Tag Archives: IRM UK

Digital and society – true love or an unhealthy obsession?

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

Reflections from a bursary winner

In his book ‘The Rise of the Humans’, Dave Coplin  expounds that technology is neither good, nor bad. It is simply an amplifier of whatever we, as society and individuals, choose to use it for.

The media however certainly seem keen on amplifying the negative aspects of our relationship with technology, with often rather sensationalist reports of children as young as seven ‘sexting’ , a mental health “epidemic” in young people being directly attributed to social media usage, a decrease in the age and an increase in the severity of reported loneliness  an increase in divorces attributed to gaming addiction and claims of reducing memory and attention spans in young people and adults alike. Indeed it’s not just the media reporting these bad news stories. Numerous academics and researchers have produced literature reinforcing this rhetoric. I myself spent six months researching the impacts of digital technology and devices on ‘millennial’ learners and their ability to learn and retain information for my Master’s degree. Whilst my findings were not as negatively polarised as those of writers such as Nicholas Carr, Sherry Truckle and Susan Greenfield, I did conclude that there could be significant impacts on individuals and wider society if we fail to exercise caution, control and discipline when using digital technologies and if we fail to pass these skills onto new generations.
I feel I must defend myself a little at this point. I’m not anti-technology or anti-digital. I work in the field of IT, I have a passion for digital technology and I love the convenience of my digital devices and streaming services. I fully-support Coplin’s theory – it is our adoption and attitude towards and use of digital technology that is causing issues in society, not technology itself.
Positive applications of technology can save lives, help us to protect the planet, bring people together and introduce all manner of convenience and efficiency into our working, social and family lives. I don’t believe that we’re creating a new generation of zombie-like device-users incapable of building real life human relationships or employing critical thought. I have met twelve year olds that have astounded me with their common sense, intelligence, curiosity and yes, technical capabilities. The student who gave the opening and closing speech for Coplin’s lecture at Warwick School could have stood in front of any corporate board room and held his own.
I genuinely believe that today’s young people have as much talent, promise and potential as any other generation but that the technological advancements and the amount of information readily available to them, literally at their fingertips, gives them both advantages and disadvantages. Indeed Pew Research Centre concluded their in-depth 2012 research study into the future of technology with the somewhat inconclusively titled report “Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives“.
In my research, the evidence suggested that those who are able to efficiently use social media and other technologies and practice ‘multi-tasking’ when it is appropriate to do so, stand to do well in today’s digital society and workplaces. However, it is also apparent that if left unchecked and unmanaged, the issues we are seeing in society could continue and increase in prevelance and severity, creating negative knock-on impacts and detracting from the positive impacts.

