Announcing – AAC Certification Course on Udemy

Announcing – AAC Certification Course on Udemy

Hello everyone,
If you’ve not seen my announcement on LinkedIn, I have been very busy developing a course called Preparing for the Agile Analysis Certification Exam. It has been published on the Udemy platform, so it is available to everyone. This is a self-paced version of the course I have taught to Business Analysts across the US in association with the Bluegrass chapter of IIBA.

This covers the entirety of the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide with over 3-1/2 hours of videos and several quizzes. The quizzes are intended to help foster the “Agile Mindset” and help you grow in understanding of the concepts presented in the Agile Extension.

If you are interested in learning more about Agile, becoming certified as an Agile Analyst, are curious about whether there is a career path for Agile Analysts, or just need some ideas on how to improve your projects – this is a great course to cover everything.

 

Techniques: Visioning

Techniques: Visioning

Visioning is used to determine the desired outcome for an initiative worded in a concise and approachable manner.

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

When Patriots coach Bill Belichek meets with his team to begin practices, I would imagine that the first thing he says is something like “Our goal for this season is to win the Super Bowl.”

Everything else the team does is derived from that goal.  The team may not fully know how they are going to do that.  And certainly the other teams want to prevent them.  But everyone on the team knows that when Coach says “We’re going to win the Super Bowl” he knows they can succeed. And they understand what winning means.

Elements of Visioning

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

But there’s more to Visioning than simple inspiration.  Yes, it is a set of beliefs.  But it also is a SHARED set of beliefs.  Everyone gets there or no one does. That is called a Vision Statement

This shared set of beliefs comes out of facilitated vision exercises – or Vision Exercises. Finally it is expressed in detailed objectives to measure the goals – known as Impact Metrics.  These metrics show that the plan is working, but are not necessarily cause and effect related.

Back to Football, Coach may set goals for player’s strength, speed and skill.  Will those cause them to win?  No. Will they help? Yes. That’s the difference between correlation and causation.

Visioning Description

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.24

Visioning begins in the Strategy Horizon, where the organization determines which initiatives align to organizational goals. The vision for an initiative is set just before the beginning of the project and lasts through it’s duration.

The Vision Statement helps orient all those involved in the project toward the overall goal both of the initiative and the organization. It identifies how the resulting product will leave an identifiable mark on the products or services provided or on the organization as a whole.

One additional consideration is that Visioning may be associated with multiple related initiatives.

Finally the context is communication, and the audience is internal teams and external stakeholders.

Letting Go

Letting Go

During the last week, it seems that everywhere I go, I am running into a constant theme. People around me are letting go. And letting go is one of the most challenging things we do as humans.

My family is in the process of decluttering over a decade’s worth of stuff, and I see first hand how some of these items evoke strong emotions. Take the exersaucer, for example, that was used by my daughter, who is now 5ft 9in. As wonderful as that time in our lives was, we can never return to it. The stations on each side are housed in a white plastic casing that now has changed colors to a light tan.

I jokingly asked Lily if she wanted to give it one last turn. Of course, I got the response, “Dad, that sounds pretty shady to me.” That is her way of saying, stop with the Dad jokes.

It’s not just my household, though. My Mother has the loss of her furry companion; a Yorkie named King who passed at the age of 84 in dog years, 12 in actual years.

And there have been others I’ve helped within the last week, too.

I’ve learned that the challenge of letting go involves some level of the grieving process. It doesn’t matter if the letting go is from a tragic loss, or just from the passage of time and how life causes transitions, grief is often involved, though we may downplay its significance.

Life’s Transitions

So how do we make the transition?

If that question is asked too soon, it can be jarring. The stages of grief should not be circumvented for significant life events. And each stage likes to return to visit us often.

So, I will ask the question again, with that as a caveat. Knowing that change often invokes grief, how do we make the transition?

First, we need to see if we are ready to make the transition. If we are not ready for the transition, we will never accept it. And acceptance is vital because we often need to take action over and over again for a change to take hold.

In my decluttering example, it isn’t just the exersaucer that we need to let go. It’s clothing, bedding, toys, artwork, crafts, and a thousand other items. And it’s not just things involving my daughter.

