Tag Archives: project management

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.

 

Network for Change and Continuous Innovation Conference

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Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

The final day of the conference and it has not been a disappointment

First session of the day was “Using Balanced Scorecards, Lean and Liberating Structures to Accelerate Strategic Planning and Implementation” with Ruth Johnson, Associate Vice-President, and Jeff Fillmore, Senior Organizational Analyst both from University of Washington

This was a very motivational. For more information about liberating structures as a change approach go to the website. Liberating Structures in combination with lean processes have helped the University of Washington to actively engage staff with understanding and implementing the strategic plan. It was a very important methodology for helping the institution change and innovate. I think we all came away wanting to liberate some structures!

Next, a really informative session from three people from Institutions in California “Taking the Mystery out of Managing Change”. They had received change management training from ©Prosci and I was very grateful that they provided us with lots of tools to take away. In my opinion the most useful visual tool was one for measuring strength of sponsor, project management and change management in a project – so that the project team can agree what mitigations need to be taken. Very simple yet incredibly effective and useful. Among the many takeaways also included a really useful checklist tool for project sponsors – I’ll be amending this and use it with my project sponsors.

The final keynote address was wonderful. Allison Vaillancort, Vice President, Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness, University of Arizona gave a visually pleasing presentation. She challenged the group to look beyond incremental change to respond to the changes in HE, and identify where and when a rebellion would be helpful. Her slides gave us a how to guide about how to ensure that bold change can be actively delivered within our institutions. I tweeted a copy of one of the slides about change sabotage and lots of followers on twitter recognised the behaviours.

The final session of the conference “Leading from Inside the Whirlwind: Creating the New Vision for Public Ed” University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
This was a really interesting case study of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who along with the rest of the institutions in the state received a multi-million dollar budget drop. It followed the change steps the institution took from the moment the news broke in January 2015 to current period. The staff had chosen to thrive rather than just survive, it was a fascinating case study about the opportunity change can bring (most dramatically the decision to undertake 8 change projects simultaneously) and how a difficult situation can lead to beneficial improvements for an institution (markedly better student retention and increased enrolments)

It was a wonderful opportunity to attend the NCCI conference. I met so many interesting people and had some very insightful conversation about managing change projects in higher education. My heartfelt thanks to UCISA and my own institution for allowing me to have this opportunity. I’ve got so many ideas for things I can try now that I’m back in the UK.

Looking to the future: sustainable IT and HE web presence

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Simon Geller
Senior Project Manager
University of Sheffield
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two at Educause

I started the day at 8am – the Yanks get up early! – with a session on Google Apps. Sheffield was an early adopter of Google so I had an in on this but the session got a bit bogged down in questions about account creation and deletion rather than the potential for collaboration.

Sustainable IT
Then I moved on to a discussion session about sustainable IT. This doesn’t get talked about so much these days – I think one of the reasons for this is that the movement into cloud services means that institutions aren’t quite so conscious of their energy footprint. Also, IT shouldn’t beat itself up too much about how green it is – we enable so much green activity in other areas, from maps and journey planners on smartphones that make people feel more comfortable about walking and using public transport rather than driving, pool bike schemes that you register for online, to smart energy management systems and systems that make industrial processes much more efficient. The future is Green IT that you don’t even notice.

A presentation from the University of Edinburgh on helping non-project managers to deliver success
In the afternoon, I thought I’d better support our Edinburgh colleagues and went to their presentation  on how they provide support for non-vocational project managers. Although the AV wasn’t being helpful the level of resource they had brought to the issue was impressive.

Then I continued on my quest to discover where the web would take us in the next 10 years. The key message from What Will Your .Edu Site Look Like in 10 Years?  is that your web presence will be going out and looking for your customers rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Later I found myself in a compliance session I hadn’t really intended to go, but thought I’d take risk and stick with it. The message I took away from that is that there are two types of institutions – those that have been hacked, and those that had been hacked and don’t know about it. Scary!

The final session I attended that day was a trend analysis run by journalists from the Chronicle of Higher Education , and the takeaway from that was that we used to talk about the for-profit sector, now, in the US at least, the whole area is for-profit. Plus two questions to ask suppliers: “What research is (that assertion) based on? and “What’s the upgrade cycle?” – cutting edge tech doesn’t stay there for long.

 

Project management tools and project management offices

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Michelle Griffiths
ITS Project Manager
IT Services
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

This Educause session presented by Randall Alberts, Assistant Director, Ringling College of Art and Design, was led as a discussion session, which was started off by all attendees logging onto a direct poll website and answering questions about their organization and what topics they would like to discuss during this morning’s session.

Randall told the group about the committee that he chaired, the Educause Project Management Constituent Group (PMCG) . The group brings together like minded people who have the same interests and areas of focus, sometimes referred to as “birds of a feather”. You can post questions to the group and get answers from your peers. This seems a very similar setup to the UCISA Project and Change Management Group. He also went onto say that they have monthly call-ins with guest presenters on various topics. The website contains past archive information so that you can tune in and watch past presenters.

The direct poll stated that the top topic that the group wanted to cover was project management tools.

