autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

On effective analysis (affirmation: I am good at this)

In response to a recent inquiry as part of a larger discussion on “Why I think I am a good analyst”, the following, recorded here for future reference and for purposes of general professional affirmation.

Q: What makes you a good analyst?

A: I have significant experience with business analysis and offer over 20 years of insight and expertise in understanding and managing the challenges and risks of effective analysis. My expertise spans a number of industries, in consulting as well as full-time efforts; my history is one of providing consistent, quality oversight of business need, effecting business advocacy within technology services, and ensuring short and long-term goals are met with a minimum of technical debt or rework.

Q: How have you demonstrated expertise with Agile methods and providing design leadership and mentoring?

A: As a consultant or as an employee in a lead analyst or architectural role, I have over 10 years of direct experience managing the challenges of an Agile development environment within the more traditional System Development Life Cycle perspective that is common to most technology and business groups. The challenges of effective Agile management rest primarily in allotting and enforcing business owner involvement and ensuring that Agile is not utilized as a means of “short cutting” required baselines of knowledge management or process. Self-directed teams work extremely well in environments where autonomy and responsibility are strong, but sometimes require closer attention when an organization is “ramping up” or finding challenges in transitioning from a strictly “waterfall” SDLC method to incorporate Agile principles. I have extensive experience managing the transition process and helping people in both the technology as well as business understand the trade-offs, benefits, and “gotchas”.

Q: What is your level of experience with business requirements gathering, analysis and documentation of workflows, processes and procedures?

A: It is with some humor and perhaps even a dash of sheepishness that I convey I have worked closely with requirements, analysis, documentation, and process/procedural development longer than most of today’s various methodologies have existed (nearly 24 years); crafting and implementing custom process for doing so as needed across numerous organizations without exposure or experience to these concepts and incorporating the best of each method over time without “marrying” any of them to the point of allowing method to overtake or overwhelm effectiveness. It can be a balancing act, but it is one with which I am well acquainted; I believe my strongest competencies exist in this area.

Q: Are you comfortable with interviewing to effectively draw out and articulate the business need/problem/ opportunity to be addressed? Can you provide scaled options for implementation based on business need?

A: In both my current role and in practically every position prior, I work closely with the business, advocating holistic methods that account and provide for both short and long-term goals; understanding, clarifying, and communicating needs, challenges, opportunities, and using the information extracted to construct scalable strategies. Requirements and contingency planning, “build versus buy” analysis, cost of implementation as well as forecasting ROI along with future growth and migration paths for technology or business need are among my areas of specialty.

Q: Would you say you are adept at gathering and analyzing requirements; creating documentation to enable development on proprietary applications?

A: As part of the above, the ability to manage end to end requirements analysis is critical; I offer extensive experience with process mapping and modeling, data diagramming and entity relationship development (preliminary data design; tables, relationships, etc), and all aspects of business and user documentation including stories, storyboards, task and activity diagramming, use cases, and scenarios for Quality Assurance test matrices as well as User Acceptance Criteria. As an indirect reference point, I have been an avid user of Visio since version 1.0, when it was owned and operated by a “Shapeware” and am largely responsible for its adoption in many of the companies within the Atlanta, Georgia technology community. I am a technical writer as well as a copy and creative writer; my understanding and embrace of information and documentation along with the various methods of communicating it are areas in which I offer demonstrated competency.

Q: Are you familiar with and can you manage changing, sometimes ambiguous documentation needs?

A: In my experience, there are never “ambiguous documentation needs”; rather, there are misunderstandings with how and why each type or manner of documentation are needed or what purposes they can (and do) serve for future operation and sustainability. There is a balance to be had between “perfect world” and “real world” documentation and, for system lifecycles and operations management, the baselines can vary greatly. I am very familiar with understanding and adjusting company practices to meet realistic documentation needs that support system sustainability, development traceability, and related process management, orientation, and cross-training. Additionally, I offer experience with knowledge repository creation; furnishing solid structure and management as well as incorporating tenets and practices such as single-source and taxonomy/tagging to support ease of use and consistency of information management across the enterprise.

Q: Are you an effective communicator? Can you communicate both verbally and in writing to peers and business partners? Do you excel at strong questioning, focused listening, and looking beyond the obvious answers to understand impacts?

A: As an analyst, one must be able to listen closely; both to what is said and what is not. The former to understand the conscious perspective and the latter, to investigate potential process gaps and often unstated business rationale that can affect business choices. I provide extremely well developed communication skills whether listening, speaking, or writing and bring solid experience with informational interviewing, logical/skeptical analysis technique, and rigorous validation methods to ensure full coverage and a thorough understanding of variants, exceptions, and related decision-management processes to the table.

Q: Are you someone capable of mentoring; training and growing team members?

A: As a regular part of both current and past experience, I make a practice and habit of educating the business as well as my fellow technology professionals on the “how and why” of analysis; how it serves, how it can save time, reduce costs and rework, and most importantly, how effective application greatly compresses time to development as well as impacts or insures quality of result. Both inside my team and outside it, I mentor and educate consistently on why it is so often overlooked, why the challenges of business and technology (as well as competitive pressure in the industry) often result in a desire to side-step or curtail analysis and why these efforts consistently introduce risk and complexity to projects and programs in which they are allowed to occur.
I strive to draw immediate parallels and examples from day to day efforts and utilize them to introduce new concepts, methods, tools, and to instill the “seeker’s perspective” that opportunity is an ever-present thing, learning is an on-going process, and the only true failure of an analyst is to be accepting of a question mark when finding a period is not confirmed as impossible.