Enhancing the Value of Business Analysis


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Nathan Cutmore's talk at the 17th April 2013 London Chapter Event

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  • HelloMy name’s Nathan, I’ve been business analyst manager at ITV for the last 10 monthsI have a 3 year old son, Oliver. I love being parent although it can be a bit tedious at times (I have to I have no time to be anything else) Oliver and I spent much of Saturday with at the Natural History Museum. I bought him a small bag of dinosaurs which was great because for the last year it’s he’s been relentless in his insistence that we playing police or space. I spent most of Sunday playing dinosaur police in space!
  • What links these peopleAlexander Graham Bell – inventor of the telephoneLeonardo da Vinci – engineer and artistDyson – inventor of the cyclone vacuum cleaner, the ball cyclone vacuum cleaner, and various hand held devices Oliver – [click] Dinosaur Space Police[click]What all these people have in common is that they are all examples of people who have used creative thinking to produce something of valueRestructured problems in different waysCommunicated their ideas in visual waysProduced large quantities of ideasMade novel combinations and connections among things that already existPhilip Reiss – a German. In 1861 he invented a machine that could transmit music. Days away from inventing the telephone he was convinced by industry experts that there would be no demand; that the telegraph was good enough. 15 years later Alexander graham bell invented the telephone and became a multi millionaire.Proof if you need it that creative approaches drive innovation------------------------------------------Now consider how IT departments continually try to standardize ways of working to improve delivery. In many cases project success is considered principally in terms of time and cost – the easiest to measure, the sole area of control for the project teamQuality if measured is usually assessed using qualitative methods. Even if these methods tell you that given the customer what they want have you given the business what it needs. You might know how wrong you got it but you’ll never know how much better it could have been. Lets turn that around. If measures are meaningless why bother at allI’m suggesting that by understanding how creativity leads to innovation and following the principles throughout the project you know that you are providing the best solution to your colleagues across the business------------------------------------------Statement of viewI believe that in an effort to standardize (reproduce) project processes many companies have lost focus on the role that creativity and innovation play in our projects. I believe that a failure to do so means that our ideas stagnate and lose advantage, and in the end we will be defeated by our competitors
  • “Creativity is relative – every time we work smarter, or more efficiently or collaborate with colleagues or customers we are being creative. It’s not rocket science, just opening our minds up to something new” Jan Kusiak, IRM TrainingThe fundamentalproblem is that once we have an idea we think works, it becomes hard for us to consider alternative ideas, and you cannot will yourself to look at things differently. As a BA responsible for quality, it’s about creating value by looking at problems, understanding them and generating solutions in a different wayOne advantage of being a BA is that we have access to lots of people – Collaboration is perhaps the most essential element It’s one of the reasons why the responsibility of innovation lands with usWe need to adept at maximising the opportunity that this affords-----------------------------------------------An important aspect of creativity is that you need some method of producing variation in your ideas and for that to be truly effective it must be “blind” It’s a departure from retained knowledge But “blind” sounds dangerous – how can you plan your work, estimate your resources, and deliver on time and to budget. Isn’t there a risk that you will lose control if you approach something blind creativity will spiral out of control12 years ago Buro Happold (a…) embarked on a review of its project processes. The goal was to identify how they could capture the creative energy and knowledge of their people at the right time, so that they could differentiate themselves as providers of innovative solutions.At the time Buro Happold was expanding. Growing their reputation as a consultancy that sat outside of the conventional engineering. They would hire from the creative end of the graduate pool, and tender for high profile projects that required innovative solutions to address specific requirements, overcome complexity and reduce risk (such as …).Of course, on time delivery of projects to budget was, as it still is, critical to their value proposition, cash flow and profitability. They were well aware that unfocused creativity could easily lead to projects going round in circles and spiralling out of control.So we decided to introduce a new process to their projects. Called a design workshop, all projects over a certain size would have to complete one. For each project this involved getting appropriate individuals from around the business together in a single session. The concept was simple - take a customer brief, line up the initial set of facts and figures and use the workshop to identify any opportunities where the project team could enhance customer value in any way i.e. through, approach, problem identification and resolution, analysis and solution design, cost reduction, time reduction, cost effectiveness, increasing lifespan.You can imagine how hard it was to get people signed up to this new proposal. Buro Happold is an internationally dispersed and multi disciplinary practice employing highly skilled knowledge workers who have their own projects to work on. Whilst the concept was well received few people had faith that this could be achieved in any sustained way.However, with executive sponsorship and an implementation that focused intently on minimising the administrative headaches faced by the attendees, we were able to gain a foot-hold. …Through on-going facilitation and demonstration, hand-holding, and word of mouth, these workshops became a highly valued stage in the project lifecycle and enabled Buro Happold to become one of the UKs leading engineering consultancies -----------------------------------------------
  • We’d designed a framework that Buro Happold’s engineers could develop into an effective catalyst for creativitySince then I’ve applied systems thinking and framework principles extensively to my work. In my previous roles as a BA I was all too aware of the risks to innovation imposed by standardising working practices…I’ve worked in a departments where use cases or as-is/to-be process diagrams are applied. These can all be powerful techniques, but there inherent weakness was never addressed. As a result our solutions were always limited by the unintentional constraints imposed on us by this way of working When looking at the way our team approaches work at ITV, I’m cautious about imposing unnecessary rigour. ITV has the right people in place, and a high performing business analysisteam doesn’t need unnecessary contstraint to operate with rigour and discipline. I favour frameworks over processes, guidance over templates
  • Identify the opportunityConsider which projects need most innovationConsider where in the project process you need an injection of creativity – what are the points of no (costly return), Project planning, problem investigation, requirements elicitation, identifying and selecting solution-------------------------------------Use a top down approach and systemise your approach, Make creative activities part of the project process and for each…Establish inputsEstablish and end stateEstablish a time-boxed format for Monitor progress, get feedback Adjust and improve the format as required etc----------------------------------------Implement it to fit your organization and people – many are wary of the term ‘creative’ (fluffy)----------------------------------------Lead the change
  • Systemizing it and top down approaches are fine But as a BA you can start your journey from the bottom up.----------------------------------This section takes you on a journey of creative problem solvingStopping on the way to lookTo understand why the fuzzy goals often encountered by BAs actually support innovation through creative processTo tool you up with the fundamental structure behind a creative workshops and enable you to plan yours with creativity in mind.----------------------------------Hopefully the simple models will help you as they’ve helped me
  • This is the image I have in my head whenever I’I have with a problem to solve – whether it’s in the problem investigation stage the solution design stage or anywhere within or without. (slide)As with most activities it is built around a goal - a target condition [1]It involves us moving from a current state – an initial condition [2]The opening act is setting the stage developing them[2]AndBetween the two is a challenge space---------------------------Within the challenge space are 3 stagesOpen [5]Explore [5]Close [5]Opening [5]Get the right people in the room and their cards on the table. Set the stage, get information, ideas and opportunities flowing and develop themes. Build energy and capture context Produce large quantities of ideas Light a spark (metaphors, unrelated questions, how can we fail, do it blind) Explore [5]This is where you look for patterns and analogies, try to see old things in new way, sift and sort through ideas. Create conditions that allow unexpected, things to emerge such as randomness. Post-its are great for this. It is usual that this space has some boundaries, such as budgetary constraints, time constraints etc. But it is critical that they are explicit, understood by all relevant parties, minimised then tested and retested as ideas come into conflict with them. Encourage exploration, use visual language to make things tangibleRestructure problems in different ways, Make novel combinations and connections Closing [5]Move towards decisions, actions and next steps. Which ideas look most promising? Where do you want to invest you time. The beauty of this model is that it encourages creative thought as a time-boxed the activity, this not only generates inovative outcomes but as a group activity it aids collaboration, engagement, and communication.
  • [click]A goal sets up a tension between the current state and the future stateWhere we want to manage work for consistent, repeatable, predictable, results specific we want a specific and unambiguous goal - e.g. industrial work[click]The best way to address this challenge space is a business process.Knowledge work should focus on creativity – in effect we don’t want predictability so much as breakthrough results. The goal is not to incrementally imporve but to generate something new.[click]In knowledge work the destination is not clear, yet we still need to navigate to an outcome – the destination/ the goal is fuzzySo we need need an alternative to the traditional business process is not a chain but a framework for exploration and experimentation.The path to the goal is not clear and the goal may moveActivities are less links in a chain and more battles in a campaign. Movement is fluid
  • Sufficed to say that by employing the diverge, explore, converge approach I’ve conducted many successful workshops using these principles to the benefit of my workProject planning – I have confidence that I can facilitate innovation and deliver on time by time-boxing activities designed to facilitate creative thought Problem investigation – Customers are happier to be taken back to the problem identification stage knowing that they still play a key role in which ones to focus on and how to investigate themRequirements elicitation, analysis and prioritization – lead to better quality requirements Solution selection and design----------------------------------------Think about where you or your company stands. How creative is your BA team, how innovative, how do you know Do you and your team consistently act in a way that fosters creative thought and adds innovation Can you identify the points in your project process at which an injection of innovation would benefit the outputsWhat can you to to make your team more creative e.g. enhance collaborationIs the BA the right person for the job
  • [sum up]Creativity is aboutrestructuring problems in different waysMaking your thoughts visibleProducing a quantity of ideasMaking novel combination and connectionsCollaborateIt can be learned Creativity works best when it’s systemized (top down)Getting your BAs to understand the dynamics of creativity will enable the team to innovate (bottom up)Apply creativity to your project work will lead to innovation i.e. doing things differently, doing things better
  • Enhancing the Value of Business Analysis

