Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

It is beyond doubt that the current times of digital, mobile and social age demand professionals who are versatile, agile, sociable and dynamic. Business Analysts and product specialists are no exception to this. Whether its due to the industry demands, peer pressure, market needs or pure evolutionary tactics, BAs today are far more leading-edge, competitive, assertive and visionary contributors to the products, processes and businesses, at large. From an also-ran team player role, new-age analysts have come a long way as the multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and multi-dimensional professionals. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets of the new-age Business Analyst and how they are adapting to the continual changes happening in the spheres of business, technology, professional and personal lives.

Emergence of the new-age BA/PO

As we discussed in the previous posts, there have been several factors that led to the emergence and evolution of the Business Analyst. The BA today moved on from just a requirements owner and a document expert and is now addressing several facets around products, processes, business and technology. Their focus still remains pretty much around the problem space, compared to the facilitation role in the solution space. The analysts identify problems, dependencies, needs and opportunities. However,  products, processes and business domains. The BAs today have been involved in scoping, release management, continuous engagement with customers and users, strategising, laying out roadmap, and working with multiple teams.  In a nutshell, the Business Analyst of the modern age is much like a leader, architect, soldier, team player…all rolled into one.

NBA_Leader.Architect.Soldier.Team Player_Texavi

Leader, architect, soldier, team player & more – the new-age BA

From being an analyst, the BA needs to transform into a leader, architect, soldier, team player and perhaps many more such roles, all rolled into one. Of course, they need not be all of these roles at the same time. The analyst today has to don one, few or all of these various roles based on the context, time, stage of implementation as befits the occasion. During the initial stages, the emphasis could be on being an architect, while during the scoping it could be that of a soldier. However, throughout the project, or initiative analysts have to keep their hat of leader and team player, no matter what stage the work is in. I touch upon the four primary facets of the new-age Business Analyst in the following paragraphs.

1. Sensible leader, not just an also-ran

You can’t talk enough about the all-imperative skill and art of analysts to work with people. They must have their hands firmly on the pulse of the different categories of people. These include the various stakeholders – direct and indirectly responsible for the product and process, from senior management all the way through to people working on the factory floor. As an able leader, the analysts must not only lead the way, but also set an example by following and working along with the team members. They should  listen actively, take steps pro-actively and be able to put in their efforts with sustainable passion, drive and commitment to achieve this shared vision and common goals.

2. Architect and a builder, not just another player

New-age business analysts must be able to look beyond the near term goals and benefits. They must have a really good and long term vision to not only lead themselves but also the team members and the organisation, at large. They must think far and beyond, using their rich experience, in-depth and specialised domain expertise. The added advantage is that these help the analysts with a “peripheral vision” around the markets, business domains, products, processes and technologies.  Besides, the new-age analyst adds great value by laying a robust roadmap that is flexible, scalable, high-performing.

3. A soldier, well-equipped and prepared

Like a soldier, who is well-equipped and well-prepared to face any kind of challenges, the new-age analyst must be prepared with all the right tools, methods and a positive attitude. The very nature and aptitude of business analysts help them to stay on the top of their game, be it at home or outside their turf. Their ability to adapt easily and quickly depending on the situation helps build on to the agility of the new-age analysts.  Analysts’ skills of being sensitive, scrupulous and open-minded, help them usable insights from ideas and actionable intelligence from information. In addition to these, the BAs try to keep ahead by addressing all possible scenarios, potential challenges and constraints, internal and external dependencies and assumptions – stated and implicit.

4. Team player, not just a one-person show

Business analysts over the ages had been looked at more as specialised consultants who come in, do their work and get out. The contribution of analysts is considered from the prism of a “support” role who comes in early in the project, find problems, specify scope and requirements and exits the scenario. However, with the advent of agile practices such as Scrum, user stories, XP, BDD and TDD being put in place, organisations are increasingly looking for analysts to be well-integrated into the development teams. The analysts today are very much an integral part of the teams and by being  participative, they contribute to the collective value delivered by the team. So, new-age analysts are equally adept at being followers and team members themselves as much as they excel at leading the teams.

