Agile Development, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, User Experience

In an age of rapid changes in the business, technology and lifestyles, organisations and individuals alike have to be adaptive. Business Analysts are not an exception to this much alike the other professionals. What does it take to be a modern day business analyst. Is it just the logical thinking, sound communication skills, good domain knowledge? Yes, these are all necessary but not sufficient. The modern day business analysts have to be agile, suave and tech savvy. They need to be adaptive and quick to embrace change, not just to survive but to succeed. In this post, we will look at what it takes to be a successful business analyst in this new-age of digital, mobile, agile and social times.

Transformation of business analysis in the new-age

Business analysis today is less of writing requirements in long documents and more of working with the design and development team. Its about owning the product roadmap, business strategy and/or the organisational processes. Gone are the days of writing up functional specifications documents running into hundreds and thousands of pages, spending months and years. Its the time for them to be agile and lean, and move on from being traditional verbose document writers. So business analysts today have to write user stories, create wireframes and mockups, model problems and solutions, validate and test the functionality.  They must be open to change and pro-actively understand the impact of changes on business, technology, products and people.

NBA_platform_Definition_Framework

Business analysis is changing and how

From a traditional perspective,  BAs needed to be good with communication skills. They were positioned as domain experts and to some extent looked up as product specialists. Some analysts have been positioned as specialists in business process management. However, in the last few years, business analysts have moved on from mere requirements owners to product/process owners. With the extensive use of agile practices, business analysts too emerged as the change management experts. In this digital, mobile, agile and social age, the focus of business analyst has shifted to user stories, customers and users engagement, stakeholder management, modeling domain, problems and solutions. In short, the modern day business analyst is versatile, cross-disciplined, tech-savvy, agile  and a team-working professional.

NBA_platform_BusinessAnalysis_New_Age

The new-age Business Analyst’s toolset

I give below a diagrammatic representation of the toolset for the modern day business analysts. This provides a snapshot of the fundamental set of skills and knowledge that power the BAs today.

NBA_BA_Skills-and-knowledge_Toolset

Alongside the mainstream skills, the business analyst needs to be a master of communication and leadership skills. From interacting with the key stakeholders, engaging with customers and users, and working alongside the team members, business analysts must have excellent “people skills”.  Also, technology has been playing a key role in the design, development and delivery of products and services today. So, needless to say that the business analysts today have to be aware of the technologies, platforms and the application of these technologies to business context. I don’t however see that the business analysts have to be experts in technology but then they must be able to use technical applications, tools and methods to understand problems and help create solutions. Also, the new-age BAs have to be creative and be equally good with the right brain as much as they are comfortable with the data and analytics.

Hope you find this post useful – as always, please feel free to get back with your review comments and helpful feedback. On behalf of Team Texavi, I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year, 2014! May your personal and professional lives be filled with joy, prosperity and success! Until next post, ciao!

         

 

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, User Experience

Apple, Google, Facebook, Toyota, Coca Cola, Nike, Microsoft, BMW… what is common to all of these. Yes, they are all leaders in their respective industries and markets.  But the one thing that ties them all is their sustained commitment to their vision and the values they stand for.  However, I think the real secret behind their success is an aspect of their leadership and that is what I call ‘the pursuit of  innovation’. This is indeed the true differentiating factor that separates the leaders from followers and distinguishes the champions from the players.

As part of this post,  I touch upon a few aspects of how we can seek innovation by leveraging our strengths and managing change. I also give a  few real life organizations and their products to understand the practical aspects of seeking innovation for greater value creation. We can draw lessons from these as to how one needs to pursue innovation and leverage it for continual success and leadership. This is not an exhaustive list though and there are a lot of different ways and perspectives to look at innovation and imbibe it in our own organizations and work spheres.

Focus on value-creation, not technology

When we talk about innovation, invariably technology gets highlighted more often and in some cases innovation is equated with better technology. Yes, technology is perhaps the best medium to deliver innovation and it is undoubtedly the most-successful factor in transitioning your vision into reality. If you are a technology company and your core offering itself is technology, then of course, you can safely lean on it and claim that you are have innovated and created better technology. However, in most cases, bear in mind that technology is merely a vehicle and the real driver is business. And the key is the value delivered to your stakeholders, customers and users.

Turn threats into opportunities

Take any industry, any segment and any product line, we already have hundreds and thousands of companies, brands and products. Globalization would have brought about huge benefits but along with the opportunities, it also brought about threats for companies. They have new competition now and not just new but this competition comes in different sizes, shapes and formats. With the advent of Internet there is another aspect of  ‘opportunity-threat’ that manifested itself to organizations, worldwide.

The Web, they claim is the largest communication device ever invented by man. It changed the way we work, live, and communicate. It also brings with it another aspect and this time in the form of intense competition. Your biggest competitor is just a click away and within a few seconds an impression could be created and a deal is made or lost. But then all is not lost yet and you can turn this to your advantage. The real secret of success with Web lies in how well you embrace it for your advantage.

