Tag Archives: Agile methodology

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Ideas for innovation

Sara Somerville

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

Insights from the AIIM conference

No Worker Left Behind: The Secret to Successful Ground-up Digital Transformation roundtable chaired by Max Cantor from Nitro using the Catchbox to get the conversation going

CatchBox_Blog_5_Image_1

  • Transformation and innovation doesn’t have to be self-driving cars, it can be streamlining and automating processes, and eliminating paper from a process.
  • It is important to understand what the users on the ground are actually doing.
  • Start small. You don’t have to digitise the whole process, think of delivering the quick wins.
  • Think of the end objective and what you want to achieve, rather than digitising the whole process.
  • The University of Texas has a programme to identify what data is where, and once it is identified, to work out when you can delete it.
  • Tombstone awards – awarding this once you have abolished a redundant work flow!
  • Lean book – ‘Lean Essentials for School Leaders’ is good for running through the basics of applying lean methodologies.
  • Applying Lean principles – using the Five Whys to drill down into why certain steps in the process are happening.

Key takeaways:

  • Look for early wins
  • Find collaborators in the business
  • Stay Agile and Lean.

 

Solving for Innovationpresentation by Chris Walker

What are the organisational attributes and attitudes that are necessary for innovation to thrive?

  • A change can just be something small.
  • Enabling time and space.
  • Putting aside some time to create new things – ‘scratching an un-scratched itch’ – but it can’t be a one time thing.
  • Capturing ideas through a board and suggestion boxes, and it’s important to implement some of these things and let people know when you don’t do something.
  • Have an innovation day out in the business; ask “What would you suggest IT do instead that might stop the use of ‘shadow IT’ eg. Google/Dropbox?”
  • Have Google apps for education because they’re quicker.
  • IT has to become more of a service. IT has to provide the bowling lane rails so that the business can play within that space, but have some guidelines (perhaps around the tools). The role of IT should be more of a facilitator.
  • IT should be viewed as trusted advisor that you could go to, to ask questions of.
  • In one organisation, if research and development get stumped, they publish a ‘problem of the month’ that people in the business can reply to.

Key takeaways:

  • Innovation will not happen if you don’t have the right organisational culture
  • Look at things from an opportunistic point of view.

 

Information management

Sara Somerville

 

 

Sara Somerville
Information Solutions Manager
University of Glasgow

Notes from the AIIM conference

Information Management…The Technology Doesn’t Matter presentation by Russ Stalters

  • Limit your choices for document types and categories.
  • Policies (and best practices) should reinforce the information management practices and keep them short – one or two pages – and train people on the policy with annual refreshers.
  • Make sure each department helps to define their information management procedures; this helps with a sense of ownership.
  • Create an information governance council with members from senior management.
  • Business leaders need to own these decisions – have contacts in each business area who knows the data.
  • Establish quarterly business stakeholder briefings.
  • Use a consistent model for implementation in each area. Think about your lessons learned and refine as you go.
  • Highly recommend an information management operations team – create a team to manage the implementation – this could be a champions network who have been trained, and make sure they are recognised by their peers.
  • Make sure the data owners are assigned from the business.
  • Pay attention to the people side of change – use an established methodology e.g. ADKAR:

Awareness of the need for change

Desire to support the change

Knowledge of how to change

Ability to demonstrate new skills and behaviours

Re-enforcement to make the change stick

  • Try to make it fun and introduce games.
  • Use innovative communication tools e.g. information management coaster (they used a company called xplane – http://www.xplane.com/).

Key takeaway: It doesn’t matter which technology you pick – focus on the other elements that can guarantee your success.

 

Information Management is Hard – Guess What? Your Customers Don’t Care presentation by Ed McQuiston of OnBase (Hyland)

The consumerisation of IT, the Nexus of Forces, the SMAC stack (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud Services) – whatever you call it, the industry of information management is at a crossroads.

What are your expectations from your healthcare provider? Do you expect to fill in multiple paper forms asking for the same information? What is your expectation of the service you would get from your insurance company?

The information you need to do the job is the same as it was ten years ago, but the information needs to be digital and it needs to be accessible and useable. However, there has been an information explosion (we are trying to manage these volumes of data in real time) and the users have different expectations around how they can work with that information.

In 2007 when the iPhone was introduced it completely shifted our expectations around how and where we want to consume content. The expectation of the millennials is to be able to access both structured and unstructured data instantly.

What does this mean?

  • You need to be Agile to get your products to the market place quickly.
  • The problem is that you have a vast amount of silos and a mixture of custom code and third party apps.
  • You need to think about capturing all the different types of content in one repository and make that content available on-line, off-line and mobile, with external partners if required – the consumer of the information isn’t just internal any more. However, your users don’t want to have to log in to a different system every time, they want to live in their line of business system.
  • You need to be able to have real time data exchange across systems – if someone has put the data into a repository it needs to be immediately available in other systems.
  • You need to start thinking about your repository as the middleware – an integration hub or information management platform – a platform is more than a brand (should be designed in a very different way from a data warehouse).