Tag Archives: IIBA

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.

 

What kind of Business Analyst are you?

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two

The keynote speaker on day two of the Business Analysis Conference 2016 was Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil  who gave an interesting talk titled Beyond budgeting – An Agile Management Model for the New Business and People Realities. The premise of his talk was how, if we remove the concept of budgets in the workplace and empower people with their own spending power, they would take greater ownership. Transparency was a key part of this process which encouraged people to make smarter spending decisions. While I found this an engaging talk and interesting idea I don’t feel many UK HE institutions are ready for this as yet.

Next up was Adrian Reed, President of the UK chapter of the International Instituteadrian-reed-_blog_1_image4 of Business Analysis  who gave a fun talk on what Business Analysts can learn from the world of magic. The talk even included a couple of successfully pulled off magic tricks from Adrian himself. Adrian questioned whether as Business Analysts we too often focus our efforts on reaching the end goal successfully and forget about the journey we take both ourselves and our stakeholders on to get there. He asked us to consider the whole performance and not just the “wow” of the trick at the end. If we involve our stakeholders in the journey every step of the way, then we will reach the end together, and even if the end isn’t quite as planned, the stakeholders will be comfortable with the process and come back to work with us time and time again. He reminded us of this by saying, “You can deliver the best system in the world but if you deliver it in a bad way then users will hate it forever.”

To iiba-bcs_blog_1_image5finish the morning off, I attended a talk from Allianz on the IT BA and Business BA.  The speakers discussed how, at Allianz, the IT and Business BAs successfully worked together to eliver solutions. During the lunch session Lucy Ireland from the British Computer Society and Stephen Ashworth from the IIBA gave a fireside chat on how the BCS and IIBA want to work together in the future. One of the main questions from the floor was how as Business Analysts we decide on which, out of the qualifications they both offer, we should do, and whether we see a time when they will bring the two together? The response was that they felt both offered and suited a different set of skills and experiences, that for the time being they would stay on separate paths, and that you, as a Business Analyst, would have to decide which route to take.

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Nigel Risner kicked off the afternoon session with a very lively presentation titled How to create massive impact and be an effective zookeeper.  Nigel’s presentation style was a cross between Michael McIntyre and Alan Sugar. It certainly revitalized the audience and woke us up for the last afternoon of the conference. Nigel gave two key pieces of advice:

1) If you are in the room be in the room. Give whoever you are speaking to your full attention as, for that moment in time, they are the most important person in your life.

2) You can spend all the time in the world analysing who you are and what type of person you are but in business it doesn’t really matter. What matters is walking into a room of stakeholders and quickly being able to recognise what type of person they are and how to communicate with them in a style that will suit them.

Nigel breaks people down into four categories;

  • The visionary, single-minded lion
  • The playful, extroverted monkey
  • The careful, analytical elephant
  • The caring, supportive dolphin

Next up was Ryan Folster from Britehouseryan-folster_blog_1_image7 who talked about being The indispensable BA This was another talk about how as Business Analysts we often reach for solutions without fully understanding the requirements, which just goes to show what an important topic it is for the community.

 

To finish off the conference I attended a talk by Simon Lynch from Aviva Health on Impact Mapping.  Simon’s talk was agile focused, explaining how before creating your epics and then breaking those down into stories, you should start with a session impact mapping. The impact maps should show why you want to do something, how it will impact a stakeholder and what you want to achieve. Simon explained that while this had taken them awhile to get the hang of, it has really helped them when creating the epics and user stories to consider all aspects of the impact.

And that was the end of my first ever IIBA Business Analysis conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of attending the conference from meeting other Business Analysts to hearing all the interesting and somewhat rather lively presentations. I can thoroughly recommend attending this conference to any fellow Business Analyst, and if you get the chance to apply for the UCISA Bursary, it is well worth the effort. I hope I will be able to attend in future years and may even pluck up the courage to speak and share a story of my own to a future audience.

Listening to customer need

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day One

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2016 I attended the Business Analysis Conference 2016 hosted by IRM. The conference was attended by over three hundred and fifty Business Analysts from a diverse range of industries: there was a mixture of experienced Business Analysts and people fresh to the industry. As a Business Analyst with over ten years’ experience in the HE sector, I often get to meet colleagues from other institutions to share knowledge, different experiences and best practice. This conference, however, gave me a chance to meet analysts from outside my peer group. I really enjoyed hearing about the projects they were working on and what they consider to be their best practices, as well as the usual horror stories of being bought onto a project too late in the day and customers’ requirements changing part way through a project. The benefits from these opportunities to chat with other attendees between sessions are hard to quantify, but I personally find them one of these best parts of attending a conference.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Gavin Esler.gavin-esler_blog_1_image1
Gavin is an award-winning broadcaster, author and journalist and gave an engaging speech about ‘trust’. Trust is something we give to people every day, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We place trust in leaders who tell us what is in our best interests using facts and figures to back up their arguments. The question is why do we place our trust in some people and not in others? Why as Business Analysts should we expect our customers to trust us when presenting our results and analysis? As Gavin said, “If facts were king, then Spock would have been captain of the Enterprise.” How we deliver a message is just as important as the analysis and facts of our case. As great leaders have shown us we need to become storytellers when presenting our case to the business, so we connect with our audience and gain their trust.

Virgin Media presented the next session titled Share Knowledge, Perform Stronger, Better Together – Evolving a BA practice. They explained how they had developed their BA practice over the years and survived several organisational restructures and rebrands. They had developed a BA toolkit which included templates, tools and techniques that supported their delivery framework as well as also utilising the SFIA capability model for developing their team.

mohamed-bray_blog_1_image2Next up was Mohamed Bray from Saratoga Software who came all the way from South Africa. Mohamed’s talk was titled Think like an Analyst, Act like a Consultant.  Mohamed was an engaging speaker who told us a real life story of when he failed to think about the customer needs first; how he had assumed what they wanted and what he had learned from this experience. As Business Analysts we often fall into the trap of thinking of solutions before we really understand what the problem is and what the customers’ needs are. Often we jump to a technology that we think will solve a problem when technology should only ever be the enabler of a solution, and not the solution itself. If we fail to listen to our customers and truly understand their problem, we will fail to engage them in our solutions. By actively listening to their problem the customer will become the co-creator of the solution taking ownership of the change and become the catalyst driving it forward in the organisatkim-bray_blog_1_image3ion.

After a very tasty lunch, we were welcomed to the afternoon session by a keynote from Kim Bray from Nationwide. Kim took us through her thirty-year career as a Business Analyst. Kim explained how she may not have always held the job title of Business Analyst, but that did not stop her from undertaking business analysis activities for her organisation. Kim described herself as being ‘professionally nosey’ and at the start of her career her naturally inquisitive nature meant she was capturing information on issues and analysing the data before presenting solutions to her organisation without even knowing what a Business Analyst role was. However, one of the key messages Kim left me with was ‘You don’t get something if you don’t ask.’ How often in both our professional and personal lives do we not pluck up the courage to ask for something we want or need simply because we are scared of hearing the answer ‘No!’

The afternoon session was, for me, dominated by Agile.  I attended a talk from Ashley Watson of the NHS Blood Transplant service and Menaka Priya Shanmugavadivelu from Aviva. Ashley talked about UAT and Menaka talked about delivering Agile development when your customers, business, Business Analysts and developers are spread across the globe. Menaka stressed the importance of visiting your dispersed teams to get to know them and build relationships, finding common ground and continuing to build on the relationship after your return back to base.