Archive for January, 2011

Measuring What Counts

In my career, I’ve worked in many different types of organizations.  Some that felt like every measurement was critical and others that felt like energy should be spent getting work done – not reporting on it.

Personally, I find value in balancing these two perspectives.  I do agree that you must measure what counts.  Determining Key Performance Indicators based on my organization’s objectives brings “balance to the force” – the right energy being spent on measuring the right stuff.  I also believe that we should measure in a manner that speaks value – that’s money.  It’s what makes the world go around.  This article speaks volumes – you should spend some time reading this!  http://www.peterkretzman.com/2010/12/08/business-impact-and-transparency-expressing-system-availability/

What does 99.99% availability really mean?  If that .01% outage was during my peak order time and my highest revenue generating Customers were impacted, I’d say that the outage was very impactful, despite what many people would say about a .01% outage.  If it’s worth measuring, then it’s worth spelling out the impact in dollars.  Yes, that means extra effort to associate outage windows with revenue impact but if it means that everyone in the organization understands the impact of that system outage, then the effort was well worth it.

Metrics worth capturing should be worth discussing.  Not just publishing for your team to review and nod their heads meaningfully.  If your discussion is not actionable, then you are wasting your time.  If any of your metrics are outside of an acceptable range, then someone should be accountable and an action plan put into place (scope of their actions associated with dates).  If your metrics are all within an acceptable range, it’s probably good to evaluate if your threshold for acceptance is too low (if this is a recurring situation) or if there are any potential threats on the horizon that could jeopardize your good standing.  And if your metrics are consistently perfect, are you over-investing in the platforms that are performing so well or are you being so risk-adverse that you are not keeping up with the changing business needs with implementation of new functionality?  Or maybe you have just found the right balance!

What metrics do you find valuable?  How much time does your organization spend building & reviewing metrics?  How “public” within your organization, or even company,  are you with your metrics?  I’d love to hear more perspectives – comments welcome!

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January 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

Why Ask Why

It is time for projects to have meaning again.  It is time for everyone involved on a project to feel compelled to raise their hand and ask Why?  What’s in it for the Customer?  What’s in it for the Shareholder?  What’s in it for our Suppliers?  What’s in it for our Employees?

If you are working on an effort that does not have a clearly defined objective, it’s time to ask “Why”.  Any project worth doing should do one or more of the following (get ready – here comes a long list…..)

1.  MAKE MONEY
2.  SAVE MONEY
3.  REDUCE RISK

Are you blown away by the complexity?  It really can boil down to these 3 things.  You should be able to quantify saving or making money.  Reducing risk can be tricky as someone will argue that the project is not worth doing given that the risk you are trying to avoid has not occurred and statistically may never occur.  This situation requires you to evaluate the culture of your leadership, Board of Directors, and Shareholders – how risk tolerant are they, what type of risk are you exposed to, and if the risk were to come to term, what is the potential financial impact?

I have worked in a few different environments – some that evaluated projects well and some that didn’t.  I know it is hard to turn the boat around and get your organization on board with a governance structure for IT projects.  You are asking those in power positions to give up some of their power.  Who is going to volunteer to do that?  You have to compel them to do the right thing for the greater good – the company.  The Customers, the Shareholders, the Suppliers, and the Employees.  Do right by these 4 groups and everyone will prosper.  And doing right by these 4 groups means making serious decisions about which IT projects to work on.  Each project approved requires resources – people & money – away from other efforts that could bring value.  An organization that takes IT project governance seriously will have a set of leaders at the top who can speak to which projects are underway and what value they will bring.  These will be leaders who are proud to talk about the projects their teams are involved in but also the projects that others are delivering in other business units.  Each leader also has to see how the projects sponsored by other leaders can bring value to their business unit.  Not many business units operate on their own – most are interdependent in one way or another.  Therefore, a win for one, can result in a win for the other.  Whoever is in the role of managing the IT Governance process has to help the leaders see this and stay committed to this process.

IT Governance also results in pride – not team pride but company pride.  When your teams are working on projects that have a spelled out value to the company – they will work harder.  They will take more pride in their work because they will see that their leaders were willing to make a difficult decision.  They will see that their leaders were willing to put aside what they felt (as individuals) was the right thing, in order for the project that is best for the company to move forward.  They will see their leaders putting the needs of others (Customers, Shareholders, Suppliers, and Employees) first – and the positive result it has on the bottom line.

I hope this post will spark some discussion.  I want to hear from you about your experiences with IT Governance.   Please share your experiences & perspective so we can all learn from it.  Here are a few questions to get you started!

  • Do you know how your company decides which projects to move forward and which ones to stop?
  • What about the projects on your to-do list now – what value are they bringing?
  • What tools or techniques has your company tried to use to decide which projects to work?
  • How public is their decision-making process?

