¡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.

The T-Shape of You

by Henry Elisher,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

Why you should cross your T’s first

 

Over the past decade there has been a plethora of research done which has emphasised the idea that for professionals to grow, thrive and excel in their respective environments they needed to possess both a deep disciplinary knowledge in their chosen areas of expertise and also have a keen ability to communicate across social, cultural and economic boundaries. The concept of soft skills, those interpersonal (people) skills that are generally understood by the populous as being the ability to communicate, are in fact far more reaching. They are an extensive range of qualities and attributes that encompass such things as attitude, creative thinking, work ethic, motivation, problem solving and conflict resolution, amongst a host of others. These are the key components that allow for the facilitationof interactions between people. Understanding that the majority of us work within a variety of business organisms, that have their own worlds of unique social interactions, it’s fundamental to our success as business analysts to both recognise, embrace, and develop this skill set, especially knowing that the key to our own success lies in the relationships that we build with our stakeholders.

Knowledge and teachable abilities are of course core to the capacity of what an individual brings to a role but what differentiates the performance of one employee over another is their ability to prioritise their focus, to work effectively in a heavily networked and matrixed environment and understand how the informal mechanisms of business work. It’s these unmapped and quite often undefined social concepts that, when grasped and utilised by an individual, will allow them to be identified as a person with the talent and capacity to lead, innovate and drive change. Utilising a quote from Aaron McEwan, Advisory Leader at CEB, he says;

Most of the good stuff in terms of performance happens in the white spaces between people, not at their desks’

It’s an idea that often gets lost in working environments that demand metric driven, quantifiable results but in reality should be obvious to us all in the sense it’s the harnessed expertise in a variety of areas allow us to get to viable solutions. Promoting the culture of ideas through dynamic interaction doesn’t occur whilst staring at a monitor.

 

The T-Shaped Business Analyst

 

These days with a greater number of people undertaking higher education, professional certification and various forms of additional study, the attainment of disciplinary knowledge no longer becomes the genuine differentiator that it once was. Not only is it not a real differentiator but the nature of ‘information attainment’ within educational institutions, that are often one dimensional in their own approach, tend to produce ‘I-shaped’ professionals. By ‘I-shaped’ what I am referring to is a type of professional that has deep, extensive technical knowledge in their area of expertise but lacks the broadness and well roundedness to be able to cross disciplines or industries within their knowledge capacity. Referring directly to fig 1 – The T-shaped professional, the ‘I’ component is represented by the two vertical pillars that state ‘deep in at least one discipline’and ‘deep in at least one system’.  From a business analyst perspective this can be identified as having the requisite knowledge in requirements elicitation, requirements analysis etc.

 

what is the T

Fig 1 – The T-shaped professional

 

As business analysts we can very much fall into the trap of being the classical, ‘I-shaped’ professional. We may very well be comfortable with our core set of skills and have a deep knowledge of the fundamental areas that the IIBA outline in the BABOK but what impact does that this sole focus have on ability in the environments where we ply our trade? Generally it is understood that without a broader, more expansive, interactive outlook, the professional can become knowledge and skill-set bound, essentially trapped, interpreting their workplace as largely a competitive environment, existing within their disciplinary silos and not extending beyond the comfort of the visible horizon.

By comparison, the defining characteristic of the ‘T-shaped’ business analyst, is demonstrated by the horizontal bar in figure 1. This component demonstrates the ability of the individual to collaborate across a variety of different disciplines, to be able to contribute to creative and innovate processes and to ‘tap in’to the unmapped social concepts that exist in organisations. It’s the utilisation of these type of soft skills that will allow the business analyst to share the expertise of their discipline and craft, whilst also having the capacity to translate this knowledge to those that do not fully comprehend the scope of work that a business analyst undertakes, because, along with being successful collaborators we also need to be our own ‘sales representatives’ and become advocates of our own expertise. It’s this promotion of awareness that can break down the power of ignorance and support our cause, but, the unlocking of this potential is only made viable through the development and utilisation of soft skills.

The idea of this readily transferable skill-set of course has special importance in the business analyst world as we should be ready to confidently step across sectors, from entertainment to utilities, from financial services to mining. It’s this agility and adroitness, supported by our set of soft skills that will identify us as unique but also as being the vital promoters in the creation of the new mobile, agile and educated workforce, a factor that’s critical for the global digital economy to prosper and in itself critical to the positioning of business analysts within this economy.

