Minimum Viable Business Analyst

That intersection is what is called the Minimum Viable Business Analyst (MVBA), and it defines a set of skills or knowledge that are useful to be an effective generalist business analyst, one who can work on almost any project

The above diagram is simple; the intersection of these skills is what makes a business analyst the most successful business analysts in today’s organization. When I started my career more than a decade back I thought I would structure my learning in every area of the diagram, but what I did not know was which area to focus. Initially, I tried learning everything, but then I realized there is so much to learn and there is not much time I have to master all the areas.

Any project that I did was completely different from what I did the last time. This could be due to any one or more reasons that the current project and the previous project is in the different domain, with the different set of stakeholders, Budget & Time constraints, Quality requirements and User requirements etc. The whole idea of being a business analyst is to create a new solution that business/user wanted.

In order to explain the MVBA and why the industry needs generalist or the intersection of the skills in BA as highlighted in the above diagram, I would try to explain in simple language.

Being a Domain Specialist

As a BA, the most important part is you should understand the language the customer is speaking in order to take down the requirement. One needs to understand the core business case why the user wants his product, what is his current set of problems and what is it trying to achieve at the end of the project. Having domain knowledge helps communicating both verbally or in writing easier for the BA and this is one of the most important skills which makes the BA a thousand times more effective as it helps to articulate what the client wants and also spell out the challenges he might have in the solution that he already has it in his mind. How many times the clients comes up with a pre-proposed solution and says “This is all I want…” an effective BA would help him see through the cracks of his solution and identify the leaks and give then a solution that avoids the leaks.

The fastest way to learn — Quick Googling of those terms will teach you some of the important concepts that would help you to understand the benefits and challenges in the current business process. Doing a quick comparative study of the competitors would help you to create a USP for your customer. Knowing domain in more details would help you to solve the problem in a different way and also how different business functions and layers of business talk to each other.

Being a UI/UX Expert

The UI/UX skill is in growing demand for a BA these days and having the UI/UX knowledge with the BA would make a winning combination. This is a primary job of the developer, so ask a UI/UX guy to do it but when he/she comes up with the design; ask them to walk you through each component one by one and explain to you what the system does. Now, what makes you a better business analyst is to ensure that the user experience is aligned to what would help the user to do his business in an easier way. Another thing is to ensure the system does not have complex UI, the design should be consistent and suite the technical as well as business requirements.

BA with UI/UX knowledge is a winning combination for a modern enterprise, as the solution must be found quickly to avoid costly delays in the project.

 

Imagine that you are in middle of a requirement elicitation workshop with the clients and it is getting difficult for the client to imagine the solution that you are proposing, Business Analyst may create wireframes the developer uses to produce the screens, and the developer may be responsible for decisions such as when to use a button vs. a link, or radio buttons vs. a drop-down menu to provide options to users. This would help to get the approvals from the client quickly and also give clients a sense of the look and feel of what the solution might be

The fastest way to learn– Talk to your developer/designer they would know the design patterns that they use. Trying out hands on some applications like Balsamiq to give the first-hand information to the designer. Participate in JAD sessions with the user, designer and the technical architects which help in understanding the UI/UX design decisions they would have taken in the past and also introduce you to the style guides and the UI libraries.

Being a Project manager

Until few years back the BA and PM were considered to be two separate skill sets, which is true today but a lot of the organizations these days have started having roles such as BA/PM. Being a PM is boring (No offense to all the Project managers) but most importantly you can’t run a project without a Project manager

Project management skills are the cement that binds everything, and learning this skill is a hard one, to be an effective project manager takes a lot of time and experience. You can read up all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s a human behavior problem. There are no shortcuts to enhance your interpersonal skills, communication skills and I think it only comes with time and experience and with dealing with people

An Effective Business Analyst needs to be a “PEOPLE PERSON” rather than a “PROCESS PERSON” in today’s agile environment

The fastest way to learn — in order to accelerate the learning process is to talk to people, understand the common problems encountered by your team and other project teams and how those problems were solved. Going thru the lesson learned documents of old projects there is a learning value to their philosophies behind their approaches.

