Author Archives: IAG Consulting

Top 9 Tips for an RDM Software Selection Project

Tip 1: Treat RDM software selection as any other project. Follow your project lifecycle and requirements definition and management (RDM) process—as you would for any other project. Apply sound project management and business analysis practices to assure that the solution you select best meets your need. Have your priority requirements drive the selection of the best software solution for your organization. transguyThere are dozens of viable solutions in this relatively niche market—covering a vast spectrum of capabilities. A Cadillac solution with features and integrations that are not needed may not be any better than a simpler approach that meets the core requirements of the organization—and at its current level of maturity. Likewise, a simple solution might not provide long term viability as the organization matures. Use a requirements-driven approach to ensure focus is placed on needs as opposed to vendor bells and whistles.

Tip 2: Define your objectives. In order to define and prioritize requirements, set improvement goals and objectives early in the tool selection process. The project manager and business analyst for the RDM software selection project should set measurable objectives to be achieved. This will help define appropriate scope for the project, provide the relevant evaluation criteria and keep the software selection process on track.

Tip 3: Understand your proposed RDM process. Make sure you have clearly defined and documented the requirements-related activities and business rules that the software is intended to support. While some solutions may result in adaptations to your standard process, do not assume or rely on the vendor’s workflows to fit your application and product development process. If the current process is not working effectively, refine it. If specific RDM goals are not being met, address these professional development and organizational maturity improvement objectives first. A software implementation project will require many changes to operations. Do not add extra risk by not having your house in relative order first.

Tip 4: Generate requirements from process mapping. Drive your requirements out of a clear understanding of the desired RDM lifecycle (as expressed in use cases or process models.) Process mapping identifies requirements critical to the success of the RDM software application. Use process mapping to arrive at a full view of requirements—including both those to be addressed by the RDM application and the requirements to be addressed outside of the application.

Tip 5: Understand the integrations and interdependencies with related tools, methodologies, and processes. Use enterprise business architecture and context modeling techniques to show how the various software tools and applications are used throughout the entire software development and project management life cycles. Document the inputs, outputs, standards, non-functional requirements, and impact of alternate and related processes and methodologies. Do not limit the analysis of system integration to just tools, and to just the RDM process.

Tip 6: Select a short list of three vendors. A set of prioritized high-level requirements can be initially used to determine the two or three vendors that can best meet these needs. A small number of vendors is desired for the short list. There are a number of methods to select the short list vendors – from RFI and demos to internal, less formal evaluations. Too many vendors making the short list is an indication that requirements definition has not produced sufficiently differentiating features and that any product can do.

Tip 7: Test the products. Many RDM software vendors will provide evaluation licenses or will provide a testing environment for their software. Identify pilot projects (real or simulated) to test each of the shortlisted product offerings. Use experienced business analysts or consultants that understand the products to effectively evaluate their capabilities.

Tip 8: Evaluate the vendor proposals. With a defined and weighted acceptance criteria and vendor scorecarding methodology, assess the vendors proposed solutions. Ensure that the RFP, demos, solution testing, vendor presentations, interviews and reference checks covered all the relevant requirements and considerations.

Tip 9: Select your vendor. Basing your selection on a requirements-driven vendor scorecard and sound procurement practices will assure your success. Be mindful that the top software solutions will address a majority of the needs of most organizations and few will actually use all of the features of the vendor’s product. There is a point of diminishing returns on the time that is spent in evaluating vendors and their product offerings. Be wary of overweighting license costs as a decision criterion. While cost is important, too much focus on price can overshadow other vendor selection criteria such as how well the product meets the needs of all of the intended users, how well it works with your existing architecture, and how well the vendor will be able to support you today—and in the future.

For a video of IAG’s RDM software integration services, click here.
For more details of how IAG can help, click here.

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Five Change Management Best Practices for BA/RDM Maturity Improvement Programs

Change Management LessonsImplementing new or refined processes, practices and rules for requirements and analysis in the project and development lifecycles can have significant organization benefits but can also be challenging and risks failure if not done effectively. The importance of effective change management cannot be overstated. IAG Consulting has learned a number of lessons from the hundreds of transformation programs we have implemented over the years. Here we share are few best practices to ensure the desired results are achieved as expected.

