Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: requirements

Just Released – Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success

Book Cover Image

Announcing the release of Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success, a new book by Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA.

Only 39% of project today are successful.  Nearly half of the projects that fail, fail because of “poor requirements management” (PMI 2014). Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success explores the role of the business analyst in setting a project up for success. It informs and educates project managers, sponsors, and organization leaders on what is necessary for project success. It goes beyond requirements management in exploring the how the business analyst can contribute to increased profitability through project selection, scope definition, and post-implementation evaluation.  The reader will learn about the history of business analysis, professional organizations and resources to support the profession, and what to expect from the business analyst at each phase of the project lifecycle as presented in a case study throughout the text. Project leaders will better be able to support the business analysis needs of the project by understanding the skills, expertise, tasks, resources, and time needed to do business analysis right and maximize the return on investment for each project.

Leveraging Business Analysis for Project Success is available on electronic or print format on Amazon or directly from the publisher, Business Expert Press.  Educators may request an evaluation copy through the publisher website.

Please contact Vicki at vicki@project-pro.us if you would like more information regarding this publication.

Do Not Miss This Critical Piece of Information for Project Success

I have a new appreciation for a specific project need after teaching a Mastering Requirements course earlier this week. I had asked the participants to come up with examples of goals or requirements for a situational software product. However, I did not offer them the two most important pieces of information, the project vision and objectives. It was an oversight on my part. I erroneously thought that they would automatically have the same vision as I if I provided a clear project title such as Classes Registration System. Two things happened.

They had a hard time getting started on who the users and their goals would be for the system. There wasn’t a clear place to start without knowing whose problem they were trying to solve or what the objectives of the project were. Instead they would tentatively put an idea out and look for clues that they were on the right track. The ideas were rolling once I said “the project is…” and “the objectives are …” You could see the light bulb turn on, “oh, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Another exercise was to take a stakeholder statement “I want full details on students” and interview me to get to the real need. I inadvertently tripled the size of the project by adding requirements related to a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. Lucky for all of us, one clever participant spoke up, “I thought this was a class registration system. It sounds like you want a CRM solution for marketing.”  Oops…busted! Yes, I was the scope creep.

It is much easier to call “creep” on an instructor in a classroom setting then it is an executive manager within your organization. You are likely to run into “just do it” even if you do say something. Your best defense…a clear, documented vision and objectives for the project to serve as a guide and negotiation tool.

Vision – a description of how the world looks after project implementation.

Students will be able to sign up for designated classes and the organization will have a record of who has attended what classes.

Objectives – expected measurable results from project implementation.

  • Reduce overall staff time required per student registration by 75%
  • Time to complete inquiry of student participation is not more than 10 minutes (from opened to responded)

Responding to ideas outside of the vision and objectives become much easier with this context. Now the BA can respond with “how will that help us meet the objectives of the project?” when the business owner says “I want the student’s home address so that I can send a Christmas card”. While having other features may be nice and add value, it clearly does not fit into the intent of the funded, schedule project. Scope creep diverted – schedule and budget saved.

How many “quick, little projects” have you worked on where the vision and objectives were assumed rather than documented? I’ll admit it, I’ve seen a few. It won’t happen on my projects, or in my class, after seeing the difference that simply documenting and agreeing to these makes. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to trick students so that we can practice scope negotiation in the future.

More information on this class is available at https://project-pro.us/2012/04/17/master-requirements/. Contact me to bring this class to your area.

Mastering Requirements with Use Cases, User Stories and More (2-Day Class)

Read any article on the challenges that projects face today and you will find “requirements” in the top two. Many of us have taken various courses on one tool or another, yet find the techniques hard to apply in our real work on a consistent basis. The problem is that there is not a one-size-fits-all method to elicit requirements that will bring the most value to your project. Great requirements call for changing how you elicit, communicate, organize, and prioritize requirements based on the specific project and organizational culture.

This comprehensive two-day class will provide business analysts with the information they need to develop great requirements. Participants will learn how to develop use cases and user stories to support their projects. The class will also provide information on modeling, organizing, prioritizing, and communicating requirements. Students will gain an understanding that helps them decide when to use each practice and how much effort is required to get the most out of them. Included is a demonstration of a requirements management tool to help participants understand the value and benefits of purchasing a solution.

Audience

This class is for anybody who has responsibility for delivering quality requirements.

What you will learn

  • Confidently write and evaluate use cases, user stories, and detailed requirements
  • Know when to use each tool to maximize your time in developing high value requirements
  • Manage, prioritize, and communicate requirements
  • Understand requirements management systems

About Vicki James

Vicki James has been involved in project development since 1999, serving as both business analyst and project manager. She is both PMP and CBAP certified. She is a skilled trainer, presenter, and facilitator with a passion to share best practices to make the lives of her others easier and more productive. Vicki is a known expert in her field, having provided guest blog posts for Karl Wiegers, PMHut.com, Ah Ha Moments, and PM Chat post and web radio program. Her blend of expertise in project management and business analysis gives her insight to set the stage for a project environment that fosters success.

Included with course 

  • Wiegers, K. E. Software Requirements, Second Edition. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2003.
  • Cohn, M. User Stories Applied, for Agile Software Development. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004.

Contact me at vicki@project-pro.us or 360.951.1873 to schedule this training for your organization.

BA Beyond Requirements (comment to EA Tips to Get Started)

Below is a copy of a rather lengthy comment I made in response to, Getting Started with Enterprise Analysis. Please check out that great article by Jonathon Nituch post on thebacoach.com.

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What a great article on Enterprise Analysis that hits the nail on the head for why I have chosen the route I have for my independent consulting business. In addition to speaking and writing, I seek projects close to home that I can be involved in to help the community (and my ability to keep food on the table). I have focused my local marketing on small business instead of pursuing government or big business contacts. This angle will not be lucrative, but I will get more job satisfaction. I want to help small business find and implement solutions that will bring greater value to their business. Seeing even small changes with big benefits is what I call a great day at work.

In regards to pursing opportunities for Enterprise Analysis, I would add make your own. You need a good business case with compelling data and an advocate with influence over the right people. Look for opportunities to start small and build up to farther reaching success. Find a quick win in your work unit, promote the success as yours (don’t be shy), and then look for opportunities with more impact throughout the organization. Eventually executives will come asking for your help in finding solutions to specific areas of concern.

One skill that a great EA needs is the ability to market and sell a solution. It is often not enough to offer that a solution is correct. The decision makers need to feel passion to take the effort to carry out changes. Think about the advertising pitches you have seen in movies or on TV where a team works day and night coming up with creative ways to sell their advertising idea. They give a powerful presentation doing whatever it takes to land the sale (even singing poorly). We need this energy and dedication with our improvement solutions. Storyboard the “to be”, arrange a demo, anything to go beyond words and invoke emotion.

The story of John Stegner’s Glove Shrine in Switch (Heath and Heath) is an excellent example of this.  “What they say was a large expensive table, normally clean or with a few papers, now stacked high with gloves. Each of our executives stared at this display for a minutes. Then each said something like ‘we really buy all these different kinds of gloves?’ …They looked at two gloves that seemed exactly alike, yet one was marked $3.22 and the other $10.55.”

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: how to change things when change is hard. 1st. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2010.

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