Being a Tester

Testing is a specialized discipline, regardless of the size of the project there would always be a testing phase in that project and the success of the project depends on does the system is made as per the laid requirements. Unfortunately, the Business analyst does not give a lot of importance to testing. As a BA, you need to ensure that the product is built right which meets all the client requirements (even if that seems impossible).

As a BA need to be involved in testing and the focus should be on “breaking the product or the output” the testers are usually attempting to identify the faults in the product based on the document that the Business analyst wrote. It is almost inevitable that BA can document everything; there are always some unsaid requirements. It is not a tester’s domain to question whether it is a significant fault in terms of the overall outcome of the project. Resolving the fault with some workaround is not a tester job. Doing testing or User acceptance testing (UAT) is very important for a business analyst as all aspects of the analysis function may need to be quality-assured.

The fastest way to learn — The best way of learning how to test effectively is to Jump in the water and start swimming!! You can also read more about the testing methods on the internet or by grabbing the testing books.

 

WARNING!! Should not be a rabbit hole !! for a BA and you should know when to stop digging. One should also remember that there should be no conflict of interest with the Testing team as for a successful project delivery an Independent verification and validation is almost a must.

The whole concept of having a generalist or an MVBA (minimum viable business analyst) in today’s scenario varies from organization to organization, I think the intersection of the 4 skills is what is required to reduce the time of shipping of the project and delivering the value to the stakeholders in the most cost-effective manner with great quality.

Hope that this might have helped you in your quest to learn more and be a better and successful Business Analyst helping the organizations and their customers achieve their goals

Happy Reading!!

Abhinav Gupta @abhi13aug

Also at medium.com/@ABHI13AUG

Product Management Myths and Reality

What has changed, over the years, in the technology industry; which required a role of a product manager?

I did not hear the designation of a product manager 10 years back, there were business analysts, project managers but not the product manager. There is an argument, that somehow end-user needs got detached from the technology-driven product. The product manager enables a company to rapidly deliver products to market since it skims and skips lengthy traditional market research, and consequently bases product design decisions on internal company expertise. Probably yes the business has been changing so rapidly which required this as a specialized role.

So who is a product manager? A business analyst, UI/UX expert, Technology expert, Project manager, Sales associate, Network specialist?

I think the answer is none of them, the commonly used a vague definition of product management misleads and allows many people to place their own personal interpretation on the role of product management, and this is leading to a multitude of diverse definitions in the technology industry. As a product manager, you need to be the like the conductor of the orchestra. You may not know which API’s to call, which would be better to have a server hosted application or a cloud platform, does the customer care about all that?  The Product manager should be as a voice of the customer and should be ready to take tough calls, he should be creative and clear in his ideas and politically correct to get it implemented, should be listening to thought but at the same time should the person who would call the shots.

Does the definition of the role of a product manager in my company same everywhere?

Every company is different and handles product management differently – meaning that the product management discipline is not standardized as much as it could be across the high-tech industry. Further complicating the situation is that in each company there are individual stakeholders who often view and interpret product management very differently from each other. Based on my conversation with various product managers working in different companies, some say that they have been recurrently successful as product manager while others said that they have been just lucky till now, but now they are working on having a consistent understanding of the product management in the organization.

What do you understand by Product manager as the CEO, of the product?

This statement is been used quite often in various blogs, talk’s and books. The product management comprises of all the activities that are responsible for the product to be successful in the market. For example, providing incorrect market requirements, erroneous pricing, or an inaccurate profiling of the target market can all be detrimental and critical. If just one of these aspects of product management is a miss, then the product’s chances of success are greatly diminished and who shall hold responsibility for the failure of the product; The Product manager! And it’s his responsibility to fix it.

How important is the role of a product manager in making a product successful?

