Building Cyber Resilience – The New Challenge For Business Leaders

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

Cyber threats can and will affect all industries. The most current wave of digital transformation to hit the global economy has brought to us the IOT, (Internet of Things), which means now that nearly all organisations operate in a digitally interconnected ecosystem.  Cyber security can therefore no longer be regarded as an individualised problem that can be fought at the digital and physical frontier of a single organisation. The cyber security vulnerability of anyone you do business with can now also be your vulnerability also, you too can inherit the risk.  

Successful cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure have the potential to immediately threaten both national security and economic stability. The degree and nature of attacks now have the potential to cripple not just industries, but can also do untold damage to nations, as dependencies have risen through interconnectedness. One only needs to look at the NoTPetya cyber-attack on the Ukraine in 2017 to witness the ferocity, scale and damage of a cyber event with magnitude[i]. The scale and potential to create damage and harm is not lost on cyber threat actors either. Criminal groups, hacktivists with the aim of causing civil unrest, and even state-sponsored groups performing espionage activities, all understand the vulnerabilities of operating in an interconnected and interdependent environment where the consequences of a cyber-attack can easily cascade from one to many in an instant. The Ukrainian event will not be the last, and even though the degrees of attacks may vary it cannot be assumed that anyone is immune.

Combatting and managing this growing risk must now become the onus of business leaders. To understand, identify and build a robust and pervasive cyber resilience culture and further, ensure it is instilled within every person of an organisation means that actions and the activity of knowledge transfer, defence and culture needs to commence from the top down. Board members and chief executives are now obligated to take it upon themselves to proactively formulate strategies and ensure cyber resilience is interwoven into the fabric of their organisation.

The new interconnected world in which organisations operate necessitates leaders to fundamentally shift their mindset in two distinct ways[ii]:

  1. There needs to be the understanding that cyber-risk is a business and ecosystem-wide risk and not simply a component that fits within the remit of IT risk. Cyber risk management decisions must be integrated into all business decisions.
  2. Awareness that managing cyber-risk in an interconnected environment means that leaders need to look well beyond the boundaries of their own houses and understand their broader neighbourhoods of suppliers, customers, competitors, peers and regulators, amongst others[iii].

 

Knowing what needs to be protected is the first step in addressing the challenges of cyber resilience in a complex and interdependent operational universe.

Organisations usually have interdependent relationships with numerous stakeholders that can span multiple degrees of separation within an organisation. In order to ensure that cyber security and resilience are effectively adopted within the context of business strategy, leaders have the obligation to grasp both the breadth and depth of the connections within their operational sphere.

Being able to produce a logistical map of interconnected stakeholders is also of utmost importance. The identification has to start within the core value chain, specifically, identifying the connected infrastructure, and then, expanding that sphere of reference to the surrounding business ecosystem of suppliers, customers and peers. This then needs to be encapsulated and buttressed by a clear picture of what the extended ecosystemis.

The extended ecosystem is also known as the strategic layer and comprises policy makers, regulators, law enforcement, insurers and standards bodies.

As the digitisation increases so too does the complexity and interdependencies of the network layer, i.e., the computer systems[i] that interact with one another. Coming to an understanding of this layer early in the piece and getting ahead of the development will allow a better insight into obvious cyber vulnerabilities and will highlight how this layer can be utilised as a highway to propagate cyber-attacks, and further, how the effects can easily cascade across the ecosystem.

Understanding the network layer and also working both adeptly and with agility in the strategic layer is critical in becoming cyber resilient. Cyber security and resilience cannot be allowed to simply be regarded in isolation. Leaders must now take it upon themselves to recognise that a lack of security in their broader neighbourhood means that their own cyber integrity has the ability to be undermined. Cooperation is a key aspect to heightening cyber resilience. It is essential between members of a neighbourhood, from oversight bodies to suppliers, customers and employees, that cooperation through all operational spheres needs to take place in order to inform, identify and combat all perceived threats.

 

How to secure systems that will become increasingly more complex will inevitably be the ongoing challenge for any market. The ever-changing nature of technology and the shifting sands on which both the network layer and strategic layer are founded will mean collaborative and collective efforts will need to be sustained, indefinitely.    

In 2017, to help facilitate board oversight and action in support of organisational cyber resilience, the World Economic Forum (WEC)[i], in collaboration with leading academics, developed 10 overarching principles[ii] for organisational cyber governance. The principles were put in place to assist boards in promoting cyber resilience as a key component of their overall organisational strategy.