1. Define a Clear Vision, Strategy, and Goals

Change initiatives tend to lose momentum when the end-goal is not clearly understood and shared by all participants in the transformation. If not sufficiently defined and accepted (which is usually the case) consider facilitating collaborative session(s) around the organization and program’s vision, strategy, and goals (or having them professionally facilitated). Goals are then defined in an actionable manner so it is clear when milestones are met. The vision must be known by all stakeholders and buy-in a requirement – not just a desired outcome.

2. Establish a Sense of Urgency

The significance and value of a change initiative requires that a sense of urgency be established upfront and continuously reinforced. The failure of past change initiatives often establishes a sense of complacency that affects new change initiatives. All those involved need to intellectually and emotionally understand why the change and improvements are needed, the urgent benefits of realizing them, and the costs and risks of inaction, delay, and ambivalence. John Kotter, in his book about leading change, adds, “Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.”

3. Utilize a Collaborative Team Approach

Often initiatives fail because they are driven or championed by a single group. No one individual or area has all the answers and information needed to make decisions in the rollout of a transformation initiative. Pulling in stakeholders across the organization upfront brings in better decision making and reduces obstacles that could occur later if the approach as not collaborative. Our experience directing successful change initiatives has taught us the indisputable necessity of creating a coalition of change partners, and how to productively lead diverse teams to success.

4. Generate Quick and Frequent Wins

Transformation is a long term process. Complacency can settle into a program if visible and tangible success is not illustrated quickly and frequently. Identifying early quick hits, planning for small, iterative and incremental phased roll-outs, and demonstrating visible victories with short and early pilot projects are among the tactics to employ that demonstrate the benefits of the changes being introduced – and provide evidence that the sacrifices made to implement change are worth it.

5. Monitor and Adjust in Response to Problems

With an iterative and incremental phased transformation, refinements and course corrections can be made to respond to inevitable challenges and change. To be effective, a program must have defined and measured performance metrics to track progress relative to established goals. These KPIs also help to flag early identification of adoption challenges – that can be systematically analyzed so that practices and deliverables can be dynamically adjusted to better meet the anticipated, ongoing and ever-changing complex needs of the organization.

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New Report Finds Global IT Waste Due to Poor Requirements similar to IAG BA Benchmark

Maveric Systems, a Chennai based software testing company recently released a report on requirements definition and management based on a study of tier-1 and tier-2 banks in the UK, Benelux, Nordics, Middle East & Africa, and Asia Pacific.

One of their major findings was that  35% of the IT budget is wasted due to rework caused by poor definition and management of business requirements from IT.  Interestingly, IAG, in its 2009 BA benchmark report found almost identical results in North America: that 33% of money spent on IT development is wasted.

In a press release for this study, Surya Vangara, Senior Vice President – Financial Services Business, Maveric Systems said, “Today, less than 10% of the total time is spent on gathering requirements. Instead, doubling this time to say 20% will save up to 35% of the budget that is wasted due to rework caused by poor definition and management of requirements.”

Some other key findings from this latest study:

  1. Only 50-60% of Business and IT Heads are satisfied with their organizations’ requirement management practices
  2. Due to poor requirements definition, development time goes up by 25% in transformation projects, and by 19-29% in BAU (Business-As-Usual) engagements
  3. 23% of the projects are either deferred or not implemented due to poor definition of requirements
  4. A 12% increase in the IT budget is needed to fix these defects originating in the requirements definition and add 10% to cost base
  5. These banks spend 5% of their overall IT budget on requirements assurance

We, will be publishing some new study results on the state of business analysis and RDM  in the North American marketplace in the upcoming months. It will be interesting to compare with this very thought-provoking study from Maveric and NelsonHall.

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IIBA BABOK Version Three Released This Week

International Institute of Business Analysis® (IIBA®) has just releasing a new version of the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®) which has expanded the scope of the standard to new areas like business architecture and BPM, revamped the knowledge area and task structure, and added dozens of additional techniques to the guide.

This release is non-trivial with many additions and changes. Driving many of the updates is the objective of expanding the body of knowledge beyond IT projects and into disciplines of process improvement, business architecture, business analytics, and enterprise transformation.

