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Change Management Engagement Management Software Development

Avoid Project Management Pain

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stingProject managers drive change. They sit at the helm of a chartered operation intended to deliver specified high-quality business benefits on time and within budget.

Project management is a noble and difficult endeavor—part science, part art—and effective practitioners must be skilled and experienced in a host of related disciplines too numerous to list here (but look here).

Various bodies of knowledge, certifications, and best practices arise and proliferate with increasing frequency intending to help increase the project manager’s likelihood of success.

Avoid Some Pain

Here’s the bad news: despite concerted and well-intentioned efforts, projects often fail to realize expected results. The perceived gap between delivery and expectation may prompt some project managers, sponsors, and would-be benefactors to consult the Schmidt Sting Pain Index for a scientific ranking of their pain.

Worse yet, much of that pain is avoidable. The key? Providing appropriate levels of organizational change management (OCM) to positively affect the people side of change.

Why? Because even the best IT project that meets quality, time, and budget objectives can still fail to deliver desired business results and return on investment by failing to address user adoption, utilization, and proficiency.

Prosci presents evidence gained through longitudinal surveys indicating that projects with excellent OCM are six times more likely to meet or exceed objectives than those with poor or no OCM (96% compared to 16%).

Brilliant! Because most IT projects implement solutions that must be adopted and used for business benefit, focusing on accelerating and improving user adoption, utilization, and proficiency makes sense.

In fact, not integrating OCM planning with project planning is like asking to be stung.

That’s what Schmidt did.

How integrated are your project and OCM plans?

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Change Management Requirements Software Development

Prime the Pump

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pumpBy the time a Business Analyst (BA) shows up, many decisions have already been made. Things are in motion. Change is afoot.

It could be, for some in an organization, that the arrival of a BA is the first indicator of change. After all, one might think, why are you shadowing me, putting my life’s work into tidy swim lanes, drawing bony fish skeletons, and asking so many questions? What’s up? What’s in it for me?

It’s true. BAs are often among the first on the ground when the project team ramps up, gathering, defining, and managing the requirements that will become the foundation for future system development. But they should not be the vanguard of change messages.

Prime the Pump

Renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to tell the story, “Prime the Pump.”

Ziglar used that story of the hand pump to teach many lessons, one of which is “you need to put something in here (pointing to the pump mechanism) to get something out there (the spout).”

Organizations should “prime the pump” when it comes to managing change by communicating information about change initiatives early and frequently with stakeholders. What is changing? Why? When? In what ways? What happens if we do not change? These are natural questions, and they WILL be in the minds of stakeholders.

By sharing what can be known as soon and as transparently as possible, leaders help to set direction, increase awareness, and build desire for the change.

This primes the pump for the BAs and everybody else involved in the change initiative.

The effective BA understands the fundamentals of organizational change management (OCM) and, through their interactions with SMEs, front-line associates, managers, and executives, can help carry out the change tactics even as they ply their BA skills.

If the pump is primed, the BAs can work the pump handle nice and easy, information will flow like water, and the environment will be readied for successful Rapid JAD processes.

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Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

Start with the End in Mind

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finish-2When developing systems and software, how do you know when you’re done?

Here are some proven failing methods:

  1. When time is up
  2. When the budget is exhausted
  3. When a sponsor or client demands the product
  4. When the project is cancelled or suspended

These are arbitrary, and sometimes brutal, measures, none of which necessarily correlates with either a complete or quality product.

Agile, test-driven development focuses on building to a testable goal, and then rapidly fixing what’s needed until all tests pass.

The business/requirements analyst can play a key role in helping to develop acceptance criteria, working with:

  • the product owner (What really meets the need of the customer?)
  • the developers (What exactly am I building, and how will I know that my code implements the desired features?)
  • and the testing/quality assurance lead (How can I test to demonstrate required functionality?)

With a focus on the end in mind, the business analyst can insert this bit of magic:

  • “This requirement is fulfilled when it is demonstrated that…”

This “definition of done” comes before the product owner signs off on the requirement, and the requirement is not fully written without this statement.

So, as you are implementing Rapid JAD processes, remember, you are not done unless you have started with the end in mind.

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Rapid JAD Requirements Software Development

How To Get More of What You Need Faster

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As a business analyst or system developer, do you want to get more of what you need– accurate, complete, testable requirements that meet the customer’s needs–faster?

Like any good business analyst, I often use graphical tools to explore an idea, discover logical relationships, simplify concepts, or present findings.

Consider the following:rapid-jad-2x2

This simple 2-by-2 chart plots speed and accuracy in determining functional requirements for software development.  Both are desirable goals.

It’s obvious: avoid quadrants 1-3.  Ever been there?  These are not happy places for any project.

