Within an agile context, a user story is a plain language description of a particular feature of the product or service to be created, written from the end user’s perspective. Well defined, prioritised user stories are the key to being able to explain the required functionality in a way that is easily understood by both technical and non-technical individuals. In essence, they provide the “What?” in order inform the “How?”. But where do you start? Who do you speak to? What inputs do you need? At Analyze we employ the following 3-step approach: Step 1: Documenting the as-is An important starting point before getting into solution mode is to take the time to understand your current processes and systems to get a detailed view of your problem areas. As an outcome of our as-is process analysis we create a top-down view of processes, including systems and roles, across the business value chain. This provides a better understanding of the systems and process linkages, inefficiencies, and opportunities for improvement. Step 2: Defining the to-be In this step we create the desired future state view of your process and systems landscape off the back of understanding your current problem areas. Part of this step also involves completing a gap analysis by comparing where you are today to where you’d like to be. This identifies the work needed to get there. To-be process maps not only provide a visual breakdown of the ideal future state, but also serves as a way of validating your business value chain. These to-be process maps can then be used as the base structure for defining your requirements. To-be process maps are further enriched with process “narratives” which cover your business rules, information around any regulatory or audit requirements, timing and sequencing considerations, and a view of all the systems involved. Step 3: Convert your to-be ideals into user stories When creating your user story structure or story map, the high-level processes from your to-be process map become your epics, while the process sub-tasks translate into your user stories. To-be process maps also allow you to identify user personas. Personas represent a type of user that will interact with your solution in a particular way and perform a defined set of tasks which allow you to group your user stories in a logical way. User stories typically need a couple of rounds of refinement to ensure that they’re not too big and that they have the right level of detail which should always include a view of its acceptance criteria as well. This iterative process should be a collaborative effort between the product/service owner, end user, analyst, and any applicable technical resources. If it’s not done in a collaborative way you will end up with a one-sided view that may not achieve all of your to-be ideals. The outcome We’ve seen how following this approach better equips our clients to move onto the next step, be it an RFP process or an internal build. It helps to better describe the complexity of the work, the type of skills and systems that will be required, and even how the work could be prioritised into an MVP. For the client it is easier to relate to the work to be done and for their vendors and suppliers it makes it easier to size and pitch on the solution, thereby creating an improved position for all. If you’d like to chat to us about helping your organisation build better user stories using a process approach, give us a call on 021 447 5696 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team of skilled business analysist have experience across a wide variety of technologies, delivery approaches and industries, ensuring that we will help you improve your business.
As most of us have now transitioned to remote working, you’ve probably noticed how your calendar is busier than ever thanks to a stream of online meeting invites. With organic discussions in passageways and kitchen areas no longer possible, the shift to a larger number of formalised meetings has been unavoidable. For those who have been working in teams that are spread across various cities or countries, online meetings would already be the norm. But for those who have just entered this virtual world for the first time due to the covid-19 pandemic, it can be a bit of an adjustment, and a daunting one at that. To make things easier, we’ve compiled the following list of tips and tricks to ensure that you get the most out of every meeting and that nobody leaves your online session thinking “this could have been an email”. Tip # 1: Be clear about who you need and why you need them Meeting fatigue is a very real problem, particularly for people who are stuck in back-to-back online meetings all day, not allowing them any space to do the work they really need to do. It’s important, therefore, to carefully consider who you need and what exact role you want them to play in your meeting. You want to avoid including someone in an hour-long meeting for example when they’re really only there to field one question. Rather ping that person via instant chat or email prior to the session to get that input. Tip # 2: Provide a “how to guide” Don’t assume that everyone who’s joining your call knows how to navigate their way around your selected online meeting tool. Share some “how to” tips either as part of the meeting invite, or prior to the session to ensure that everyone knows how to put themselves on mute or add a question to the chat. It really helps to put people at ease, particularly those who are not as comfortable using new technologies. Tip # 3: Set some ground rules Be clear about how the meeting will be run. Include things like: Testing your connectivity 5min prior to the call, confirming who the meeting facilitator will be, defining when and how people can ask questions, who to inform if you need to leave early or will be running late, keeping your sound muted unless actively talking, or any rules around cellphone usage. For video chats also be clear about the expected dress code and state your preference around camera usage. Tip # 4: Prepare visuals to help guide the conversation With face-to-face meetings it’s easy to jump onto a whiteboard to sketch something up, or jot down key points made, but in a virtual space, this becomes more challenging. Most people understand concepts quicker and more easily with the aid of some kind of visual, be it a simple diagram, or even a few PowerPoint slides. Keep this in mind and come prepared. Also look into online mind mapping and other collaborative tools that can be used to break down concepts and tasks during the session. Tip # 5: Encourage the use of video where possible Video serves two main purposes. 1) It gives that human connection we’re all missing at the moment and also makes it feel like everyone is in the same (albeit virtual) room; 2) You can immediately see who’s following what you’re saying and who’s not. Tip # 6: Last, but certainly not least… Don’t forget the basics! Online meetings should follow the same basics you’d employ with any face-to-face meeting. So be sure to send out a meeting agenda ahead of time along with any pre-read documentation that is applicable, take minutes during the session, agree on next steps and actions, and don’t forget breaks if the session is more than 1 hour long. A good leg stretch or coffee break does wonders to people’s energy levels and will ensure a more active discussion. If you have any ideas on topics you’d like us to cover on this blog, please leave a comment below. We may not be able to control what’s happening in the world right now, but we can continue to share knowledge and ideas to help each other through this challenging time.
