Pitfalls of Process Modelling – Part 3

by Adwait Kulkarni,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

Taxonomy

In general, all the wordings in a process map should be clear & concise; even the font type and size should be consistent with organisation’s template.

  1. Event name: An event name should always be written in past tense, with the verb at the end
    .e.g. Request received, Message sent, Exception generated, etc. (Note: Message sender or Message receiver need not be mentioned as that is mentioned in the object it is coming from / going to)
  1. Activity name: An activity should be written in current tense and should start with a verb. The noun component of the activity can refer to a data input or output. The knowledge of these inputs and outputs is vital from analysis perspective and also from potential system design perspective.
    .e.g. Process Request, Send Message, etc.

    1. Avoid actors in the name as they are denoted by lanes, e.g. Process Request – by customer care agents
    2. Avoid mentioning Automatically / Manually. This can be denoted by system lanes (automatic tasks).
    3. Avoid punctuation in the activity name e.g. full stops
    4. First letters in the word should be capital in an activity, makes it easier to read.
  2. Process name: Process name should cover the entire scope of the process and should start with a verb as well. e.g. Resolve Customer Enquiry, Update Customer Details etc.

 

Semantics

BPMN 2.0 provides objects which can be used for a specific scenario. Not all the objects provided in the set need to be used for an organisation. The business or PCoE can select the appropriate objects which will be sufficient to model the business processes. Some common mistakes and inconsistencies can be avoided by using the correct objects to depict a scenario.

  1. Pools & Lanes: A Pool is a participant (organisation) in a process
    1. Elaborating external pools (e.g. Customer, Banks etc.) should be avoided as we have no control over activities outside our organisation
    2. System lanes should not be used. An activity is always a function of a certain department/team within an organisation
    3. Communication going in/out of collapsed pools must be shown by using message flows. A sequence flow cannot cross the boundary of a pool or sub-process Refer to diagram 1.1

 

diagram 1.1

 

  1. Activity: An activity is a generic term for work that the organisation performs.
    1. An activity must be used before an event or a gateway. Events merely represents the outcome. A gateway only depicts the split between multiple flows. Refer to diagram 1.2.

 

diagram 1.2

 

  1. Event: An event is something that “happens” during the course of a business process
    1. A message start event must have an incoming message flow.
      Refer to diagram 1.3.

diagram 1.3

 

  1. A message end event must have an outgoing message flow
  2. There should be a start and an end event in a process; otherwise it’s hard to understand where the process starts and when the process finishes after certain activities are completed. Start and end events should align to the purpose of the process. The end event should reflect the purpose of the process being achieved. If this was achieved earlier in the process, either the scope is wrong, or we are modelling the next process.
  1. Gateway: A gateway splits or combines multiple process flows
    1. When a process splits a gateway must be used.Refer to diagram 1.4.
      When multiple flows can trigger a single activity, a gateway may not be used. A scenario, where multiple conditions need to be met to trigger a task, cannot be shown without a parallel gateway.

 

diagram 1.4

 

  1. A gateway is not a task; it cannot make decisions, nor can it send out messages. A task must precede a gateway. Refer to diagram 1.5.

 

diagram 1.5 

  1. If a parallel gateway splits the process, another parallel gateway must be used where these flows merge together
  2. A parallel gateway cannot be used to merge flows which were originally split using an exclusive or inclusive gateway.

This situation will become a deadlock. Refer to diagram 1.6

 

 

diagram 1.6

 

Exceptions

It is important to show all the possible scenarios that can occur during the End to end process. Processes should not show only the happy path but also the escalations and exceptions. E.g. in the diagram above, if there are any exceptions in the order, we need to go back to the customer to request correct order details. Refer to diagram 1.6

 

The aim of process modelling is to convey meaning. At the end of the day if the process models are not understood by the audience, they are useless even though they are technically correct. An analyst should educate the audience by taking them through the process models at least initially such that they understand the scenarios, exceptions and direction of the process flow. Any changes to the business process due to external or internal influences, should be communicated to the process analysts, so that these are reflected in the process models and the processes are always kept up to date.

 

If you would like to learn more about process modelling, Business Analysts Pty Ltd will be releasing an online BPMN Training course very soon! If you would like to receive formal training on this important BA tool set, register your interest at training@busanalysts.com.au

 

Pitfalls of Process Modelling – Part 2

by Adwait Kulkarni,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

How Much to Model

Analysts and SMEs can spend significant amounts of time and effort to model processes correctly. Therefore, each and every process does not need to be mapped out for value to be derived. Only those processes which are impacted by the current project, or that relate to core processes should be captured first. Businesses can then apply their continuous improvement focus to determine the value of modelling more of the business.

Additionally, businesses should be able to reuse any existing processes instead of creating them from scratch every time. (In that respect it is important to note that every organisation should have a process repository). The level of detail should also be dictated by the project. A work instruction can be used to elaborate a task. We should also make sure that the processes are aligned to a framework to identify the most valuable processes and ensure there is some sense and structure to what is being modelled to the project level

 

 

Alignment & Levels

Business processes should be mapped as mutually exclusive but complete End to End processes. We must make sure that there are no gaps within the End to End processes or duplication of activities within the lower level processes. The events connecting two processes should be exactly the same in order to maintain continuity. Refer to diagram 1.2.