“This version responds to a growing world-wide demand for strategic business analysis professionals who align technology projects to business strategy, drive ongoing process improvement and deliver innovative solutions,” said Aaron Whittenberger, a volunteer regional director of IIBA. “It marks an important milestone in the evolution of the business analysis profession and establishes a new standard by positioning BAs as leaders who contribute to enterprise-wide success through alignment of change with strategy and innovation in business architecture, processes and information technology.”

IIBA sees the business analysis profession as much broader than IT and RDM, and this version of the BABOK starts along the path in that direction. As they describe on their website, they see the BA ambitiously involved in everything from defining strategy to supporting continuous improvement, as well as taking a leadership role defining goals and requirements for programs and projects.

To support this, they have added and updated content on what they call perspectives (agile, business intelligence, IT, business architecture and business process management) in order to recognize the different contexts and purposes for which business analysis work may be needed and performed. Additional techniques to support this (such as business cases, financial analysis, mind mapping, balanced scorecarding, and business capability analysis) are among those added in this latest version.

The knowledge areas and their tasks and elements have also undergone a significant restructuring. Some of the major highlights include:

  1. An expansion and renaming of the Elicitation KA to what is now known as Elaboration and Collaboration,
  2. A major restructuring of the Requirements Management and Communication KA into the Requirements Lifecycle Management KA,
  3. Enterprise Analysis has now been renamed and repurposed as Strategy Analysis,
  4. Requirements Analysis has been expanded to include design activities relevant to a BA in the new Requirements Analysis and Design Definition KA, and
  5. Solution Assessment and Validation has been simplified to focus on Solution Evaluation.

For a variety of infographics and resources summarizing the changes and new format, visit the IAG BABOK Resources page.

IIBA members should also be aware that while many new changes have been made, IIBA is not yet releasing a date for changes to its certification programs — advising that tests will remain based on V2 for the near future and suggesting a revamping of the CCBA®/CBAP® ‘levels’ is under development.

For additional help and understanding of the implication, integration and application of these new concepts and changes, contact you IAG advisor. IAG’s management team were founding members of the IIBA and we have been a leading force championing and providing services in the areas of business analysis, requirements, agile, BPM, and business architecture for more than 20 years now. These new areas that IIBA has now added in this latest version demonstrate their importance for the BA community to understand — in order to provide value to its business stakeholders. For assistance or more information on these (particularly business architecture and BPM) , follow IAG (, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for updates, services, courses and webinars.


IIBA®, the IIBA® logo, BABOK® and Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® are registered trademarks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. CBAP® and CCBA® are registered certification marks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. These trademarks are used with the express permission of International Institute of Business Analysis.

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PMI Releases New Report on Requirements Management

This past week, The Project Management Institute released results of a study on one of our favorite topics – the importance of requirements.   PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report on Requirements Management will hopefully serve as a wakeup call and provide some strong justification to the many organizations who are searching for solutions to project and performance improvement. This is a comprehensive report that touches on many facets of the business analysis profession and requirements management maturity. Aaron Smith, the author of the study, provides a thorough analysis and strong statistical evidence that Requirements Definition and Management (RDM) remains as critical and necessary for project success as it ever has. 
While the report does not specifically mention or differentiate results across methodologies and project types, we know that today’s IT projects and programs vary extensively in their development and implementation approaches i.e. off-the shelf software, SaaS, complex integrated systems, mobile apps, agile, lean development, etc.  We are pleased to see actual results that back up the IAG Business Analysis Benchmark and our industry surveys that attention to good requirements leads to less failed projects of all shapes and sizes.
The report echoes many studies that place inaccurate requirements as a primary cause project failure (stated in 37% of organizations) and highlights that regardless of this key finding:

  • less than half of organizations report having adequate resources involved in requirements and business analysis,
  • one in three are not doing enough to develop skills and competency in RDM, and
  • almost 90% feel their requirements processes and practices are not good enough.

On the plus side, 50-60% of organizations are actively involved in making improvements. However this still falls short given 87% of organization believe they need to improve their requirements processes and practices.
The findings lead to an obvious contradiction – especially with high performing organizations recognizing tangible benefits of defining and managing requirements: While two thirds of organizations understand (what to us insiders is so blatantly clear) that good requirements are critical for project and business performance, approximately one third of executives and sponsors still don’t fully value defining requirements for their programs and projects.     
This report should be an open call to executive management to urgently and actively support the practice of requirements management (RDM) in their programs.
In whatever initiative you undertake, make sure you are defining and continuously managing your goals, objectives, needs, and requirements to drive your selection, modifications, and development decisions, and to manage your performance.
And as this report concludes, it is a focus on people, processes and culture that will ensure that requirements management is a core competency for project and program success.