The key cyber resilience principles are restated below in this blog. These principles have been lifted exactly as stipulated by the WEC

Principle 1 – Responsibility for cyber resilience – The board as a whole need to take ultimate responsibility for the oversight of cyber risk and resilience. This primary oversight may be delegated to an existing committee or new, dedicated committee.

Principle 2 – Command of the subject – Board members need to receive cyber resilience training upon joining the board and are regularly updated on threats and trends – with advice from independent external experts when requested.

Principle 3 – Accountable Officer – The board ensures that one corporate office is accountable for reporting on the organisations capability to manage cyber resilience and progress in completing cyber resilience goals.

Principle 4 – Integration of cyber resilience – The board ensures that management integrates cyber resilience and cyber risk assessments into the overall business strategy as and enterprise wide risk management, as well as budgeting decisions and resource allocation.

Principle 5 – Risk appetite – The board annually defines and quantifies business risk tolerance relative to cyber resilience and ensures that it is consistent with corporate strategy and risk appetite.

Principle 6 – Risk assessment and reporting The board holds management accountable for reporting a quantified and understandable assessment of cyber risks, threats and events as a standing agenda item during its meetings.

Principle 7 – Resilience plans The board ensures that management supports the officer for cyber resilience by creation, implementation, testing and ongoing cyber resilience plans, which are harmonized across the business.

Principle 8 – Community The board encourages management to collaborate with stakeholders, as relevant and appropriate, in order to ensure systemic cyber resilience.

Principle 9 – Review The board ensures that a formal, independent cyber resilience review of the organisation is carried out annually.

Principle 10 – Effectiveness The board periodically reviews its own performance on implementation of these principles and seeks independent advice for continuous improvement.

 

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[I]‘The untold story of NoTPetya, the most devastating cyberattack in history’,accessed 23 APR 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/notpetya-cyberattack-ukraine-russia-code-crashed-the-world/

[II]Boston Consulting Group, Whitepaper, accessed 12 APR 2019,’ Building cyberresilience into the electricity ecosystem’, https://www.bcg.com/publications/2019/building-cyberresilience-electricity-ecoysystem.aspx

 

[III]World Economic Forum, Whitepaper, accessed 15 April 2019, ‘Cyber resilience in the electricity ecosystem: Principles and guidance for boards’, https://www.weforum.org/whitepapers/cyber-resilience-in-the-electricity-ecosystem-principles-and-guidance-for-boards

 

Confessions of an Agile convert

by Nikesh Parbhoo,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

 

 

Confessions of an Agile convert

Having to work in an agile environment for the first time can be a daunting challenge, particularly if you’ve done work in waterfall environments for most of your career. Agile is being adopted to a greater degree in IT delivery. You will find that each country, city, industry or client/employer will either be more mature or less mature at effectively applying Agile techniques. Ensure that you understand where you need to operate at in this maturity continuum.

What does it take to make that leap across the chasm into the world of agile?

Firstly, read up on agile as much as you can. The IIBA has the Agile extension to the BABOK which is useful.  Speak to as many professional agile practitioners as possible. Some cities have Agile meetup groups that you can leverage off.           

If you have a decision to make regarding accepting a piece of work in an Agile project, your preparation should give you the confidence to say yes. All your analysis skills developed in your Waterfall life is fully transferable in Agile. Agile is just a method of work – the skills associated with being a business analyst remain the same. Attention to detail, people skills, business acumen and all other good BA skillsets will be to your advantage in any Agile space.

Know your new tools and artefacts

Gant charts, Microsoft project, requirements specification documents and business process management tools/artefacts are some the assets of knowledge you would have built up during your waterfall career. Agile is less structured, and so you need to understand your new paradigm of working and the tools that go with it.

The Atlassian suite (Jira and Confluence) is widely used in agile IT implementation projects.  The good news is that using these tools are intuitive and nota mountain to overcome to become productive quickly.

‘Let go’ of your artefacts

Typical Waterfall BAs have a very close, sometimes emotional relationship with their artefacts, be it the requirements specification document, business process maps, etc. This ownership mentality is something that must loosen up in an Agile environment where the team owns the artefacts through co-creation and collaboration.

The BA takes primary accountability for an agile artefact (like a User Story), but it is ultimately a product of the greater team. Don’t feel like your space is being intruded upon when the product owner or the SMEs make a change to your User Story on Jira.