 

Diagram 1.2

 

 

Complexity

A good business process model should be logical and easy to read. The meaning of a complex business process model can be often lost in translation, so simplicity and readability over technical accuracy is a good guide in many situations. Additionally, longer process models which do not fit on one A4 sheet of paper, can be too long for certain audience.

To counter this, depending on the BPMN maturity of the organisation simpler notation can be used.  (e.g. Message sending / receiving activities instead of catch and throw events, avoiding complex notation such as event based gateways). Longer process models can be broken into subprocesses and elaborated as separate smaller process models. Refer to diagram 1.3

Diagram 1.3

 

 

Validation & Distribution

Process models should be validated before they are published. SMEs must understand the context and the meaning on the process models, as well as taking ownership for the correctness of the process. Process models can be published using a web interface (read only access) to everyone within the organisation. Businesses that enable employees to see the end to end processes for the delivery of products or services enable an environment of understanding (of upstream and downstream needs) and foster continuous improvement enabling processes to become more targeted, efficient, and effective over time. Remember continuous improvement is just that, continuous. It is not an end state, more of a mindset supported by improved insight into the business operations.

 

 

Sources: APQC

 

Pitfalls of Process Modelling – Part 1

by Adwait Kulkarni,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

In this 3-part series we will dissect process modelling using BPMN for all of its strengths are of course the pitfalls modellers face along the way. In Part 1 we will focus on Process Governance, Part 2 delves into process levelling and process complexity, and Part 3 explores the Business Process Modelling & Notation (BPMN) object taxonomy and object semantics.

Business process modelling is an essential skill for a business analyst. During the initiation phase of project, the impacted current state processes can to be identified and modelled. The future state processes can be designed which depict the improvements made as part of the project analysis.

BPMN was introduced as a common standard for process modelling. It acts as a bridge between the business users and the software developers. The objective of BPMN is to represent complex business scenarios in an easy to understand, consistent language for all business users. The logic represented by process maps should also serve as a complete process guide to the software developers. End to End business processes can also be used for the process improvement projects to identify value in each activity of the business

 

Governance

Business processes are owned by the business units, but this can be supported by a centralised governance team, or Process Centre of Excellence (PCoE). The PCoE should also check if modelling conventions are used correctly & maintain a process repository in an appropriate tool, according to industry, or organisational standards to enable process re-use, drive continuous improvement initiatives, and align the business processes to the business strategic directions. refer to diagram 1.1.

 

 

Diagram 1.1

Reference APQC

 

There are some pitfalls of establishing and managing a PCoE. Depending on the size of the organisation and the number of processes being developed, the amount of effort required to ensure that the process repository remains current and to standards can be exhausting. As stated above, the business units own the business processes. As it is their artefact, it is theirs to update as they make changes to the way in which they deliver products or services.

PCoEs can either provide resources to assist in each of the changes, or train the business unit staff members on how to model processes, and provide more of a quality assurance service. To support this, the governance teams are advised to develop a process modelling standard and guide to assist the every day modellers, and reduce the number of changes required at the quality assurance stages. Some tools also provide quality checks via automated validation. The tool as well as peer reviews can be used for quality assurance purposes. The PCoE should ensure that the process models being uploaded into the repository meet the organisation’s standard, do not overlap and that there are no gaps in the end to end processes.

As the process repository grows and covers more of the business, more reporting and analysis can be provided to key stakeholders assisting them in making informed decisions. This is where the real value of a repository can be found, however the reporting capabilities are dependent on the data provided, and the power of the tool used.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – how much to model, process levelling, and model complexity.

 

¡TH1NK DIFF3RENTLY! – PART B

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

 

 

So, how do we go about thinking differently? 

The reality of the matter is that to think differently we need to first if all be good at thinking. Sound fairly obvious when you say it like that, right?

To do this we need to be conscious of where our intellectual and emotional capabilities are initially invested and then knowing the time when to switch from where we’ve previously been entrenched. To think differently we need to think well and thus being smart or clever now becomes our ‘go to’ platform rather drawing from a pure informational base. This however involves changing how we fundamentally function, in terms of our perceptions & perspective.

The concept of the elasticity of the mind needs to start with our own conceptualised understanding of how our own perspectives are created. Without consciously thinking about it most of us will commence looking at a problem from the same vantage point on each occasion. Either out of habit, familiarity or tradition are standard starting point immediately forms assessment biases by our want to access our tried and true formulas for what previously worked. This would be akin to using the same route to climb a mountain over and over. What type of scenery and experiences do you miss by walking the same path time and again?

To expose your own singular ways of thinking and grow multiple perspectives you obviously need to be  self-aware, but then also, you need to have the presence of mind to put yourself in situations where you can grow these perspectives. You need to allow yourself to commence thinking on a problem that’s not inhibited by built in biases, to allow yourself to question your process. Why it is other people may think differently to me. All yourself to step into the mindset of others and then ask ‘what is different to how I arrive at explanations from the way my friends or colleagues do, how are they seeing what I see? How and why are they arriving at their conclusions?’’.

This style is commonly known as integrative thinking and commences from a place of consideration rather than a static position. It provides an openness to learning from other people’s ideas, especially those that may conflict with our own, but also, draws on our own numerous experiences that might formulate an alternate perspective to the puzzles placed in front of us.