To download this report for free, click here:

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Sparx Releases Enterprise Architect 11

Sparx Systems has released the newest version of its flagship Enterprise Architect modeling & management software for enterprise architects, business analysts and software developers.  Enterprise Architect 11 is a major release with hundreds of new enhancements and technologies making it one of the most interesting tools for modeling, requirements definition and management, and model driven development. With improved capabilities for accessing models, model management, collaboration and reporting, the latest version is now easily at par with far more expensive modeling and development solutions  — and far surpasses them with the number of models, integrations and standards it offers and complies with. 

The new Specification Manager allows a user to see the contents of a package as if the package was a document, allowing for object numbering, indentation and filtering. Diagram themes help analysts provide visual clues to differentiate between object types. The discussion feature supports creating context sensitive comments about elements. Version 11 adds to its extensive library of models like UML, BPMN, Archimate, TOGAF, and UPDM with NIEM data models and Kanban project management models. Finally Enterprise Architect 11  now provides cloud enablement for RDBMS repositories and significantly improved collaboration and reporting capabilities.

Enterprise Architect is the world’s most widely adopted model development tool. Version 11 is sure to keep the loyal user base happy and will undoubtedly cause those evaluating comprehensive ALM tools to take a close look at why Enterprise Architect is so popular.

IAG is the North American reseller for Enterprise Architect. For more information click here. To compare editions and purchase online, click here.

Press Release:
Release Highlights and Videos:
Release Notes:

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The Business Analyst’s Role – Clear as Mud

How well is the Business Analyst’s role defined in your organization?

The Organization Needs a BA Role
At a recent Business Analyst World conference in Toronto, it was not a surprise to hear many of the speakers lamenting about projects that continue to roll in late and over-budget.  To have those expert speakers continue to lay the blame on inadequate and/or incorrect requirements reinforces the message that improvement in this area is vital.  And therefore, as a key component to improving the requirements aspect, that the clear definition of and understanding of the role of the Business Analyst (BA) is more important today than it has ever been. As a practicing Business Architect and Requirements Consultant, I have been crusading about this for many years.

For a professional football team, winning a game consists of scoring enough touchdowns.  The delivery of a solution, on-time and on-budget is akin to winning the game.  Getting that requirements list properly is one touchdown that must be scored.  Effectively communicating the requirements to management is another.  Translating those requirements so the developers can build from them is another.  In order to accomplish this, it takes many players on the team, each performing their individual roles well, collaborating tightly as a group, adjusting quickly to internal and external influences, so they can reach that goal line over and over again.  Winning football teams, have learned that to be continually successful, the roles and responsibilities must be very well defined and fully aligned to the team’s strategy.  

The Multiple Roles (Personalities) of the Business Analyst
Herein lies the problem in the daily life of a BA.  I continually go into client sites and see that there is confusion as to what role the BA (and their organization) is supposed to play. I see BAs positioned within the lines of business (LOB), as part of the Project Management Office (PMO), centered in IT, peripherally attached via special projects, and within BA departments themselves. Is there one right or wrong place for the BA to be located? My opinion is no.  It’s not where they sit; it’s what they do and how effectively they do it.

The confusion begins when organizations are unclear about the objectives the BA should have, the tasks they should be responsible for, and the methods they should use. Furthermore, there are unclear lines between how they should interact with the LOB, management/stakeholders, PMO, Solutions Architects, IT, Development and QA/Testing groups. All of this lack of clarity leads to weak results.  This has the BA working in an environment where they have to define and manage business requirements in a very unstructured and ambiguous environment.  Obviously an impossible task. 

Each organization must evaluate how they operate and what they expect of their BAs.  Do they perform business analysis work, develop requirements, do systems analysis, design business architecture, or all of the above? Without getting into all the varying positions, skills, and competencies of a BA (which we’ll cover in other articles), we are finding that the common and primary responsibilities of the BA of the 21st century fall into three main categories; 1) Business Architecture, 2) Business Analysis and, 3) Requirements Definition and Management. While these three areas are closely intertwined, it is too broad of a topic for discussion in this short article.  Since business requirements is at the center of each of these areas, let’s first focus on that aspect.