As Covid-19 continues to spread across the globe we’ve seen how many companies have had to act quickly by launching crisis management plans and transitioning to a virtual workplace almost overnight. But in times of crisis, like the one we find ourselves in today, what is it that gives some companies the ability to adapt quickly to ensure their survival? The answer: Business Agility Defined as the ability to rapidly respond to change, be it adapting products and services to changing customer needs or adjusting to changes within the business operating environment, it’s the “X factor” that sets a company apart from their competitors. And while some companies are generally more agile than others, we’ve seen how the covid-19 pandemic has required even greater agility than ever before. Research has shown that companies who are typically more agile place a high importance on: Customer-centricity – i.e. Having an in-depth understanding of your customers’ needs & ensuring that these are top of mind in everything you do.Cross-functional team dynamics – i.e. Building strong interrelationships between various teams across various functions to promote collective problem solving and task execution. But further to this, other considerations that promote business agility are: Understanding your employee needsThe health & safety of your employees go hand in hand with your ability to continue any form of business operations. We’ve already seen how companies have relooked at their office policies to support social distancing to minimise the risk of covid-19 infection, and how work-from-home policies and employee support are now receiving a lot of attention. Now more than ever, employee flexibility is key, both flexibility in how people can get the job done as well as flexibility around company expectations, rules and regulations. Focusing on emotional agilityDifferent people process stressful scenarios in different ways. Some will easily be able to keep a positive outlook, while others will be overcome with fear and uncertainty. As an organisation, your role is to provide as much emotional stability at possible. This is achieved by focusing your energy on drafting action plans, stimulating idea generation, and providing communication channels to not only share updates and information with your customers and employees but also to give them the opportunity to engage, share their fears and gain access to advice and emotional support. Promoting a culture of innovation & failing fastCompanies are facing some really tough questions right now: How can we reorganise ourselves to continue day-to-day operations? How do we keep doing what we’re doing in a world that’s likely never going to be the same again? What other opportunities are there to keep meeting our customers’ needs? Companies who promote innovation and are quick to try new things already have a leg up. This is because they’re used to having to think outside of the box. They also understand that ideas don’t always work and that this is OK. Crisis situations require lots of new ideas and tons of bravery. It’s the only way to establish your company’s “new normal”, whatever that may look like. If you have any ideas on topics you’d like us to cover on this blog, please leave a comment below. We may not be able to control what’s happening in the world right now, but we can continue to share knowledge and ideas to help each other through this challenging time.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown that’s currently in place, many companies have shifted to remote working as a way of ensuring business continuity. Even though remote working has been a rising trend over the past couple of years, with more and more companies offering it as an option to their employees, the change has come as somewhat of a large-scale avalanche that not everyone was equally prepared for. Some have adjusted better than others, but in general we’ve observed an overarching concern from companies around being able to ensure productivity of remote workers in an effective way. Having insight into what our clients have been doing to manage remote working during this crisis, we’ve been able to formulate the following list of tips to help you refine your remote working strategy: Set some ground rules With remote working, a clear communication strategy becomes even more important than ever before. As part of your ground rules you have to define how and how regularly you’re expected to communicate not only with your team members, but also management. You also have to be clear around your expectations regarding working hours and/or deliverables. Remote working comes with many challenges and distractions, and in general we should try to support a bit more flexibility, but if you still need people to be accessible and available between 8am and 5pm, you have to specify this upfront. Leverage different technology options for communication Email alone is unfortunately not going to cut it. You have to leverage other technologies to support instant chat and online collaboration. For many larger organisations MS Teams has become the collaboration platform of choice, others still make use of tools like Skype for Business and SharePoint, but there are also a variety of great “freemium” options (i.e. products with both free and paid premium options) like Slack and Yammer. At Analyze we’ve actually been making use of Yammer for quite some time and it’s become a great way to ensure that our consultants, who are typically spread across our various client sites in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, are able to stay