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Adding Value as an Agile Business Analyst
As more organizations move toward agility, development and project management teams still struggling to define a common language and standard regarding the agile framework. In addition, many organizations that are implementing agile approaches have not fully planned the transition and are still unclear on how to fully optimize the approach. One area that continues to remain vague is the role of the business analyst (BA). Below are some steps to help business analysts navigate their way through the transition to agile and add the most value to their agile teams.
Are You an ‘Analyst’ or a ‘Facilitator’?
Surely facilitation is an important part of a business analyst’s job, but it is far from the only part. Analysis in itself should always form the core of a business analyst’s responsibilities.  We are called ‘analysts’ for a reason! Facilitating information gathering and translating it to ‘requirements’ doesn’t make you an ‘analyst’. Go above and beyond, and add value by ‘reasoning backwards’ and ‘reasoning analytically’.  
Reconfiguration Agility
One of the Sidebars to the Business Agility Manifesto introduces the notion of Reconfiguration Agility. It’s a fundamental capability your organization needs in the Knowledge Age. What’s it about?  In the big scheme of things, you have two basic choices for conceiving, and ultimately implementing, business capabilities: procedural or declarative. They are fundamentally different.  Traditionally, the vast majority of business systems have been modeled and constructed on a largely procedural basis – virtually all things tied together step-by-step in processes. Unfortunately, that procedural approach simply doesn’t scale.
Top 5 Data Visualization Tools
With the help of visualization tools, data can be converted easily to more accessible form hence making it much simpler to understand. Data Visualization is available for both developers and for presentation ensuring ease of work for both.
Embrace Gamestorming
First of all, let’s get this out of the way. Gamestorming is not new. Gamestorming is a collection of ‘games’ put together under the banner of ‘gamestorming’. As a business analyst (BA) I can assure you there will be many games in the book and on the website, that you have used in your role under different guises.  Dave Gray (co-author of ‘gamestorming’) put it best when he described himself and his fellow authors as the Grimms brothers. The Grimms brothers, if you are not familiar with them- they brought together different fairy tales and published them in a book.
Demystifying Strategic Thinking in Business Analysis
One of my former business analysts on the team asked me this question recently; ‘I am really over being a BA. How do I move into strategy?’ I got to the realization that she was associating ‘strategy’ with a job title which consists of certain tasks.  In my view, it appears as if for some business analysts, before becoming strategic, they have to be given a title ‘Strategic Business Analyst’. This I believe is the mystery that surrounds ‘strategy’ and ‘strategic thinking’, making it appear as a destination to reach, at some point.
Business Analyst: What Is Your Mission?
Every profession in a sophisticated business structure has a certain mission attached to it. This mission includes the job duties and deliverables, but that’s not all. The only way to really encapsulate the essence of what the profession of a business analyst is all about is to understand the Business Analyst Mission. In other words, the Business Analyst Mission is definitive of the value created by business analysts.
Obligations Are Business Rules
One of the Sidebars to the Business Agility Manifesto unabashedly indicts the software industry for its long-standing failure to provide direct support for obligations, an obvious and fundamental aspect of real-life business activity. Where can you find obligations in business? Virtually everywhere you look: acts, laws, statutes, regulations, contracts, MOUs, agreements, terms & conditions, deals, bids, deeds of sale, warranties, guarantees, prospectuses, licenses, citations, certifications, notices – and of course, business policies. Direct support for obligations is a fundamental capability your organization needs in the Knowledge Age. What’s it about?