I attended a talk by Adam Thilthorpe of the BCS at Business Analysis Europe 2018 in September courtesy of a UCISA bursary, in which he discussed what he termed the ‘unintended impacts’ of technology – those negative impacts discussed above. He raised the question of where the responsibility lies in pre-empting, identifying and mitigating against such impacts. When companies develop their media and communications platforms, I think we can fairly safely assume that they are not doing so with the intention that 11-year-olds will use them to send ‘sexts’; this is an unintended impact of the technology they have created. On the other hand, there are organisations who may exploit anxieties such as fear of missing out (FOMO), self-esteem issues and device addiction to market and sell products and services.
This raises a number of questions. Who should – or could – be responsible for identifying, pre-empting and mitigating against unintended and/or potentially unethical impacts of emerging technologies? Is it the responsibility of technology companies? Businesses? The Government? Educational Establishments? Parents? Individuals? Pressure groups? All of the above? And how do we begin to pre-empt such impacts when we are dealing with new, disruptive, previously-unseen technologies being released into an ever-changing society?
As a society we are experiencing an unprecedented rate of technological change. We are innovating incredibly quickly and have adopted digital technologies readily and intrinsically into our everyday lives. However, our legislation, regulation, educational systems and social and cultural norms are still changing at the same rate; comparatively slowly. It seems that we have been somewhat blindsided and as such have possibly not put in place measures to enable digital technologies to always be adopted and integrated into people’s lives in a productive, safe and useful manner. At the same time, we are so enamoured with our digital devices and applications and the convenience and opportunities that they bring, that we may not be pausing to consider the unintended and long-term impacts and effects of them.
In her 1979 book ‘Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love’, Dorothy Tennov coined the phrase ‘Limerence’, which she defined as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.” It’s that period of a relationship where your brain is producing a heady cocktail of Dopamine and Oxytocin and the object of your attention becomes your sole focus. It’s the stage where strange habits, bad behaviours and the wider impacts of focusing on one person to the exclusion of all else seem insignificant. That wonderful phase where their window-rattling snores seem adorable and your friends barely see you for six months.
It seems that as a society we are in a state of limerence with technology. We overlook the wider impacts, the bad habits, the potential problems, the metaphorical duvet-stealing, because we are hooked on those little hits of dopamine and oxytocin that are released every time we get a ‘like’ on a photo on Facebook or a connection request on LinkedIn – the exact same checmicals that are released during the limerance stage of a relationship. Indeed neuro-economist Adam Penenburg’s research centres on drawing parallels between the chemicals released when using social media and those released when falling in love. Interestingly, just like with limerence, there are also elements of addictive behaviour displayed when using digital platforms such as social media. Indeed Smartphone and gaming addiction are now recognised as distinct social issues with 73% of the 2016 OFCOM report’s 16-24 respondents professing to be ‘hooked’ on the device they use most to go online and ‘gaming disorder’ being recognised as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation.
The question this raises is what happens when we fall out of limerence with digital technology? When we come down from that heady chemical rush, will we still be in love and will the relationship still be sustainable?
The media spotlight on some of the social issues in recent years and the acknowledgement by health organisations of some of the health impacts of unhealthy technology suggests that we’re starting to edge out of limerence and into the stark reality of our ongoing relationship with digital technology. Perhaps we’re starting to want to reconnect with our old friends ‘Walk in the Countryside’ and ‘Conversations around the Dinner Table’ who we dropped in favour of the alluring blue glow of our smartphone screens in the late 2000s. Perhaps we’re starting to assert our independence a little, creating screen-free times, rather than being slaves to our devices 24/7. Perhaps we are thinking about how we can strike a balance between our online and offline lives.
As Stephanie Sarkis states: “Time heals the intense pleasure (and suffering) of limerence… in a long-term relationship, it’s when things start getting real.” It’s safe to say that this is a long-term relationship, a multi-generational one in fact. That’s why it’s so important that, as with any relationship, we work out what we want from it, how we can manage and balance it and how to ensure that it is a long, beneficial, happy and healthy partnership for everyone involved.
This article first appeared on Rachel’s blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Thinking outside the box with CPD

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity, customer focus, and empathy, this article looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018: Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
As the first month of the year draws to a close, with the threat of freezing temperatures and snow, many of us may find our resolve to stick to a new year programme of healthy eating, more exercise and quitting our vices of choice tested. The desire to curl up in front of the fire with a drink and some comfort food may well become harder to resist as temptation knocks on the snow-laden window.
But not all resolutions are about quitting bad habits. Many of us will have started the year with goals to learn a new skill, gain a new qualification or simply to learn something new and certainly many of the speakers at last year’s Business Analysis Conference 2018 appeared to advocate this as a personal goal.