For me, it’s books. Many of which I intended to read but never did. And now that season of my life when I should have read them is past. They are no longer relevant or timely. As I’ve gone through boxes of stuff that have not been opened since our last move 7 years ago, it is surprising how many books I have that I don’t even recognize, and many must have been from before we married. A good portion of which are of the self-help variety – so much that one visitor looked at my shelves and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

My reply, “You mean you can’t tell?” Followed by a psychotic laugh, just to see the effect.

One of the books I found was “Who Moved My Cheese,” which is a book that is about … you guessed it … Letting Go. Can you guess what I did with that book?

Yep, it’s been donated.

For my wife, it’s things she remembers from shopping experiences with our daughter. Every so often, I hear the exclamation, “Lily! You’ll never guess what I found. Do you remember…?” Then she tells a story about something she hasn’t seen in years, and suddenly we must keep it.

This makes little sense to my logical mind. But I conclude that Marie Kondo doesn’t work when everything “Sparks Joy.” That and the books explains our storage unit.

Still, no matter what the circumstances, letting go is a necessity. Our ability to let go is directly related to our ability to excel in life. Why? Because letting go of the past is necessary for us to envision a future.

And for myself, letting go involves more than just clutter. Every so often, it is important to take a risk, to change course. And this pandemic seems like the natural time to do that.

The Point

As Business Analysts, we often speak of techniques and skill-sets involved to identify process gaps, requirements management, and the like. There is another part of the job that requires empathy, and empathy is a core part of leadership.

Whether it is letting go of the clutter in our lives, painful events, or letting go of what we have done to move toward a better future, letting go is difficult.

As a business analyst, one of my roles is as an “agent of change.” That means some people love seeing me come because they know things will get better. But others are not ready for change. They don’t see the vision or don’t like the vision they see. For these situations, often reminding of the drawbacks of staying put can help soften the resistance.

But no matter where someone is on willingness to let go, it can always be said that letting go is a necessity for moving ahead. And my job is not just to gather requirements on a product vision; it is to create as smooth a transition as possible. The emotional intelligence of handling change is a huge part of getting a project done.

My job is to help them

It may mean that the vision gets adjusted to embrace the concerns of a group that was overlooked. Great – I’ll pass these changes along and get approval.

It may mean that I need to help people see a vision other than what they know. That’s great too. I can help lower the level of fear involved with change by highlighting the benefits, not only to the organization but to the individuals affected.

What do I do to help? The main thing is to listen. Once the problem is voiced, the fear of it lessens.

I’m very thankful for this past week because it reminds me again just how important it is to help people move toward what is next.

And the real reason I have all those self-help books that I mentioned earlier is because in reality they are more useful professionally than many people realize.

Loading Account Information in Salesforce with Data Import Wizard

Loading Account Information in Salesforce with Data Import Wizard

When dealing with a new installation of Salesforce, one of the first things needed is to load data from whatever sources into the new Salesforce Org. It is essential to consider which information needs to be loaded first. For example, if you load monetary transactions before creating accounts, there will be a mess to clean up sorting out which transactions belong to what accounts.

So, when I start a brand new installation, the first things that I consider loading are accounts and contacts. I include contacts because, if I’m working with a non-profit, each contact may be affiliated with a professional organization, but the contact belongs to a Household Account. This means in the Non-Profit realm that creating a contact may create a new account.

If your organization is small, the data is likely a hodgepodge of spreadsheets, post-it notes, outlook accounts, or whatever people can record information on. If you are in a large organization, it is quite possible that you also have many sources of information. So, data cleansing can be a big chore. It is time to get it organized.

The first thing I do is to identify any professional organizations that are represented by all of your contacts. These may be companies, charitable organizations, volunteer groups, or anything where people work together for a common cause. For this discussion, we will call these “Organizations,” and each unique organization will have its organization account.

Each organization will need to be represented by a single row in a spreadsheet, with consistent columns and no blank rows. Of course, some of the information you collect may be missing at this point. But the idea is to gather as much as possible about each organization, such as:

  • Name
  • Mailing Address (separate column for Street Address, City, State, Postal Code, Country)
  • Physical Address (again, separate columns)
  • Account Type (Organization – as opposed to Household)
  • Phone
  • Industry

You may want to look at the Salesforce Account screens to see if there are other editable fields for Organizations that you want to include.

Once all the organizations are uniquely identified, and the information is collected, save the file in a CSV format. You are now ready to begin importing the data into Salesforce.