Managing Requirements is an Art Mastered by a Business Analyst
In a classic business analyst universe, requirements are the soul of all the work a business analyst does. If a business analyst fails to identify and translate the right requirements, they’re out of a job. This is the reason why a successful business analyst is always good at requirements handling/management process. What makes requirements an essential part of a BA’s job? For a business analyst, requirements are defined as the logical and essential steps which needs to be fulfilled in order to achieve a successful end-state or a solution to a stakeholder’s business problem. These requirements drive the solution and are the key elements of any successful solution implementation. Business analysts are the ones who not only ensures the expected solution is delivered, but they’re also the owner of the requirements handling/management process. Business analysts identify the right requirements and help them convert into a form consumable by delivery teams to deliver the expected outcome in a timely manner. The requirements management/handling process consists of 4 basic steps: Discovery, Analyze, Draft and Implement. 1.     Discovery Requirements discovery is a phase in which we identify, gather and scope the requirements. This phase builds the basic requirements framework for delivery. To identify and gather requirements, a business analyst uses various requirements elicitation techniques like observation, shadowing, protocol analysis, apprenticeship, prototyping, focus groups, scenario’s, background research and many others. These techniques are aimed towards gathering information related to a business problem and/or a solution that business stakeholders are trying to achieve. Requirements identification is a highly interactive activity, which relies on the involvement of the right stakeholders. Elicitation activities continue while a business analyst traverse through other stages/steps of requirements gathering. It is very important for a business analyst to not only identify but to scope the requirement. Requirements are driven by information collected by various elicitation methods; however, the relevancy of the requirement needs to be determined. The simplest way to do so is to perform some of the elicitation techniques repetitively. Look for facts via secondary support of documents or information from another source just to verify. Chart your scope based on the overall direction of the information flow and the end-state which stakeholders are trying to achieve. Scoping cannot be definitive in the business analyst’s landscape. It’s a loose boundary which needs to be flexible enough to account for other business or priority changes. Loose boundaries do help the business analyst in defining a playground where they need to operate for a successful outcome. 2.     Analyze The most important activity of the requirements handling process is to analyze a requirement. Analyzing a requirement will provide us with a definite outcome along with the complete information on achieving that outcome. There can be various types of analysis like strategic analysis, functional and technical analysis. Strategic analysis is performed by understanding the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats provided by implementing this requirement. It helps a business analyst to understand the priority and criticality of the requirement which also determines how essential it is for a business to implement those requirements. Functional analysis provides an ability to understand the requirement from the end user perspective.  It is performed by interacting with people who’re impacted by the implementation of requirements. This provides unique opportunity for a business analyst to shape the solution in a way that accommodates the minimal, easy to adapt change to the end users or the impacted. Technical analysis is performed by further breaking down functional requirements into a series of small implementation steps which a delivery person can understand. It is the delivery person/team who needs to deliver the technical solution. It is important to not miss any aspect of functional requirement to be translated into technical requirements which is a supporting pillar for successful solution implementation. Depending upon the type of analysis, we determine the type of requirement. Upon successfully analyzing and understanding the type of requirement we start drafting requirements into various artifacts. 3.     Draft Once a business analyst has understood the type of requirements and its expected outcome, business analyst can draft those requirements in their respective artifacts. There’re various artifacts such as business requirements document and/or specification requirements document and user stories which are authored and owned by a business analyst while there’re some other like project charter, technical design document or anything alike to which a business analyst contributes actively. Drafting of requirements take the utmost time as the translation needs clarifications and numerous back and forth interactions. Once a requirement drafting is complete, it’s time to walk them through with the entire team. 4.     Implement The first step of requirements implementation is to arrange for a walk-through of freshly drafted requirements where the audience includes all stakeholders including delivery team. This walk-through session helps with course correction of requirements if there’s a miss while drafting them. Also, requirements walkthrough is a common platform where in the stakeholders and other team members have the opportunity to ensure alignment of the requirements to the desired end state. Once the requirements are defined and finalized, business analysts have to ensure continuous requirement refinement for successful delivery. This is the final step of requirements management process. Once the requirement has been identified, scoped, analyzed, drafted and confirmed, business analysts have to keep their eye out for on-going business changes, these changes may affect any of the existing requirements and their desired outcomes. As business changes are constant, the impacts on the already drafted requirements is constant. There is a small deviation of requirements which can still be managed by refining the requirement and updating them, but then if the deviation requires additional effort for which the cost involved is high, then changes are to be considered for enhancement. This decision must be evaluated by a business analyst before taking appropriate actions accordingly. At this stage, all the requirements are the guiding principle for the delivery team to deliver the solution. Requirements Handling/Management Process is the one, a business analyst has to master to be considered as successful. Author: Nimil Parikh, Business Analyst Nimil Parikh is a new generation business analyst who transforms business processes by leveraging IT tools and applications. He has over 7 years of experience modeling, analyzing, measuring, improving, optimizing and automating business processes. He adds value by his ability to context switch while providing cross-functional business solution and ensuring timely delivery by managing and streamlining business processes and driving strategic leadership. He is known to introduce IT business transformation and ensure successful implementation. Nimil possess MBA from San Jose State university, MBA Marketing and Information technology engineering from India. Nimil lives in Campbell, California. He enjoys challenges and believes in making things right. Reach him via email – parikhnimil@yahoo.co.in  
What does your BA-Developer relationship look like?