CPD outside the box

Indeed much of the focus of Sir Clive Woodward’s inspiring keynote talk on the morning of Day 2 was on ‘relentless learning’; a lifelong practice of curiosity, seeking out new knowledge and dedicating time and energy to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). However, Sir Clive advocated thinking outside of the box with your learning as skills and knowledge which may initially seem irrelevant to your role, may give you unexpected benefits. I believe that this is particularly true today, with an unprecedented rate of technological change and new entrants to almost every industry seeking to disrupt the status quo, it is difficult to predict what skills any job role will require in the future.
Further to my earlier blog on convergence, I find it quite exciting that twelve years ago, the job roles of ‘Digital Marketing Manager’ or ‘Social Media Content Producer’ didn’t really exist. Where traditionally marketing and IT were somewhat separate entities, technological developments and the adoption of web technologies and digital marketing, have caused the two to converge. Many marketing roles require more technological knowledge and business-facing IT roles require more of an understanding of customer behaviour than perhaps ever before.
Sir Clive’s example of developing skills outside of your immediate field, was his experience of managing the England rugby team. When he took over management of the team, he bought a laptop for each team member and insisted that they learned how to use it; an unusual ask perhaps in an era where device ownership was significantly less pervasive than it is today. Facing scepticism from the team and critics alike, Woodward argued that ‘those that win at technology, tend to win’ and he was proved right.
In due course, a sophisticated sports monitoring software package arrived on the market, enabling video playback of a match, overlaid with data and analytics which could provide insight into player behaviour, strategy and tactics from both teams. With their new-found IT skills, the entire team were able to analyse, learn and understand their – and the opposing team’s – gameplay and input recommendations for improvements to tactics and strategy based upon this. Had the team constrained their skills development to the core skillset needed for playing rugby, it is likely that they would not have been able to embrace this technology, leverage its capabilities and collectively gain so much benefit and competitive advantage from its use.

Time and cost hacks for CPD

When it comes to finding ways to develop your skills, particularly when self-funding, it may seem that cost is prohibitive, but learning doesn’t need to be expensive. Platforms such as FutureLearn and the OU’s OpenLearn have a plethora of free, online courses at all levels, many of which are modules taken from current degree courses. There are also a number of free conferences and networking events for many industries and areas of interest. Jisc’s annual Digifest the Education sector is a personal favourite. Tools such as Eventbrite, Meetup or simply Google can all help you to find free events near you. Viewing videos on YouTube or TED can be another way of learning quickly and informally.
Time may be another factor that poses a barrier to CPD, but this is where digital technologies can really help. Many courses are now delivered digitally and can be consumed in bite-sized chunks at a time to suit you. This micro-learning is one of many trends towards digitisation and consumer-centred demand in learning technology and is brilliant for busy people to squeeze in some structured personal development throughout the course of the day. Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly through Facebook or LinkedIn? Why not switch one of those scrolling sessions to viewing a short training video? Better still if ‘spend less time on social media’ was one of your new year’s resolutions!
Learning doesn’t need to be structured either. The old adage ‘you learn something new every day’ is quite true, but often we don’t realise that we’re picking up new skills and learning new things. Putting aside a few minutes at the end of the day to consider what you’ve learnt and how you can apply it helps to identify these ‘on the job’ development opportunities. But what if you’re finding that you’re not learning anything new? Well, perhaps it’s time to start looking for new opportunities in or out of work to stretch, develop and grow yourself. Learning a new skill as a hobby can also open doors or show you new paths. You may enjoy your new sport, art or community hobby so much you may decide to make a career from it, or find a way to incorporate your new skillset learned from your hobby to enhance your job and career. For example, in my spare time, I perform as an actor in a theatre group. At work, I use the skills I’ve learned in my acting training when approaching public speaking or facilitating workshops. I also run training courses on this for my colleagues in order to share my somewhat unconventional skillset!
So to summarise, learning doesn’t necessarily need to be related to your day job. All new skills are valuable and as demonstrated by Sir Clive and the England rugby squad, you never know when you will use something that initially seems completely unrelated to your job. Take control of your own development by being mindful of opportunities when they present themselves to you and using digital platforms for free, quick micro learning that can fit into your life when and where it suits you.

