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When aligning your enterprise with a defined business strategy, what key aspects ensure that you can deliver real business value?

Aligning your enterprise with a defined business strategy is what enterprise business architecture is all about. It's critical to organizational survival. Sharing business knowledge with all stakeholders is indispensable and necessary in order to align the goals and strategy of the business across all aspects of the organization. True business value is generated through effective alignment.

Enterprise business architecture boils down to four key aspects of organizational alignment:

How do you deal with management who constantly tries to reduce your estimated analysis hours?

A good rule of thumb is that no single task should be greater than 40 hours when estimating.  And if you know that your management has a habit of pushing back hard on estimates make sure that no single task is greater than 20 hours, with most being less than 8-12 hours.

What is gamification and how is it relevant to a Business Analyst?

Gamification involves the application of gaming strategies and mechanics to enable problem-solving and learning activities in real-world situations. Similar to an online game, the user chooses an action in response to prompts, questions, and/or scenarios; and is rewarded upon completion of a task or goal. Rewards may include points, achievement badges or levels, or virtual currency.

Gamification has been utilized in a number of ways, but the two areas most relevant to BAs are in education and customer engagement.

Gamification is finding growing popularity as a self-guided training tool, replacing or supplementing other forms of training such as tutorials, instructional videos and classroom training. The user works through the lesson ‘game’, and actions or choices are scored according to the lesson plan. Hints and guided assistance can be triggered when the user makes an incorrect choice, and correct choices are given points or awards. The user is able to work at his or her own pace, and the interactive nature of gamified training can boost retention of the lesson content.

Gamification is also becoming widely used as a customer engagement tool. Points or badges are used to incent desired behavior. Interactive games can generate substantively higher user responses on tasks that would otherwise be considered mundane or boring. Research is showing that proficiency at the game is more important to users than success or achievements, and the most successful games are more complex and challenging so that users can see their proficiency increase with repeated play.

Gamification offers a new way of interacting with users that leverages natural inclinations to play and compete, and gives users a greater feeling of control over the interaction. For Business Analysts, the increased popularity of gamification within business environs could result in adaptation of requirements elicitation and documentation techniques to accommodate this new type of interaction. Perhaps ‘Game Design’ will be the next addendum to the BABOK.

Sandy Lambert
Business Architect
LinkedIn Profile

What is an Agile Mindset?
Agile is a term that was first coined in 2001 with the creation of the Agile Manifesto. Agile has grown enormously in the last two decades and is now used by thousands of organizations and teams around the world. With that growth in popularity many variations have emerged – new frameworks like Kanban and SAFe have been created and thousands of books have been written on different elements of Agile.
What is a Team Competency Assessment and why might it be used?

The success of any project is dependent on a number of factors, but ensuring you have the right team competencies (people and skills) is imperative.  When a team is put together from scratch, ensuring that the team has the appropriate competencies to meet the needs of the organization is usually the paramount concern. Though it's not always analyzed in a formal way.  However many operations and technology teams exist as a permanent group within an organization.  As projects arise, resources (people) are assigned to various teams to complete the current projects.  In this instance, without a formal assessment, it's common that the assembled teams lack the necessary skills for success.

Performing a team competency assessment can reveal any team weaknesses so that new or additional team members with the required skills can be sourced.

What is Enterprise Architecture, and why is it relevant to a Business Analyst?
Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the practice of fully describing and viewing an enterprise through the use of models and other representations. EA’s views of the enterprise cut across all of the domains that a complex enterprise contains: security, strategy and performance, business, data, infrastructure, and applications.
What is Program Increment Planning as it applies to the Scaled Agile Framework?

Program Increment (PI) Planning is one of the biggest and most important events in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It aims to set the direction and activities for the Release Train’s next 8-12 weeks of work through a large scale planning session. To understand PI Planning properly we need to first take a step back and understand three key terms; SAFe, Agile Release Trains and Program Increments.

What is a Sprint in Scrum/Agile?

A sprint is a short, defined period of time that a team uses to organize their work cycles - it is the key feature of Scrum (the most popular Agile framework) and is used by thousands of teams around the world. 

Sprints last between one and four weeks, but two week long sprints are the most common. Throughout this article I’m going to refer to two week long sprints for the sake of simplicity. 

Sprints start with defining the goal and scope. This shouldn’t change during the sprint, once it has been defined. The team then go about completing the tasks of the sprint. By the end of the sprint the aim is for the team to have completed everything to achieve their goal.

What is the H-Method and how can it benefit the Business Analyst?
The H-method is an analysis tool that aids the BA in organizing a fact finding interview with a business representative or system user.  
How important is job security to you?

If asked some variation of this question you should make it clear that job security isn't high on your priority list for the reasons above. To summarize, top performers derive their sense of security through confidence in their own abilities and through the deliberate execution of an action plan established to achieve strategic career goals.

How are personas used in requirements elicitation on agile projects?

A persona is a description of a fictional person, representing key characteristics of a specific user class or group. Personas provide models of the user community that make it easier for project teams to understand and predict how users will act and react, based on characteristics such as age, education, knowledge, and attitudes.

A key purpose that personas serve on agile projects is in the formulation of user stories, so that each story is written from the perspective of a distinct person with known attributes – rather than a generic “user” or job role.

Personas are also invaluable in making design decisions, and determining how usability can be optimized for the user community.

As with all other aspects of Agile projects, personas should be developed collaboratively amongst the team and refined iteratively over the course of the project.

Here is a short video that highlights the need to validate personas against real data and real user information, as well as the benefits of building personas iteratively as more information becomes known – The Secret to Developing Effective Personas.