As a business analyst, one of the most valuable skills you can acquire is the ability to build relationships. This in itself may have more of an impact on your long-term BA career than your business knowledge and technical skills. Because BAs are often key participants in so many different projects and initiatives, it can be difficult to nurture all of the relationships established throughout your organization. The relationship that I will be focusing on, however, is the relationship with the developer(s). Solid business analyst-developer relationships are often easier to facilitate in agile environments; therefore, it is essential to put more effort into managing this relationship in an environment that uses a waterfall or traditional methodology. Below are some tactics we as BAs can use to make developers’ lives easier and enhance the business analyst-developer relationship.
Stakeholders Relationship: How to Make Your Stakeholders Like You?
The relationship between a business analyst and the stakeholders is one of the fundamentals to the journey of delivery. If the relationship is dysfunctional, the process of delivering the solution will be negatively impacted... Each one of us is blessed with a different personality that makes us unique. In the case of business analysts, personality plays an important role, thus making it a key to survival. Business analysts are adaptive survivors. It is imperative that every impacted stakeholder is engaged and collaborating. It's fundamental to a robust requirements analysis process. Having mentioned the need to bond with your stakeholders, let’s see what skills are needed to be a successful business analyst.  
The Evolution of Decision Focused Technology
Decisions are at the heart of every business transaction. That’s why it is crucial to make the right decision at the right moment in time. In high turnover environments this can be an issue, as new staff need constant monitoring as they ‘learn the ropes’. This can lead to a significant deficit in efficiency and customer satisfaction.   To counter this problem, we advocate what we call a ‘Decision-Centric Approach’, which is designed to address the business challenge by enabling innovative technology in those crucial ‘moments of truth’
Non-Functional Requirements - Why do we need them?
  What do you put down in non-functional requirements when you are documenting requirements in your project? When we say non-functional we typically mean those requirements that are not related to functionality of the system, then what exactly are these and why do we need them.
The Case of the Missing Algorithm - And what has Haecceity got to do with it?
There are a small number of core concepts that can be said to embody the essence of an enterprise. This article asserts that one such concept is the business algorithm, the unique combination of business logic, algebra, and rules that is used by the enterprise to convert real world data and events into useful outcomes that benefit all stakeholders – giving rise to happy customers, prosperous proprietors, and fulfilled staff! ... The business algorithm is a unique and fundamentally important concept that no enterprise can function without. There are other aspects of the enterprise like brand or culture that may also claim to be ‘of the essence’, but the business algorithm is the only such concept that has a formal existence inside computer systems. The business algorithm is like the soul of the enterprise, uniquely defining the enterprise and giving it life via its systems. As such it has a unique claim to relevance as a first-order systems requirements artifact.
Practical Approach To Elicit Requirements Successfully
Project statistics state that most project rework/failure is due to incomplete/improper/unclear requirements, hence the role the Business Analyst becomes even more critical as they shoulder a huge responsibility of eliciting and collaborating with the stakeholders to obtain clear, concise and complete requirements.  The elicitation and collaboration knowledge area focuses on drawing forth or receiving information from stakeholders and other sources by directly interacting with stakeholders, researching topics, experimenting or simply being handed information.