Coming Soon…

We’re nearly at the end of my series of ‘Top Takeaways from the Business Analysis Conference 2018’, so thank you to everyone who has been following these blogs and commenting. For the final instalment on the theme of ‘Catastrophising’, I will be trying something a little different and not only creating my first vlog, but doing so from Death Valley in California and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada! Watch this space and all will become clear!
This blog first appeared on Rachel’s Linkedin blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

How using empathy can help build better systems and products

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity and customer focus, today’s article looks at another of the themes which were prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.
There was still a hint of summer in the air even as the first of the leaves were changing when I found myself in Westminster attending the conference courtesy of UCISA’s annual personal development bursary for those working in the education sector. Sitting writing this in my festive jumper just days before Christmas, September feels like a long time ago.
Given the time of year, in the words of Charles Dickens “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; … when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely”, it is perhaps apt that today’s subject is empathy. It seemed that the concept of empathy was touched upon explicitly or implicitly in every session I attended at the conference.

Empathy in design thinking

Given that the first stage of design thinking is ‘Empathise’ (see below) and one of the other key areas of focus at the conference was customer experience, it is perhaps not a surprise that empathy was discussed frequently and in some depth in this context.

Design thinking is defined by Gartner as a “multidisciplinary process that builds solutions … in a technically feasible, commercially sustainable and emotionally meaningful way”. Activities undertaken, particularly in this first stage, seek to understand the thoughts, emotions and feelings of a customer or user on their journey with an organisation and its digital touchpoints.
In their Digital Customer Journeys workshop, Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) & Igor Smirnov (NETICA) presented a useful approach and template for capturing these emotions at various touchpoints of the user’s journey to identify focus areas for improvement. At a very high level, the approach can be summarised as follows:
  1. Identify key touchpoints, then for each touchpoint:
  • Understand current process and user experience
  • Identify current customer emotion/feelings
  • Identify desired customer emotion/feelings and experience
  • Prioritise processes for improvement based on a gap analysis of current to desired customer state.
  1. For prioritised processes, brainstorm improvements.
I was particularly interested in this prioritisation of focus area by customer experience, rather than a traditional quantifiable benefit, which I felt demonstrated a real paradigm shift towards customer and user-centric systems design.

Empathy as a skill of the future

Empathy was also discussed from a social perspective, as we explored the human factor in a digital society, where robots, AI and interactions driven by algorithms are fast becoming a part of our everyday lives.
It is undeniable that many jobs formerly carried out by humans are now carried out partially, if not entirely, by machines. This has been increasingly evident in the manufacturing sector with progressively more elements of manufacturing production lines being automated since the 1970s. Footage of a car manufacturing plant in the early 20th century, compared to a modern-day plant illustrate the transition from a busy factory thriving with human workers, to a rather clinical environment where robotic arms move in an eerily human manner to select and assemble components.
However, this automation is not restricted to the manufacturing sector, which has traditionally been an early adopter of automation technologies. The service industry, a sector perhaps traditionally associated with human-delivered customer service, is also automating roles. When I visit a supermarket, I often choose to use the self-scan tills, interacting with (often quite frustrating) AI rather than a human cashier. Where eight members of staff would have processed transactions and exchanged pleasantries with customers ten years ago, one member of staff can supervise the same number of self-service tills, only intervening when the somewhat rudimentary AI (inevitably) reaches its limitations. When shopping online, I am as likely to consult a chatbot or self-service customer support tool as a member of the customer service team.
Thirty years ago such sophisticated technology belonged to the fantasy world of sci-fi movies. It was unthinkable that real-life technology would progress at such a rate to replace jobs with such a key human element to them. Yet with technological advances and the rate of change at an all-time-high the media, researchers and technological commenters are now speculating about the next tranche of job roles to be replaced by robots in the coming years and decades.
So, should we be concerned that we will one day be replaced by robots, rendered redundant by such seductive promises as “a jetliner pilot who never makes a mistake, never gets tired, never shows up to work with a hangover”*?
Meryl Streep once said “the greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy”. Though significant research is being undertaken to develop synthetic empathy in AI, developing facial expression recognition technology and crunching millions of data points to build increasingly intelligent algorithms and so-called learning capabilities, for now it seems that true empathy remains a uniquely human ability. Shortly before the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018, The World Economics Forum released their ‘Future of Jobs Report 2018’. In his Day 2 opening keynote speech, the IIBA’s Nick De Voil highlighted the top ten key skills trends for today and projections for 2022. It was notable how many ‘soft’ and ‘human’ workplace skills were listed as those which would endure despite predicted technological advancements. These key skills include emotional intelligence, initiative and social influencing, all of which require empathy. This perhaps implies an expectation that our technological advancements will continue to fail to satisfactorily emulate and replace such human abilities; those intrinsic traits of human nature of relating to others, reading non-verbal cues and making ‘human’ decisions.