Project management tools
Randall suggested that you must first start with pen and paper to define your user processes before you touch on tools. He stated that at his institution they use spreadsheets and share point. Each of their projects will have a share point site that they use as a document repository and to host project plans and schedule information.

The discussion was then opened up to the floor, and the following points were made:

  • Different departments tend to use different tools; it is difficult to get an institutional strategy rolled out so that they could all use common tools. People don’t tend to use the tool if it’s not in their culture.
  • Dynamics and Trello seem to be a commonly used combination of tool sets, along with Microsoft Project online and Office 365.
  • The culture of the Project Management is very important, along with resource allocation tools, which would prove to be very useful.
  • Plan view is another tool that was mentioned (resource & portfolio management tool, capacity planning, scorecards and dashboards)
  • Google Gantt was also mentioned.
  • If you want to roll out a project management office (PMO), you need full support from the CIO.
  • Timesheets are submitted on-line.
  • Service Now  was also mentioned, but with a caveat to say that there are better tools out there, such as Team Dynamix.
  • Tools are not just tools.

What defines a project?
Randall asked: “What defines a project?” The answer from the floor was that whatever is on the CIO goals list will be run. This is defined by a set of categories, which form the basis for project prioritisation. The group discussed categories of projects and what defines a small, medium and large/strategic project. A substantial project was seen as being more than 80 hours and consisting of cross-departmental working.  Returning to theme of what defines a project, Randall suggested that it could be defined as a “Temporary or new endeavour to deliver a service”.

Project management offices
The topic of discussion moved onto project management offices (PMOs), which resulted in the following points:

  • It is important to get buy in from the top when establishing and funding a PMO, difficult to justify the cost of setting it up and on-going.
  • Some institutions don’t call it a PMO as it is seen as a fashionable buzz word
  • Vendors can charge up to $175 per hour for a contract project manager who that essentially manages your internal project management. If the vendor thinks it’s important, then so should we!
  • Academic affairs don’t trust IT Services to manage their projects for them!
  • A lot of the time, IT Services is expected to fund business systems projects. Randall Alberts gave an example of one department that he loaned a server to, which they wanted to keep and use to host a critical worldwide deployed web site.
  • Project managers need to get involved on day one to gather requirements and start off on the right track.

Preparing for the first Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) Event

PCMG has officially been a UCISA group since 2014. We are holding our first event on 10 June 2015 “Project and change management – why bother?” http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/groups/pcmg/events/2015/pcmg.aspx? We are keen that our first formal event should reflect the full range of both the group’s scope and the committee’s expertise.

To prepare for the event, the first thing we had to do was to identify our speakers. We were delighted that Gerry Pennell (University of Manchester) agreed to open the event and we were able to secure Prof. Zoe Radnor from Loughborough University as final speaker of the day. We are also looking forward to hearing from Ruth Murray Webster and Adrian Reed.

Once we’d identified speakers, we focused on potential workshops. We had a very long list of ideas and could have filled the slots three times over. We hope that you will agree that the workshops offer something for everybody interested in this field. At the main UCISA conference in March, there was a great deal of interest in Agile Project Management so we’ve decided to add a workshop on this area: if you would be interested in co-presenting at this workshop, we’d love to hear from you.

Planning for this event has been a real eye-opener about the extent of the professional and helpful support from UCISA. It’s great for us committee members to have the glamour and pleasure arranging the programme: but it is important to acknowledge the invaluable support that UCISA offers to its groups.

We are hoping for a good turn out at the event, please do get in contact if you would like any further information about the event. The content should offer a challenging, informative and enjoyable day for anyone who is interested in project and change management in higher education.

Agile at the IPMA conference

Simon Hogg
IT Portfolio Manager
OBIS (Oxford Brookes Information Solutions), Oxford Brookes University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

Another packed schedule of talks and sessions – again a difficult choice and there’s not much information to help you choose, so a bit of a lottery (although all talks are grouped into streams, which is good). I have tried to pick and choose rather than concentrate on a stream, but at the same time, try and get the best value.

Agile

My first session today was about Agile and how it can and does deliver success. What I didn’t know was the speaker was a co-author of the Agile manifesto. Quite a few questions were around the type of projects it can be used on and the scale. His response was that it can be applied to any project even bringing new things to market such as margarine. As for the scale, he didn’t seem to think this was a problem at all. The room seemed to be split 50:50 on those who know Agile and those who don’t, so his answers did raise a few eyebrows amongst the perhaps sceptical 50% of the room.

The next session was a practical Agile session. The speaker gave a very quick overview of Agile. We were split into small teams and given the brief of producing a children’s book in 45 minutes. We were given guidance and the 45 minutes was in fact a week compressed, so we had 5 minute sprints and 1 minute scrums. My Agile knowledge is limited, but I have a grasp of the basic concepts. However, my other team members didn’t have any idea about Agile other than the brief overview. I also think nationalities played a part, as one person more or less refused to participate. So we did this and yes, we did produce a crude book; we had access to some paper and felt-tip pens. It did illustrate the point that you can get complete strangers to collaborate. I think for Agile to work, you need 100% commitment  from everyone on the project, along with 100% understanding of what Agile is and how it does work in practice. For some people, the communication and interaction would be a challenge.