Many times it’s the tension within conflict of ideas or methods that will allow us to entirely reframe the problem. It’s within this amorphous sense-making phase that we can reside within the converging and diverging perspectives, allowing us to consider all as valid without having to adopt a definite position. It’s the unbridling of inherent ‘starter’ biases that will provide us with the scope to think differently about problem.

The more we allow ourselves to function in this manner, the better we become at changing our thought processes, being more adaptive and formulating problems differently and uniquely.

Solving problems and drawing conclusions in existing frameworks are often a blend of analytical and elastic thinking, but, the manner in which we formulate new frameworks rely heavily on the elasticity and malleability of our thoughts, this becomes the real basis for thinking differently.

How does this apply to me?

In the 1999 movie, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino’s character, Tony D’Amato, gives his players a motivational speech that includes the following lines;

One half step too late or too early, you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second’.

To me the concept within those lines translates to the way I’d like to  be able to process information within my environment. The way I utilise that line is to think that the perspectives, ideas and innovations to do things differently exist all around me, they’re in the experiences I’ve had, the conversations I will have, the future insights I’ll gain from colleagues and the application of all those pieces in framing questions to issues.

I look at my own background in economics, law and real estate. Starting from a fundamental economist perspective that the economic actions of individuals are understood to be that people ‘behave rationally in their economic decision making’. I then access my knowledge of real estate, I know that quite often emotional value and attachment overrides intrinsic value and this can blind individuals when their emotional attachments are too high. In much the same way within the business analyst world these concepts also exist, it’s just that we have buyers and sellers of a solution operating in environments where there may be emotional value attached to the current modus operandi, or where significant cost may have already been sunk into the deployment of a barely adequate solution. It’s the value in accessing our other experiences and utilising them to form unique perspectives that will provide us with the opportunity to think outside of our common frameworks and reformulate questions to the puzzle, to think differently.

When I look back to what BAPL is striving to achieve, to challenge traditional thinking…and deliver exceptional business analysis, I understand now that the shift doesn’t need to be radical. Sometimes the most elegant, most simple answer only takes a slight shift in perspective to get to the right result that may been standing in front of you all along.

 

¡TH1NK DIFF3RENTLY!

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

In this two-part blog we look at what the concept of ‘thinking differently’ means and how it applies within our BA practice.
Part A asks the question of what it means to think differently and asks the question of where our starting point should be if we want to change our mindset
Part B highlights the way we can make a conscious effort to think differently and touches on my own experiences and how I’ve been able to utilise them in looking at problems from different perspectives

 

 

 

A few months ago we at BAPL adopted a new email signature that also included the moniker of ‘think differently’, an informal label meant to draw attention to a particular attribute of what business analysts do at BAPL. Our CEO, Tim Coventry , when referring to BAPL stated;

Everything we do at BAPL, we believe in challenging the traditional thinking. We believe in  thinking differently. The way we challenge these traditional thoughts is by delivering exceptional business analysis, which is easily to implement and collaborative…’

Whilst that made sense to me, at times I would look at those two words, ‘think differently’, positioned in the email signature above my name and wonder what it really meant to me. Did it mean that I had to make a concerted effort to change everything I do? Did mean that I had to be more challenging or even antagonistic in my approach in order to challenge what was traditionally held to be the ‘correct way’ of doing things? I let the concept simmer for a while. What I understand now, after having that concept float around in my mind for a while, is that discovery and innovation simply doesn’t materialise out of nothing, it’s not some type of ethereal magic or gifted intellect that gets you to a destination. Simple ideas or even major breakthroughs arise from the association and recombination of what is already lying about in the corners of our minds.

Fast forward a couple of months from where initial thoughts began. I’m sitting at Crown casino listening to my boyhood idol, Steve Waugh, as he talked us through the most memorable moments of his career. Test debut against India at the MCG 1985, test average 51.07, test hundreds 32, test wickets 92. I knew all the stats, as I’m sure most of the audience did too. As the evening moved along we finished up with a 20-30 mins Q&A session. I sat back and thought about a question I’d like to ask, specifically cricket related, and also listened in to the typical cricket questions  being asked by other, all of which were as you’d expect, ‘What was your best innings?’, ‘Who was the most difficult bowler you faced?’, ‘What did you really say to Herschelle Gibbs?’, and then, this question, ‘What is your strategy when it comes to leadership, what is the most challenging aspect of being a leader and how did you manage so many large personalities?’

The moment the question was asked I just thought ‘how obvious, that’s a small stroke of genius’. Why wouldn’t you ask that question? One of the most high profile leadership positions in the country, asking Steve Waugh about his philosophy on leadership makes total sense, of course I’d like to know about that. It was a very simple question, quite astute, but also, it took some form of analytical thought, a move away from a linear train of steps. It wasn’t ground breaking but it didn’t have to be. Some of the greatest ideas are elegant, simple and to some degree obvious. They exist in plain sight, they’re the ones where you say, ‘I wish I’d thought of that’.

That’s how I got to here. I wanted to know how people actually go about thinking differently and, in the process, permit themselves to behave differently?

Where do we start?