Agile is more human

Agile offers teams the ability to think and produce value like we do natively as human beings.  We naturally operate on a try-fail-try again basis as humans. Think babies or children and you soon realise that they essentially operate on an agile basis. They are never perfect, but they are constantly trying and eventually get it right. The frustrations that accompany the ‘throw it over the wall’ mentality of Waterfall evaporate quickly in a well-run Agile team. Remember: Fail fast to get to ‘goodenough’ quicker.

Information Crosshairs

For all its goodness, Agile also presents some challenges. Information flow is one of those that Agile cannot necessarily fix. Too much communication, too little absorption by all the relevant stakeholders can lead to rework, distractions and duplication. When important decisions are being made on the fly (which is a strength of agile), it is critical that these get communicated effectively to the team. Use the daily stand-ups to facilitate this.

Get everything into Jira & Confluence

Your agile project is probably using Jira/Confluence as its tool. Ensure that Jira (or any other tool of choice) is the one and only source of truth. A half-baked attempt at using Jira does not help the project move forward, and only serves to intensify the problems associated with information crosshairs.

Jira is great, but Kanban boards can be better 

Tools like Jira are fantastic to keep track of all your user stories. Physical Kanban boards where team members update their stories at daily stand-ups form part of powerful agile rituals that can congeal a team. There is something inherently primitive about having a tactile experience of moving a card to ‘feel’ progress. More so, a physical Kanban board is a prevailing communication tool to sponsors, program managers and similar management stakeholders that have a constant visual report they can access at any point in time.

Physical Kanban boards however, do not work very well when you have distributed teams located across the globe. In these circumstances, a Kanban board can work better for a localised team that is working on a stream within a larger project.

Getting the best people in the room

This concept is not unique to Agile. Having the best people in the room increases your chances of working in any environment. I have found that two key agile roles can have a huge positive effect on the life of a BA in an agile project are:

  • •          The Product Owner:  This person needs to be a strong advocate for the system and should be empowered to make substantial decisions on behalf of the business.  All team members (business analysts included) will turn to the product owner when making critical decisions about the solution.
  • •          The Scrum Master:  A good scrum master should be able to facilitate momentum on the project and clear any obstacles. A good scrum master connects the dots between all project disciplines and overlays this with his/her deep insights about agile practices.

Most importantly … play and have fun

Kids in a playground manufacture fun in a way that might be observed as chaos to an outsider.  An agile project has similar traits. Leave the shackles of your waterfall past behind and embrace a more collaborative (sometimes messy), but ultimately more energetic, adaptable and fun way of working.

 

 

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‘A Typical Day with AI’

by Esther Herzog,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

The purpose of this blog is to observe how AI is currently able to assist our everyday activities from sunrise to sundown.

AI should be augmenting the tasks and activities we already complete in our everyday lives, rather than creating completely different ways of completing simple processes.

Let’s explore AI and how it is leveraged to ensure maximum benefits.

Here is a look at an AI timeline journey on a typical weekday, a look into the everyday journey of a busy working family.

 

 

 

5am

  • Using the home speaker device to program the alarm to wake the family by sending a signal to all connected smart devices to tell everyone to wake up and shuts the children’s access to the internet off until they reach school.
  • The smart home energy control IoT that is incorporated into the home, opens the shut-out blinds automatically, the air-conditioning is switched to off and the lights are monitored according to the time of day and natural light capacity.

6am

  • The scheduled activities are notified to all family members via smart devices. Scheduling has been completed at the weekend with an automated virtual scheduling assistant (VSA). VSA identifies the planned activities and tasks for each day and the required attire or apparatuses.
  • The AM news is automatically switched to on using IoT smart tv.
  • The AI based voice recognition fridge is activated for school lunch recipes. Suggestions are produced to the group and the ability to purchase groceries if required.

7am

  • The IoT home speaker device is making clothing recommendations based on the weather forecast for the day and also identifying if rain is a high possibility to necessitate the use of an umbrella.

7:50am

  • An automated alert via the home connectivity technology is sounded to make sure everyone is on track for departure at 8am.
  • A reminder is set to collect bus passes and to ensure the sporting and music apparatuses for after school activities are organized, And a reminder as to whether it is bin day, or recycling bin week.
  • Everyone in the house has their wearable device, as emotion AI uses voice analysis beyond natural language processing (NLP) to detect the user’s emotion to better predict suggested treatments. Utilising machine learning, emotion AI technology is lent anthropomorphic qualities to collate data on human individuals to learn their specific emotive behaviors, thereby formulating a personalized experience.