Defining your role as a Business Analyst
Many professionals and organizations understand the value of a business analyst (BA), however, the role itself is still ambiguous to many. There are numerous articles and resources that outline business analysis and the general role of a BA so I won’t be focusing on those aspects. Every organization and industry is unique therefore the needs and expectations for a business analyst can vary greatly. However, there are a few core competencies that remain consistent. The goal of this article is to give BA practitioners (especially new practitioners) an approach to determine what their specific organization expects from them in order to get on the path of success throughout their career. Below are some steps you can take to define your role in the organization you serve.
Users and other Business Analysis Myths
Well, for one thing, consider the user. I mean, what is a ‘user’?”...  I understand that is what the term is used for, but can you point me to a user. Don’t answer. You could probably point to any number of people around you who would be users.  ...That man over there is using his cell phone, some app or other.... The nice lady who fixed my coffee entered the transaction on a computer in her stand to account for the money and the inventory. She is a user. 
Business Analyst’s Mission: Advocate for Your Stakeholders’ Requirements
Business Requirements Advocacy is neglected in the business analysis practice!  Once considered to be an essential part of IT teams, the business analyst has become an integral position in any successful, market-driven organisation. Rightly said to be the change agents for any business, business analysts help organisations adapt to the changing environment while meeting the needs and demands of all their stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers.
Enterprise vs. Self-Service: 6 Things I’ve Learned From Exploring Data Tools
There is much to say about the often challenged relationship between IT and “the business” that has existed since IT became IT. Centralization, decentralization, self-service tools and applications, enterprise tools and applications – the pendulum swings again and again.  You’d think by now that we’d get it. There is no one all-encompassing data management or BI solution that will satisfy all of your data related requirements.
Stop wasting time, Visualize your workflow - Continued...
In this article, I am going to focus on the key 3 tools that you can use to help you identify the pain points in your workflow.  One of the key things to identify when working in a visual manner is understanding where your blockers are. It is only when you have identified these blockers, you then able to do something about them. There is no use trying to change something when you don’t have the evidence to baseline the problem. As business analysts, we wouldn’t tell the business where the problems are without conducting a thorough root cause analysis. So, why do we do it at work, why do we think without evidence we know exactly what the problem is and the impact it has on. 
Lean-Agile Bath Remodel Project
The purpose of this article is to cite an example of using Lean-Agile project management for a small home construction project – a bathroom remodel. The remodeling firm unknowingly uses a Lean-Agile project approach that was the result of lessons learned over years of experience. In fact, when I questioned the remodeling firm about Lean-Agile, the firm’s response was “What is that?” Regardless of what you call it, the firm uses their construction approach because it works.
Business Analyst vs Data Analyst
Somebody inquired to me in one of the professional networking site if I can suggest what the difference between a Business analyst and data analyst is. This is a dilemma that is common in the minds of numerous professionals who are new to Business analysis or intending to get into this space. As the name proposes a first hand analysis by any layman will state that the business analyst role includes analysis from a business perspective, though the data analyst role deals with primarily analyzing data.
Why Defining the Business Need is Critical
In order for any project or initiative to be successful, an agreed upon business need must be determined. This need may present itself as a problem or an opportunity. Business Analysts must be able to guide the business in articulating which of these is the catalyst for the initiative prior to starting any BA work. Projects without a clearly defined business need get drawn out due to issues such as increased stakeholder conflict, poorly defined requirements, and excessive rework. So, to save you some pain and effort, below are some reasons why defining the business need is a critical starting point for any organizational change.
Doctor BA Answers an Old Question: how the BA profession came into being
I wanted to get to the bottom of things once and for all. We had been having several discussions about the birth of business analysis and how the profession of business analyst came into being. There were no business analysts, at least as currently incarnated, in Data Processing when I started a long time ago, and a look into the history of business analysis might be interesting. So I went sought out Doctor BA who has been around a lot longer than I.
Business jargon….in a nutshell
With this article, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, by mentioning some of these jargon-based pearls of wisdom here. You need to realize that in order for you to make some headway in the corporate world, you’ll need to get some skin in the game, stop being an armchair general and put your head on a block instead.

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