Quadrant 4 is everyone’s goal.  Get more of what you need, faster. But how to get there? Reliably? Repeatedly? Quickly?

In my years of project experience I’ve come to rely on the four simple, actionable steps we call Rapid JAD (see quadrant 4, above).

How quickly you begin realizing benefits simply depends upon how quickly you adopt and begin practicing Rapid JAD.  Regardless of the size, complexity, duration, or project phase, start now.  Or, if you’ve already started using Rapid JAD (congratulations!), then seek opportunities to learn, reflect, improve your practice, or share with others.

You will get more of what you need, faster.  Guaranteed.

For an introduction or refresher:

Capture Now
Document Once
Visible to All
Revise Quickly

Start getting more of what you need, faster. Use the 2X2 chart, above, to plot your own success!

 

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Content Management Document Management Engagement Management Rapid JAD Time Management

Rapid JAD in Pictures

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by Erik Jul*

capture-now
Capture Now. No time is better, and certainly not later.

document-once
Document once. Don’t do the work multiple times. Whose got the time?

visible-to-all
Visible to all. Everyone has to see. Why? They might have more perfect knowledge, opinions, suggestions, have approval authority, or just need a sense of comfort.

revise-quickly
Revise quickly. With all best efforts, you might get close to a final, correct, and complete artifact. But don’t count on it. Just change it as quickly as possible.

Rapid JAD really is simple. Execution is the key: decide (it starts with you), implement (start somewhere, but just start), adjust (learn as you go), practice (build the Rapid JAD habit), multiply (share the revolution and bring others along with you).

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Rapid JAD Requirements Uncategorized

Fllng n Th Blnks

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Fill In the Blank

By Erik Jul

If you read the title, you probably already have a sense of the topic: Filling In The Blanks.

How did you know that? In response to visual stimuli (the title), your brain did you a favor by filling in the missing letters (the vowels, in this case) in order to make sense of what you were seeing.

Take a minute to thank your brain…

…for making it easy to read an incomplete string of letters, form words, and make meaning. And for the billions of other times just today that your brain has taken much more complex and equally incomplete sensory data and rendered for you a version of the world that makes sense. Mostly.

At least, to it.

Neuro- and cognitive scientists refer to a principle of closure:

“The mind’s tendency to see complete figures or forms even if a picture is incomplete, partially hidden by other objects, or if part of the information needed to make a complete picture in our minds is missing”

Take another minute to thank your brain. It’s doing the best it can, and it certainly hopes that you appreciate it.

You see, the brain practically lives just to make sense of things, and it loves doing so in the most efficient way possible. Which often means using limited data to predict the reality that the data represent. In fact, as soon as the brain has a “good fit,” having matched sensory input against a memory bank of possibilities, it serves up it’s best offering.

Now, better take another minute to be concerned about what your brain is telling you.

And, if you are a business or requirements analyst, take a long minute to ponder the thousands of times you and others, in perfectly well-managed joint application development sessions, have thought that you understood the customer’s need based on your acceptance of the meaning that your brain provided based on limited information.

And if you are now taking a minute to wonder, “How can we decrease the chance that we are accepting in our requirements workshops as “true and complete” what our brain is providing based on incomplete information? I would completely understand.

And I would recommend practicing the Rapid JAD principles.

Now, scientifically approved.

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Uncategorized

Aha!

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gamma-brain-waves-300x208[1]

by Erik Jul

Is there room for a “Business Insight” in the profession of Business Analysis?

We are trained and practiced in the skill and art of analysis: Ishikawa diagrams, process flow diagrams, value-chain mapping, and a host of other techniques.

Used effectively, the tools and trade of a Business Analyst help to uncover problems and potential solutions, often methodically and with considerable, well, analysis.

Complementary approaches invoke imagination. Role-playing games, personas, brainstorming, mind mapping, and other creative activities can cultivate clarity and novelty.

And then there’s the “Aha!” moment, Newton’s apple or the displaced water in Archimede’s bath. Eureka!

Modern neuroscience, using electroencephalography (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and well-structured experimentation can now document brain occurrences associated with insight including gamma wave bursts of 40 Hz.

Researchers and authors John Kounios, Ph.D., of Drexel University, and Mark Beeman, Ph.D., of Northwestern University, outline their findings in The Eureka Factor, Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain (New York: Random House, 2015), calling the gamma wave burst “the spark of insight” (p. 71). The gamma wave burst is associated with the linking of mental maps–the creation of new neuronal pathways–and seems to provide the energy necessary to both bind these new pathways and bring the associated insight to consciousness.

The implications, which I will explore in a future blog, are exciting. Can we encourage insight, and if so, how? Do analysis and insight affect each other? What’s a Business Analyst to do?

Meanwhile, think back on those times when, in a flash, an idea seemed clear, a solution suddenly appeared, and brilliance was yours if even for a moment.