8am

  • The IoT blinds are shut and all not vital power is switched to off.
  • The smart phone is able to alert you to the best route to school and work, alerting you to possible areas of dense traffic or vehicle related incidents.
  • Leaving the house, using security technology, enabled with machine learning and biometrics.
  • Jumping into the car which has emotional processing capability using computer vision, and audio sensors to cater and adapt to the needs of the persons within the vehicle, such as detecting blue lips indicting that the temperature control is to be adjusted automatically. And the ability to monitor safe driving behavior.
  • During the day if any parcels are to be delivered the delivery man has access to a parcel door (the size of a cat door) that requires an access code and is monitored by smart security and surveillance cameras.

9am

  • Access to your work building is via facial recognition security technology using deep sensory cameras to gain access to the lifts, the smart security knows which floor you want to be dropped at.
  • To gain access to your company’s network; the security technology uses your face, and this also grants multi-application access.
  • You open your tasks for the day as these have been categorized by your AI virtual personal assistant (VPA), which also determines your meetings scheduled into your calendar for the day and is able to send these through to your smart phone, which is attached to your wrist. This enables an understanding of your location requirements for all meetings. Your VPA can automatically set meetings up when required.
  • Your VPA can also help with providing research to solve business problems, or business analysis approach suggestions, by sourcing data from the BABOK or Agile extension.
  • Through-out the day your smart watch is reminding you to stand up, because it knows when you have seated too long, your body temperature is also monitored to assess your water consumption requirements through-out the day.

12pm

  • It’s lunch time, you tell your VPA you want lunch within close proximity of your office, with a specific price point and the cuisine type. The assistant researches options and returns the top three results. If you are having a social work gathering, it may be applicable to ensure delivery which can be arranged by your VPA, however if the meal is individually focused, then the smart watch will advise of the time it will be estimated to reach the destination. And that walking is the best option to take in terms of retrieving your lunch meal.

3pm

  • A healthy snack reminder is sent to your smart watch and remaining tasks that are outstanding for the day.

5pm

  • Home time; send a check message to the smart appliance fridge to identify any movement with milk or bread supplies. The ability to automatically order online for a click and collect at the supermarket.

6pm

  • 3D deep sensing camera technology for facial recognition will allow all members of the family to easily access the home, however non authorized persons will be denied access.
  • Time to seat everyone for a meal and then off to scheduled sporting activities.

 

With the adoption of wearable tech, advancements in home smart devices and improvements in facial recognition, combining these avenues currently provides a significant avenue for AI to simplify our lives.

Imagine what the future holds…

 

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Relative Estimation: A Simple Yet Effective Method of Estimation.

by Shanil Wiratunga,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

Many moons ago as a young techy I spent numerous hours and days with my teammates, working in laborious estimation sessions, trying to arrive at the most accurate estimate to develop features of a Software solution. From here we created Gantt charts and plans so detailed and lengthy, that they ended up looking like bowls of noodles. It didn’t stop there, as scope and requirement changes would creep in, we’d have to rework these estimates, and the lengthy, stripy charts all over again. But did this help to deliver our projects on time? Well the answer to that question is quite complicated. Yes, we delivered on time, but that is after having toiled away many weekends, public holidays and after office hours to ensure all the remaining work was squeezed in.

This pain staking process went on for many years to come until one day I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Agile. That was my very first sneak peek at this wonderful world. I learnt many concepts, techniques, theories and most importantly a different way of estimating called ‘Relative Estimation’. I started my quest to learn more about this technique as much as I did on the other Agile concepts. The more I learnt through research and experience, the more I realised how simple, yet effective relative estimation is. It is something we always do. It second nature to us, and hence, the reason why it works so well too.

Before we delve deeper into this, let’s have a look at what estimation in is in the first place. Why it is so challenging?  If then, what is relative estimation? Why I think relative estimation is a more conducive and simple way of estimating in software development projects, as opposed to the conventional absolute estimation.

 

 

What Is estimation or absolute estimation?

In Software development projects estimation is used for predicting the most realistic amount of effort required to develop or maintain software, based on incomplete, uncertain, and clouded inputs. One of the key attributes that is predicted in the process of estimation is the time to pursue a course of action. From this teams estimate the cost associated to the time and the value associated with the suggested course of action.

