How will you say what you have to say

Did I confuse you with the title of my post, I apologize if I did, what I wanted to say was what my manager always says, “how you say something is as important as what you say”, so the point is if you have an use case to explain the way you present it to the target audience is nearly as important as the use case.

In my previous post I was sharing my experience of looking at a requirements gathering session wearing a different hat, I will continue from there and so now that I have the requirements documented with me and the business user’s vision in my head how do I go about sharing this with the various other stakeholders involved in the implementation and how will I go about doing this, that is how will I say what I have to say[Symbol].

So I have completed a requirements gathering workshop and the next steps would be that I would get the business user who was part of the workshop to agree on the requirements that I have documented so that we are sure that we are In sync. Apart from the daily minutes circulated at the end of each day of the workshop, a comprehensive requirements document is shared with all the major stakeholders and once they give the go-ahead on the same, the gates will now be opened to welcome other stakeholders into the implementation. We will look at this situation involving many players from different streams next but before that a question would be how do I structure my requirements document aka the BRD, the Business Requirements Document, as it is intended for the business user I would elucidate on the requirements from his/her angle, the headings I would typically include in the BRD would be the Objective of the application envisioned, the Benefits the Business would accrue from implementing this vision, the pain areas and the inadequacies of the current system (could be manual and mail based in many cases) that is making the business to look for an alternative, how the application being considered for implementation would address these concerns from an operational, administrative and executive angle and finally the business processes involved in the implementation.

And returning to the scenario where the business has given the go-ahead based on the BRD, the other stakeholders now have to be run through the requirements,  one such stakeholder would be the Project Manager and QA Manager identified for the implementation, then the Information Security or similar team in the organization who will typically study , understand and identify the data security threats and issues of the implementation in question, this according to me is an important stakeholder as now organizations are going the Cloud way, your organization will have certain guidelines and these are the best guys to assess your implementation vis-à-vis the established guidelines, the architects would be another team that you will bring in at this stage to study and approve the solution you are suggesting or recommend an alternate. Now would I share the same document with all these folks? Obviously not.

The Project Manager and the QA guy would expect the requirements spelled out comprehensively in the form of a Functional Requirements document which would provide the framework for their Technical or Low Level Requirements document and the Test Cases Repository, the Information Security team would prefer a modified version of the BRD with more emphasis on how the proposed application would interact with other application and the internet, and the architects would like a Solution Approach document which talks about the functionality of the application, details of the software (including the RDBMS if applicable) that will be used, the intended workflows and their touch points within and outside the proposed application and perhaps the load the system is supposed to handle on a daily basis, monthly, quarterly and annual basis (this is very important for Financial applications) and also the anticipated increase in the number of users on a yearly basis.

So this roughly is an outline of how I would typically handle my post requirements workshop tasks and life [Symbol] , and more on the various stakeholders, their expectations and the documents they would want from a BA in my next post….

Be Right Back folks…..

A Change in Perspective

Let me start with a very profound quote I came across today, it said “Any ending is a true beginning”.

Would you be very surprised if given a situation and fixed set of parameters you would think in two very different ways depending on the hat that you are wearing, a high five if you would dear reader and this post details how my thinking changed when I transitioned from the role of a Project Manager to a Business Analyst.

It was my first requirements workshop as a BA, the tool being demonstrated before the actual user requirements would start being discussed and documented was an assessment utility to fit into the organization’s training landscape. My first moment of surprise was when I realized I was actually looking at the features the utility offered without comparing it to PeopleSoft HRMS (for the record it is my favorite ERP and gold standard for a HCM application till date and no I have not worked on Workday yet and that I promise is a story for another post). In my past life as a PM I would compare the utlity to PS HRMS endlessly, feature wise , user interface wise endlessly.

And my next moment of surprise arrived when we got down to discussing the interfacing of the assessment utility with the legacy applications, as we were working out the brass-tacks of the cross application interface and the changed thereof in the legacy applications to accommodate the same I realized I was not resisting the suggested changes at the application level with words like “why has this to be in my application”, “my team does not have the bandwidth to accommodate this change” etc.

Now this was a major shift, as a PM I would insist on keeping customizations in the applications I manage to a minimum when I had to work on interfacing with a third party application i.e. TPA and would argue endlessly on not wanting to tinker with the delivered records and pages and here I was suggesting changes in a delivered page to display data being published by a TPA, wow , my earlier reluctance to customize, expose my application to TPA was replaced by a willingness to understand the user’s needs and design a solution that would seamlessly enable data to progress logically from its point of generation to the intended power user and end user pages….

Was I surprised, yes, did I like it, yes again and did it change the way I looked at a requirements gathering session, absolutely…

You see I realized earlier I would restrict my perspective to the applications I managed as a PM, how this change would impact the existing release schedules and would critically examine if this change would add any value to the application at its core, as a PM I was doing what I should but I was not looking at the big picture of a cross functional implementation, I was not thinking of what the client needs, I was not helping the client convert his vision into a tangible application.

There dear reader I experienced the liberation that a change in perspective brings, my thinking shattered across the margins I had drawn for it. In short I had underwent a paradigm shift as Franklin Covey calls it in his amazing book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”.

Now with my BA hat I look at a situation in its grander scheme of things, I put the client needs above my habit to look at how this adds value to my application, I focus on converting the client’s requirement to a scalable, easy to use and manage application, I think of all the data points regardless of the application they lie in rather than my application and its interfaces.

THAT was my Eureka moment….