Business leaders have readily acknowledged the criticality of the far-reaching capacity of soft skills. Matt Tindale, the Managing Director of LinkedIn for Australia & New Zealand states that the ‘demand for collaboration, teamwork, EQ, critical thinking, problem solving and conflict resolution …are immensely important enterprise transferable skills’.This is a statement which should appear obvious as these elements really stand as the common base amongst a variety of disciplines and act as both the mechanism and vehicle to drive innovation from disparate, but equally as important knowledge bases.

So, whilst we can identify ‘I-shaped’ analysts and understand that their level of knowledge can obviously be utilised to get the job done, the question arises, at what expense? Muted levels of soft skills means that collaboration, teamwork, conflict resolution and the motivation to drive towards a common goal quite often comes to the ‘I-shaped” analyst with a deal of stress, strain on working relationships and with much less of the dynamic interactions that ‘T-shaped’ analysts develop in natural, organic ways. It’s the ability of the ‘T-shaped’ analyst to find compromises and help motivate others towards solutions that separate the good business analysts from those that are great. It will also be these subjective types of skills that will not only hold the ‘T-shaped’ analyst in good stead for a long, healthy career but will also bring the diversity and necessary degrees of challenges to create well rounded individuals.

 

Analyse like a Boss

by Tanya Harlow,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

Article 1 – Define Your Own Business Idea

As Business Analysts we tend to find ourselves working as consultants, contractors or permanent inhouse domain experts on enabling new opportunities or solving problems for medium to large businesses.

Have you ever thought of using your awesome array of BA skills and experience to create, operate and lead your own small business?

When you think about starting your own business the mind starts to boggle with the enormity of it all and it feels very daunting, scary and almost impossible to fathom.  Not knowing where to start and how to move forward is the biggest obstacle to overcome.

A manageable way to approach the creation of a new business venture is to break it down into small key milestones that when set out in a logical order make the enormity easier to digest and will give you a clear starting point.

After having your “Eureka” moment and forming the kernel of your business idea and concept you can leverage your existing BA toolkit and skills to do some research and get your concept down on paper.  Doing some high-level analysis and modelling does not cost anything but your time.  During this initial analysis you will learn a lot about your concept and its viability and takes you a step closer towards your potential new future venture.

Product/Service

  • Consider your product and its key point of difference
  • Create a prototype where possible or a strawman on paper
  • Go through a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to assist in seeing the bigger picture and potential risks to work through

Market

  • Analyse the potential market and buyers for your product, who are they, where are they, how old are they, what are their buying habits, how much is their disposable income, what social media do they use, how will you reach them?
  • Use free online census data for understanding customer demographics
  • Conduct competitor analysis and benchmarking, this is great way to see how other similar businesses operate.  How do they market their goods, what are their price points, what do they do well, what could they improve on, what can you learn from their experience?

Financials

  • Analyse the costs for your business start-up
  • Model profit and loss including start up expenses, projected growth targets for the first 5 years of business, cost to operate and sales targets to see how viable the idea is on paper
  • Think about how you might fund the venture, financial institution loan, business partner or give crowd funding a go!

Company Structure

  • Analyse the best company set up for your situation e.g. sole trader, company, partnership.  It is worth seeking advise from an experienced business accountant when assessing these options as they can provide expert taxation advise and can assist if required in the creation of a Pty Ltd company
  • Perform organisational modelling to determine the roles required for your business, size and budget
  • Determine what role you will play within the business.  Always leave room to work onyour business and not just in the day to day operation of your business
  • Define your company’s core values, what does your business stand for, what are your guiding principles
  • Think about your company’s persona, how do you want to present your image to your customers? Is your company cool and hip or friendly and trustworthy? Knowing how you want your company to be perceived is very useful when the time comes for creating marketing materials like logo’s and websites.

Skills and Experience

  • Analyse the key skills and experience you will need to be successful within the specific industry domain you are looking at entering
  • Rate your existing general business skills like accounting, marketing, sales, payroll etc
  • Perform a gap analysis of where you are now, what you need to learn and how you will close the knowledge gap to acquire the relevant skills to enable success
  • Close your education gap including internet research, training courses, work experience and finding a good mentor.

Key Business Processes

  • Process analysis is required to determine what business processes and underpinning forms, reports etc will be required
  • Define your key value stream using a process flow chart identifying points of value and points of waste within and between processes
  • Process benchmark information for specific industries is available from the APQC industry standard website and can help inform you of the typical processes your business may need
  • Create a SIPOC diagram (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers) for all key processes to understand the inputs and outputs and suppliers you may need.