connected with company news and happenings. Regular team check-ins are key Many organisations have implemented a daily “health check” of sorts to check-in on each other and discuss company changes that have an impact on the employees. For more specific team deliveries, most teams are adopting the daily stand-up which is a concept well known to anyone working within an Agile delivery context. It’s a way to regularly check-in with your team members, discuss what their goals are for the day and also see where you can help a co-worker with something they’re struggling with. Still make time for those one-on-ones As much as team interactions are important, one-on-ones should not be overlooked. It’s a chance for employees (and managers alike) to discuss issues they may not feel comfortable discussing within a group. It’s also where career guidance and developmental discussions take place, something which must continue to ensure that career goals stay on track. Don’t forget about the importance of social interaction Even though we can’t meet up in person, we as humans still need social interaction opportunities that allow us to connect and talk about something other than work. It’s how we build a rapport with each other, how we’re able to provide mental and emotional support during a very challenging time, and also just an opportunity to let off some steam. Whether it’s a 5min, daily, weekly or monthly connect, it’s important to create a space for people to learn more about each other, even if it’s sharing what their home work environment looks like via video chat or taking part in a general knowledge quiz, now’s the time to get creative and find new ways to interact. At Analyze, we understand that this is a very challenging time for most. Projects are being put on hold, businesses are having to reinvent themselves and budgets are tighter than ever. If you have any ideas on topics you’d like us to cover here on the blog to support knowledge sharing and discussion, please do leave a comment below.
Smart Automation is defined as using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), bots and robotic process automation (RPA) to automate complex business processes. The end goal? Improved productivity, accuracy and consistency with minimal human interaction and therefore lower costs.
The traditional role of a Project Management Office (PMO) is to define the standards for project management within an organisation. Sounds simple enough, right? Define the rules and then ensure everyone sticks to it… But when “the rules” in this context actually means finding the best, most effective and innovate ways to ensure strategic business alignment and delivery success, it’s easy to understand why PMOs constantly need to reinvent themselves. As project management continues to make significant shifts toward faster, smarter delivery, the key to survival for any PMO is finding the best way to facilitate agile practices by blending the right mix of technology, people and process. Leveraging technology to automate PMO tasksArtificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies are being used across many different industries to automate mundane and labour-intensive tasks. For the modern PMO, it offers the opportunity to automate all of the day-to-day tasks related to data collection, tracking and reporting. This is great, not only from a time-saving perspective but because it also means the PMO team can shift their focus to activities where they can add more value. Building a data analytics strategy A PMO’s power lies in its understanding of when and how projects succeed and fail, not only from a pure delivery perspective but also looking at post-implementation success factors like market share, customer satisfaction, employee adoption, increased profits and sales. Having access to this information allows the PMO to properly guide teams in a way that ensures a much higher rate of success. Understanding governance within an agile contextWith the shift to agile delivery methods, governance, visibility and control are all things that typically fall by the wayside due to the misconception that it only succeeds in slowing delivery down. The PMO’s mission should be finding the right governance fit for the industry type, organisational style and delivery scale by continually evaluating and assessing with the goal to make continuous adjustments and refinements. Placing a greater emphasis on coaching and upskilling With the shift to agile, PMOs typically expand to include people from across the business who come with a wealth of business expertise and experience but aren’t necessarily technically skilled from a delivery perspective. The PMO needs to step into a coaching role to support these new team members in effective ways of working while also building a better understanding of project dynamics, challenges and key considerations. Conducting a PMO audit It’s easy to fall into the trap of merely offering the PMO services that you think all PMOs should offer, but do these really make any material difference to the business? The purpose of a PMO audit would be to take a critical look at each and every service that is offered, marrying this up to what your business stakeholders need, and then stopping and starting services accordingly. In this way, you’re ensuring that you are focusing your collective energies in all the right places, thereby cementing your place within the broader organisation. Struggling with any PMO-related issues within your organisation? Give Analyze a call on 021 447 5696 or email us on email@example.com to find out how we can help.