As the world changes around us we have to be able to balance the concept of thinking differently to that of growing our expertise. When I say that, what I’m driving at are two types of approaches. First, there is your expertise or knowledge base. This is like an ever expanding tool kit, it’s your BABOK framework, your access to readymade business analyst techniques, learnings from previous studies. It’s your knowledge platform if you will. Personally I like to call this ‘steady state’ knowledge. It’s the body of evidence we use to perform in the manner in which we’re expected. Some people may have more, some people less but the critical thing to note is here we all draw from the roughly the same set of tools. What that should highlight immediately is that the idea or will to challenge traditional thoughtsand behave differentlywill not evolve from simply repeating or utilising what already exists. Using the same tools within the same framework won’t differentiate you as an individual, or as a collective for that matter. You may become more efficient by doing this through experience but it certainly won’t mean that you’re thinking differently.

Altogether different from your growth in expertise is the idea of your ability to make rapid decisions. This is the decision making we’re forced to utilise when it comes to the recognition of new patterns or the ability to connect two or more isolated points that don’t appear to be related. It’s our minds method we draw upon when delving into our complete library of knowledge and experiences in order to apply them to problems or situations that exist outside of our immediate sphere of reference. In this instance the ‘immediate sphere of reference’ I refer to is our roles as business analysts and our linear approaches to providing value to organisations, solving problems, removing waste, etc.

Recognising that our frameworks, methodologies and techniques are just a perspective or one of the options we can utilise to problem solving should be the trigger we can use to explore other avenues. No method or framework is perfect and each fact scenario we face can be viewed in a multi-faceted manner. Great thinkers go about searching for different ways at arriving at a solution, not editing or discarding them immediately when they initially appear impractical or too hard.

 

 

 

 

Cyber Security

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

What is the cyber security threat?

The internet is where we all now conduct our business. Electronic systems and digital information are essential for businesses to conduct a whole range of their day to day activities. The increased nature of connectivity also brings greater exposure to criminal activity and the opportunism for those with the desire to either steal, manipulate, damage or threaten by utilising the scope of connectivity

Recent cyber-attacks by cyber terrorists’ show that their targets can, and are, far ranging, from governments, to businesses and individuals. In a world where we are all connected the reach is extensive, not one organisation or individual is immune. People need to be aware of the evolving threat and the increasing level of sophistication by attackers as they employ cutting-edge techniques to breach the security barriers of organisations.

Even with this ever evolving and increasing threat, the cyber-security measures of organisations are too often reactive instead of being the cornerstones of a sound digital infrastructure. To add some perspective, in the Asia-Pacific region, companies on average identified that they were susceptible to, on average, 6 threats per minute but, they added, only 50% of those alerts would be investigated.

One major study on the Security Capabilities of the Asia Pacific region highlighted the following important findings.

Breaches

  • In the Asia Pacific region companies can receive up to 10,000 threats per day
  • 69% of companies surveyed received more than 5,000 threats a day

Lack of Security Readiness

  • Regarding digital security infrastructure, up to 9% of respondents stated they do not have cyber-security professionals at their organisations and 13% stated they do not have executives that were responsible and accountable for cyber-security at their organisations

Economic and reputational fallout

  • In South East Asia alone 51% of cyber attacks resulted in a loss of more than $1million USD
  • Nearly 10% stated that cyber attacks had resulted in losses of greater than $10 million USD

Multi-pronged attacks

  • The changing nature of attacks means that attackers are not just targeting IT infrastructure but also operational technologies, 30% of organisations stated that they have seen cyber attacks along those lines

In comparison to counterparts in the Asia-Pacific it appears that in Australia more organisations are dealing with alerts with more vigour and gravity than their regional peers, 81% of companies are facing more than 5000 alerts per day, and 33% of organisations have stated they deal with 100,000 – 150,000 alerts per day

The cost of breaches in Australia is also the highest within the Asia-Pacific region with 52% reporting that attacks costs between $1-5 million USD, with 9% reporting costs of $10 million +, estimates in this sense relating to lost revenue, loss of customers, lost opportunities and out-of-pocket cost.

What is Cyber-security all about?

Successful cyber-security has multiple layers of protection that spreads across computers, networks, programs or the data that an individual intends to keep. In an organisation it is the people, processes and technology that must complement one another in order to provide the most effective defence

People

  • Must understand and comply with basic data security principles such as choosing strong passwords, being wary of attachments, and backing up data consistently

Processes

  • Organisations need to have a framework for how they deal with both attempted and successful attacks

Technology

  • Technology is essential if giving organisations and individuals the computer security tools they need to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. The three main entities that must be protected are endpoint devices like computers, smart devices, and routers; networks and the cloud. Common technology utilised to protect these entities are next-generation firewalls, DNS filtering, malware protection, antivirus software, and email security solution 

Types of security threats

Ransomware

  • This is a type of malicious software designed to extort money by blocking access to files on a computer system until a ransom is paid. Paying the ransom does not of course guarantee that the files will be recovered or restored

Malware

  • Is a type of software designed to gain unauthorised access or cause damage to a computer

Social Engineering

  • A tactic used to trick you into revealing sensitive information. From this attackers can solicit a monetary payment or gain access to your confidential data 

Phishing

  • Is the practice of sending fraudulent emails that resemble emails from reputable sources. The aim is to steal sensitive data like credit card information and login information – this tends to be the most common type of cyber attack

Cyber crime mitigation

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is the Australian Governments lead on national cyber security, it brings together cyber security capabilities from across the Australian Government to improve cyber resilience of the Australian community and in support of economic and social prosperity of Australians in the digital age.