I hope this post helped you understand the many dimensions, skills and demands of the new-age business analyst. We will cover more specific details on the tools, and methods for the business analyst/product owner in the upcoming posts, until then, ciao!

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Experience

With over a decade of experience working as a business analyst, I have been a staunch believer of the saying “once an analyst, always an analyst”. Being a business analyst for a significantly large part of my IT career, I often thought about the evolution and transformation of a Business Analyst through these years. Ever since the role of a Systems Analyst conceived in the late seventies, there have been numerous changes to the name, role, responsibilities, job description and others.

From the modest roots of being able to understand, specify and communicate the problems and requirements through to that of a product owner and a change agent, the role of business analyst has gone through significant shifts along the continuum. For the sake of simplicity, I wish to call the old age business analyst, a “traditional” one and I prefer to call the modern avatar as the “New Age” business analyst. In this post, let me bring out the main differences between these and in the process, present and unveil Texavi’s New Age Business Analyst.

 

Traditional Business Analyst

Besides many other activities, traditionally business analysts have been gathering, analysing and specifying the requirements of a product, system or application. That role was specifically considered as the “requirements” person in the team. Largely for the most part of the late 1980s and early 1990s, analysts used to be part of the support team rather than the development team. Eventually business analysts transformed themselves into customer-facing roles with business acumen and domain knowledge. Systems analysts slowly turned into business analysts with an emphasis on the functional knowledge and awareness about the business and markets at large.

Business analysts moved on from a mere support role, and slowly their contribution and the recognition therefrom, in the product development lifecycle was perceived to be at par with the other prominent roles like programmers and architects. This gave rise to a new version of the business analysts in the form of subject matter experts (SME). Also referred to as functional consultants and domain experts, these business analysts have been adept in their business areas. They possessed the right blend of industry experience and expertise, alongside a dash of  IT exposure. They used to be the professionals with vast experience in specific industry verticals such as banking, manufacturing, healthcare etc. Analysts in these times started going beyond requirements and contributing more value to the product, business, customers and users.

The evolution of New Age Business Analyst

The business analysts as we see today are increasingly more empowered, and influential compared to their traditional counter parts. This transformation has been rather more pronounced and visible more so in the last 6 years, with the advent of agile processes. Its an encouraging trend that several organisations in the IT industry have been embracing with open arms different agile methodologies such as SCRUM, TDD (test driven development), BDD (behaviour driven development) and user stories. Also the transformation has been augmented by newer ways of product development, technology revolution. Market dynamics added another dimension considering that speed-to-market has been the mantra for success for most businesses today. I give below my interpretation of this in the form of a diagram, to drive home the above points.

Texavi_NABA_NewAgeBusinessAnalyst_Key_Factors

Who is the New Age Business Analyst

I can say that the New Age Business Analyst is agile, responsive, responsible, tech-savvy and people-focused professional. They are no more restricted to requirements alone but are empowered to own the product roadmap. Though largely focused on problems space, new age business analyst facilitates the solutions by pro-actively engaging team members, management, customers, users and key stakeholders. The New age Business Analyst is neither an outsider, nor a mere consultant to find faults and present reports. They are very much part of the teams, organisation and provide timely inputs and insights through their expertise and experience. Not just advice, they jump in by rolling their sleeves and work along with the team members in addressing the problems, needs, thereby creating solutions that work for customers and users delivering a great experience. At the same time, the New Age Business Analysts strive to make the solutions commercially viable from a business standpoint.

Its with great pride and honour, I unveil the logo of Texavi’s New Age Business Analyst.

Texavi New Age Business Analyst_NABA_Final_Logo

 

 

Please keep a watch on more updates, posts, applications  and news about our new initiative titled as Texavi New Age Business Analyst. Thank you and have a nice weekend!