Sandy Lambert
Business Architect
LinkedIn Profile

What is Active Listening and how can it benefit the business analyst?

Active Listening is a method used to listen and respond to others in a structured and deliberate way.  It requires a listener to understand and actively evaluate what he or she heard. 

What are some of the problems you are faced with when gathering requirements?

While this is a broad question, it is often used by interviewers to find out whether the candidate has actually performed requirements elicitation in the past and has experienced its challenges. Once challenges are mentioned many interviewers proceed to ask what the candidate has done or would do in order to overcome those problems.

So, here are some of the problems faced by business analysts during the requirements elicitation/gathering activities:

What steps do you take to familiarize yourself with a new organization or assigned project?
In addition to any formal new hire procedures, there are a number of things that a Business Analyst can do to acclimate to a new organization, and prepare to tackle new project assignments. Review company protocols, project protocols, project information, business analysis standards, and build relationships
What are the four fundamental methods of requirement verification?

The four fundamental methods of verification are Inspection, Demonstration, Test, and Analysis.  The four methods are somewhat hierarchical in nature, as each verifies requirements of a product or system with increasing rigor.


How should you prepare for a business analyst interview?
I am a BA and Project Manager leading a team of roughly 10 Business Analysts, 10 Project Managers, and 5 Project Analysts. During my career I have both sat for and conducted hundreds of interviews. It still surprises me, even today, that so many people turn up to an interview with little or no basic knowledge of the role for which they have applied or the company for whom they want to work.  All it requires is a little time and effort. I hope the below helps.
What are a few characteristics of a top business analyst?
1) They deeply understand the business problem being solved.  
2) They are excellent translators and negotiators.
3) They must be able to view the project from the highest to the lowest levels.
4) They understand technology and its limits.
5) They have credibility with the business.
6) They enjoy interacting with people and are excellent communicators.
What is a logical data dictionary and what are the benefits of maintaining one?

A data dictionary, also commonly called a metadata repository, is a centralized repository of data elements and other metadata about them.  This may include the meaning of a piece of data, relationships to other data, origin, usage, type and length.

How do you explain a complex technical solution to non-technical stakeholders?
You are the BA for a complex technical project. You have to explain to all of your (mainly non-technical) stakeholders how it works. Describe what method you use, and how you go about explaining the solution.
What is a Product Manager?
The role of the Product Manager resides at the intersection between business, technology and user experience.  The paramount responsibility of a Product Manager is to ensure that the product they manage (software, service, or other tangible product) creates value for the business.  In turn, to create value for the business the product needs to be of value to customers or to internal business employees. 
How do you define Agile?
Agile is a general term and conceptual framework used to describe a number of “light-weight” methodologies, such as Extreme Programming (XP), SCRUM, and Rapid Application Development (RAD), which exhibit a series of common characteristics.
What is the 4-D framework for Time Management?
Competing demands on our time ensure one constant; we rarely have enough time to complete everything we would like to do.  Time management skills are critical to our success and productivity. The 4-D framework is a simple, yet effective, technique for determining how to react to requests on our time. 

The 4 Ds are: Do, Defer, Delegate, and Drop (Delete).  It can often be helpful to approach the framework in the reverse order listed to whittle down the list of requests.
What is the “First-Time First-Use Penalty”?
The First-Time First-Use Penalty states that the first time undertaking anything new it’s impossible to know how long it will take to complete.  A fairly simple principle that absolutely plagues the IT industry due to the complexity and variability of IT systems. IT systems are so unique and so multifaceted that the constant movement of its variables create an incredible challenge to estimating costs accurately.
How to answer a question that you don't know how to answer?

It sounds silly, but we have all been in an interview and been asked a question that actually we don't know how to answer. 

You could try bluffing, but the likelihood is that the Interviewer knows the answer, so what do you do?

Those of you that will have read posts by me will know that I am a BA Manager. Therefore I interview a lot of people. Not just for BA roles, but also for Project Managers, Product Owners and many more.

Its intriguing to see how people deal with this scenario. Bluffing, wild guesses and answering a totally different question, that you do know the answer to, seem to be the preferred way.

So what is the right way?

First of all, be honest. We all have 'fuzzy moments' where our brain just shuts down and even answering our name becomes a real challenge. 

Being honest tells the interviewer that you are human. But that alone isn't enough. 

My answer, if I was in that situation, would be this:

"I am sorry, but I don't think I have ever come across that [term, solution - whatever it is you have been asked]. But I am keen to broaden my knowledge. Can you talk me through what that is and how it would impact my role?"

So why answer like that? Well it shows the Interviewer that, OK he doesn't know the answer, but he is honest enough to admit that - BUT he wants to learn, he is enthusiastic to learn and isn't put off his or her stride by a curve ball question. 

These are positives because, as a Business Analyst, you WILL get these during your working life with Stakeholders. The reason why you talk to Stakeholders is because you don't know what their role/process/system is. So why not act in the same manner for an interview?

Of course, not every company will think the same, but if you be honest, but turn it into a positive in asking them about it, and showing an interest, then you will hopefully find that they like your response.

One other thing, don't be afraid to tie in other answers to the question you didn't know. It shows that you have grasped the context and understand it - another key skill for the Business Analyst

What is the AARM Framework and how is used by Business Analysts and Product Managers?
The AARM Framework can be used to evaluate a product idea, develop a strategy, guide the success of its launch, and understand how customers move through the different stages of a customer purchase funnel. The framework is generally applied to software, applications, or service oriented products. AARM stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Monetization.

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