The BA Role Needs Organization
One of the first priorities of an organization is to figure out their standard processes, policies and business rules for requirements definition and management.  I recognize this is easier said than done – especially in a world of multiple and hybrid methodologies like agile, lean, iterative and waterfall development.  I have gone into many organizations where BAs recognize and are trying to fix the problem but just can’t seem to get the rest of the organization on board.  In these cases, it’s usually more the issue of the organization’s resistance to change.

A successful team employs a solid game plan, good playbooks supported by strong coaching to build that winning team.  An organization needs to put in good management to build this environment with players who can execute.  They should also consider bringing in experts to initiate this kind of transformation, especially if the right people are not already in place or it’s transitioning from other types of organizational structure and leadership.

It makes sense for a BA group to help champion this because coincidentally, enabling this transformation utilizes many of the same skills the BA must employ to get good requirements from the rest of the organization.  Ultimately, it’s simply the defining of the business architecture and business requirements for the solutions delivery group:

  1. Definition/collaboration/alignment of vision and objectives amongst the stakeholders (Enterprise analysis),
  2. Discovery of the scope and analysis of the desired state solutions delivery business processes, with the right subject matter experts (SME),
  3. Elicitation of the processes to map the business requirements,
  4. Identification of the risks, issues and rules,
  5. Analysis and extrapolation of the functional requirements,
  6. Delivery and transformation.

This is the basic roadmap; however, just as there are thirty-three professional football teams in the NFL, there are the same number of variations and more, on how to run a game plan.  There is no one right way.  The BA team must understand the organization’s development and project environment needs, and then apply the right analysis and approach (i.e., practices) built on strong fundamentals.

To build this roadmap, the organization must first remove any confusion about a BA’s role and responsibilities.  Am I a SME or a BA?  Do I simply follow orders or do I help coach the stakeholders in order to get the right requirements?  Am I a Solution Architect or Business Architect? Am I a Product Owner or Scrum Master?  Am I a developer or do I help translate the business requirements into solution specifications? Am I a tester or a facilitator of helping get right test scripts built?  Do I deliver the solution or am I the definer of the requirements to properly deliver the solution?  Hopefully the latter in all of the above questions was your answer.  Unfortunately, we see organizations who continue to get it wrong all of the time.

Why the confusion?  That is a good question.  I have seen the role evolve over the past 25 years.  Some of it comes from the history and how the IT world has matured.  Some comes from the demands that organizations have to become quicker and more nimble at delivering solutions.  Others come from the myriad of development methodologies that have come and gone over the years which continually change the perception of the BA’s role.

The Agile BA
Let’s talk about Agile.   It is an approach whose goal is to build a culture and organization where everyone should be able to do all jobs collaboratively, iteratively and effectively.  I understand and like the approach.  Heck, I was an entrepreneur in the 90’s and built software in this kind of environment.  However, how to practically and pragmatically achieve that in the real world is the challenge — especially when mid-size and large companies find it hard to execute in an entrepreneurial fashion?  But the push is in that direction and because of this, I see BAs who are scared that they don’t see their role clearly defined in that process. It’s there, it’s just buried in as part of the Agile methodology and not clearly delineated (follow us for more articles and webinars on this subject).

Wrong Assumptions Lead to Wrong Roles
Additionally, I have been in organizations where the BAs think their main role is to be the main SME.  The assumption that the super SME will make a super BA is more often than not, an incorrect one.  It’s the BA’s role to facilitate the discovery of the requirements from the SMEs in the business — then manage those requirements to properly align with the architecture and building of the correct solution. This is why it is hard to be a super SME turned BA.  It’s very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to do both jobs at the same time and get results in a timely manner. 

I’ve seen others who think their main role is as the QA/Tester. However, with no one leading the creation of good requirements, weak requirements tend to be produced, resulting —obviously— in a weak solution.  Testing of a solution built from weak requirements may ultimately lead to the discovery of the right requirements but unfortunately at the wrong time: in testing.  But we see it happen over and over again.

One thing is fairly consistent though.  In all of the situations above, if the product does not deliver, then much of the blame is put on the shoulders of the BA.