 

 

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

“Markets are conversations” – this saying is absolutely relevant to the current times. No wonder social media nowadays is not optional for businesses anymore. Increasingly, more small and medium enterprises have been embracing social networks albeit a bit coerced by competition than willingly. However, not all of them who adopt the social business route are successful. A handful of them have found the right path, stuck to it and achieved success. That brings a valid question in our minds – how would you measure the success of the efforts in building a social business? Like the well-established SEI-CMM model, success in social business too depends on the capability and  the maturity of the organisation. I came up with the Social Business Maturity Model, akin to the SEI’s CMM, but contextually aligned to social business’s focus areas and processes. This post touches upon the key aspects in assessing the efforts of the business, internally and the resulting output, externally.

Why to assess and measure the social efforts

It is evident that organisations are investing their efforts, resources, people and money into making their businesses socially successful. Irrespective of industry, size and domain, these companies have taken the social business journey. They have put in place various processes and are actively undertaking various activities towards the social initiative. There should be a way of assessing and measuring where an organisation is in the context of this social efforts and processes. Texavi’s Social Business Maturity Model(SBMM) would help you to assess how mature an organisation is in the continuum from Level 1 being an initial phase to Level 5, being the Optimising phase. The SBMM enables the small and medium businesses primarily, to understand what it takes at each phase of the Social Business journey and invest their resources and efforts accordingly.

Texavi’s Social Business Maturity Model – Overview

I thought about this SBMM framework, considering the internal and external facets of any organisation. These two perspectives are helpful to assess and analyse the resources,processes and efforts required internally to generate the desired results, externally. This SBMM framework, the levels, key focus areas and the maturity matrix are based purely on my understanding and views and I did not refer to any industry or academic source, for similarity or differences. Within each of the focus areas, the organisation’s  is divided across 5 levels starting from Level1 : Start-up through to Level 5:Tune-up.The 5 Maturity Levels - Texavi's SBMM

 

Social Business internal focus – What you can do

There is no doubt that companies have to focus on selling and marketing their products and services to improve their bottom lines. However, social businesses have to do much more than this. The focus has to shift from their products and services to enhancing their brand equity, which is a larger goal to accomplish. However this cannot be achieved overnight or with a magic wand, but done gradually. So, an organisation matures across the 5 levels in the SBMM to reach the stage where the focus is clearly on building their brand. In the same way, businesses traditionally focus on selling and advertising to their customers and they extend this behaviour to social media as well. On the social and professional networks too, companies use the tone of selling to customers. However, this needs to change to a tone of engaging people in meaningful conversations.

The key focus areas for the internal focus of the social businesses, as per the SBMM are:

  • Business Focus
  • Processes
  • Delivery platforms & channels
  • Activity on social media

The following diagram illustrates these points highlighting the key focus areas for an organisation to take care of, internally:

Key Focus Areas - Internal View - Texavi SBMM

 

Social Business external focus – how you do

Marketing and communications are like the face of the organisation, presenting their view to the external world. Customers and users have always been the focus of organisations traditionally. However, with social media businesses now need to extend their reach beyond the customers to followers, friends and fans on the social networks. Also, for successful social businesses, content becomes a key strategic tool. As the organisation matures in its social business approach, they move from consuming and sharing the content to curating and creating engaging content. Messaging too gradually shifts from being interruptive to highly-contextual and personalised to the users.

The key focus areas for the external focus of the social businesses, as per the SBMM are:

  • People
  • Content
  • Business Focus
  • Messaging

The diagram given below presents the key focus areas that an organisation should take care of, externally:

Key Focus Areas - External View - Texavi's SBMM

I will try and continue my thought process on the Social Business Maturity Model in the next few posts. Also, on Texavi’s web site and White Papers, you can find more details on Texavi’s SBMM such as the Maturity Matrix and focus areas. Feel free to share your views and feedback on this post. Until next post, ciao!

Business Analysis, Innovation, Life, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

You might be slightly intrigued by the title of this post. Yes, you are correct in that the focus of any innovation almost always happens to be on customers and end-users. It ends up delivering value to users in some way or the other and that the most significant benefactor in the process of innovation is the user. No denying that truth, however, in this post I wish to look at innovation being driven by users and their needs. Let us look at a few instances which triggered the users to innovate and what it takes to nurture this user-centered innovation.

