Monday, March 26, 2012

Do You Want Continuous Improvement or Innovation? How Proficient do my BAs Need to be?

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD
Our March 5th blog asked the question: How Proficient does your BA Workforce Need to be? And we posed this answer: It depends on the complexity of your BA work assignments, AND it also depends on the focus of your business strategy: continuous improvement vs. continuous innovation.

The terms creativity and innovation are all over the place today, to the point of being over used.  However, all the business journals, blogs, articles, and books are singing the same tune: continuous improvement to business-as-usual will not cut it in the 21st century global economy.  Businesses that get it...know they must focus on innovation abound: Apple, Google, Netflix, 3M, Frito Lay, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Toyota, GE, BMW, Deloitte, Southwest, Nike, IBM, Dell and many more. These companies have the goal of achieving 30% - 40% of revenue from completely new value streams every year.

Case in point: the Apple iPod delivered 5.5% of total Apple revenue in 2003, within the first three years of launch, and delivered 34.6% of total Apple revenue in 2007, within the first seven years of launch. (Sanjay Dalal. How Successful is your New Innovation? Measuring Business Innovation. Tuesday, December 01, 2009. Read more.)

What is Innovation?

We tend to think of innovation only as it relates to new product development. But creativity and innovation in the business world is not just about inventive new products.  It is also about pioneering business relationships and alliances; disruptive business models, ground-breaking processes that bring about efficiencies needed to be competitive; unconventional global supply chains that take advantage of talent around the world; inventive technologies that blow away old paradigms (think Kodak not converting to digital cameras quickly enough); modern approaches to public/private partnerships, and radical approaches to leading project teams modeled after great teams everywhere – Navy Seals, NY Yankees, paramedic and firefighting teams.

How Capable Do Business Analysts Need to be to Ignite Creativity?

Assuming your company needs to focus on innovation, and assuming your organization does not have the creative leaders it needs, BA Practice Leads everywhere need to transition their BA workforce into a cadre of creativity-inducing leaders facilitating real dialogue.  They need to talk about creative leadership with respect to their BA team at every turn.  My hypothesis is this: business analysts are well positioned to fill the gap in creative leadership at all levels of organizations.  To place their best BAs in leadership roles, BA Practice Leads need to identify those BAs who have an inherent leadership disposition, create the appropriate learning opportunities, and strive to influence their current situation and environment to accept BAs as creative leaders of change.
The Challenge for BA Practice Leads and BA Managers: develop a BA workforce of creative leaders.  So, if you are a BA Practice Lead or BA Manager, step #1 is to get a snapshot of your BA workforce by conducting a BA Workforce Capability Assessment. From here, you can baseline the capabilities of your analysts and begin developing and transitioning your BA workforce to one that supports creativity and innovation. However, don’t forget about your organizational BA practices. Remember, you must raise analyst capabilities and organizational BA practice maturity concurrently to achieve and sustain innovation and competitive advantage.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What the Numbers Say: BA Assessment Findings for Dummies.

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD
Numbers and graphs and correlations, Oh My! Are you one of those people who become squeamish when presented with statistical findings, or do your eyes glaze over when you gaze for too long at spreadsheets and presentations containing statistical findings? As much as most people hate statistics, our society is churning out more numbers and statistics than ever before in the form of spreadsheets, survey results, research studies, and financial statements. Quantitative information pervades just about every aspect of our professional and personal lives. If you step back and think about it for a minute, maybe it’s not that you fear the statistics. Your fear may be rooted more in your inability to decipher what the numbers mean (and if you should trust them) and what to do with the numbers after all is said and done.

How do you know if you should trust the numbers from a BA assessment? Because the consultant says you can, right? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. We think the answer to this question has a two-part answer. The first part relates to the questionnaire used for the assessment, your sample size and type (random or nonrandom), and how the data were collected. The second part of the answer relates to the statistical tests that were used to analyze the data.

First of all, remember, statistical findings are never 100% accurate.
Some degree of measurement error is natural and unavoidable. In our January 23rd post, we discussed reliability as an important characteristic of an assessment questionnaire. Using a questionnaire with strong reliability evidence, answers the first part of the trust question. Sample size and type are less of a concern with BA Workforce Assessments because most organizations typically include 100% of its analysts in the assessment. Sample size and type are more of an issue when you want to make meaningful comparisons to external assessment and survey findings and industry benchmarks. The sampling and data collection that others used should be scrutinized to determine the degree to which you should “trust” the comparison. In other words, should you bet the farm or not?

Statistical programs don’t have a brain.
The programs do what we command them to do. These programs treat a number as a number as a number and do not know what each number represents and how the numbers were obtained. The programs trust us to enter the data correctly and trust that we understand the appropriate statistical tests to use for the types of data we collect. Common statistics presented in a BA Workforce Assessment include the mean, median, and mode; and statistical tests used include correlations and group comparison tests, such as t-tests and tests for variance analysis. These tests ensure the findings of your BA Workforce Assessments present a descriptive snapshot of your organization’s analyst workforce and have to potential to identify statistically significant relationships and group differences to guide your BA performance improvement efforts.