There are many methods that are used for estimation as well. Some of them are:

  • Top down
  • Bottom up
  • Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM)
  • Rolling wave
  • Delphi
  • PERT

Why is absolute estimating so challenging?

Firstly, it must be said that we humans were not designed for absolute estimations. Our brain alone does not have the capability of doing absolute measurements and estimates. We tend to be optimistic or pessimistic more than realistic most of the time. However, it’s easier for humans to relate to similar items than to guess the actual size of things. Humans are designed to look at things comparatively, and relatively.

Secondly, in a world of rapidly changing technology, requirements and scope changes are inevitable. There are so many unknowns and moving parts in a typical project, which makes estimating with an acceptable level of accuracy a nightmare.

What is relative estimation?

Relative estimation is the process of estimating items, not by units of time or size separately, but rather by comparing how they are similar to each other in terms of complexity.  Agile alliance defines relative estimation as one of the several distinct flavours of estimation used in Agile teams, and consists of estimating tasks or user stories, not separately and in absolute units of time, but by comparison or by grouping of items of equivalent difficulty. Basically, relative estimation applies the principle that comparing is much quicker and more accurate than absolute estimation.

Let’s look at an example from what we do almost every day. Buying coffee.  When we go to a coffee shop to get a coffee the Barista asks us to choose the size of the coffee. Assuming we have never been to the coffee shop before we would not know the sizes of the cups, as large, medium or small. Either we could make a lucky guess thinking large would be too large or a small would be too small and settle for the medium, or we could look at the coffee cups kept on the coffee machine to determine the size required, thinking of the sizes of cups we have had in the past. It is very unlikely that we would think in absolute terms whether the small cup is 40 ml or 50 ml or the large is 100 ml before a decision is made. So, what have we done here? We have looked at the relative sizes of the coffee cups and made a relative estimate, to predict what might satisfy our coffee cravings for that moment in time.

Now let’s bake some cakes with relative estimation. Suppose you as a participant is required to bake 3 cakes for a Master Chef competition. The types of cakes to be baked are given by the judges, with 3 sample cakes already made in front of you. The three cakes are of three different sizes. You are supposed to make the 3 cakes exactly the same way as the sample cakes including the same dimensions, colours, flavours etc.  The judges say that there is however one condition that you need to be aware of. That is, you need to let them know how long it would take to bake the 3 cakes beforehand, and you need to stick to the time you commit to. The estimated time frame given would be validated by the expert judges, to ascertain if it’s realistic or too blown up.

 

 

So how can you do this? In the past you have made one of the cakes, which is the smallest out of the three, therefore you know how long it would take to make it.  Let say it’s one hour. That could be considered the length of the sprint. You have no idea how to make the other 2 cakes, and how long it would take, the ingredients required etc. But, can assume that the medium sized cake is three times the size of the small one, and the largest is about 5 times the size of the small one. Let’s classify these cakes using a unit of measurement called ‘Cake points’ looking at their relative sizes. The smallest cake could be given 10 cake points. Therefore, the medium sized cake could be given 30 cake points and the large cake 50 cake points. These numbers are just arbitrary numbers, and do not relate to a specific unit of size or time. Since it was said that the smallest cake i.e. 10 Cake points cake can be made in one hour which is the sprint duration, we could easily say that the velocity is 10 Cake points per Sprint. So what’s the total amount of work required for all 3 cakes looking at their relative sizes? It would be 10+30+50=90 Cake points. Given the velocity as 10 Cake points, a little bit of math can show you that you will need 9 sprints to make all 3 cakes. With one sprint being an hour’s duration, it could be determined that all these cakes would take 9 hours to make.   This is the essence of relative estimation. This theory can be applied to Software development projects as well. You could look at a feature and say “I think the feature A is twice as complex as feature B“, with the given knowledge by completing feature A in the past. There is no mention of time requirement, just that it is more complex than the other. Therefore, if feature A took 3 weeks to complete, it is reasonable to think that feature B would take 6 weeks. Isn’t that simple.

Estimation, whether relative or absolute, can be very challenging especially in the world of software development. Even though no estimation technique may be perfect, by comparison relative estimation is a simple, effective and ‘relatively’ accurate method of estimation.