My next two sessions were in the communications theme. The first was a bit of a shameless plug for “my new book, which is available at the conference”. I can only say that I picked up a few useful tips: pause in communication, make sure your communication is truly understood and have a repertoire of communication skills. None of these were really explained but we were told that we could read about it in her new book.

The next session was about humour and its effect on people in the workplace. A very good presentation with lots of humour of course. Lots of images, lots of suggestions and university based research to show how humour does actually improve the workplace. Not a sales pitch at all, even though they were a consultancy firm.

A brief conclusion

It’s been very tiring, mentally and physically. Three days of talking about and listening to the many aspects of project management and its associated threads.  I only wish I could have attended more talks than I have, but as the programme had no duplicate sessions, I couldn’t.  The venue was excellent as was the organisation of the conference, which you would probably expect given the nature of it. Out of all the talks I’ve been to, the one on humour, coupled with the opening keynote address about luck, could be the most valuable. This is not what I expected at all, given the programme. However, that doesn’t mean everything else was not of use, it has all been useful as  the standard has generally been very high.

Would I attend again and would I recommend it? Yes on both counts, but with the knowledge that it is demanding.

Simon Hogg

Project Management sessions at Educause

Sally Jorjani,
Edinburgh Napier University
Project Manager
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

My first session at Educause was the full day seminar on “Develop IT Governance, Portfolio, and Project Management Processes to Govern Execute and Measure Projects”. This was being run by University of Illinois, telling their story and experience of their implementation of IT Governance, how it has evolved through practice and the challenges they faced.

So why is IT Governance important, below are some of the University of Illinois’ thoughts:

  • Provides clearly defined and repeatable process for decision making
  • Provides transparency as to how decisions are made
  • Ability to measure project/service performance to budget/schedule and success against objectives
  • Ensures that IT Projects and resources are aligned towards the Strategic Plan
  • Enhances opportunities for shared use, reuse, integration, and interoperability of technologies

Key to success with IT Governance is communication, transparency and capturing how decisions were made and their path through the process.

Further points of note from the Portfolio & Project Management section:

  • You cannot plan in a vacuum – need to involve stakeholders
  • You need a senior champion to drive the process
  • Ensure you have the right people involved at the right level
  • PMO helps manage the schedule and resources, it is pivotal in the success of IT Governance
  • PMO is the centre of excellence to help and assist staff with their projects
  • PMO should have the toolbox for staff, such as templates, ideas, advise, and so forth
  • Standardise and make consistent
  • Ensure that the flow of customer requests are controlled, prioritised and transparent
  • Periodically revaluate the process and adjust as necessary
  • Train your staff in Project Management
  • Staff who have a passive aggressive resistance to change need to be managed
  • Buy in from staff very important; listen to what they are saying, especially those who “grump”
  • Get “on the road” with IT Governance within your institution – communication and explanation

And a final point, which was well made:

“A Project Manager’s mission requires courage and good communication (plus a lot of work).”

Throughout the day there was ample opportunity to speak and learn from others at my table as to their experience as well as listen to others through questions and answers. I found this part very interesting, realising that the issues that we face back at our institution are similar to those all over the HE sector no matter where you are from. Also, that we may be slightly further ahead with our implementation of a Project Management Office.

At the end of the session, the speakers were asked “do they review their process and what would they do better?”  Answers were to build trust through success, chunk down projects and say no more, as projects can languish at the bottom of the pile when really they should just be canned. Then much to my surprise, the presenter said that what she would like to do better was to follow our lead in having a Risk Register which is rolled up for all Projects to their PMO!

I felt that this seminar helped validate that our Technical Services Governance is not far off the mark and with a bit of tweaking and consolidation there will be a model which can be rolled out to the rest of the University.

The excellent resources of templates and forms in my booklet will be put to good use upon my return to incorporate into our process and PM training.

Sally

IPMA 2014 World Congress, Rotterdam – Day 1

Simon Hogg
IT Portfolio Manager
OBIS (Oxford Brookes Information Solutions)
Oxford Brookes University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

The full programme can be found here, as you can see a very difficult choice as none of the sessions are repeated. Thus you have to hope your choice is a good one. The conference started with an opening address  by Tom Taylor (President of APM). A very good speaker who soon had all the 1000 delegates laughing.

This was followed by a keynote presentation titled ‘The Luck Factor’ by Professor Richard Wiseman. He used a mixture of magic and humour to explain many years of research he’s done into how people consider themselves lucky or unlucky.

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I then started on my chosen programme of talks. The first was ‘Captain Hindsight strikes again’, which was about the rapidly growing software development team in Dutch Railways and the problems that has brought.  The second was titled ‘The four disciplines of execution’ which was how you fit in new stuff when you are flat out doing current stuff. The third session was titled ‘expanding personal influence and impact’. This was about the psychology of personal and inter-personal behaviour and how it hinders work, especially project management. The fifth and sixth sessions were not that good, the last one felt like a sales pitch and also a test for one of the courses run by IPMA.

The venue is very good and the event is very well organised, although it’s taken 50 people volunteering their time over the last 18 months to realise it.