The ACSC also provides cyber security advice and assistance to Australian Government organisations, businesses and individuals. They have details on the types of strategies that companies can utilise in order to mitigate cyber security incidents.

With that said, whilst no single strategy, is guaranteed to prevent cyber security incidents, organisations are recommended to implement eight essential mitigation strategies, as listed below, in order to formulate a security baseline. This baseline will make it harder for attackers to compromise systems and will of course be much more cost-effective than being put in the position of having to respond to a large-scale cyber security incident

The essential eight strategies are:

Application Whitelisting – to control the execution of unauthorised software

Patching applications – to remediate known security vulnerabilities

Configuring Microsoft Office macro settings – to block untrusted macros

Application hardening – to protect against vulnerable functionality

Restrictive administrative privileges – to limit powerful access to systems

Patching operating systems – to remediate known security vulnerabilities

Multi-factor authentication – to protect against risky activities

Daily back-ups – to maintain the availability of critical data

Implementation of strategies – starting points for business analysts

  • Prior to implementing a mitigation strategy, organisations need to identify their assets, particularly their vulnerable assets, and perform a risk assessment to identifying the levels of protection required from various threats.
  • Building up support and increasing cyber security awareness requires ‘motivators’. Some of the ‘motivators’ that impart awareness and create urgency to cyber security are penetration tests, mandatory breach reporting & mandatory compliance.
  • A mitigation strategy should be implemented for high risk users and computers such as those that have access to (sensitive or high-availability) data and exposed to untrustworthy content, and then the strategy can be rolled out for all other users and computers.
  • Perform ‘hands on’ testing to verify the effectiveness of implementation and mitigation strategies
  • The four major threats to businesses/organisations are as listed below:
    • targeted cyber intrusion and external adversaries that steal data
    • ransomware that denies access for monetary gain, and external adversaries who destroy data and prevent computers/networks from functioning
    • malicious insiders who steal data such as customer details or intellectual property
    • malicious insiders who destroy data and prevent computers/networks from functioning
  • Incorporating the top 8 strategies are the most effective way for mitigating targeted cyber intrusions and ransomware – the ASD considers their implementation to be the security baseline for all organisations

Major threats – suggested mitigation strategy implementation

Below is listed the major type of security threats to organisations and the essential strategies to be adopted in combating these threats.

Targeted cyber intrusions (advanced persistent threats) and other external adversaries that steal data:

  • Implement “essential” mitigation strategies to:
  • prevent malware delivery and execution
  • limit the extent of cyber security incidents
  • detect cyber-security incidents and respond

Ransomware and external adversaries who destroy data and prevent computers/networks from functioning:

Implement “essential” mitigation strategies to:

  • recover data and system availability
  • prevent malware delivery and execution
  • limit the extent of cyber security incidents
  • detect cyber security incidents and respond

Malicious insiders who steal data:

  • Implement ‘Control removable storage media and connect devices’ to mitigate data exfiltration
  • Implement ‘Outbound web and email data loss prevention’
  • Implement “essential” mitigation strategies to:
  • limit the extent of data security incidents
  • detect cyber security incidents and respond

Malicious insiders who destroy data and prevent computers/networks from functioning:

  • Implement “essential” mitigation strategies to:
  • recover data and system availability
  • limit the extend of cyber security incidents
  • detect cyber security incidents and respond

 

Essential mitigation strategies

Some of eight essential mitigation strategies are outlined below with additional supporting strategies also specified.  Those that the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) consider ‘Essential’ or ‘Excellent’ are outlined below.

 

Relative security rating effectiveness                                                                  Migration strategy

Mitigation strategies to prevent malware delivery and execution

Essential          Application whitelisting or approved/trusted programs to prevent execution of unapproved/malicious programs including .exe, DLL, scripts (e.g. Windows Script Host, Powershell and HTA) and installers

Essential          Patch applications e.g. Flash, web browsers, Microsoft Office, Java and PDF viewers. Patch/mitigate computers with ‘extreme risk’ vulnerabilities. Use the latest versions of applications

Essential          Configure Microsoft Office macro settings to block macros from the Internet, and only allow vetted macros either in ‘trusted locations with limited write access or digitally signed with a trust certificate

Essential          User application hardening. Configure web browsers to block Flash (best to uninstall it), ads & Java on the internet. Disable unneeded features of Microsoft Office (e.g. OLE), web browsers and PDF viewers

Excellent           Automated dynamic analysis of email and web content run in a sandbox, blocked if suspicious behaviour is identified e.g. network traffic, new or modified files, or other system configuration changes

Excellent           Email content filtering. Whitelist attachment types (included in archives and next archives). Analyse/sanitise hyperlinks, PDF and Microsoft Office attachments. Quarantine Microsoft Office macros

Excellent           Web content filtering. Whitelist allowed types of web content and web sites with good reputation ratings. Block access to malicious domains and IP addresses, ads, anonymity networks and free domains

Excellent           Deny computers direct internet connectivity. Use a gateway firewall to require use of a split DNS server, an email server, and an authenticated web proxy server for outbound web connections.