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5000 Miles Dream

by Abi Sachithanantham,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

To be precise, 5,424 miles is the distance from Colombo, Sri Lanka (where I used to live) to Brisbane, Australia (my new home). As everyone knows, moving to a completely different country is a BIG move in anyone’s life.

At 12:00a.m 1st January 2019, I made my first new year wish “To get a job in a well-reputed company which will help me to pursue my career in the Business Analysis domain”. From the next day onwards, I started my job hunting. Initially, my routine was to sit in front of my laptop from 10:00a.m. and apply for jobs till 5:00p.m. I have a passion towards Business Analysis and technology therefore, I didn’t want to give up on my dream.

On the 14th January 2019, I got an email from BAPL requesting to have an interview with me. I was excited, hopeful and also nervous. Coincidently, I’d started following Business Analysts Pty Ltd on LinkedIn when I was back in Sri Lanka; therefore, I knew a lot about who they are and what they do.

Business Analysts Pty Ltd is a Consulting Firm who demonstrates their expertise in Business Analysis with diverse clients across a multitude of domains. Following my successful Skype interview, I completed a Case Study to provide greater insights into my capabilities and was further interviewed by the Service Delivery and Engagement Managers.

On the 21st January 2019, I received a call from the BAPL Service Delivery Manager saying I got selected for the job offer. Even though I started to literally jump up and down, I was speechless. Now the moment of truth “Do you say yes to this offer?”, Of course, it’s a “Yes”, who wouldn’t?

I was eagerly waiting to start my first day at the office on the 22nd January 2019. I came into the office early and, with all my strength, tried to open the office door but it was very difficult to open. Later I realised I should use the access card to open the door before 8.30 a.m. I remembered the famous quote “Difficult situations often lead to beautiful destinations”, therefore I knew in a couple of minutes I’m going to start an exciting career progression with BAPL.

 

Everyone at the office, starting from administration to the discipline managers, are very friendly and welcomed me with open arms. It’s been exactly 110 days since I started my new journey with BAPL and here are 3 main unique working cultures I really admire about the company:

1. Supportive management

The four leadership roles in BAPL are the CEO, Service Delivery Manager, Practice Manager and Engagement Manager. They each have a vast knowledge of or experience in the Business Analysis Domain. Each of them are friendly but what makes them unique is they always think from the employee’s perspective. Starting from conducting inductions to advising on how to deal with different stakeholders. They are cultivating and improving my Business Analysis skills and capabilities daily. They are mainly focusing on getting me the right exposure with the right client engagement. They actively support each consultant to produce the expected deliverables and monitor them continuously to ensure the consultant is motivated and satisfied. Now I know I’m in safe hands where I can learn from them and contribute to the company in return.

2. Experts around me

As I mentioned before, BAPL consists of amazing consultants, who consult across different domains, provide a wealth of expertise and experience. Sometimes, I feel like I’m carrying an encyclopedia. You have a question, you get the answer in a couple of minutes! Isn’t it amazing? I consider BAPL to be a community of people with the same interest, who are willing to share and learn together. BAPL also conducts business development sessions and training programs to help consultants. Also, as a BAPL Consultant we get annual IIBA membership and all the industrial connections.

3. Diverse domains to explore

For over a decade, BAPL has built a strong relationship with diverse organisations starting from government bodies to corporates to not-for-profit organizations. With a good reputation in the market along with the expert team, BAPL has worked with many top organisations in Australia. Therefore, it’s really a chance for each consultant to strike gold. I get to work with the experts as well as work across various domains. I am currently on engagement with one of Australia’s leading Superannuation firms, with amazing people around me, and supporting me.

 

I’m not only lucky enough to obtain my dream role in a couple of weeks after arriving in Brisbane; but also to get an opportunity to work with the industry specialists who are supportive, friendly and well, experts. I’ve just begun my journey with BAPL but I’m looking forward to working with this amazing team. I arrived in Brisbane with the dream and now experiencing my dream come true.

You Don’t Need To Have Authority To Be A Leader

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

 

Business Analysts as leaders

You don’t need to have a title to be a leader, but, it is a choice. In much the same way, leadership is not a rank. Some individuals may have the title of implied leadership, and in fact we do end up doing what they say because they are authorities, but, if it were a choice, there are some of those in authority that we wouldn’t choose to follow.