Developing the BA Role
How do we begin to fix this problem?  I suggest a two-prong approach.  The first is personal development in order to improve our individual skills.  The second is to improve how the BA and BA organization interacts with the organization as a whole.  I will go into the personal development side in future articles but if I was to identify one key component of why projects fail, it comes when the requirements must be communicated to other groups.

The BA’s Role as Organizational Intermediary
Breaking down the barriers between departments and silos is one of the key functions of the BA.  In each of the six key steps outlined above, there are many places where the BA plays a critical role in interacting with the various stakeholders:

  • Ensuring the vision/objectives are aligned with the solution (management’s needs)
  • Ensuring the requirements align with the business’ desired state process (business needs
  • Ensuring that the solution architects understand the requirements (solution delivery needs
  • Ensuring that development understands the requirements and the context from which they were derived (development needs
  • Assisting QA/Test in building out proper unit and user acceptance test scripts (delivery needs
  • Ensuring the organization understands the requirements to properly roll out the solution (delivery/transformational needs)

Many BAs, and the departments they work in, are often unclear about how to collaborate with the other groups involved.  This can be a result of a number of challenges: turf issues, a lack of the organization’s confidence in IT to deliver the right solution, or the lack of strong, consistent solution delivery life cycle processes.

The BA as Communicator
This, in my opinion, has become the central role of today’s BA.  They have to ask the right questions, then listen carefully and understand the responses.  They need to identify needs, wants, rules, requirements, constraints, assumptions, issues and risks  — and be able to differentiate between them. , They need to negotiate and facilitate compromises when there are differences of opinion. And they need to  clearly communicate the outcomes and ensure that all the key stakeholders understand them.  This is a two-way street that the effective BA must know how to navigate.  Ineffective solution development and delivery can almost always be tied to ineffective communication.

As stated above, this is even more key with the huge paradigm shift occurring in today’s development process moving to an Agile culture.  While many BAs feel threatened, this is actually an opportunity.  Why?  Agile’s manifesto is centered around fostering more effective communication and collaboration.  No one is better positioned to play an integral role in this than a person with the skills of a BA.

The BA as a Leader
Another theme I heard at the conference is that the BA needs to become less afraid and take more chances.  For me, this means a BA needs to take on more of a leadership role in the development process – leveraging their knowledge and strength in how to improve their requirements processes and practices.  BAs need to focus their energy to support where their organization is weak in its requirements ability by applying methodical best practice approaches while helping to keep the strong areas stable.  It’s cliché but it is true that we are ‘only as strong as the weakest link’.  The solution only gets properly built through a strong team effort.

BA organizations need to continually analyze how their company stacks up with its ability to help the organization understand and communicate the requirements collaboration process amongst the various groups involved.  In a recent requirements maturity assessment done by IAG Consulting, it was determined that most organizations are still very immature in this area. If that’s the case, then it will take education, negotiation, facilitation and collaboration with the other groups in the organization to get everyone working from the same requirements playbook. But that’s a lot of what BAs are supposed to do in the first place. If these skills don’t exist, find help and training:  Training in requirements best practices, and in other critical BA competencies such as facilitation, communication and team building.

This also dispels another frequent misperception that the primary trait a good BA must have is technical skills.  Yes, it’s good to have a working knowledge but more importantly it’s these soft skills that a BA must possess in order to effectively help an organization to be successful in delivering solutions.

I believe it’s time we stop redefining the BA’s role whenever a new development methodology appears.  The same core principles of business architecture, analysis and requirements have existed since we first started applying bytes to business processes.  Organizations lose more traction by letting this area continue to be amorphous and unclear.  By paying more credence to the actual coding life cycle than to the creation of proper requirements in the first place, they continue to put the proverbial cart before the horse. 

Strong requirements practices, analysis and collaboration skills have always been the foundation for effective delivery of solutions.  Whether you’re called a systems engineer, product manager, program manager, project manager, systems analyst or scrum master, these capabilities must exist – and must be a priority – in any organization that values and treats seriously its product, systems and solution delivery.

– Trent Wong

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The 3 R’s For Courageous Business Analysis and Project Management

As the Enterprise Business Architecture Practice Lead at IAG, I attended the recent Business Analyst World event this June with extreme interest. The Business Analysis industry continues to grow – with more companies hiring, and more employees getting trained and certified than ever before. However, with that is a changing and dynamic environment as BAs are barraged by new methodologies from the Agile and Lean worlds; new and more prevalent ALM and requirements authoring and management tools; role confusion with BPM, Business and Enterprise Architects; and the continued pressure from their business, project management and IT colleagues.