These are your Aha! moments, and they might be the fastest way to revise quickly!

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Requirements

I Don’t Like to Write

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DoNotWrite[1]

By Erik Jul

A colleague of mine once said, “I don’t like to write, but I love having written.”

And so, with a deft change of tense, the author had leaped over the pain of writing to the future perfect satisfaction of having written.

Some business leaders or software developers are like my friend and do not like to write functional requirements.

Do not like to write may mean:

  • Do not want to take the time
  • Do to want to spend the money
  • Do not think it is necessary
  • Do not know how to write a good functional requirement

Rarely would a business sponsor approve a project without requiring requirements. All too often, however, even with good intentions, the requirements produced look as though the author(s) did not like to write.

The requirements lack fundamental qualities of correctness, completeness, clarity, concision, and consensus (among others).

I don’t like to write, either, if poor requirements result.

My safeguard against poorly written requirements includes using the fundamental Rapid JAD principles:

When practiced routinely, these methods greatly assist my writing process and I produce better requirements. By capturing findings during Rapid JAD sessions, I am more likely to snare the essence of a discussion.  By documenting once, I create a single source of truth accessible to others, and by making these processes visible to all, I rapidly gain and confirm consensus.  Finally, by revising quickly, I am able to refine requirement statements as needed to ensure that they are in good order.

I might not like to write, too, if I did not use Rapid JAD techniques.

But as it is, with Rapid JAD, I love writing (requirements) and I love having written!

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Rapid JAD Requirements Uncategorized

Bundling

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By Erik Jul

Bundling is a tidy idea.  Consider the humble bundle of sticks.

Bundle of Sticks

Useful.

Or the Roman fasces, shown here on the reverse of a U.S. Mercury dime, or Winged Liberty Head, dime.

Fasces

Powerful.

What makes each bundle desirable?

  • Utility
  • Fitness for a purpose
  • Ease of use
  • Similarity or complementarity of components, or
  • Some other bundle-making attribute that ties the individual pieces together

When selecting from a backlog of functional requirements, product owners and developers must select and form a bundle for the next development sprint.

This may seem like–or it may be–and easy job.  More often than not, however, it is fraught with decisions, trade-offs, and compromises.

What makes a good bundle?  Something must tie them together.

  • They implement a coherent feature.
  • They trace to user stories or epics.
  • They build upon a prior bundle.
  • They are required for a subsequent bundle.
  • They match the velocity of the development team.
  • They can be implemented in the current environment.
  • The account for any technical debt from previous bundles.

Of course, any bundle is only as good as its constituent requirements, which must be clear, correct, complete, consistent, unambiguous, verifiable, traceable, and testable.  Rapid JAD techniques greatly assist these objectives.

Creating the right requirement bundle is the basis for a successful development sprint, and a good bundle starts with a strategically stocked product backlog selected from a bank of user stories or epics.

Executing these challenging business analysis and project management tasks can prevent a bundle from becoming a bungle.

What’s in your bundle?

 

 

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Document Management Rapid JAD

Getting It Right

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by Erik Jul

When specifying requirements for a new system, large or small, how much do we have to get right?

Isn’t “All of it” the right answer?

Not always, and maybe never.

Concepts such as “minimally viable product” (which carries the moniker MVP as if it were some sort of champion), “iterative solution scoping,” and “progressive elaboration” decry the notion of completeness and possibly even that of correctness.

Of course, no one wants to deliver, or attempt to use, a system that does not work or is ill-suited to the task. So “getting it right” must matter to some degree: the system must work as specified.

But how much of what the user needs or wants has been identified and correctly specified in functional and other requirements? And of that, how much was correctly implemented?

Relying upon a Six Sigma approach (a methodology driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) may reduce defects, but may still fall short of identifying a customer’s true problem and its best solution.

Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Agile, and the Three Amigos Scrum Alliance. These, plus approaches already forgotten or yet to be proposed, try to help us “get it right.”

In successive waves of innovation and reinvention, practitioners attempt to narrow the gap between what’s needed, what’s specified, what’s delivered, and what solves the customer’s problem.

Along that path, from problem to solution (scope, time, and cost notwithstanding), the professional solutions team—sponsor, business owner, project manager, business analyst, QA /tester, solution architect, developer, trainer, change management lead—all focus on “getting it right.”

Common software development and project management practices such as change requests, expectation management, phased releases, bug fixes, cumulative updates, and new versions testify that “getting it right” remains a noble goal seldom reached and maybe never reasonably expected.  For now, these are our best tools for getting it right, eventually.

To increase the likelihood of getting more right now rather than eventually, try these Rapid JAD principles: Capture Now, Document Once, Visible to All, and Revise Quickly.

Simple. Proven. Effective.

How much do you want to get right?

 

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