Defining innovation

From whatever I have learnt from my experience, I would define innovation as an approach to deliver value to customers and users, using the existing resources and working under the constraints. It could be a powerful combination of bringing in some simple ideas, adding some imagination and creating value.

This value-creation process can span across multiple industries, verticals, domains and market segments. Innovation is not restricted to products alone. Innovation can happen in the way you deliver services to your customers or even in the way you improve the internal processes within your organization.

Whose problem is it anyway

Innovation starts with identifying the right problems and can be said to be successful when the ‘right solution’ is created. What is a right solution? It is that which works for customers and users! But whose problems are you trying to solve? Its the users’ problem and if its their problem, who is best equipped to find a way out? Well, the people who have the problem did find the solutions too in some cases and in this post we shall touch upon a few of them.

   

 

Quality and process improvement initiatives such as Kaizen, TQM (Total Quality Management) and Quality Circles have been evolved in the later part of the 20th century. These initiatives came out after finding that the people who are close to the problems are the people are working on the shop floor and are working on the assembly lines. Many companies in the automobile industry have successfully leveraged Quality Circles to identify the problems and also soliciting solutions from the people who are working on the shop floors.

Improvisation vs. innovation

Innovation need not always be ground-breaking and involving rapid changes to the existing ways. It is not about big or small, high or low, but it is about the ability to deliver value in the first place. As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, it is necessity and not needs alone that drives people to innovate and invent. Note that the user is the person who has the problem or the need and he/she has the best ability to determine the scale of impact or outcome from the process.

A case in point is the video clip that you can view by clicking on the link below. I came across this small video clip being shared in the social media. I am really fascinated by the way the gentleman in the video found out a way to satisfy his need to look better in the eyes of the onlookers, when driving his car. Sometimes, its the urge to look better that makes us think for better way of doing things leading to innovation. This proves that innovation or the ability to make things better need not always be on a large scale nor involve massive machinery.

Manual Power windows_innovation demo_Video Clip

Innovation is not expensive

User-centered innovation need not be a huge investment involving millions of dollars. It need not be even be seen as an investment in some cases. It is more a process of improving the things or merely doing the same things in a different way to bring about the value.

I am reminded of the story during the cold war space programmes by USA and the USSR. NASA invested millions of dollars to invent a pen which writes in zero-gravity space conditions. They invented this space pen ( also called as Fisher’s space pen) after a lot of effort, time and cost of research. The Russian Cosmonauts on the other hand, used a cheaper and smarter way…they used ‘pencil’! My friends in India might recollect the famous scene by actor Amir Khan in the popular movie ‘3Idiots’.

    

I saw this Fisher space pen (also called as Bullet Pen) when I visited the Smithsonian’s NASM (National Air & Space Museum) in Washington D.C. Of course, the above is just a story and not completely factual, as the NASA did not develop the space pen but acquired it from the company that manufactured it and later the Russians too started using the space pen. However, the moral of the story is that innovation need not be expensive all the time.

Measuring innovation

A true measure of innovation is the value delivered to the users. But I would not measure the value as high, medium or low. I would not even quantify the value delivered because that would defeat the purpose of innovation as a continual or should I say continuous process of making things better.

Native intelligence and improvisation

Innovation does not require high end technology nor using huge number of resources. Some times , as they say at grass roots level, this can be witnessed through using native intelligence and improvising in a small way. A small example to prove this is the case of mobile vendors of vegetables who went innovative in the rural areas of Vijayawada in India. I witnessed one such instance in a remote area, Gollapudi in the outskirts of Vijayawada. This area has a few colonies which came up recently but they are too inside the town to be closer to any everyday things such as vegetables and groceries.