Traditionally, business analysts focused on getting a deep understanding of business processes, policies and procedures in order to guide how these would have to be adjusted to support project-related change. But with digital transformation now taking centre stage, companies today are also leaning on business analysts to assist with technology selection, defining technology best practices, finding new digital business opportunities and more. With this in mind, the world of the business analyst in 2020 (and beyond) will start to look very different. At Analyze, we predict the following key shifts: Business Analysts will become more digital-focusedAs the digital landscape continues to evolve, business analysts will need to stay up to date with changing and emerging technologies, industry trends, new sources of data and ways in which organisations can leverage digital technologies to achieve their organisational goals. It’s all about applying a digital lens to typically non-digital operations and reimagining all ways of working. Data Analytics will become a core competency We’ve all heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) and all of the associated data that comes along with it. As more and more devices “go online”, data volumes will continue to increase. For the business analyst, being able to analyse and interpret this data in order to help inform strategic business, marketing and technology investment decisions will be key. Expect greater agility The role of the business analyst within an agile context has already brought about some fundamental changes over the past few years. Business analysts have needed to find ways to be more flexible in their analysis practices without sacrificing on quality and completeness, and we expect an even greater push toward working faster and smarter as we enter a new decade of rapid and continuous digital growth. Blurred lines and broad expertise Business analysts will become the collaborator, bringing different professionals and disciplines together to help get the job done. It will require a broader understanding beyond the conventional constructs of business analysis and will also require business analysts to be flexible in their roles by getting more hands-on with activities like design and testing. As an example: Business analysts do not need to be User Experience (UX) experts per se, but they do need to have a basic understanding of user interface design principles and who/what will be needed to ensure that you get it right. Becoming digital agents of change A business analyst’s involvement will not end once technologies have been selected and requirements have been defined. They need to be agents of change who will promote and facilitate the restructuring of business processes in order to align with these technological changes. Just as they’ve always done, business analysts will need to keep the bigger picture at heart, considering the people and the processes, but within a renewed digital focus. To discuss Business Analysis consulting options for your organisation, give us a call on 021 447 5696 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team of highly skilled business analysts have experience across a wide variety of technologies, delivery approaches and industries, making it easy to find the right type of BA for the job.
Digital Transformation, in simple terms, is defined as the use of digital technologies to revamp your business processes (or create new ones) in order to improve the way you operate and to provide more value to your customers. But in reality, it is a whole lot more than that. It is also a mindset change, one that requires you to be open to continuous exploration and experimentation in order to find new and innovative ways to solve business problems.
Technology advancement continues to drive change throughout all facets of our personal and business lives. No wonder then that it has also had a notable impact on the way we run projects. Today, modern project managers have realised that their success largely relies on the strength of the technological tools they choose to exploit to their (and their team’s) benefit. Letting technology take care of the mundane Consider those everyday project management tasks like reviewing and updating schedules, prepping presentations, sending out status reports and following up on statuses of issues and other work items. These types of activities typically need to be executed regularly, in many cases daily, and can therefore become very time consuming. Without the luxury of a project administrator to assist with these tasks, which for most organisations is a resource overhead they simply can’t afford, project managers are leaning on project management software and AI tools to streamline and automate repetitive tasks. The best of breed project management tools today are able to instantly give you a view of what work is in progress, identify what items are lagging behind and predict where you are likely to run into issues in order to help you proactively manage the situation rather than reactively. This frees up the project manager to focus on those big-ticket items that add the most value, like recruiting skilled resources, people management, managing vendor relationships, drafting remediation plans for high impact risks, and focusing on integration management as a key driver for project success. Empowering your project team through improved accessibility and collaboration Thanks to project management software and cloud technologies, teams are now able to access and upload important project files, submit completed pieces of work for review and provide updates on what they’re working on in real-time without having to attend lengthy progress update meetings or book time with the project manager directly. This provides a greater level of accountability and productivity while still giving the project manager the information they need to properly manage the project. As far as communication goes, today even email is outdated to a certain degree. Teams are making use of various online chat, dial-in and screen sharing facilities to collaborate without even having to be in the same place at the same time. Questions can be posed and answered instantly and team members can draw on the expertise and input of other team members who may even be based in a different city or country. All of this makes the project manager’s job much easier while fostering a highly collaborative environment where people manage their own time more effectively. Critical project management skills – a new view Traditional managerial and people skills are no longer giving project managers the edge. Technological experience and expertise now play a big role in any hiring process and project managers therefore need to demonstrate that they have the right software and application knowledge to get the job done in the most effective and efficient way. The PMI has been promoting a concept of a person’s Technology Quotient which refers to their ability to adapt, manage and integrate technology based on the needs of the organisation and the project at hand. Data Analytics has also emerged as a key project management skill. This involves the ability to analyse data from previous projects to identify trends, patterns, and an understanding of common risks and issues that can be applied to future projects to ensure a higher level of success. As you can see, project management today is starting to look very different to project management 5 to 10 years ago. To gain access to our team of technologically proficient project management professionals, give us a call on 021 447 5696 or email us on email@example.com today. We pride ourselves in being able to find the right resource to suit your specific project management consulting needs.
Strength-based leadership is defined as the ability to identify and make best use of not only your own strengths, but also the strengths of your team. This is done by moving away from traditional employee development methods, which typically zone in on areas which people need to improve on, and rather highlighting where they excel and understanding how that contributes to the greater good of the organisation.