The Big Remodel

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Architectural Map ruler hatWell it is tax time once again and for some folks it is time to think of remodeling your home. Exciting right? It can be… it can also be a maddening roller coaster ride that is difficult to stop. The next thing you know, you have not only spent your tax refund, but you have invested heavily into a credit card (or two). We all know that this can happen and we all know people that have had remodeling horror stories, yet we still forge ahead and remodel. Why? Repairs, reconstruction, and renovation are common themes (needs) that drive us to remodeling. When it comes to your home they completely make sense. Broken things are not fun to live with, we can get bored with the same ol’, same ol’ and the value needs to be kept up while we are waiting for the market to rebound. But what about our requirements – the models we put together that help our stakeholders clearly understand the problem or opportunity we are trying to solve or present? Does remodeling make sense?

Modeling requirements, on the surface, to many of our stakeholders often seem easy or simple, but they are actually quite complex and can take a long time to master. This “complexity” is driven by many things including; different types of modeling (process, data, use case, interface, and scope modeling) size of project, methodology, approach, stakeholder preferences, and time to model. As a result, I often see Business Analysts frequently needing to repair, reconstruct, or renovate their requirements models which is not always a good thing nor does it always make sense. One of these works for me and the other two do not.

Renovation – it works. When I think of renovation, I often think of process improvement efforts. Continuous improvements. To reinvigorate something, make new, revive. It is about keeping value, being future focused. This concept for any business makes sense to me. This type of remodeling works because it is often driven by ideation, some kind of Enterprise Analysis, Six Sigma, Lean, or other approach. It, perhaps, can even be seen as an attitude or force that drives how you work, but it is different than repairs or reconstructions, which do not work for me.

Repairs and reconstruction – do not work. Why do we have to repair or reconstruct our requirements models? When I think of repairing or completely reconstructing requirements models, I think of rework. I do not like to work much as it is, so the idea of doing it again is not exciting to me. A classic example is the process flow diagram. Let’s run through a scenario:

1. Business Analyst schedules meeting with stakeholders to discuss process.
2. BA interviews stakeholders during meeting.
3. BA takes notes and goes back to cube to work on process flow.
4. BA schedules new meeting for review.
5. BA reviews process flow with stakeholders at meeting.
6. Stakeholders rip the process flow to shreds.
7. Go to step 3.

And there you have it. A potential infinite loop of rework! And this loop is costing a lot of time and money. Time you probably did not have to begin with. So we need to ask some questions. Did you understand your stakeholder’s point of view? Did you have the correct stakeholders? What approach to your model did you take? The approach is very important. It drives how and when you model. Is there a different way of doing this? How about this as an alternative:

1. Business Analyst schedules interactive process modeling meeting with stakeholders to discuss process.
2. BA facilitates stakeholders during meeting to “interactively” develop the process model together as a team during the meeting using white board, post-its, or other preferred materials.
3. BA gains agreement/consensus on the process model at the meeting.
4. BA takes picture of agreed upon process flow with smart phone and goes back to cube to create a final version in the company’s diagramming tool of choice.

Less steps, less rework = less cost and less chance of needing repairs! If you do your stakeholder analysis up front you can get the right people. The stakeholders, together as a group, will provide their viewpoints during the meeting. The approach requires less time. Remember, for this approach to work, the BA must be a strong facilitator (a theme in the BABOK®).

So with regard to repair and reconstructing requirements, I am not a big fan. An anonymous salesman once said, “Genius is the ability to evade work by doing something right the first time.” What you are really doing is evading the rework. I cannot agree more. Renovation will be needed some year in the future, but if we can avoid the repair and reconstruction on our current projects our work lives will be more enjoyable. Modeling is complex, but if we can do something proactively to limit repairs and reconstruction, well, that is where the true value of your requirements “home” will be kept up and you will not have to wait for the market to rebound.

4 thoughts on “The Big Remodel

  1. Nice article – as always – Bob! One point I like to use with this approach: if this is an IT project, I will invite my development leads and quality assurance leads to the session as observers, so they understand the essence of what the business is trying to achieve and can begin thinking about how the changes will impact current systems.

    • Renee – thanks so much. I think this is a great idea. Getting the right people involved early is a step taken in the right direction to eliminate rework and unnecessary “remodeling”. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Bob, your solution sounds great…for BA’s fortunate enough to work with a team that is on-site. What about virtual (dispersed) modeling? 99% of my projects are done via conference call. I wish more writers would consider the growing number of businesses that are in this situation and not just write about collocated teams.

    • Sue,
      Thanks for your reply! Yes, it is certainly harder for folks that are not collocated and this is a growing challenge as more and more workers will be working remotely. Even now as I reply I am working remotely. It is no easy task to elicit requirements via conference call but there are things you can do to be more effective in that environment. Tell you what… you asked so I will make my next blog on our topic. Also, not sure where you are located but the IIBA Minneapolis St. Paul Professional Development Day (conference) has a speaker on your exact topic – working remotely and virtually. The event is April 25th in St. Paul Minnesota. More soon.

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