    1. 1. Enhancing the Value of Business AnalysisMaking the most of creative opportunityIIBANathan Cutmore17.04.2013
    2. 2. What links these people?
    3. 3. Picture PageLets restructureour tea partyplanning in adifferent wayWe’ve got lots of ideas ...Don’t just stand theregawping at theneighbours. Share yourthoughts. You know itsall about collaborationMaybe if we a gavehim a his watercolours he couldpaint us histhoughts?How about tea?Not very novelHow about trifle and tea?Now we’re getting somewhere!
    4. 4. Systems thinking“It’s all about systemizing creativity. If you don’t systemize it, it can’t bemanaged and you’ll end up running around in circles”Tim La Touche, Systems Development Manager, Buro Happold Consulting Engineers“Time kills creativity but we know how to manage it.”Phil Lind, Creative Director, Marketing and Promotions, ITV
    5. 5. • Identify the opportunity• Systemise your approach• Implement it as you wouldany other business change• Inspire, collaborate,communicateRecap
    6. 6. Picture PageGet the best out of people
    7. 7. Close/ConvergeOpen/Diverge Explore/EmergentEnable creativity“We receive a brief, if we have time we issue it to everybody in the team.Good ideas can come from anywhere” Phil Lind, Creative Director, ITV“We work within real boundaries. Some are clearly defined, others aremore flexible. Some of our best work comes from exploring andstretching these boundaries ” Head of Promotions, C4“No one cares how [our creative’s] go about coming up with a pitch. Aslong as it’s ready on time, satisfies customer requirements and makesmoney for the business” Pippa King, Executive Account Director, JWT
    8. 8. Fuzzy problemsBAB
    9. 9. RecapCreativity can be learnedGet the most out of peopleDiverge, elaborate, converge