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Business Analyst Community & Resources | Modern Analyst
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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)

What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software to automate rule-based tasks and processes and mimic human actions such as data entry, searches, calculations, and rule-based decisions across multiple software applications.  From this perspective you can view RPA as workflow automation though the term is used throughout the industry to refer specifically to software that automates tasks across multiple software applications.
What type of testing might involve the business analyst?

Of the various types of testing, the business analyst is usually most involved with Functional Testing, Regression Testing, and Usability testing. 

What is RuleSpeak?
RuleSpeak is a set of guidelines for expressing business rules using a natural language (such as English).  Rulespeak is not a language or syntax itself but rather a set of guidelines to facilitate the creation of business rules that are concise, consistent, and less ambiguous.
What is a canary release and what are some of the benefits?
A canary release is a technique used to mitigate the risk associated with rolling out new code and functionality to everyone by making the new release only available to a small group of end users. Due to the smaller size of the user group, the impact of the new release is relatively small.  If it's determined that bugs exist or that the new functionality or new design isn't well received then it's easy to rollback.
How does Enterprise Analysis bring value to an organization?
The information produced through Enterprise Analysis is the basis for critical project decisions – what the project is expected to cost, what value it is expected to bring, whether any solution can be reasonably expected to address the business needs, which solution is the ‘best’ when alternatives are available, and the ultimate decision- should the organization even proceed with a particular project or course of action.
What is Gap Analysis?


Gap Analysis is the process of comparing two things in order to determine the difference or “gap” that exists between them.   Once the gap is understood, the steps required to bridge the gap can be determined. 
What is the Blue Ocean Strategy?
Red oceans represent existing industry and markets where industry boundaries and the rules of competition are well defined. Companies strive to outperform rivals and grab a bigger share of existing demand. As the space gets crowded, competition among companies turns waters red with blood. Competitive market strategies are about how to occupy, and hopefully succeed in, red oceans and gain a larger share of existing demand.  

Blue oceans represent new or unknown markets where demand is created rather than fought over. This is a market creating strategy. Companies that pursue this strategy have been known to spawn entirely new industries. 

Describe Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Porter’s Five Forces was created by Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School in 1979.  Porter created his analysis framework in response to the well known SWOT analysis which he found to be lacking in rigor.

Porter described his 5 forces as the micro environment of the market because they directly impact the company’s ability to serve its customers and make a profit.  The five forces are:
  • Threat of new competition
  • Threat of substitute products or services
  • Intensity of competitive rivalry
  • Bargaining power of customers (buyers)
  • Bargaining power of suppliers

What is the BCG Matrix and how might you use it?

The BCG Matrix was developed by the Boston Consulting Group in 1986 in order to evaluate and analyze the business units and product offerings of corporations. Companies can use this simple 2 x 2 matrix as an analytical tool in portfolio analysis, strategic management, product management, and brand marketing.

The BCG Matrix plots business units or product offerings along two axis; the first is market growth, the second is market share.  

What is a Minimum Viable Product?
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) refers to a product that has just enough features to reasonably demonstrate its viability to a group of stakeholders in order to receive feedback.  By greatly limiting the scope of the product to its absolute minimum feature set the product development team is able to limits costs and risks.  
How does the Business Analyst role change on an Agile project compared to projects using other software development methodologies?

The role of the BA should actually change very little between different software development methodologies, although the tools and techniques used by the BA can vary according to the needs and attributes of any given project or development lifecycle.

The core responsibilities of a BA on a software development project include requirements elicitation, requirements analysis and requirements management – regardless of the project methodology. The type and format of requirements documentation are just tools, and a good BA has a wide range of tools at his or her disposal.

How are non-functional requirements defined and managed on Agile projects?
Non-functional requirements (NFRs) are typically defined as backlog constraints on an Agile project, and are managed as part of both product backlog and scrum backlog. They are revisited as part of the ‘Definition of Done’ for each iteration or sprint. If the system does not meet any given NFR, that NFR may spawn new backlog items such as refactors or performance enhancements.
What should be documented in a UI Design Pattern?

Though pattern descriptions vary somewhat, many pattern templates contain a set of common sections.

Primary Sections of a UI Design Pattern

Name: Should be concise yet descriptive (typically between two and four words in length) so that someone can find the pattern easily and reference it within discussions for clear communication amongst team members.

Description: A few lines briefly describing the pattern.  Since short names are not always sufficient enough to clearly and uniquely describe the pattern a description is important. However, this is not where you will describe the pattern in great detail.

End User Requirement/Problem to Solve:  Communicate what requirement or challenge will be solved by the pattern.  What is the user trying to achieve?

When to Use/When Not to Use:  It isn’t always obvious under which condition or within which context a pattern should be used.  Here you can document when a pattern should be used and, equally important, when it should not be used.

Solution:  Document the details of the pattern/solution including a detailed description of the user interaction.  Include screenshots to help convey the pattern clearly as needed.