Several tools can be used for importing. A simple way is built into the user interface, and it is called the “Data Import Wizard.” In Salesforce, go to the Accounts tab and click on “Import.” This invokes a Bulk Data Loader screen. This has some limitations, but its ease of use is quite helpful when dealing with smaller datasets. Of course, you must have permission established, allowing you to update this information before we can go any further.

Click Import from Account screen

This will take you to a screen that walks you through the import process. Select “Accounts and Contacts.”

Select “Accounts and Contacts.”

Next, Salesforce asks what you want to do with Accounts and Contacts. Do you want to Import, Update, or Both (also called Upsert)?

For this example, we will Insert new accounts by selecting “Add new records,” as shown below.

Once a selection is made, Salesforce asks for more information about the source.

Insert Match, Trigger and Campaign options

For “Add new records” (or Insert), the first two options are pre-selected in a way that makes sense. If we were updating or upserting records, we would want to know if the Contacts should be matched on Name, Email, or an internal Salesforce ID. For Accounts, the options are the organization’s Name or internal Salesforce ID. Since we are inserting, neither of these exist in Salesforce, so no match can be made.

Following that, if we were updating or upserting information, there’s a checkbox to update existing information about accounts. Since these are new records, we should leave this unchecked. Of course, if we are performing an Update or Upsert of Accounts, this should be checked. During inserts, this question is not asked.

Next, there is the option to invoke Triggers or Workflow rules with these records. If you have a process designed around new Accounts or Contacts being created, then you may want this option checked. Also, if you want to enforce validation rules, you will want these options checked. Some considerations, though – if any error occurs because of how these triggers or workflows handle the new records, then none of the records will be loaded. Additionally, the logic may slow the process down a bit.

The final option is for contacts to be included in campaigns. This will allow the assignment of these contacts into a campaign.

For our purposes, leave these elements all with the default settings for the “Add new records” option.

The third step is to describe the data. This means telling Salesforce where the data resides, either in a CSV file, or from Outlook, ACT! or Gmail. We can drag a CSV file to the form.

Drag the CSV.

After dragging your file, Salesforce determines a bit of information about the file.

File to load into Salesforce

At this point, we are ready to begin mapping the information for import, which means telling Salesforce which columns relate to which Salesforce fields. So click “Next” to move into the mapping process.

Click Next to begin mapping

On the next screen, Salesforce presents the list of fields from the CSV file and allows defining how they should be mapped to the accounts (or contacts) in Salesforce. On the right side are a few examples from the import file. On the left, we see how the fields are mapped. In the case below, there was only one field which was mapped automatically. So we have some work to get the rest set up properly.

There are a couple of ways to correct this problem. One way would be to rename the column headings in the CSV file and try again from the previous step. But for our purposes, we’ll use to tool.

As mentioned, one field is already mapped – the account type. You can see how it is assigned in the second column, and if that is not correct, the first column (change) allows changing it. In our example, all of the other fields are not mapped.

Clicking on the “Map” button for each field (row on the screen, which corresponds to a column in the CSV file), presents a list of all fields available for accounts or contacts.

Field list for Accounts

In our example, we want the “Institution” to be the “Account Name,” so we select “Account: Account Name” and click the Map button. This returns us to the previous screen, where we can do the same for all the other fields. The final results are shown below:

Completed map for the Import file

Clicking the “Next” button brings us to a summary screen describing the actions defined, how many fields are mapped, how many are excluded, and other information. This is the point where we either continue importing or we back out. To continue, select “Start Import.”

Final Step before actually importing

And the results for our import are confirmed with the message below.

Import Confirmation

If you want to see in greater detail what has happened as a result of this import, from Salesforce Settings, search for the “Bulk Data Load Jobs” and select that from the menu on the left. This will show you a list of the Bulk Data Load Jobs, such as the one we just completed.

Bulk Data Load Jobs

If we click on the Job ID for any of the jobs listed, that will open a detailed log for the import job, such as the one below.

Bulk Data Load Job

And on the bottom, there is a row that contains links to the requested file, and the result file. If you had any errors, you could review the result file to determine what they were.

How I Became a Salesforce Certified Administrator

How I Became a Salesforce Certified Administrator

This is my 3rd article on “How I became a …” So, I’m at it again, learning to do new things and going in directions I had not considered just months ago.