This theme resonated throughout the conference as the subtext of many of the talks and workshops during the week.  As I sat at round tables and seminars listening to topics like the value and career path of the BA, Business Analysts were definitely vocal. I heard one participant say, “Between Management and PMs, I can’t do the job I was hired to do. Whether it’s by cutting my time short – or not getting access to the right people, I know I am not doing the job properly and it’s making me cringe handing off **** to the development team.” The frustration was clear. More than ever, they want to be value add players in the game. A game they feel is rigged against them.

Then there were the stats quoted all week long:

  • 68% of projects fail due to poor requirements (from the often quoted Chaos Report)
  • 45% of features put into production are unused (also from the Standish Group)
  • 40-50% of budget is consumed by rework (Boehm and Basili)
  • 75-85% root cause of rework is from poor requirements (from Dean Leffingwell)

Ouch. To the BA’s at the conference, this was taken as a personal attack. These stats used to be quoted to management to reinforce the importance of needing good requirements. To an audience of BA’s, this is now (quite falsely in my opinion) coming across more like a condemnation of poor work. I don’t truly believe that BA’s are perceived as the bane of every failed technology project, but it had that feeling.  And what made this even stranger was the feeling that they are being locked out of Agile projects – but still being generally accountable for solutions meeting the business needs.

With 6.2 trillion dollars being spent globally on technology projects what does this mean for the Business Analyst? Given the cost of substandard requirements, which according to the BA Benchmark could be north of two trillion dollars, the business case for the Business Analyst should be obvious. To support this, the DOL and one leading staffing firm predict a shortage of BA’s in 2013 and continued shortfall in supply as technology needs ramp up into 2020.

From the seminars I attended at the Business Analyst and Project Management World conference, one concept struck a chord for me – as advice for the Business Analyst and Project Manager – and a critical factor for application development success:

Have the courage to do the right thing.

Given whatever your role and responsibility is, have the confidence to do or say what you think is right even when others disagree.  Confronted with challenges and obstacles from peers and other stakeholders, stand resolute. Faced with uncertainly and confusion in your responsibilities in an Agile environment, create your value. Take responsibility. Learn and adapt. And stand by your convictions that good requirements and analysis are absolute.

Three R’s

As BAs and PMs, get the right information, the right training and right tools.

As Managers, help enable Business Analysts and PMs to do their job. Give them the right information, the right training and the right tools to do a good job.

For Business Analysts, remember these 3 R’s as your value add:

  1. The Right Plan: Work to a requirements management plan that defines the right approach, milestones, deliverables, tools, techniques and work plan.
  2. The Right methodology. Be adaptive and fit for purpose – ensuring the approach is appropriate, utilizes best practice and the principles of good requirements, analysis and architecture are maintained.
  3. The Right Requirements. Ensured by verification, validation, prioritization, review and traceability best practices.

And for Project Managers, the Right Stuff entails:

  1. Right alignment. All stakeholders agreeing on objectives, scope, requirements and solution
  2. Right resources. For all activities, but especially utilizing the right SMEs at the right levels that can provide expertise and decisions
    1. A strategy guy for the high level
    2. Control person for oversight
    3. And an execution person for process
    4. Right time frame. In the case of the initiation and planning phases, that there is enough time to do these critical phases just right.

Doing the right thing is hard. Doing the wrong thing is easy.

Have the courage to do the “right thing”!  Positioned in the “right way” to do the “right job”

– Judith Oja-Gillam

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“Why Do I Need Requirements? I’m Buying a Package!”

In the wide world of information systems, development of new software receives the most attention from industry writers. Whether it is traditional magazine articles and books, or blog posts, or discussions in groups on LinkedIn and other sites, it is all about “green field” development.

However, when one considers the wider view of organizations concerning information systems, it is common that new software development is not always the primary means of implementing new systems. Organizations do need software for many different functions and data, but a lot of those are common; organizations that realize this do not develop their own software for common needs, they buy it.  It actually started a few decades ago with functions like general ledger accounting and human resources, then it moved into more specific domains like insurance or banking, and on into cross-domain ERP packages popularized by major vendors.