What do the numbers mean and how should you use them?
Trusting the numbers serves as the foundation for your interpretation and use of any BA assessment findings. The bottom line: If you don’t trust the numbers, your assessment won’t really help you very much. This raises the question of assessment validity that we also discussed in our January 23rd entry. If you feel you CAN trust the numbers, then next ask yourself, “Do the numbers make sense in your own organization?” Do the findings reflect the current state of your BA workforce and its capabilities? (See the supporting article: BA Assessments: Is That What’s Really Happening in my Organization?).

Conducting a BA Workforce Capability Assessment should provide the information you need to baseline your BA Workforce competencies and prepare your group’s professional development program, and can serve as input to your individual BAs’ professional develop plans.  The results should provide a basis for BA:

·       workforce adjustments and/or realignment;
·       training requirements;
·       professional development activities; and
·       specific mentoring, support, and coaching needs.

Additionally, you should be provided with a basic snapshot to understand the demographic information about each BA on your team, e.g., years of experience, time spent on BA activities versus project management or more technical tasks, and amount of BA education, etc. The state of your BA workforce capabilities should be compared to available industry standards, as available. This cumulative information provides a view as to your BA’s actual capacity to deliver new business solutions.

A BA Workforce Assessment should provide BA managers the opportunity to participate in the assessment. This is not possible with typical multiple-choice type BA assessments and most online self-assessments. We have found that valuable and interesting insights typically result when we have the opportunity to compare manager ratings and analyst ratings.

An important component of any BA Workforce Assessment is that the assessment approach provides an interpretive frame of reference, similar to the model presented in our March 5th entry, to analyze your assessment responses. The frame of reference should be evaluated for the degree of alignment and mapping to your organization’s BA career path. This alignment will enhance the relevance of the assessment findings and help you clearly visualize the workforce adjustments necessary to enhance your organization’s BA capacity.
Remember, take time to develop a trusting relationship with the numbers before jumping into any BA Assessment for your organization. You get what you pay for. Your first goal should be to become a skilled quantitative thinker. This means that you develop the ability to use quantitative information effectively when drawing conclusions or making decisions. Correctly using your numbers as an additional form of evidence will help you focus and create compelling support for your BA improvement recommendations.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Calling All BA Practice Leads, Again! How Many BAs Do You Need?

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD

When conducting our BA assessments, we often hear this question from Practice Leads, Senior Managers, and CIOs, “How many BAs do we need to have?” We have assessed BA practices and BA competency in large and small organizations across multiple industries. Our answer is always the same, “It depends.” If you have been following this blog, then you know that this response aligns with our key message in this blog thus far. To answer this question, you must consider these four factors:

  • Number of projects and their complexity (current and future projections)
  • Maturity of BA the organization’s practices
  • Competency and roles of the current BAs
  • Organization supportiveness and integration of BA practices

Most CIOs want the quick answer; however, it is not that simple. Without a thorough snapshot of your BA workforce, its capabilities, and your workforce’s fit within your organization, your guess is as good as the next.

The one-and-only BA Workforce Capability Assessment we introduced in the March 5th blog post is designed to help CIOs, BA Practice Leads, and Managers answer the “how many” question. The assessment helps determine the level of capability that currently exists within an organization’s BA team and the level of capability needed to successfully execute the current mix of projects based on complexity. Furthermore, the assessment helps create BA workforce projections based on future project complexity mix.

Importantly, the assessment does not stop here. We examine organizational BA applied capability at the organizational level. Our research has shown that the performance of even the most competent BAs will decrease in unsupportive organizational cultures, thus affecting not only BA competency level, but workload capabilities, as well. We found that unsupportive organizational cultures actually make BAs appear less competent and achieve lower performance outcomes.

Armed with our assessment information, we identify the gaps in skills and competencies and draft recommendations to close gaps in capabilities.  These recommendations point out organizational issues that must be addressed in conjunction with BA practice improvement and training and development actions to achieve success.

The reference model that serves as a basis for the BA Workforce Capability Assessment is four-tiered as depicted in the table below. 

Operations and Support Focus

To maintain and enhance business operations, both generalists and system specialists are needed.  These PMs and BAs typically spend about 30% of their time doing business analysis and project management activities for low to moderately complex projects designed to maintain and continually improve business processes and technology.  The remaining time they are often fulfilling multiple roles including developer, engineer, SME, domain expert, and tester.  As legacy processes and systems age, these PMs and BAs are becoming more valuable since they are likely the best (and often the only) SMEs who understand the current business processes and supporting technology.