January 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm 2 comments

The Magic Quadrant by Gartner

For those of you who work with vendors – you should consider taking the time to read this article on how Gartner develops their Magic Quadrant reports.  Very interesting!  I read this and think about how the vendors I work with are being measured by Gartner but also in how I can mature my processes to utilize aspects of this process.

http://blogs.gartner.com/lydia_leong/2011/01/10/the-process-of-a-magic-quadrant/

January 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

A Must-Have Tool for all Business Analysts

Business Analysts can have many tools in their toolbox.  Most of those come from experience or training but I wanted to share my thoughts about an actual piece of equipment I believe that every manager should invest in for their team.

The LiveScribe pen (www.livescribe.com) is an amazing device that could change the effectiveness of a BA overnight.  The pen allows you to take notes on special paper and it records everything said and written in your meeting.  While using it, you can tap to capture a bookmark where you might want to come back to at a later point or you can re-play a conversation from the pen.  You can also pause the recording (written & audio) if the meeting starts to go down an off-topic path (like that never happens).

Once the meeting is over, the BA can upload the meeting to their PC using LiveScribe Desktop.  Once the notes are stored in LiveScribe Desktop, you can store them in a generic “notebook” or divide them out by topic.  You can also search for a word and the software will show you everywhere that word appears in sessions you have uploaded.  Amazing!  No more digging through notebooks of notes or meeting minutes to find what I wrote – a simple search!  And I take a lot of handwritten notes.  For meetings that I’m hosting, they end up being typed up and distributed to participants but for meetings that I’m simply attending, I keep my notes and refer back to them often.

There are different versions of the pen varying by storage size.  I have the 4GB Echo.

That’s the value you get from buying the pen – straight from the box.  Now let me tell you about the add-ons….

LiveScribe has an App Store (I think they had theirs first….).  You can download apps (some free – some not) to enhance your LiveScribe experience.  Evernote (www.evernote.com) – which is a great site even if you don’t have a LiveScribe pen – allows you to upload your notes to their site and make them accessible from any PC.  Now I’d offer caution as I’m fairly particular about where my company-sensitive data goes but for my personal notes for non-work projects (school, volunteer efforts, etc), this is a great resource.  You can also access notes from your smartphone if you download the Evernote app.  Once you download this application onto your PC, it integrates with the LiveScribe Desktop software and you can “share” your LiveScribe notes with Evernote directly upon uploading them to your PC.

Another app that I am trying out right now is MyScript (www.visionobjects.com).  This software translates your uploaded hand-written LiveScribe notes into text.  They offer a free 30 day trial – after that it’s about $30 per year.  If it works, I’d say it’s worth it.  I have used it twice so far.  Both times, the translations were close but it did require a little clean-up.  That’s only fair – my handwriting is far from perfect.  But the software puts your handwritten notes side-by-side with the translated text version so you can quickly scan your notes and identify where fixes are needed.  For a recent meeting where I took handwritten notes with my LiveScribe pen and then was asked to publish them to the rest of the participants, it meant that preparing my notes for publishing took 5 minutes (4 pages of notes) versus what would have likely taken me 15 minutes to type up.

There are many others apps available in the LiveScribe store – including calculators, dictionaries, etc – these are just the first two that I have downloaded.

With a team of BAs that I worked with in the past, these pens were extremely popular.  Many of the BAs that I worked with used them regularly especially for longer meetings that involved brainstorming, interviewing, or JAD elicitation methods.  One BA that I worked with would record her meetings and then listen to her sessions at night to catch additional details to add to her notes so that her participants received the most detailed notes possible.  A very dedicated BA I should add…..  Some BAs just did not enjoy using the pen.  Some preferred to type their notes while in the session and others just loved their own style.  Understandable and I never pressured them to use the pen but I do believe that in many cases, it would have greatly benefited them.

I am getting ready to start classes for my MBA program and my husband recalled this pen as something I had mentioned in the past.  He bought it for me for Christmas to help me with school but knowing it’s abilities, I know it will prove valuable for me at work and at school.

One note of caution – the pen does record audio but you can opt to just record handwriting without the audio.  If you do choose to record the audio in a meeting, you should disclose up front to your participants that you will be recording the session.  More than once, people have commented to me that they are mildly uncomfortable with being recorded in a work-environment meeting.  I remind them that anything they say in a work-related meeting should be appropriate for playback and if it’s not – they should “think before they speak”.  However, recording a session does introduce an interesting legal aspect as the recording could be used as discovery material in a legal situation.  I would recommend talking to your company’s information/security office before using it too broadly.  As with any tool, knowing when & how to use it is important.

I would love to hear from others who have used this tool or any other type of equipment in a BA role.  What other ways could a tool like this prove helpful?  Please post comments & share your thoughts!

I have received no compensation/benefit from any of the companies mentioned in this blog post.  I am simply sharing my perspective on the tools mentioned.  Works for me – may not work for others…..

January 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm 8 comments


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