When organizations first started to buy more than build, they were often delighted by the time savings: “I can have it now? And not wait 2 years for it to be developed in-house? Where do I sign?” What many organizations did not realize, and their internal IT people probably didn’t see either (at first), was that it was only the pure development and system testing activities that were being saved. There was still the need to determine what the package was actually going to do. While software apps provide many common and standard functions, which ones are implemented, and how they are configured still vary significantly based on an organization’s own needs. Ahead of that, the decision has to be made concerning which package to buy in the first place. 

This is where business requirements come in. Again, the focus and discussions about requirements these days is primarily about their role in new software development, such that some organizations forget or discount the need for requirements when buying packages… This is a recipe for disaster. 

It is true that companies buy things all the time, and often use a standard Request for Proposal (RFP) process. A common process is a good thing, and proposals for quantifiable products such as hardware or components can be straightforward. An RFP for software, however, is specifying an intangible thing that has to perform a function in a specific way. That means defining complete and correct business requirements. 

A web search on RFPs or package implementation failures will quickly identify a primary cause; “Failure to clearly define the business requirements for the project”. (see  

Even the (in)famous lawsuit between Waste Management Inc. and SAP concerning a failed project included a claim by SAP of Waste Management “failing to timely and accurately define its business requirements” as a contributing reason for the failure.  

So, an organization cannot skip over or pay lip service to business requirements definition in software package projects. Done properly, good business requirements can be used to directly fill the part of an RFP that scares most people: the functionality and data that a package has to meet to be considered for purchase.

When first putting together a list of candidate packages, there may be a lot of vendors who claim to meet your needs based on a summarized description of their products; sending vendors an RFP containing good business requirements will quickly weed out the ones who don’t measure up. Many times, (good) vendors react to this kind of RFP by declining to respond when they see that their product really does not meet the business requirements; this saves both parties time and effort on a deal that would never have gone through. 

This will normally lead to a short list of vendors who have a product that could meet the requirements. Getting to one vendor usually involves product demonstrations, on-site trials and other means of evaluation. Of course, other requirements need to be met as well, perhaps technical requirements the software has to meet to run in the desired environment (although hosted and other “cloud” options are changing this). The best scenario is to have two or three vendors whose products will meet the requirements, after which the remaining negotiations can be about getting a good price … all because of having defined the business requirements. 

And last  but certainly not least, having the business requirements eases the implementation of a package. In decades past, buying a package meant buying code; if alterations to the package were needed, that meant changing code, and getting it to work. This was often difficult and would commonly void any agreement with the vendor to support the package and provide updates.

These days, good packages are built to be configurable. A vendor will often have consultants who can configure the package; and what do those consultants need as input? Your business requirements.  

If by chance and very good luck, the project has reached this without having defined the business requirements, they will have to be defined now if the package is ever going to work properly; and there is a very likely possibility that when the requirements are finally documented, it is clear that the wrong package was purchased. That’s when stories about project failures turn up in industry magazines and sites, and even the regular media if the failure is colossal enough.

So, you’re buying a package? Don’t forget your business requirements…

– David Wright, IAG Senior Consultant 

(For even more on the importance of requirements, see the Business Analysis Benchmark Study from IAG Consulting, see )


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How Necessary is Requirements Definition for that Small App or Enhancement?

Small application development projects are lighter and usually don’t require such extensive process standards, advanced methods, governance, documentation, planning and management that larger IT projects do.

But don’t make the mistake of skipping the requirements altogether!

Start by quickly identifying the high-level objectives,  the boundary or scope,  and developing a basic plan for requirements elicitation.  Then facilitate the requirements discovery sessions with the key subject matter experts. It may take a number of meetings over a few days – or even one or sometimes two weeks  — but the interactive, facilitated sessions are essential. At IAG, we also recommend a paired-analyst approach to the elicitation, analysis, reviews and documentation. This enables higher quality requirements definition and faster turnaround with real-time modeling during the sessions.

On these shorter and smaller projects it’s about following a light process with efficient and effective techniques, using experienced analysts/architects with the right tools and producing just enough requirements detail that will be necessary and sufficient to meet the project and app dev objectives.

Check out more IAG videos on our IAG YouTube channel.

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