Excellent           Operating system generic exploit migration e.g. Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR) and Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

 

Mitigation strategies to limit the extent of cyber security incidents

Essential          Restrict administrative privileges to operating systems and applications based on user duties. Regularly revalidate the need for privileges. Don’t used privileged accounts for reading email and web browsing.

Essential          Patch operating systems. Patch/mitigate computers (including network devices) with ‘extreme risk’ vulnerabilities. Use the latest operating system version. Don’t use unsupported versions.

Essential          Multi-factor authentication including for VPN’s, RDP, SSH and other remote access, and for all users when they perform a privileged action or access an important (sensitive/high availability) data repository.

Excellent           Disable local administrator accounts or assign passphrases that are random and unique for each computer’s local administrator account in order to prevent propagation using shared local administrator credentials

Excellent           Network segmentation. Deny traffic between computers unless required. Constrain devices with low assurance e.g. BYOD and IoT. Restrict access to network drives and data repositories based on user duties.

Excellent           Protect authentication credentials. Remove CPassword values (MS14-025). Configure WDigest (KB2871997). Use Credential Guard. Change default passphrases. Require long complex passphrases

 

Mitigation strategies to detect cyber security incidents and respond

Excellent           Continuous incident detection and response with automated immediate analysis of centralised time-synchronised logs of permitted and denied: computer events, authentication, file access and network activity

Essential          Mitigation strategies to recover data and system availability

Daily backups of important new/changed data, software and configuration settings, stored disconnected, retained for at least three months. Test restoration liability, annually and when IT infrastructure changes.

 

 

How To Best Leverage Robotic Process Automation

by Abe Magalong,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

In an increasingly competitive environment where businesses are changing their internal operations to engage faster and become more personalised to their customers how can the introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) assist this and what exactly is it? Robotic Process Automation is fast becoming an interesting software solution to routine, laborious, data intensive tasks (Boulton, 2018). This blog will describe RPA and apply business analysis techniques to increase the value of implementing an RPA solution within businesses. 

The use of RPA is being adopted across multiple business sectors (Boulton, 2018). At its core, RPA is the use of a software application which governed by business logic and structured inputs is designed to automate manual business processes that involve data entry and processing (Boulton, 2018). The impact of using such technology is that a business can configure RPA software to read data from an application and process a simple transaction which otherwise would be the responsibility of an human actor.

To help facilitate implementing an RPA solution, a Business Analyst can undertake a scoping exercise to identify which areas of the business can benefit from the adoption of RPA. Lessons learnt indicate that a more refined RPA scope that targets simple information is more effective than interpreting complex information derived from multiple scenarios as the human element will inevitably need to intervene (Smith, 2017).

An approach of identifying and refining scope is by choosing a business department with data intensive tasks and documenting which smaller processes can benefit from an RPA. By taking first a broad outlook and then focusing on the detail businesses can therefore quickly identify a scope to implement RPA. The use of a simple Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers (SIPOC) framework, BPMN modelling and creating test scenarios from the processes can help facilitate analysis and design of an RPA solution

By starting at the highest level, the use of SIPOC can frame key characteristics of a bigger process, enabling a Business Analyst to quickly trace and highlight which tasks of a process are labour intensive. Once a task in the process is identified to be labour and data intensive the use of BPMN modelling can validate whether an RPA solution can be of best fit.

Modelling individual activities of a task allows a Business Analyst to validate what data entry steps in the process are repeatable and identifies which data attributes is consumed and outputted to an associated system. By going in to this detail a Business Analyst can further test whether their hypothesis of replacing a manual data entry task can benefit from an RPA solution as it shows low level task dependencies between data and associated consuming systems. Documenting the process again but in a to-be state whereby each manual data entry step is replaced by the RPA solution can therefore visually depict how the new process will work in the future state. 

Finally, to confirm whether the to-be model of implementing an RPA solution will achieve the intended outcome, the development of test plans which can easily be documented using the to-be model as a reference point can help facilitate this. The use of a test plan that details individual steps traced back from a to-be model allows a Business Analyst to meticulously plan how the new human removed data entry process achieves the same outcome. By doing this a Business Analyst can therefore record and analyse any test results and report any unexpected or unsatisfactory outcomes.

To capture which areas of the business is suitable for an RPA roll out a focused analysis which begins by looking broad and focusing in on the individual data entry steps can help identify which specific manual data entry processes can best leverage an RPA solution.

 

References

Boulton, C (2018). What is RPA? A revolution in business process automation. Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/641674/what-rpa-revolution-business-process-automation/

Smith, P (2017). Robotic process automation on demand as consultants get disrupted. Retrieved from https://www.afr.com/technology/robotic-process-automation-on-demand-as-consultants-get-disrupted-20170816-gxx6b0

BAs’ in the World of Data Governance

by Rob Miles,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

Advancements in technology and reductions in bandwidth and storage costs mean that organisations now have the ability to capture and store large quantities of data on all sorts of processes, behaviours and systems. However, as an organisation’s data assets grow it has led to an interesting problem – they are beginning to realise that just capturing this information is not enough. Stockpiling information without clearly articulated business needs and explicitly defined requirements makes it difficult to find meaning and cut through the noise and clutter. Storing massive amounts of data with no meaningful purpose can both be a liability on the balance sheet and in the boardroom when it comes to making clear decisions. Data by itself is not an asset, knowing how to use the data is. Organisations must find a way to attribute value to their data so they can make meaningful decisions and learn.

