Tag Archives: customers

International lessons in applying continuous improvement

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield

 

 

Lean HE 2018 Conference

I recently returned from the beautiful Tromsø where I attended the Lean HE 2018 Conference, thanks to being one of the very lucky beneficiaries of the UCISA bursary scheme. It was a brilliant week with many informative, interesting and applicable sessions.
The sessions included key notes from Niklas Modig, researcher, Center for Innovation and Operations Management, Stockholm School of Economics (author of ‘This is Lean’ about ‘How to generate change and engagement’) and Tove Dahl, Professor at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, on courage and the importance of inspiring and rewarding courage throughout change activities. The following sessions covered many topics including: incorporating visual management into everyday working, games to encourage idea generation, using institutional risk to drive change and inspiring Lean at the leadership level and within teams, to list but a few. Myself and Mark Boswell form Middlesex University will be drawing together a guide over the next couple of weeks with links and descriptions about the key tools shared, useful software used and signposting to details about next year’s conference.
There was lots of learning to take-away, particularly the similarities around the current
situation/climate/ issues many of the delegates institutions from across the world were facing. These related to difficulties finding operational staff the time to engage in change activities, uncertainty about what the future might hold in relation to funding, student numbers and student expectations and the high level of change occurring within their organisations. I found meeting delegates from other institutions and discussing how they are applying continuous improvement and overcoming obstacles in their institution a really valuable part of the conference.
Key learning points from the conference:
  • There is a huge support network within HE both UK based and across Europe, Australia and the Americas, reaching out to this network can provide you with great insights, reassurance and ideas about how to optimise your work.
  • Senior management support is crucial in driving continuous improvement within organisations and getting buy-in from senior leaders should be a key priority
  • We need to put customers at the heart of the changes and improvements we drive, on both an institutional and team level
  • Many organisations are embracing a multi-methodology approach (combining lean, service design, continuous improvement etc.) but all at maintain, at their heart, the importance of respect for people
  • It takes courage to drive and embrace change and this courage needs to be recognised and rewarded
  • As well as reaching out to colleagues within the sector we can also learn a lot by adopting open process innovation. Looking towards other industries for ideas and best practice.
  • Stories can be used as powerful tools to encourage analytical thinking in a ‘safe’ way.    
I would like to say a huge thank you to the Lean HE Europe committee and of course, to the team at The Arctic University of Norway for organising such a brilliant conference. Everyone I spoke to remarked on the wonderful and open atmosphere and interesting and engaging topics.
I would also like to say a huge thank you to the UCISA bursary scheme for enabling me to attend and learn so much and to the UCISA PCMG community for their support and interest.
Next steps, myself and Mark will share our summary guide to the conference and key tools shared, and Mark will be blogging about his conference experience and key take home points.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Customer focus (and a little magic)

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

In September, I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
Following on from my earlier posts about convergence and creativity this blog briefly looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.

Customer Focus

The importance of focusing on the customer journey and customer experience of a system and indeed the wider organisation was mentioned in almost every session at #BA2018 . For a while there has been a palpable shift towards genuinely building and designing systems by solving customer problems and meeting their needs. Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) and Igor Smirnov (NETICA) opened their excellent half-day ‘Digital Customer Journeys’ workshop by stating that in 90% of cases a customer who has had a bad experience will not return, however a customer who has had a good experience has a good chance of becoming an advocate. As such it is imperative that we get those customer touchpoints – both system and people-based – right. As Clay Shirky discusses in his book Cognitive Surplus, in a world of social media and digital communities, customer advocacy is worth its weight in gold – prospective customers are significantly more likely to buy your product or service if someone in their network recommends it.
But for us Business Analysts, it’s not just about the end customer when it comes to considering customer focus. We have other customers, namely senior sponsors, the business, our stakeholders or perhaps a client. We need to be customer-focused in the ways we deal with these individuals and groups and we also need to think about their needs and expectations when developing our products – the deliverables – for them.
A number of speakers touched on the importance of avoiding ‘analysis for analysts’. Adrian Reed, in his highly entertaining ‘And Then the Magic Happens – What BAs Can Learn from the World of Magic’ session gave an excellent analogy drawing on the magician community. To be taken seriously by their peers in the field, a magician must use Bicycle-branded playing cards and Sharpie branded pens. However, the audience almost certainly doesn’t notice, or care, what brand of materials are used during the trick. What they care about is the experience of the trick itself and the outcome – ideally the trick working smoothly and a sense of awe, wonder and entertainment. Ironically, Bicycle-branded cards are slippery and not optimal for use in tricks and as such in seeking to impress other magicians, the magician is actually reducing the odds of meeting their customer – the audience’s – needs, as there is a risk he or she will slip and accidentally shower the audience in playing cards! Mapping this to the world of Business Analysis, it is important to remember why we are doing analysis and for whom. Nottingham Trent University’s Suzi Jobe advised delegates to accept that in many cases, business stakeholders are not interested in business analysis and our various tools and techniques – they just want to see the outcome and how it affects them. As such we may need to trade ‘perfect’ analysis models and techniques in favour of producing a deliverable that is of value and use to our end customer.
Finally, Reed advised BAs to be service-focused and to aim to make customers feel understood and cared for. Although the outcome and outputs of a project are important, the lasting memory will be of how the customer felt when dealing with you. As a magician once said, “It’s not just the effect, what they see, it’s also what they experience during the trick – and the way they feel when the trick is over.”

