Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Releases Coming Up

Just a gentle reminder:

  • BABOK 2.0 is just about to be released the the public (IIBA members have had sneak peeks since forever)
  • BPMN 2.0 is also just a few months away

    If you're as geeky as I am, that's pretty exciting.
  • Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Business Requirements at the Mall

    One of my conversation starters on requirements used to be to take people on a walk around whatever mall is closest to their client site and visit a few different stores.

    I'd try and go to two different places where the physical product was the same but the atmosphere was widely different. For example you could go to:

    * Borders CD Section and JB Hi-Fi
    * Kikki-K and Office Works
    * Country Road and Polo Raplh Lauren

    These stores core product is widely different even though their physical product is the same.

    Borders and JB Hi-Fi both sell CDs and Music but their presentation, layout, pricing strategy and advertising could not be more different. Kikki-K and Office Works could not look more different if they tried, yet both sell Pens and Paper.


    Well they are solving different problems for different customers in different situations. Different "Business Requirements" in BABOK speak.

    They have different stakeholders with different expectation and preferred trade-offs so even if the physical product seems to be the same it's worth spending the time to understand the users and environment to deliver, price, and present it correctly.

    When I say this with a store everyone nods and understands, but when we start talking about software everyone jumps straight to solution.

    The lesson from Retail is that even if you guess the correct solution if you haven't spent the time to understand your market and their needs, chances are you're not going to deliver it to their expectations.

    P.S. Kikki-K does this to perfection. Every square centimetre of their stores yells that they will make you into some super-organised, efficient, effective, blond, Swedish person with impeccable handwriting. Once they've sold you this dream getting you to pay $12.99 for a pad of paper is easy.

    Best. GTD. Thing. Ever.

    Manilla Folders made out of textured plastic so that they alwasy look neat. Found at Officeworks for less then $10.

    Does anyone else wander around officeworks as a means of relaxation? I've had a few other people admit they do the same thing. I think the relaxation comes from imagining an organised me using all those products.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Want to be a better BA? Be a better Marketter.

    The deepest thinking I've done about BA tasks recently actually happened during a class on marketing. A few of the core marketing concepts such as understanding your customer, core/actual/augmented product, and perceived quality have really affected the way I work.

    I probably found it so useful because the lecturer (Dennis Price of RetailSmart really pared ideas down to their basics, explained them well, and then applied them to marketing. Unfortunately by the time he applied them to marketing I was already applying them to Business Analysis so I got a pretty lousy mark. That's a small price to pay for learning a lot though.

    Some great posts:
  • Taking Criticism. Relevant to anyone who has documents peer-reviewed.
  • Core Produce, Augmented product, etc
  • Friday, March 20, 2009

    Joel vs 37 Signals

    I shouldn't be frustrated with JoelOnSoftware (See last post) considering he has more insight about software development in one post than I think I've mustered in my whole career. His case for functional specs is probably the best article on why you should write functional specs you can read in under ten minutes.

    37 Signals "Nothing Functional about Functional Specs" is an excellent case for what's wrong with bad functional specs.

    Meanwhile the rest of their approach is probabvly only feasible is you're a Web 2.0 startup doing a consumer-facing app with all internal resources and great people. Which they are so more power to them. I'm just not listening to them when I'm delivering fixed-price, mission-critical, sensitive projects to government departments.

    If you don't have a BA you will be forced to invent one

    Just like a PM, Tester, or Architecht any team that doesn't have a formal BA identified will end up creating the role in some round-about way.

    This post from Joel on Software about a "Program Manager" is a case in point. It's pretty much just a rediscvery of the need for a BA - which is just frustrating. Every development method or team that thinks it can do without a BA really just makes-do with a bad one named something else, and then blames the user for their problems.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    How heavy is your SDLC?

    Everyone complains about how many non-value add activites are in their Software Development Method - but how do you actually measure it? It's a truism that you can't manage what you can't measure so surely you really ahve to measure this.

    Here's my proposal.

    How much documentation would be required to deliver "Hello World"?

    Are we talking a few pages, a stack a few centimetres tall, inches, feet, kilos? Remember this is everything it takes to get it from a twinkle in a stakeholders eye to supported in production. Business cases, support plans, test reports, meeting minutes. Everything - and no "small project" exemption because they're often more trouble than they're worth.

    We could even classify methods by their order of Magnitude.

  • Scrum and XP are probably around a centimetre of docs. User stories and Index
  • cards are pretty thick after all.
  • The IEEE standards are definetly into the inches
  • My own company is probably a little over an inch - but we're quite disciplined about trimming it down to match for the situation
  • RUP is definetly a few inches
  • I assume military projects would be into the kilos
  • Tuesday, March 17, 2009


    If you do a lot of mind-maps like me you probably should be using Freemind. It's Free, Fast, keyboard Friendly, and Fully Functional.

    It's a great tool to capture and structure throughts and notes at the beggining of a project if you've outgrown your notepad but don't quite require a wiki and ticket tracker just yet.

    If there was some cross-breed of TiddlyWiki and FreeMind that would be jsut perfect.

    Free Mind
    Tiddly Wiki

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Reviewing Document Deliverables

    Here's a scenario I'd like to run to review the diocumentation deliverables produced during software development.

  • Collect stakeholders from representative groups.
  • Get a room with the wall covered with butchers paper.
  • Draw a box representing each deliverable on the walls of the room.
  • Write each piece of content in each deliverable on index cards and stick them in the boxes they're currently in.
  • Take the cards down into stacks
  • Everyone votes on what they need for their function to work (Not what they produce, what they need) using one of the many requirement prioritisation tricks around
  • Throw the bottom %50 away.
  • Assign the cards to whoever produces them
  • Define dependencies and set out a time lines
  • Owners collect cards into deliverables based on the time line
  • Say hello to your new deliverable

    Anyone game to let me try it?
  • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Being religious is a lot like being a woman

    I often find that I'm a bit of an Outsider in groups, but an Insider in the one-on-ones. I have a lot of great relationships wiht individuals but have the impression there's some sort of boys-club network going on behind the scenes that's not really accessible unless you get plastered at after work drinks and email around the sort of things that fall fould of the email Acceptable Use Policy.

    There was an article in HBR that really influenced me about how women network. Even though I'm not a woman I suspect anyone who is in a group that precludes them from particpating in a lot of the workplace social rituals has similiar issues and mitigation mechanisms.

    The term "Outsider/Insider" sums it up well for me, that feeling of having a lot of contacts inside an organisation, a lot of empathy with the organisation, but not quite being a part of it. It really allows you to enter a mental space where you can work on the organisation not in the organisation.

    Update: Someone aksed for a link to the HBR article. It's subscriber only but a quick summary is on HB online and BNet

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Great day at

    If isn't your homepage it probably should be.

    There's always a great articles and comments up but these two were stand outs.

    Monday, March 2, 2009


    I don't think you can underestimate the impact that symbolism can have on your software project. There's a series of tricks that rely on this to get stuff done, but the area I find it most useful is sign-off.

    I almost invariably get wet-ink on a page, I get that page laminated, and that page goes on the wall.


  • Forcing people to sign with a pen makes them more likley to engage with a document than an email sign off. Don't ask me why it just does.
  • Laminating a document makes it official. It's a sign that we actually care about what we just aggreed to.
  • Visible tracked process. It's great to see your project grow and progress through gates.

    This was all inspired by something I read in GTD about how improtant it was to have a labeller on your desk and how people jsut work better with nicely labelled file.