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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

You have a complex solution - describe how you explain the 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.

The Answer

OK, so this question is a variation on the classic Technical/non-technical stakeholder question. It is also something you are quite likely to come across in your working life. 

The biggest problem you often have is those stakeholders who think they are technical, but clearly aren't. The best example of this, and it still makes me laugh even now, was a guy who, when advised that the product would be purchased over the Internet, wanted to know why we didn't also sell it via the Externalnet? - He truly thought that the Internet was something just internal to the company and that we should also sell it to those outside of the company via, what he described as, 'the Externalnet' - brilliant!!

Anyway, I am getting away from the answer. 

Typically, the best way to do this is take them through a series of mock-ups - ideally in a workshop environment, but of no more than 4 people at a time. Also, if possible, split those that are technical from those that aren't. That way you can pitch at one level and it will make things easier for you.

 I say this number because you will just get bogged down otherwise. One person asks a question and the other 20 then jump on the band wagon because they think that way they wont look silly. 

A mock-up, which can be created in Visio, Balsamic - take your pick, it really doesn't matter - gives the attendees a visual idea of what they will have. A good mock-up will also answer most of their questions about "How do I....?" 

Any questions that are raised, write them down on a flipchart and answer them at the end of each section or the end of the walk through. Its  best to agree this at the start of the meeting. 

Your tone of voice is important - too condescending, and you will come across patronizing. Too technical and you will lose your audience. If you aren't sure if you are pitching it right, ask your audience if they would like anything clarified. 

A non-technical audience wont care if the new application goes through three load balancing servers, and differentiates their User token by using 0Auth2 - they will neither care nor understand. 

Also, try to pitch it at the areas they work in. So for example, if you have the Finance team as your audience, then say things like "This system also has a great suite of reports, which allow your finance system to plug directly in. Therefore you can use the data from this, in your own system. "

How it is done - they don't care, the fact it CAN be done - they do. 

The mock-ups don't have to actually do anything - they can be just a basic picture. But the more they do do something, the more your audience will be impressed. 

So what about Technical stakeholders? 

Well, as with the non-technical stakeholders, try to pitch the meeting at where they work. If you have the Head of IT Support, then maybe say "If a customer requires support, the new application will now have a Online Chat function..."

If technical (or non-technical) stakeholders want to know how it is built and in what code, don't get into a 10 minute conversation about it. That's not the point of the meeting. Don't be afraid to take things off-line and discuss outside of the meeting. 

Don't be afraid to admit if you didn't think of something, and a Stakeholder raises it in the meeting. That's the actual point of running through the concept. Say thank you to them, make a note of it and if needed, add it to your backlog. 

Lastly, all questions from all stakeholders (however silly) should be documented, with the question AND answer and circulated to all Stakeholders.

So to sum up:

1. Create mock-ups if possible to help explain the new solution

2. Pitch your explanation at the level of your audience. 

3. Don't be afraid of taking side issues off-site

4. Document all questions & their answers and share these with all the Stakeholders. 

Remember, pictures say a 1000 words. A Mock-up is a slightly glorified picture, so you will be answering with at least 1001 words !

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.

What is Multi-Dimensional Prioritization of Requirements and What is the Benefit?
Multi-Dimensional Prioritization is a structured and methodical approach to prioritizing requirements by evaluating each across multiple factors. It’s something that stakeholders and analysts often due intuitively when huddled together in a meeting. However, multi-dimensional prioritization brings structure, rigor and efficiency to this process. By assigning a numerical weight to each requirement across a number of predetermined categories, a resulting requirement priority can be obtained.
What is PEST Analysis?
PEST is an acronym that stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological. PEST analysis is one way that a business can analyze the environment in which it operates.
What is a business rule and how does it differ from a business requirement?
Business rules often tell you whether you may or may not do something. They may also be the input criteria used for making more complex business decisions that will ensure compliance throughout the business. Business requirements are used to implement business rules. They ensure compliance with the business rules. 
What strategies could be used on a project to deal with undesirable (negative) risks?

Common strategies for dealing with negative risks include Acceptance, Transfer, Avoidance, Mitigation

How do you resolve an issue involving conflicting requirements from two or more stakeholders?

In order to determine what action should be taken to resolve conflicting requirements, the analyst must first determine the root cause of the conflict.  The causes of conflicting requirements are typically the same, time and time again.   
What is Water-Scrum-Fall?
Water-Scrum-Fall is a term first coined by Forrester to describe the reality of the current state of Agile as it exists in many organizations today. It's hybrid approach to application lifecycle management that combines elements of both Waterfall and Scrum development methodologies. 
What is DevOps and how does it relate to software development?
As the name suggests, DevOps represents a union of two different sub-disciplines – Development and Operations. Most analysts are highly familiar with the Development portion of DevOps.  This is the traditional software development lifecycle used to create or make major changes to software applications.  It includes a vast network of people who assist in developing a product including product managers, business analysts, software developers, quality assurance engineers, and others. From the DevOps perspective, this stage end just prior to software release/deployment.

The Operations portion of DevOps tend to be less familiar to analysts. In years past Development and Operations operated almost entirely in their own silos.  The Ops team is made up of system and network engineers, DBAs, and others that build, manage, and monitor the IT infrastructure required to ensure the software can be properly deployed and supported.  They receive the tested software builds  and manage the release and deployment of the software onto the IT network while monitoring network stability. 

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 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

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