Effective Data Governance provides numerous benefits to an organization. It can help to:

  • Decrease costs associated with Data Management
  • Ensure accurate procedures around regulation and compliance activities
  • Improve transparency and traceability of data-related activities
  • Embed best practice around the management of data assets
  • Standardize data systems, policies, procedures and standards
  • Resolve past and current data issues.
  • Facilitate monitoring and tracking of data quality
  • Ultimately increase the value of an organisation’s data, thereby increasing overall revenue.

The answer so far has been to make sure data kept is in specified locations, in controlled formats, marked with any appropriate information to help provide context or in short DATA GOVERNANCE.

 

Step one in the process is to figure out what type of information will help your organisation be better. To do this we go to the old BA fall-backs of Traceabilityand Strategic Direction. If an organisation knows where it is going, it is a lot easier for them to decide what data and information may be useful for making decisions. Our job as BA’s is to help the organisation understand both what they are currently doing and what questions they need to answer in order to continuously improve. Providing context to the sea of information allows you to see what data will provide actionable value vs background noise. It will also allow you to define a standardisedway of interpreting the information across the business.

So now we have a method to sort diamonds from rocks. How do we ensure that the process is relevant to our current needs? Enter the BA and the Data Steward. The Data Stewardis the SME assigned by the company to validate the information and ensure that the information is relevant to today’s needs. Usually the data steward is someone that has been with the company a long time and has the unenviable task of tidying the mess made by upstream data entry users so that management can see an accurate, meaningful report. A BA’s role is to work with data stewards to understand how they are cleaning up the information or applying business rules. Once again, this is a perfect opportunity for us to help the business mature. Using a combination of information tagging (Metadata), process mapping and automation of business rules, we should be able to move tasks to their correct point in the value stream to ensure the least amount effort for the biggest return.

So far we have;

  • Determined what information we need to make a decision.
  • Standardised how we interpret/apply the information.
  • Ensured the data we receive is appropriate and accurate

So where to from here? Well the short answer there is a lot left do. Ensuring information is current, relevant and appropriate is a continuous task. You must be able to adapt the processes and systems as organisations needs change and mature. As the process of gathering and interpreting data becomes faster/easier you will have more time to start asking more complex questions and generate greater wisdom.

One way to build data governance capability in an organisation is to adopt the GOVERN Process:

Get buy-in for data governance from senior management

Organise a committee to establish procedures, decision rights and accountability

Verify assumptions and constraints to address barriers to data governance

Ensure goals and objectives are aligned to the available resources

Report on performance of data governance initiatives by measuring results

Network for best practices to support continuous improvement

 

Hopefully has given you an insight into the world of data governance. There is no shortage of reading materials out there but it hard to go past the industry standard in DMBoK. If your organisation would like support in understanding this further, at BAPL, we love data.

Product Roadmap – A Script For Success

by Sunil Powle,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

It was close to 4pm and George was staring at his third PowerPoint slide for more than an hour, adding and deleting content several times. He felt as if he had no more power left to make a point. George had been leading a lean product team working on a contract management system implementation in an Agile environment.

Jane, an experienced business analyst noticed a worried George and stopped by for a chat.

 

 

Jane: George, you look worked up, something the matter?

 

 

George: My stakeholders just don’t seem to get it. I’ve had several sessions with the leadership team and with the ground staff too, however, they never seem to align with the work we have done and the work we have in our pipeline. Despite several presentations, they seem unsure of our product’s vision.

Jane: Aah, a much familiar ground, it’s always a daunting task to bring stakeholders on the same page. Have you tried building a Product Roadmap?

George: Product roadmap! What is that, another management gimmick?

Jane: I understand your frustration George, but this thing works.

George: Well what is it? Can you enlighten me?

Jane: A product roadmap is a summary that plots the vision and direction of your product offering…umm contract management stuff in your context, over the implementation period. It can be a visual summary, a strategic document or a plan and can be tailored to your audience.

George: Tailored to my audience, what do you mean?

Jane: I mean, for the leadership team, your product roadmap can talk about the product’s vision and how it aligns with the organization’s strategic goals. However, for the ground staff, you can dive into details by focusing on specific product features and add further details. You work in an Agile project management environment, don’t you? So, you can consider including themes, epics, stories and features into your product roadmap.

George: So, the product roadmap will cover features, requirements or initiatives and will outline a path to deliver them over a period thereby describing the anticipated product growth?

Jane: That’s correct! Let me show you how it will look at a very high-level so that you get the gist of what I’m talking about.

Jane quickly scribbled a rudimentary sketch of the product roadmap on her tablet.

 

 

Jane: Look at this picture. You can spread the planned development of your product across the timeline. This way, your stakeholders will have a single view of what is being delivered when.

 

George:…and I will be able to communicate the direction and progress towards the vision for my product, both to the leadership and to the ground staff and thereby establish a shared view and understanding?

Jane: Correct again, you are a fast learner!

George: That sounds interesting, but tell me, how does it fit into an Agile working environment where we have continuous moving pieces

Jane: Good question. Its common knowledge that Agile environment values working solutions. A product roadmap focuses on product/feature/value delivered as against focusing on a milestone or checkpoint. Product roadmap enables iterative delivery by showcasing features that are being delivered currently and those that will be delivered next and at later period.