Not a destination, but a journey

Innovation is not a one-time activity which an organization or individual does once to achieve success. To succeed and lead the pack, we need to innovate continually and our  products and services should be a reflection of this. There is no place for contentment in this dynamic world where the cliched saying ‘Change is the only constant’ is true to its letter and spirit.  Continual improvement in products and services and consistent delivery of value is what separates the leaders from the followers.

For instance, Apple never moves away from their mantra of delivering superior experiences to their users and this philosophy is pretty much reflected very strongly in all their products ranging from Macintosh to  iPod and from iPhone to iPad. It is Apple’s constant endeavor to keep their users on top, and make them happy with every new product line, product, and release that they create.

Leverage your strengths

One way to pursue innovation is by identifying your strengths and leveraging them for your competitive advantage. Every organization needs to pursue the case of innovation and champion the cause of their users’ delight. No matter how big or small the organization is, how large or small the market is, how specialized or generic the offering is…every organization has to strive to strike the right chord with their users. Only this would help these organizations to be successful with their offering, whether its a product or a service.

A case in point is Bose audio systems which prides themselves with the tagline ‘Better sound through research’ . Amar Bose, who started off the company as an extension of his research project at M.I.T., came out with his offering of better sound supported through an innovative approach. Bose, with their Wave technology and its application, broke the myth that ‘bigger the speaker, better was the sound’. Focusing on delivering better user experiences, Bose took over the market and continued to churn out products that offer greater value and experience to users.

Make a difference – create ‘the change’

The only way to survive in this competitive world is to cut the clutter and make a difference. I came across this interesting quote about change – ‘People who change after change survive. People who change with the change, succeed. People  who cause the change, lead’. How true and relevant in the ‘melting pot’ world that we are living in, nowadays!

Dyson is renowned the world over for their hand dryers. Dyson’s hand dryers are known for their efficient, hygienic and energy-saving capabilities. Dyson did not stop at delivering great drying experience to their users and value for their customers.  They leveraged their command over the air flow technology and created an alternative approach to a ubiquitous product  that we all know and use, a fan. Yes, Dyson invented  the blade-less circular fans which are efficient, easy to maintain and comfortable to use. Again, a case of making a difference despite the size of the organization, product, or market, thereby offering unmatched innovation through delightful user experience.

                             

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

We keep hearing a lot about the terms User Experience, Usability etc., being tossed around to talk about the products that are used in our daily life. These are increasingly related specifically to the technical products, devices, electronics,web sites and web applications.   To be honest and brutally frank about this, I was never taught all through my education about ‘usable’ and ‘usability’. Not only these, even my formal education did not dwell much upon ‘users’ and their needs. And I guess, this is true with most of you too.

Its true that we were taught about how to design great products and how to know our customers’ needs and satisfy them with our offerings. In this post, I wish to discuss some key aspects as to how we can deliver delightful user experiences, not just create products and services.

It lies in the details

Small things and details make up great user experience but  user experience is not a small thing.  Pay attention to the details and you are contributing to the delight of your users. It is often  the attention to the details or lack of it that makes a product a huge success or a super flop.

Take the case of Jabulani, the football used in the 2010 FIFA World cup held in South Africa.  Some players complained that the ball was not behaving in the way it should when hitting from afar and that they could not predict the path of the ball when in air.  Their contention was that perhaps it was not designed considering the altitude, pressure and the context of the stadiums in South Africa.  It could potentially be a  case of not getting into the details such as the usage context, which led to frustration among users.

 

A small exercise for you!

I don’t want to write too many details about this point :-) Instead, I want you to try it out yourself and experience the difference!

Follow the steps in the order I give below:

  • Open a browser window of each of the following:
    • Internet Explorer
    • Apple Safari
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • Google Chrome
  • Press CTRL+N keys or Go to File menu and select New
  • Compare what you see with each of the results

Here is the key for those who don’t have the time to do the exercise…Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and Google each have come up with different browsers and different browser versions updated to suit users’ needs. We are not trying to look at the pros and cons of these, but the essence is to understand how much they care for their users and how much attention they pay to details. These are not the only measure of user experience or  efficiency of any browser, nor can we assess them comprehensively with this particular feature alone. But this shows you how much importance they give to users and their needs.

Let us observe how opening a new browser window works across these different browsers:

Internet Explorer opens a new window with the current site opened by default. It is almost as good as Copy feature. Copy the same window is not what you needed, but you expected a new window to be opened. Also, add to this the time it takes to open it, because it needs to load all the elements of the current page. It opens the window with exactly the same size as the previous window and you cannot see that its opened in the first place.

Now compare this with what Google Chrome or Apple Safari does. These open new (literally) browser window and this is not the copy of the current window, but a new browser window. Also the new window is slightly different in size compared to the previous one and you can see very clearly that a new browser window is now opened. I have illustrated these different options with a few images, so you can see the difference clearly.

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Google Chrome

Apple Safari

Mozilla Firefox