Some products are successful because of external factors, timing, or merely good fortune. Not all successful products have had great product management behind them, but it is clear that many product failures have had poor or no guidance from product management. Numerous cases where companies like Google, Apple, JP Morgan’s and Microsoft failed and the most decorated product managers were needed to step down whether it was Apple map or google phone.

 Is it necessary for the product manager to be an Agile/Lean/RAD/waterfall expert?

Well, there is no right or a wrong model for a project, there are instances where the agile model may lead to budget overruns due to continuous change in product requirement, despite having the most amazing product the time to market the product led to product failure. I think everything works, even tossing a coin before choosing the model of development might work for you, but you need to make it work for you.

To conclude, I think there is an increasing need for standardizing the product management as a discipline, and every dollar that a company earns through product development some portion of that dollar they should reinvest in improving the area of product management. Efficient product management practices within the organization increase product managers on job productivity and improve a product’s chances of commercial success.

 

Is Indian Startup bubble going to burst ?

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The news is quite a shocking news, when big wigs like Foodpanda, Tiny Owl, Housing.com, etc. keep firing employees. Is it safe to join these companies as a professional?  These companies are treating employees as Garbage; soon time will come when they become extinct,

I think one news in the newspaper like this would turn all the believers associated with the startup to think again about their time and money invested in the company. At the same time send shockwaves all across the industry with a stream of bad reviews on portals like Glassdoor, mouthshut.com, and payscale.com.

The reaction is not only restricted to only the startups but with any company, If we remember TCS did a mass firing few years back and I am sure that in order to attract the right talent now even TCS might have to shell out more money.

I think the industry bodies like NASSCOM, FICCI etc. should have a Career Credit Rating of the company, which is published every quarter.

This might help all the job seeking candidates to choose the companies wisely at the same time help the companies as well; Higher Carrer credit rating companies can hire better talent at Lower cost.  Indians are in general conservative professionals as compared to professionals in US and UK.

The industry bodies can tie up with the various HR consulting companies to come up with parameters that would define the parameters and the process to deriving the Carrer Credit Rating of the companies. On the other hand, the job portals like Naukri, Monster, etc. should publish these rating against each job posting.

 

These are my first thoughts when I read the news, I will try to do some more research on this, I would be happy to discuss any thoughts, ideas, and comments on the topic which helps to create a better ecosystem for both the companies as well as job seekers.

Correlation of Age and Success….

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time – Thomas Edison

90% of the startups close before their first anniversary, “one success takes you one step forward towards making it big and one failure takes you ten steps back”, as you have lost some money, zeal and time.  

Working in an agile environment of the startup it is a massive transition, definitely requires more than a year of time and double the number of hours you usually work in a structured environment

I think the probability of success could be more if you start early

  • Age 20 – 27 years- Fresh blood, lot of energy, can take max. Risk, unmarried, they have “no other choice” to make it successful, which is the best and the strongest feeling to have, something like we have it just before the exam if I don’t do it now, I would fail.  I had an interesting conversation with my boss ten years back which changed me forever, I went to my boss and said that this is too much work, and can’t do it because I have no knowledge, and time is very less, my boss told me

You are an engineer and I think you might have never opened the book before the prepration leaves and you got a first class degree. Just put that effort today you will get there…

  • Age 27- 40 years – This is the most difficult age group, they are married, they have responsibilities, they have EMI’s to pay etc. They are trained to do certain things but not all, they“have the choice”, they have the choice of returning to your job if the startup does not work. The right thing to do is to have a group that complements each others skillset.

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl but keep moving forward – Martin Luther King

  • Age 40 + years – This age group is more seasoned, have a good network, they were trained in managing people, they are more financial stability, they “have the choice” and can bring stability, maturity and scalability to a dynamic startup.  

Anyone who has never made a mistake, is the one who has never tried – Einstein

These are my thoughts; please share yours in comments below..

Abhinav