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, creativity and customer focus, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of convergence

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the much lauded Business Analysis Conference Europe in Westminster, London, courtesy of UCISA’s personal development bursary for those working in the education sector.
The 2018 event marked the conference’s tenth year and having been a business analyst for approaching fifteen years now, this conference has been on my radar for some time. Over the years I have watched longingly as more senior colleagues, freelance peers and even co-workers nominated for ‘Business Analyst of the Year’, have departed for London for three days of sharing ideas, networking and learning and returned positively sparking with inspiration. This year, my turn came and I spent much of the week before preparing and planning, determined to gain the most I possibly could from this experience.
I returned, somewhat exhausted, but brimming with ideas, inspiration and a newfound pride in my profession. As a blogger, I also have inspiration for articles and blogs to keep me and my readers happy until Christmas! Over the space of the three days, I attended fifteen talks and workshops and left each one more enlightened that when I walked in, from gaining a new nugget of information, a shift in my attitude and approach towards the BA profession, to learning an entirely new technique.
More detail will follow over the coming weeks, but in this article I discuss the first of a number of key themes that seemed to permeate the conference: convergence.

Convergence

Many years ago I completed a lengthy application process for an industrial placement with a global corporation and on my application form I ticked ‘marketing’ and ‘IT’ as my two business areas of interest. In the interview stage, I was quizzed for some time on what the recruiters perceived as a most unusual juxtaposition; how could a person wanting to work in the technical discipline of IT also harbour an interest in the creative field of marketing?
Marketing has been a career-long interest for me. I chose to pursue a career in IT, but have often tended towards marketing in my personal development, attending the occasional CIM training session, self-studying related online courses and eventually undertaking a Masters which comprised at least 50% marketing modules. But why, if I had chosen a career in IT? Well, firstly because I find marketing theory and customer behaviour fascinating and secondly, perhaps because I approached IT from the field of web design and running my own business in the early 00s, I’ve always mentally linked marketing with IT.
Unfortunately, my industrial placement hirer’s attitude was not in isolation. Throughout my career, many potential employers have been perplexed and in some cases even turned off by my multi-disciplinary set of interests. Given this, it was a great reassurance to find that a significant proportion of the discussion, theory and techniques at Business Analysis Europe had roots in or strong connections to marketing.
Technological innovations and developments have disrupted almost every industry. The pervasive use of digital devices and social platforms by the majority of the populace, certainly in the Western world, has led to digital becoming a primary channel for many companies to engage with their customer base; pushing communications to them, engaging them in two-way conversations, facilitating digital communities of like-minded customers and of course ecommerce.
These digital marketing systems and platforms require IT professionals, just as with any other system and as with any other project, business analysts need to understand marketing theory and strategy if they are to design, build and successfully implement systems to support organisations’ marketing strategy.

I draw on marketing as it is an area of personal interest and because it was indeed a key area of focus at the conference, but the same applies for all areas of business; sales, operations, asset management, HR and certainly customer service and PR, as previously explored in my earlier blog article ‘Blurred Lines’.  As Mark Smalley (@MarkSmalley) stated in his The Digital BA session: “In the digital enterprise, business and IT are converging and we <as Business Analysts> need to consider the consequences of this”.

Coming Soon…

In addition to convergence, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Creativity
  • Customer focus
  • Empathy
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophizing.
I will be posting about each one of these at a high level, then looking to explore some of these areas in more detail in future articles.
This blog originally appeared at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-rachel-drinkwater/.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.