a business analyst use one?
Business Analysts engage in all kinds of interviews, open response surveys, ideation workshops, and other research activities that result in large amounts of qualitative information.  So much qualitative information can present challenges both in terms of absorbing and understanding the information as well as representing it visually to others.  It can be difficult to turn participants’ open responses into quantitative data.  sentiment score chart is a polarized histogram that communicates both the positive and negative feedback (or sentiment) of the participants transforming qualitative data into a quantitative visualization.
What are Story Points and why use them?
Story points are a unit of measure used to estimate the relative size and complexity of user stories in agile development.  If one user story is 1 point and another is 2 points then the 2 point user story is expected to take twice as much effort to develop as the first.
What is Planning Poker?
Planning Poker is a consensus-based technique for estimating effort.  It is primarily used in agile development to estimate the size of user stories, but can be equally as powerful for estimating effort of key tasks in a project plan using a traditional work breakdown structure.
What is Information Architecture and how is it relevant to Business Analysts?
Business Analysts are most successful when they understand and practice many different disciplines that impact the software and application development process.  Having a working knowledge of disciplines such as UI design, user experience, interaction design, and information architecture, to name a few, results in more successful applications and better experiences.

Information Architecture is one of those lesser known disciplines which crosses multiple roles. 
What information should be included in a feasibility assessment?
The purpose of a feasibility assessment is to evaluate whether a proposed solution can be expected to provide the desired business benefits, and to identify any barriers or risks that could potentially impact solution viability, value or benefit. The feasibility assessment is typically conducted at a point in the project where alternative solutions are being compared prior to selecting a single go-forward solution or approach. If there is only one potential solution or approach being considered, it is still beneficial to conduct a feasibility assessment in order to verify the viability of that solution before investing fully.
What is a Business Architect and is it different from a Business Analyst?

The term Business Analyst is broad.  The name alone implies that a business analyst performs some form of business analysis, but that’s not very specific.

When using the term business analyst broadly it may in fact be describing any number of more specialized roles, including:

  • Business Process Engineers
  • Product Managers
  • Systems Analysts
  • Requirements Engineers
  • Financial Analysts
  • Business Architects
  • Usability Analysts
  • Data Analysts
  • etc.

In comparison, a Business Architect focuses on the activity of creating and managing the business architecture.  So what is a business architecture exactly?

What are micro-interactions in the context of user experience and design?
Micro-interactions are the small focused instances where users and the website (or application) intersect.  They are a way to actively interact with users in a simple, clear, and engaging manner. 
What is meant by application usability?
Usability is a measure of the interactive user experience associated with a system such as a business system, website, or mobile application and is a focus of fields of the Human Factors Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) fields of study.  Usability is the quality of a system that makes it useful in achieving a user’s goals, effective and easy to use, quick to learn, and like-able, i.e., subjectively pleasing to the user.
What is responsive design and why is it important?
Responsive Design refers to the ability of a website or application to respond to a user’s screen size, platform, device orientation, and behavior. Through the use of a flexible grid layout and CSS media queries the application can alter it’s layout as well as available features to provide an optimal viewing and user experience.
Can you have multiple start and end events in BPMN?
The BPMN standard allows for multiple start and end events to be used at the same process level.  There a few reasons why the business analyst may use multiple start or end events, but caution must be used to avoid mistakes.
Agile: User Stories versus Epics, what's the difference?
User Stories and Epics make up the essential building blocks of agile planning and development. They are closely related and, therefore, the differences are often misunderstood.
Would you use a sequence diagram or an activity diagram to model a process flow that has lot of conditional flows and concurrent processing?
Modeling of processes that contain a lot of conditional flows and concurrent processing is typically done using an activity diagram. Showing decision points with multiple outcomes and parallel processes is not only easy to accommodate using the standard UML activity diagram, it is more readily understood by an audience that doesn't have a detailed understand of the UML notation. It's intuitive.
As a BA (business analyst) approaching a new piece of work, who would you interview and what questions would you ask?

For any new piece of work a BA (business analyst) needs to know

1. who are the key stakeholders (i.e. those who can kill the project)

2. what are the key stakeholders specific and measurable measures of success (i.e. their objectives) and what VALUE for each objective MUST be achieved in order for the project to be considered a success (e.g. increase sales per order value by 5%)

3. what are the key stakeholders unmeasured measures of success (i.e. their principles that they would like to see happen but aren't going to measure and so the project cannot be assessed by them - e.g. an intuitive solution)

4. what are the key stakeholders high level requirements (i.e. what capabilities do they expect the solution to deliver - e.g. the ability to offer add-on sales during the order taking process)

5. what is in scope of the work in terms of processes, organization units, locations, data, applications, technology

6. what is the scope of the work in terms of time, money, project resources (people and materials)

7. who will the stakeholders nominate for determining further high level requirements and detailed requirements (e.g. subject or domain experts, middle management of operational teams, etc)

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