Empathy in wellbeing

There was also emphasis on remembering that we and our co-workers are not suit-wearing robots. We are humans, with great potential for creativity, innovation, love and resourcefulness, but we are also subject to emotions, feelings, health problems and complicated personal lives.
Oxford Dictionaries succinctly define empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. In his exciting Stakeholder Skills for Drug Busts session, National Grid’s Charlie Payne introduced the behaviour/attitude cycle (see below) when explaining the importance of being aware of the impact a person can have on others.

He explained that an individual’s attitude is reflected in their behaviour. This behaviour then influences the attitude of others, which in turn influences their behaviour and so on. Whilst this can be used positively, it all too often can have negative consequences on relationships and communication when the individuals involved are not practising Emotional Intelligence (EI).
With the recent societal drive to remove the stigma often traditionally associated with mental health, it was encouraging to find the subject addressed and discussed openly by a number of speakers at the conference.
Craig Rollason, also of National Grid, in his inspiring The BA Bucket List keynote advocated the benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in understanding colleagues and stakeholders and the reasons for their behaviour.
Rollason also presented a challenge/support matrix model which he explained can be used to analyse and grow awareness of an individual’s current work and career state. The model indicates that the best environment for career and personal development would be one where an individual is feeling challenged but supported. Rollason was however careful to note that some individuals may be experiencing high challenge and low support in their personal lives and subsequently may be in need of what Rollason coined ‘the duvet zone’ at work (low challenge and high support).
For me this was a rather unexpected example of empathy in such a professional setting, where sometimes there is an expectation of ‘leave your personal life at the door’ and ‘always be professional’. It was a welcome recognition that in reality, as humans, it is not always possible to switch emotions and personal distractions on and off at will, particularly in the modern world where technology has blurred the lines between work and personal time and space.

Empathy as an holistic practice

In summary, my top empathy takeaways were that whilst we can use empathy as a tool to better understand our customers and users to build better systems and products, we can also use it to understand our colleagues and understand their motivations, beliefs, attitudes and the root causes behind these. This enables us to build stronger working relationships, understand how to better interact and deal with our stakeholders and how to care for our colleagues when they need extra support.
We can also exercise empathy towards ourselves, valuing and appreciating our skills, finding our place in the world, respecting and drawing on our experiences and being proud of these. When practising emotional intelligence, self-awareness is also important as we consider how our behaviour and attitude influences that of others.
So, in the words of William S. Preston and Theodore Logan, this festive season and into the new year, “be excellent to each other” (and “party on dudes”)*. A very happy Christmas to you all and your families.

*Ten points if you get the movie references – and some classic 90s movie recommendations for the holidays!
Coming Soon…
In addition to convergence, creativity, customer focus and empathy, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophising
Watch this space in the New Year for the next installment!
This blog was originally published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-empathy-rachel-drinkwater.
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.

The 2018 Business Analysis Europe Conference – a plan is formed

Rachel Drinkwater
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Creating a well-rounded agenda