Project Focus
To ensure business objectives are met through projects both IT- and Business-Oriented PMs and BAs are needed.  These PMs and BAs work on moderately complex projects designed to develop new/changed products, services, business processes and IT systems. 
  • IT-Oriented PMs and BAs improve operations through changes to technology.  The BAs are mostly generalists, with specialists that include Experience Analysts, Business Rules Analyst, Business Process Analyst, Data Analyst, etc. 
  • Business-Oriented PMs and BAs improve operations through changes to policy and procedures.  These PMs and BAs are mostly specialized, focused on Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Manufacturing, etc.  In decentralized organizations, these PMs and BAs are dedicated to a major business area, improving the processes and the corresponding technologies that are used to run the operations.  In other more centralized organizations, these PMs and BAs are organized as a pool of talent whose efforts can be transferred seamlessly to the areas of the enterprise that are in most need of project support.

Enterprise Focus
This group includes seasoned PMs and BAs.  PMs are trained and experienced in managing highly complex projects, programs and portfolios.  The BAs often specialize into two groups: Enterprise Analysts and Business Architects, who are operating at the enterprise level of the organization ensuring that the business analysis activities are dedicated to the most valuable initiatives, and the business analysis assets (deliverables/artifacts e.g., models, diagrams) are considered corporate assets and are therefore reusable.  Enterprise PMs and BAs focus on the analysis needed to prepare a solid business case to propose new initiatives and work on highly-complex enterprise-wide projects; while Business Architects make the enterprise visible and keep the business and IT architectures in synch. 

Competitive Focus

Business/Technology Optimization PMs and BAs are business and technology visionaries who serve as Innovation Experts, Organizational Change Specialists, and Cross Domain Experts. Business/Technology PMs and BAs focus outside of the enterprise on what the industry is doing and design innovative new approaches to doing business to ensure the enterprise remains competitive, or even leaps ahead of the competition.  Business/Technology PMs and BAs forge new strategies, translate strategy into breakthrough process and technology, and convert business opportunities to innovative business solutions. 

Based on this information, you can now see why an organizations project portfolio and the number of the projects in each focus area provide a critical input into the answer to the question, “How many BAs do I need?” But remember, that’s only half of the story.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Calling All BA Practice Leads!

by Kitty Hass and Lori Lindbergh, PhD
Yikes!  What have you gotten yourself into?  Your organization has entrusted you to ensure it has appropriately skilled BAs possessing the capabilities needed to successfully deliver complex new business solutions that meet 21st century business needs. Don’t you wish there was a BA Practice Lead Handbook?
Help is on the way.  To manage and capitalize on complexity for competitive advantage, project leadership capabilities are quickly transitioning (see table below).  When it used to be enough to possess technical project management and business analysis competencies, success in the 21st century requires much more: leadership prowess, complexity management, a holistic, systems thinking approach, and creativity.
BA and PM Competencies are Transitioning

It’s not just about competency (what you think you can do or your score on a multiple-choice knowledge assessment), because that information is not actionable;
  • It’s ALL about capability - examining your BA workforce competency level against your current and future project assignments and the performance and project outcomes you achieve within your organizational context.  
It’s not enough to know your BA team has achieved a certain level of competency in BA practices,
  • It’s about how capable they are in applying them and actually bringing about value to your customers and wealth to your organization.

How Proficient does your BA Workforce Need to be? The Answer:  It Depends.

So, if you are a BA Practice Lead or BA Manager, how can you determine the characteristics of your BA workforce capabilities, identify your gaps, and put a plan in place to close the gaps? Check this out: the first and only BA Workforce Capability Assessment, to give you a snapshot of your BA Workforce benchmarked against global teams of BAs. 

BA Workforce Capability Model

When performing an assessment of any kind, it is essential to use a validated reference model.  The model we use to assess an organization’s BA workforce (see below) is based on the latest industry research and is in alignment with the IIBA® BABOK® Version 2 and the IIBA® BA Competency Model Version 3. But it goes way beyond BA competencies and techniques, and incorporates the element of project complexity 

Our BA Workforce Capability Model was derived from an in-depth, comprehensive study of the business analysis and complex project management professions (yes, complex project management is emerging as a new profession). The model identifies the roles, areas of expertise, and foundational capabilities for BAs (and PMs) when working on projects of:

·       low complexity,
·       moderate complexity,
·       high complexity, and
·       mega-complexity when breaking new ground.  

Why Complexity?

Why introduce the element of complexity? Obviously, more complex projects require more sophisticated capabilities. Recent studies revealed that capabilities are inadequate for the level of complexity BAs are asked to manage as depicted in the graph below.

In the graph, project complexity is on the vertical axis and project assignments are on the horizontal axis. The gold line represents the organization’s BA practice maturity (1.7 on a 4.0 scale). You can see that a number of projects of higher complexity, which require capabilities beyond the organizations practice maturity level, are challenged for budget, schedule, or scope. Based on the findings here, not only are the organization's BA practices immature, BAs may lack many critical capabilities to achieve success on projects.

So how proficient are your BAs, and how proficient do they need to be? Without a thorough BA workforce capability assessment, you may never know for sure!