  

Their application of native intelligence and innovation starts right from the vehicle they use for moving from one house to another. The local vegetable vendors hired a truck, took a few select vegetables in bulk and went about advertising the arrival of their truck. The truck is customized to suit the needs of the vendors. They announce that they have come onto the roads using a microphone. The lady who uses this microphone seems to be more comfortable with a telephone, than a microphone. Also, considering the comfort factor too, the mike was remodeled into a telephone receiver using which interactive and sensible announcements are made by the vendors. Now, that’s what I call user-centered innovation. :-)

Hope you find this post informative. We will touch base in the next post, till then ciao!

Agile Development, Business Analysis, Business Case, User Experience, User-centered Design

…and not hoping for billions of dollars, though I would be happy if the bounty comes as an extension to the delight and success of millions of customers, users and stakeholders across the globe. It’s the culmination of the expertise and experience coupled with insatiable urge and passion for delivering value and innovation spanning over a decade. It’s the answer for many a question arising in the minds of millions of people, questions such as “Will this new product work for me?” , “What value do I get out of this new model just launched”, etc. It’s the solution for many a problem plaguing the lives of many professionals, students and the like…problems ranging from the lack of usability and accessibility to the lack of basic interaction and navigation in many products and services they use day in and day out.

In the wake of a brand new decade, not just another new year, 2011 brings in a lot of aspirations, hopes and optimism. Along comes a newborn venture taking shape as a realization of the dreams for couple of decades. You must all be wondering what I am referring to. Well, I am both proud and happy to announce the launch of my new company…Texavi Innovative Solutions, in the early part of the new year 2011.

Texavi Innovative Solutions - Logo
Texavi Innovative Solutions' Logo

Motivation

Its true that the first decade of the 21st century had left few indelible marks- some good to forget, a few others hard to remembers and some others unforgettable by any scale of imagination. There have been instances of superlative technologies transforming the lives of people with their instant value. Mobile phones, ubiquitous computing, tablet PCs etc., provided the fillip for betterment of people’s lives.

There were also a lot of scenarios wherein the same technologies offer inconvenience, resentment and hatred, and invasion of privacy to add to the list. It is very clear that technology did bring in a lot of change, a positive change to that in the professional and personal spheres of people. Innumerable examples such as eMail, SMS (text messaging), social networking point to this aspect. However, these same technologies also brought about confusion, chaos, challenging the core beliefs, value-system and ideologies of most amongst us. Part of the blame is on product vendors and owners with their continuous launches and updates, excessive focus on features, short-sighted vision for hype and hep, leading to negligence for users and their usage experiences.

And, a new company is born

With the above as the backdrop, Texavi Innovative Solutions is being launched as the cure for the ills and answer for the calls of many a product vendors, technology /development companies, IT professionals, Business stakeholders, and users. I give below a quick view of Texavi’s core vision, mission and values.

Texavi’s Vision

To deliver delightful experiences to our customers, users and stakeholders leveraging our key strengths of Innovation, Expertise and Insight.

Texavi’s Mission

  • Solutions encompassing Products, Services, and Processes offering Business viability, Technical Feasibility, Superior Quality and to top it all Delightful Experiences
  • Multiple delivery channels – Desktop, Web, Mobile, and New media
  • Key focus on domains/verticals such as Scientific,Technical and Medical (STM) Publishing, Retail, and Financial Services
  • Rely on the core principle of ‘Explore, Experiment, Experience’
  • Agile development methodologies such as SCRUM, User stories etc.

Texavi’s Values

  • People-centered solutions
  • Imagineering – a powerful combination of Imagination and Engineering
  • Technology, for the welfare and usage of people…Technology that works for you, me and all of us.
  • Innovation, not just interaction or information
  • Honesty and Openness – for our own good and the good of all those associated with us, directly and indirectly

2011 and beyond

That’s a brief update on the origin and launch of Texavi Innovative Solutions. I am going to write a few more posts in the near future on Texavi’s way forward and walk you through the road that we are going to take, going forward. Please support Texavi by visiting the site and blogs, giving us your feedback and connecting with us.

Seasons Greetings and a Happy New Year,2011!