Earlier this year I was granted a bursary by UCISA to attend the IRM Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018, which is to be held in Westminster, London on the 24th-26th September 2018. Having worked as a business analyst for the last fifteen years, this conference has naturally been on my radar as a ‘must do’, but the cost has been prohibitive, so I’m delighted and excited to be able to finally attend.
One of the conditions of my bursary is that I will disseminate my learning from the conference to others in the education sector. Taking this further I’m hoping to combine the knowledge and ideas that I gain from the conference with those I have from my own experience to create a blog series, instructional vlogs and infographics to share with my network both in education and wider industry.  In addition to this, I intend to devise a session to present at upcoming conferences.
I’ve pre-selected my conference sessions and rather than focusing on one of the five streams (‘BA Careers’, ‘Techniques’, ‘People’, Innovation’ and ‘The BA Conference Through the Years’), I’ve instead aimed to create a well-rounded agenda for the three days I will be attending.
Day 1 will start with a practical and energetic-sounding full-morning session on ‘Gamestorming’  (I’m hoping there will be plenty of coffee to facilitate this!). I’m intrigued by the Gamestorming concept and how it differs from the workshop facilitation and requirements elicitation techniques which form what I consider to be one of my core skill sets. Even if it transpires to be the same practice rebadged, I’m expecting to learn some new techniques that I can bring straight back into the office and perhaps include in the public speaking skills workshops that I am delivering at the moment.
My afternoon is set to keep the hands-on approach, looking at ‘Digital Customer Journeys’. As one of my personal areas of interest is digital transformation and strategy, my agenda inevitably has a little bias towards those sessions addressing new ways of working in and the challenges posed by our digitally-focused society.
As if to illustrate that point, I’m starting Day 2 with the ‘The Digital BA’ session within the ‘BA Careers’ workstream. A question that is raised time and again on BA forums and in industry at the moment is ‘What does the digital world mean to us and our practice as Business Analysts?’ I am hoping that the discussions within this session will go some way to uncovering the answer. In fact I’m feeling a blog article coming on with that exact title! The remainder of my day is split between some core BA sessions within the ‘Techniques’ and ‘Innovation’ workstreams; investigating how to approach projects where there are no clear requirements  and managing difficult agile projects and some intriguing-sounding neuro linguistic programming sessions.
My choices for Day 3 kick off with a session within the ‘BA Careers’ workstream led by fellow education Business Analysts, Ed O’Regan and Suzi Jobe, from Nottingham Trent University, entitled ‘From Analyst to Strategist’. As I have progressed from business analyst to senior business analyst in my career, I’ve found that involvement in strategic work is forming an ever-increasing part of my role and it is certainly the direction in which I’m aiming to take my career. In addition to this, at Coventry University we are moving the Business Analysis team towards being a more strategic function and as such I’m keen to hear other organisations’ experiences of this approach. This links quite nicely with the following ‘Innovation’ session in which we will look at ‘Emerging Technology and the BA of the Future’.
To conclude my choices for the conference, I will be attending the very exciting-sounding ‘Stakeholder Skills for Drug Busts – Reflections on Dealing with Difficult People in Dangerous Situations’ delivered by former Police Officer, Charlie Payne. Whilst it’s unlikely that I’ll ever encounter a Breaking Bad-style scenario in the office, conflict does happen and I’m hoping to learn some skills and techniques to defuse and handle such occurrences.
Amidst this action-packed agenda, there are some excellent keynote speakers, a number of networking opportunities and of course the obligatory first night drinks reception. I wholly expect to be catching the train home on Wednesday evening exhausted, but brimming with ideas and inspiration, that I will be distilling into some interesting and informative materials to share with you all. Watch this space and follow me on Twitter at @REDrinkwater to read about what I’ve found out and my thoughts and theories on the content from the three days.
This blog post first appeared on: https://racheldrinkwater.com/the-2018-business-analysis-europe-conference-a-plan-is-formed/
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA bursary leads to new role

Kathryn Woodroof
Business Analyst
University of York

 

 

 