In February, I found myself sitting at a computer taking an exam for Salesforce Certified Administrator. Of course I’m familiar with this kind of setting, as I’ve already completed CBAP and AAC from IIBA, as well as PSM-1 from Scrum. I believe in the current economy, if you are in IT, certifications are a necessary part of ensuring you remain relevant.

But why go for Salesforce?

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a lifelong learner. That thirst for new skills, sources of information about the world and how it operates (or doesn’t operate, which is equally as important at times), is something that has driven me.

However, I needed to do something that would expand my usefulness into areas inaccessible to my previous experience. It’s not that I’m giving up Business Analysis, but that I needed to refocus it. And what I see from Salesforce will allow me to do just that.

Yet, these don’t really answer the question. How did I land on a decision to pursue a Salesforce Certification?

The short version is I got advice from some total strangers.

Well, they don’t feel like strangers to me because I’ve been listening to their podcast for over a year (3 years worth in 1 year). The ChooseFI podcast features two regular guys discussing Financial Independence, which I discovered can be highly relevant to Salesforce. In December 2019, I finally caught up with their backlog. And one of the last 3 episodes I needed to hear was actually released the prior December (remember, I was catching up). So 14 months before taking the exam, ChooseFI released what I was hearing 2 months prior. What was it about?

Go for it

This was one of those actionable messages in which I said, “I’m going to do that. I’m starting on that today.”

The guest was Bradley Rice. And his story gave me hope that that I can still start something new.

Remember my drive to learn? That’s well and good to have it. But it needs an outlet. Preferably one that can be marketed. And what I heard from Bradley was exactly that. A new world to conquer, along with an opportunity to combine the new skills with my Business Analysis background in a way that is challenging and opportunistic.

Personal Goals

The reason Bradley’s message resonated with me is how well it lined up both my experience and with my hopes and dreams. I have a goal of putting my daughter through college. I have a dream of working from home. And although I’ve worked remotely for clients, that work was actually performed in an office 50 minutes away. I have a vision of a sustainable business that I can run from anywhere. But getting the clients has been a challenge.

The story Bradley told answered all of those goals, hopes, dreams and visions, and a few more that I’ve not mentioned here.

Beginning To Learn

Bradley described enough of how to get involved with Salesforce that I had all the knowledge I needed to get started – or so I thought. There’s more to learn than I had imagined.

The first step is signing up on the Salesforce training platform, Trailhead. This is amazing because it allows up to 10 fully functional training copies of Salesforce to be used as a playground for all of your training. And if you need to, you can delete the older ones and spin up new ones in just a few minutes. Plus the cost was a very prohibitive $0.00.

The training materials walk you through everything. There are career and certification paths defined for administrators, developers, consultants, architects and partners.

Trailhead gamifies the learning process. Each module has a maximum number of points for completion. Badges can be earned associated with specific skills, and you can collect points and badges as you move from Scout to Ranger.

During this phase of my learning, I discovered Superbadges on Trailhead. These are the secret sauce for learning Salesforce. Superbadges are real world scenarios in which you must demonstrate that you understand how to perform a complex function, such as establishing security, building a platform or even writing APEX code. Where other badges walk you through doing a few simple tasks, Superbadges give you the requirements and you have to apply what you’ve learned. One of the Superbadges (Billing Specialist) required stringing together about 10-12 steps, in the correct order, to complete only one of the 10 challenges, so they can be very tough.

Superbadges have the added benefit in teaching how to research Salesforce. Since the answers are not apparent by any means, you need to look through all the documentation available on-line. Being able to research is a key skill that I have as a Business Analyst, so again, Salesforce dovetails nicely with my experience.

My first three Superbadges were Security Specialist, Lightning Experience Reports and Dashboard Specialist (Lightning Experience refers to the latest-greatest technology for building applications on the Salesforce platform) and Business Administration Specialist.

There are even some non-Salesforce topics included, such as resume writing, management philosophy based on Drucker, meditation, health and wellness.

Within about 2 months, I had devoured the Trailhead material for Administrators and was ready to prepare for the certification exam.

Final Preparations

In addition to the hands-on experience provided through Trailhead, I joined a group Bradley formed (Learning Salesforce and Building Your Talent Stack) that helps people navigate their Salesforce career transition. From there, I heard about a second source called FocusOnForce.com, which provides sample exams and preparation guides for about $19.00 each – still a great bargain.

Going through FocusOnForce provided me with a better understanding of the philosophy behind Salesforce. Where Trailhead showed me what to do, FocusOnForce taught me how to think.