Tools

  • Define your requirements for software tools to manage your accounts, invoicing and payroll (or will you outsource this part of your business to a strategic partner?)
  • Document what marketing tools your company will need including a website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and graphic design software tools
  • What customer relationship management tools are available to manage your customer database
  • What financial sales tools will you need to manage point of sale or online ordering?
  • What physical tools do you require to create your product? are these tools best rented with maintenance contracts in place or purchased outright as an asset and depreciated?
  • This information will feed directly into your cost modelling for start-up and operation

 

After doing your analysis on paper you should have a reasonable idea of the feasibility of your business idea, the complexity and associated costs.

If your numbers initially stack up and you are still excited to take the next step with your idea proceed to Article 2 in the Analyse Like a Boss series – “Business Start Up”to understand some of the BA techniques and savvy you can leverage to put together the required deliverables to start up your new business venture.

Business Analyst is a Product Owner’s Best Friend

by Sohail Chatha,

Business Analysts Pty Ltd Consultant

 

A week back, I had a very wonderful corporate lunch with work colleagues. For my dish, I needed a fair bit of customisation. The waiter took all the details patiently even though some may have seemed rather quirky even by my own standards. After a 20 minutes wait, voila I have my dish served & I liked it so much I left a tip.

Once at home, still thinking about how perfectly it was executed, I wondered what if the waiter (BA) was not patient enough to carefully note all my wish-list (requirements) & present it to the Chef (product owner) promptly. Had the Chef not listened to the waiter’s input to make perfect meal (product), I (Customer) would not been able to return home in such festive mode (UX).

In the IT industry’s context, a Business Analyst & a Product Owner often have different deliverables but overlapping roles in an organization. For an enterprise to succeed these variable roles need to work collaboratively across all initiatives to deliver value, RoI.

Role Characteristics:

The BA is an inward looking role with a focus on the requirements and improving an enterprise’s internal processes as a result of a need, change or opportunity. Whereas the Product owner is an outward looking role responsible for realising the product, its vision and defining the evaluation metrics for the product’s success. In today’s competitive environment nobody would bet on success of the Enterprise which is not true to its core, inside and out.

A BA collaborates with various stakeholders to perform documentation/mapping of the processes to enhance efficiency whereas a Product Owner is responsible for product management, marketing, roadmapping, and ensuring the product is aligned to user expectations. If the internal processes are optimized & correctly mapped then a Product Owner would be in a better position to deliver a product efficiently within the timelines. Similarly, feedback loops from end-users & external stakeholders transferred from the Product Owner to the enterprise will help the Business Analyst in reshaping processes with a correct modelling of business dynamics. This will make organizations leaner & customer oriented.

 

Enterprise’s Model:

Often a Business Analyst is expected to work as a Product Owner as well, due to overlapping areas in their responsibilities. After working on the design and approach, a BA is given charge as a Product Owner to deliver the expectations into a real working solution.

Enterprises are very tempted to use these roles interchangeably as the transition path looks seamless. In limited scenario it has been quite successful. However for projects where the risk of failure is intolerable, requirements are subject to change and tight regulation is present, it is a tough challenge to cover both the bases with same resource without impacting the true potential of the product. As with changing circumstances it becomes more crucial than ever to maintain the sight of the business.

More and more organisations realise the face value of their existence is in the survival of their product, therefore after experimenting this model they are moving towards a settled approach which creates opportunities for the BA and Product Owners to work together rather than stretch the capabilities.

 

 

 

Collaboration Value:

Companies want their critical workforce to be agile, objective oriented, smart and product focused to maintain an edge over their competitors. Since the roles of a BA and Product Owner have the same objective, to deliver a product which delivers the desired value to their customer/end-user, the focus has shifted more on channelling these efforts into collaboration.

More than 50% of IT start-ups could not survive their first financial year because they failed to devise a collaboration model not only at individual levels but also at a process level. In absence of a proper handshake between a BA and a Product Owner, the understanding of the requirements remains invalidated. Agile models encourage the iterative collaboration between these two roles because in case of conflicting delivery the cost of the change and effort makes the product less viable for the market strategy. Due to these impacts, our industry is definitely in need of their friendship.

To create the “Rainbow effect” a Product Owner & a BA need to maintain communication, a working collaborative relationship to get to that illusive perfect product. Through their fostered friendship a successful product can be produced which is a recipe for business success in this lean & competitive business environment.