Lessons from the IRM UK Business Analysis Conference Europe 2017

In September 2017, I received a UCISA bursary which enabled me to attend the annual Business Analysis Conference Europe. This conference brings together over 500 Business Analysts from a range of sectors across the continent. At that time I was one year into my first formal BA post and I was excited about an opportunity to fine tune my practice and learn from others. I came back to work with a Padlet board full of conference notes, photos, ideas and contacts. Six months later I’ve been reflecting on the benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary.
For me as an individual, I came away from the conference with a sense of pride in my profession and confidence in the skills and strengths that I can bring to any IT project. I have used new tools and techniques that I learned at the conference, such as systems thinking and prototyping. I’ve also been following my manifesto for fun at work, which I spoke about in my UCISA blog post. Ultimately, the conference motivated me to aim higher and in March 2018, I was appointed to the post of Portfolio Manager for Enterprise Systems. This new role gives me the opportunity to leverage my business analysis skills to facilitate strategic decision-making at the University.
My learning from the conference has also been shared with my immediate team and it’s enabled us to improve our BA practice. We now meet fortnightly to share knowledge and work together on problems. In particular, we’ve been focusing on how we can support agile development practices; this was a hot topic at the conference and the discussions I had with other BAs have informed our thinking here at the University. I’ve also worked with my team to improve the Business Analysis section of our project toolkit, which is a shared resource open to everyone at the University.
I’ve shared my insight from the conference with others outside of our team, for example in a presentation at YO10, our community of practice for staff interested in business change. I’ve also used my conference learning to support Sarah Peace in preparing for a workshop on IT communications with the UCISA Support Services Group.
I also presented my conference takeaways at the Higher Education Business Analyst Forum in London so that my peers in HE could benefit from my experience. I’m still in touch with some of the BAs that I met at the conference via LinkedIn and Twitter and feel that I have a bigger network to tap into than I did before the conference.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.
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A manifesto for fun at work

Kathryn Woodroof
Business Analyst
University of York

 

 

Lessons from the IRM UK Business Analysis Conference Europe 2017

Kathryn Woodroof was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

This year I was able to attend the annual Business Analysis Conference Europe thanks to a bursary from UCISA.  The three day conference was held in London and brought together Business Analysts from all sectors. I expected to gain more knowledge of our practice, learn from other BAs and perhaps get a new perspective on managing change.

But what I didn’t expect was to have so much fun!  I had fun in workshops and seminars, during coffee breaks, and when listening to guest speakers such as Graeme Simsion and Miles Hilton-Barber.  Creativity and fun were everywhere you looked and the importance of having fun at work was my most valuable takeaway from the conference.

During a workshop co-facilitated by our business analysis colleague Tina Lovelock from the University of Leeds, we learned that having fun builds engagement, promotes learning and increases productivity. But we also learned that more than a third of workers had not taken part in any fun activities during the past six months. We realised that, as Business Analysts, we have more opportunity than most to have fun and be creative at work. Tina, Debra, Lawrence and Sandra led the way with a Top Trumps game for BA techniques.

Since the conference, I’ve been reflecting on how I can enable the customers, users and developers that I work with to have fun at work and realise some of those benefits. I’ve come up with a fun manifesto, which is now on the wall next to my desk. Here it is:

1.  Treat fun as a measure of success

I use a visual agenda to set the tone in workshops that I facilitate and I’ve often “have fun” as an outcome of the workshop.

2.  Create an open environment where fun and creativity can happen

Consider how to use the space that you have in a different way in order to experience different thinking. For example, designate each corner of a room to a stakeholder (e.g. student, academic) and ask people to move around the room and consider a problem from each perspective.

3.  Get physical

Move around as much as possible during the working day and especially during workshops and meetings.  Go outside.  Fun and inspiration are rarely found at your desk.

4.  Use visuals, games and activities to have fun

During the 4pm slot at a recent HE BA Forum, I used a Kahoot! quiz and imaged-based slides to keep everyone engaged.

5.  Break out the tunes

Listening to music can elevate your mood, lead your thoughts to somewhere else, and connect you to other people.  I often play background music during workshop activities – it’s also useful for keeping to time.

6.  Eat, drink and be merry

Celebrate successes, milestones and ordinary days with shared food and drink.

Of course, I can’t apply this manifesto in every situation.  But where I can, I will, because I believe that we should all be able to experience the benefits of having fun at work.

I’ll leave you with this final thought from Richard Branson. “Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

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