George appeared a bit confused.

 

George: Hang-on, this sounds like a product backlog, are we confusing the two?

Jane: An Agile expert you are, but there are key differences between a product backlog and a product roadmap. Typically, a product backlog is a translation of how your team will deliver the vision outlined on an Agile product roadmap. The backlog defines product features for near term, but a product roadmap provides a strategic view of where the product is headed over the mid to long term period. It is tied to the organization’s vision and strategic goals often for the next 12 or more months.

George: I am itching to get started! Any input on how should I structure the product roadmap?

 

 

 

Jane paused a while to think:

 

 

Jane: A funnel approach is what comes to my mind.

George: A funnel approach? Boy you’ve got some cool analogies but help me understand more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane: The product roadmap should first tell your product’s story at the highest possible level, consider starting with themes and epics and then work its way down into the smaller, more detailed aspects of that story such as requirements, features or user stories.

 

Jane quickly scribbled the hierarchy on her tablet.

 

 

George: Themes, Epics, that’s right down my alley, but before I get started, are there any limitations to this that I should be aware of?

Jane: Unfortunately, yes. A product roadmap can prove ineffective if the organizational environment is such that it leads to frequently changing vision and desired outcomes. I have seen a few product owners misusing the roadmap as a milestone or a date-driven plan. You will need to be cautious on the level of detail you put into it as it can get very time-consuming to maintain if it is overly detailed or too many variations are made in an attempt to satisfy all stakeholder groups. The trick here would be to find the right balance of details that the stakeholder groups can relate to.

George: I will be mindful of these aspects Jane. I know it’s getting late, but are there any final inputs?

Jane: Well there are a few more things you should consider.

George: Always hungry for more, you have both of my ears Jane.

Jane: Ensure that you as a product owner take ownership of the product roadmap and have your team focusing on maintaining it. Make it a living document rather than a plan set in stone. Regularly discuss, prioritize, estimate, update and share the product roadmap. Ensure that the roadmap reflects the most current priorities and goals, is easily accessible to those who need it. Set expectations with your stakeholders that the roadmap is not a promise. And lastly, keep it simple.

George: You are a star Jane, thank you so very much.

Jane: You are most welcome George; a Business Analyst never shies away from helping where they can. I wish you all the very best!

 

 

Why I Work at Business Analysts Pty Ltd (BAPL)

by Patrick Leaupepe,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

A couple of weeks ago on a camping trip with some mates, we were sitting around a camp fire and one of the boys asked me “Why do you work for Business Analysts Pty Ltd (BAPL)?” 

This question completely caught me off guard, because what separates one employer from another?

After hours of driving and a cold bevvy or two, I wasn’t able to provide a response that really represented my feelings. However, it did lead me down the path to reflect back on my career, and I would like to take this opportunity to share Why I work at Business Analysts Pty Ltd (BAPL)

I have been working at BAPL for the past three and a half years, and over that time, I’ve had a lot of great experiences and not so great experiences…life of a consultant, right? So, upon reflection, I managed to boil it down to three key reasons. I work for BAPL because we have amazing consultants, great managers and most importantly, a supportive and collaborative culture.

Fortunately for me, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside a lot of amazing BAPL consultants on numerous projects. Each consultant brings their own style, experiences, knowledge, etc. to the table and regardless of age/gender/background we all respect each other. Due to the mutual respect, I’ve been able to learn new skills and techniques because everyone’s happy to share their knowledge and experiences. And I’ve also built strong relationships, so much so that I’ve made some great friends along the way.

In addition to having amazing consultants, we also have great managers. The managers at Business Analysts Pty Ltd  have been great to me, and the three main managers that I want to focus on are the Service Delivery Manager, Practice Manager and Engagement Manager. Each manager plays a vital role within the business, and I have the utmost respect for each.

 

  • Service Delivery Manager: The Service Delivery Manager is responsible for managing the consultant engagements and client relationships.
  • Practice Manager: The Practice Manager is responsible for training, career development, and resourcing.
  • Engagement Manager: The Engagement Manager is responsible for managing the sales pipeline and allocating resources for new opportunities.

 

Each of the managers above are great, but what makes them really great is that they work together to ensure that each consultant is placed into an engagement where he/she can succeed and be supported to produce deliverables that meet the client’s expectations.

The last point I want to talk about is the supportive and collaborative culture at Business Analysts Pty Ltd. I honestly believe that this kind of culture could not have been achieved without the amazing consultants and great managers in the BAPL practice. As aforementioned, there is a high level of respect amongst the practice and everyone is encouraged to ask questions, share feedback, bounce ideas, and provide their opinions. Whether you’ve been working at BAPL for years or if you’re a new starter, everyone’s contributions are highly valued and that’s what I believe helps drive a collaborative environment.

Furthermore, the support provided by the managers and consultants is second to none. On all of my client engagements to date, I have always felt comfortable to reach out for guidance. The managers are always there to lend a helping hand, and the consultants are happy to help out as well. I believe that having amazing consultants, great managers and a supportive and collaborative culture go hand in hand (in hand), and this is why I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at BAPL to date. So, the next time someone asks me why I work for BAPL, I’ll now be able to answer clearly.