So in February, I signed up to take the exam, and passed.

Leveraging the Investment

A funny thing happened shortly after certification, a little thing called Covid-19. Now all of a sudden I have a lot more competition for Salesforce jobs. So how do I overcome that added obstacle.

Well, frankly, I’m still working on that obstacle. But here’s how I’m tackling it.

First, I didn’t stop at one certification. There’s a related certification called Platform App Builder which expands on the ideas discussed in the Administrator training.

I already had a pattern for learning. I just needed to cover the additional material and sit for the exam. I finished this exam in April.

Additional Superbadges were also attained. At this time I am up to 8 total.

Team for Travis

Second, I knew I needed to get hands on experience. So I volunteered. Yep, while needing a job as much as anyone else during the pandemic, I volunteered to help a small Non-Profit navigate through the process of migrating to Salesforce. You’d be amazed how many opportunities come because you showed you care.

This gives me the opportunity to demonstrate that I can not only do the work required for a new installation, but it helps show that I can lead, train and coach others on the Salesforce product. There are several platforms set up to help connect non-profit organizations to professionals willing to help. Among them are Taproot and Catch-a-Fire.

I applied for a pro-bono position through Catch-a-Fire for a new Salesforce implementation. I liked that because it was completely fresh, which I felt would allow me to use both my Administration and my Analysis skills. After talking with the founder, we both discovered our stories have several parallels. And the cause was something I felt I could easily get behind. That connection is very important, especially for non-profits and pro-bono work. They want someone who they believe can help them for more than just a gig, to truly help with the organization.

My non-profit is a small organization called T.E.A.M. 4 Travis. This organization is founded by a wonderful parent who lost her son to a rare disease called Asplenia. Travis was a healthy, energetic and happy four year old boy who loved the Texas Longhorns. But the first time he got sick, his body couldn’t fight off the disease due to the undetected abnormality where his spleen did not function properly. Simple testing could have saved his life. Please take a moment to look at this page, learn Travis’s story and, if you can, support this organization.

And it’s showing me that my Business Analysis skills are still very much at work. In the Salesforce ecosystem, Administrators often do double duty gathering requirements for their organizations then building the changes. With the “clicks not code” nature of most of the development, it is quite easy to just build the required changes in less time than it takes to document them.

For example, we are currently discussing various options for documenting contacts made at networking events so that T.E.A.M. 4 Travis can leverage that information in future correspondence. In Salesforce, that is simple, but there are many ways to solve this problem. My BA skills help me find, while consulting with T.E.A.M. 4 Travis which of those ways is best.

Network Strategy – Embrace the Ohana

Third, I am building and expanding my network. I now have long timers in Salesforce who come to me whenever they pass a Trailhead Superbadge! One person has about 10 years experience, and started prior to the existence of Trailhead. So he knows this stuff even though he hasn’t been through the training. But he is very proud to share that he has reached these new milestones.

Salesforce talks about its “Ohana” culture, which embraces traits like helpfulness, involvement and inclusion. It is facilitated through a massive emphasis on Salesforce Communities. Many of these are topical, geographical or skill-set oriented. So I’ve determined to be a joiner.

Once I’ve joined, I’ve observed which groups tend to be more active and that also more closely align with my skills and goals. Then, I began participating (as best as I can while Covid is happening) and connecting with people who can help.

It is very encouraging how many people have been willing to help, giving tips, suggestions and leads. Some have cheered me on saying that I am inspiring them to train more.

What’s Next

I’ll let you know soon enough. But I will say, I’m not done yet.

We Are Neo

We Are Neo

Recently I was talking with someone who is transitioning into Business Analysis. One of the things we talked about is “What other job do you know where you get paid to learn from experts.” Our endless curiosity is met by an endless supply of industries, sectors, changing demands, new technologies, and on and on.

There is another side to that. With that endless curiosity comes an endless demand for applying what we learn – and sometimes for what we have not yet learned. Even for seasoned Business Analyst, there are tools and techniques that we’ve heard of but have not personally used.

And that creates a situation where…

We Are Neo

Who told Neo he could stop bullets?
Who told Neo he could stop bullets?

For example, let’s say a client needs to start embracing Agile but is struggling with a history of deciding everything before the project starts. As an Analyst, you may have worked on many Agile projects, and it’s second nature to you that some questions are not ready to be answered yet.