Leadership can exist anywhere, in your personal life and within your social circles, in the community, and at the office. These are the people that can provide us with a sense of safety, assuredness or vision. They can also educate, empathise and provide the opportunities that we need in order to achieve and be successful, for both themselves and the collective. We know who these people are. If we thought about it we could all recognise those in our daily lives that we categorise as leaders and quite often we seek them out by our own volition.

Having authority on the other hand does not automatically extend to leadership. Authority that is exercised is a kind of legitimate power, and people follow figures exercising it because their position demands it, but this is done irrespective of the type of person that is holding that position. Authority which we bend to out of necessity. That’s not to say that people in authority aren’t or can’t be leaders, but, not ALL people in authority are leaders.

Business Analysts as leaders

I was listening to a TED talk by Simon Sinek on ‘What makes a good leader’. His idea was that the art of leadership comes from a certain place, from what people feel. Primarily he suggested that it was an aspect of trust and having a sense of co-operation that made people want to follow a leader. In our modern day working environments we are commonly surrounded by things that can threaten our position. Be that technological evolution, organisational restructures, economic fluctuations or competition. These variables are beyond our control, but there are variables that can be controlled. They are the conditions that exist from within an organisation. It’s here where leaders have the capacity to set the tone, to utilise their skill-set in order to provide a sense of assuredness and have those around them to combine their strengths to work in the face of danger, or in the face of change.

In our working environment as BA’s we operate at the coal face of change. We become part of, and the advocates for the very thing that people are fearful of. Change fosters uncertainty and change can promote fearful actions in people, manifesting itself in ways that we don’t automatically realise as fear, such as disinterest, disengagement, anger or detachment.

As Business Analysts we are in the right position to help people overcome their fears. We have all the traits of leadership at our disposal, most of which are interwoven into the skills that are required to be a Business Analyst. We need to use our influence to get others to accomplish a certain range of tasks, and on many occasions, these are tasks that people don’t enjoy doing. To utilise words a line from Henry Kissinger on leadership:

The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been’

Our primary roles as BA’s are to do the analysis, elicit the requirements and assist with creating the product or the solution that will delight the customer and make tasks simpler whilst also benefiting the organisation as a whole. We also work with business users and technical team simultaneously. When we look at it we have a quite a large sphere of influence and hence by assisting in the understanding of what needs to be accomplished, by assisting in establishing a clear vision of where we need to get to and by allowing people to own the result through their contribution and collaboration, that is what will promote empowerment. The will to do things and accomplish for something greater and to feel safe to do so in a working environment can only be fostered by leaders. Once again, by our very position as Business Analysts, we occupy the prime position to lead. The choice is therefore ours.

Back your soft skills

In an earlier blog that I wrote entitled ‘The T shape of you’, I talked about the importance of soft skills to the Business Analyst. Leadership was one of the qualities I mentioned as being pivotal in being able to provide great business analysis. More importantly, it’s a quality that’s ‘ready made to carry’, meaning that its readily transferable from one role to the next. Leadership itself however has its own soft skill set that a business analyst can both tap into and develop in their everyday working environment in order to heighten their leadership skills. Some of those skills are:

 

Communication: Be concise, set the tone and be transparent. Having your message understood is a critical tool in creating the vision and establishing buy-in. Utilise this with stakeholders, establish influence and aid collaboration

Negotiation and persuasion: By understanding perspectives, viewpoints and the emotions of stakeholders we can understand their reasoning for hesitancy or support. We can harness the momentum of supporters and overcome resistance by creating the vision of success and what it means to the individual

Empowerment: Information transitions through the Business Analyst constantly. From end users, to development teams to managers, we facilitate the knowledge transfer and as we know, knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the less the fear of the unknown

Problem solving: Being in centre of where the business and technology meet on a puzzle will allow us to gain perspective, think differently and act, in some ways as a solution provider. Again, providing us with the support to create the vision

Gear shifting: In our roles we transition through small issues to large, with end users to board members, through a plethora of meetings with interactions on various levels, we establish relationship, build links in our working environment and gain trust by ‘shifting gears’ through our days

Focus: Overarching objectives, business politics, competing agendas, unimportant wants. We provide focus in environments where resources can be scarce and competition for them his high. Staying focused and dedicated to the vision is of utmost importance

The skills of a business analyst are aligned with those who lead. How we utilise those skills and how we develop them will manifest in the ways that others operate either with you, or indeed, against you. If you want to take a group of people to a place they’ve never been before, then you’ll need someone to lead. A Business Analyst can very much be that leader.

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.