Comments:  Capture any other comments that you feel are relevant to the reader.

Optional Sections of a UI Design Pattern

Depending on the needs of your team or organization you may choose to add some additional sections to your pattern template.

Examples of Past Uses: Including screenshots of past uses of the pattern along with a brief description can help the reader visualize the benefits of using the pattern.

Rationale for Use: Understanding why a particular pattern works so well can be invaluable when deciding whether to use one pattern over another.   Detail out the specifics of the user experience and the direct benefits that they receive by using this pattern.

Implementation Specifications: If standards exist within your organization or team, consider accompanying the pattern with style guide information such as font family, font size, font weight, font color, table and cell spacing, and more.  Or if the styles change based on the application or product being developed, provide a link to the style guide information.

Usability Research: Any specific feedback on how well the pattern works can be documented for future reference.  Consider including feedback from UAT testers or your sales organization, but also don’t exclude feedback from developers and other testers.

Related Patterns: List other patterns that may solve a similar problem or patterns that work together to achieve a broader goal. 

Pattern Variations: Document minor variations in the pattern that can be used.  If the variations are significant enough, consider developing a separate but similarly named pattern. For example, “Tag Cloud 1” and “Tag Cloud 2”

Development Notes: Capture notes that help the development team implement the pattern.  This may be a snippet of code or a link to a code library where the code for the pattern can be found.

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What is the One Metric That Matters and how can it be used to improve a product?
The One Metric That Matters (OMTM) is a minimalist approach that helps achieve this goal.  OMTM is a mindset and guideline more than a rule. In practice, focusing on a single metric may be too restrictive to result in actionable data but this approach can be modified in a couple of useful ways.  One is to identify a single metric for each facet of a product.  Another is to focus on a single metric for a day, a week, or a month and optimize performance based on that single metric over that period of time. 
Describe How Convergent and Divergent Thinking Can Be Used as a Problem Solving Technique?
Divergent and Convergent thinking when used together can help an analyst arrive at better and more creative solutions than he or she otherwise might have.  Divergent thinking is the process of breaking a topic down and generating many ideas that branch out from the original concept while Convergent thinking is the process of focusing on a fewer set of ideas and evaluating them based on selection criteria.
What is Persuasive Design?
Making decisions based on data, information, and evidence consumes a lot of brain power. Our minds are always looking for patterns and repeat occurrences in order to build shortcuts for processing the world around us more quickly. These shortcuts are referred to as cognitive biases and they prevent our minds from spending precious energy reevaluating the same thing over and over again.

Persuasive design describes the process by which a designer exploits cognitive biases to guide and influence user behavior.  There are a handful of ways that this can be done.

How would you conduct usability testing for a new custom-developed software system?
Usability testing is conducted in different ways over the software development life cycle:

Usability exploration is performed in the very early stages of software design.

Usability assessment is performed as part of unit and system testing as software is developed and released.

Usability testing is conducted at key development checkpoints, and may be part of an iterative user acceptance testing approach.

What are Scenarios within the context of User-Centered Design?

User-Centered Design (UCD) is an application design methodology which focuses on usability goals, user demographics, real-world environment, tasks, and workflow in the design of an application interface.  During the analysis phase of UCD, two key stages are the User Analysis stage and the Workflow Analysis stage.

Describe the difference between univariate, bivariate and multivariate analysis?
Univariate analysis is the simplest form of data analysis where the data being analyzed contains only one variable. Since it's a single variable it doesn’t deal with causes or relationships.  The main purpose of univariate analysis is to describe the data and find patterns that exist within it
Describe the Six Sigma methodology?

Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology.  It is structured into 5 phases which can be iterated to continually improve key processes and deliver greater efficiencies and success within an organization.  These 5 phases are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control expressed as the acronym DMAIC (pronounced dee-may-ic).  Six Sigma, being a process improvement methodology, views the entire world in terms of processes—processes that achieve goals, processes that act on data, etc.   

Six Sigma DMAIC versus DMADV, what’s the difference?

The Six Sigma process improvement methodology defines the DMAIC and DMADV acronyms as follows.

DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.  These 5 steps are used for improvement of existing processes to identify a candidate process, understand its current state of effectiveness, improve on the process, and manage its continued performance.  This is described in more details under Describe the Six Sigma Methodology.

DMADV stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify.  These 5 steps are used when a process doesn’t yet exist and needs to be designed to ensure it will meet customer specifications.  It is also intended to be used when an existing process cannot be improved enough to bring it to within customer specifications and needs to be completely redesigned.

What is cognitive load and how does it impact product design?
Cognitive Load is a term that originates from the field of psychology. It refers to the amount of mental effort used in the working memory of a person.  We all have limits to the amount of cognitive load that we can reasonably sustain. And it's understood that a large amount of cognitive load makes it more difficult for people to learn and remember important details or to make decisions and complete tasks.

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