You do some research in the Agile Extension to the Babok Guide and discover a technique called “Real Options.” But you’ve not used this technique yourself.

What do you do?

You sit in the chair had have one of your Ebenezzer crew-mates plug you in to the “Real Options” program. A few minutes later, you know the pros, cons and concepts associated with using this technique.

Actually, that often is not as far off as it sounds. Oh, we don’t have a portal to plug into the Matrix. But we do have tons of articles, books, blogs and videos we can search.

The Choice Between Two Mindsets.

There’s a couple of ways you can look at what I just described. The first way is through the lens of “Imposter.” How can I claim to be something I’m not? They will see right through me.

The other way is through the lens of “Owner.” If I don’t do this, no one else can or will. Let’s try this and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’re no worse off than we are now. And this stretches my wings as a leader for our organization.

To move forward we have a mindset that it doesn’t matter if I know it already or not. It’s my job to find the answers, not to have them already. So let’s go.

Consider this famous quote from Richard Branson:

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!

— Richard Branson

There is a difference between this quote and what I’m describing. It isn’t always just presented to us. As Business Analysts, it is often presented BY us.

Three Factors in Choosing the Best Technique

Three Factors in Choosing the Best Technique

In Agile, many techniques can be used to improve different aspects of the processes. Many of them may on the surface appear to be similar in purpose. But when you look closer, there may be a distinction that favors one over another for specific situations.

So, how do we determine which technique is appropriate to address the specific issues we are seeing?

When deciding which technique to use, the three factors I look at are the Horizon, the Audience, and the Context.

Horizon

In other articles, I’ve talked about the Three Horizons – Strategy, Initiative, and Delivery. Understanding which Horizon we are dealing with impacts which set of techniques is available.

Some of the usefulness of some techniques spans across all Horizons. Others may be in two or only one. Appropriate understanding requires understanding the purpose of each Horizon, remembering that a Horizon is not so much a time frame as it is a level of decision making. Decisions can impact an initiative from any of the Horizons.

For example, if a project is actively being developed, the Strategy Horizon can realize there needs to be a change in direction. Just because we are actively delivering the product does not mean Strategy has ended. In Agile, all three Horizons can be active simultaneously.

And that feedback can go both up and down through the Horizons. So understanding which techniques are appropriate to each decision-making level – to each Horizon – is essential.

Below are 4 charts which identify the various techniques as well as which source they are discussed – the Agile Extension or the BABOK Guide

Techniques for the Strategy Horizon
Techniques for the Initiative Horizon
Techniques for the Delivery Horizon
General Agile Techniques

Audience

Next is the Audience. Answering the question of “Who,” the Audience can be condensed into two broad groups:

  • Part of the team
  • External to the team

So, Who is the Team?

In Agile, the team is considered to be those involved in identifying and delivering a solution to a problem. The team may be further broken down to those working at a specific Horizon – for example, those working with organizational strategy are part of the team, but they are not delivering the product. One would be the Strategy Team, the other the Delivery Team. But for our purposes, that distinction is covered when you consider the Horizon in choosing a technique.

Those that are external to the team is everyone else. External to the team can include individuals such as Customers, Subject Matter Experts, Vendors, Regulators. These would be anyone who is both interested in the success of an initiative, but not involved in bringing the project to life. And they may or may not be part of the organization.

Context

Now we are getting to the heart of the matter – why do we need this technique. Context is another way of asking, “What is the purpose?” or “What do I hope to achieve?” It is the “Why” of the decision process.

There are five categories of Context.

  • Communication
  • Process Analysis
  • Product Management or Refinement
  • Requirements Management
  • Understanding Your Customer

So let’s look at each of these.

Communication

Techniques that fall into the Communication context when, not surprisingly, the point is to communicate information. The receiver of the communication is determined by the Audience, which I mentioned above.

Some examples of Communication techniques would be things like Planning Workshops, Portfolio Kanban, Visioning, Retrospectives, Backlog Refinement, and Reviews.

Process Analysis

Process Analysis involves looking for ways to improve processes. This may be processes involving the team, or in the solution itself.

For example, a Process Analysis may find gaps in the solution.

Another example, Process Analysis may reveal that the team is getting bogged down at a certain point in delivery. Perhaps the team needs to adjust to prevent that from continuing.

Some examples of techniques useful for Process Analysis include Value Stream Mapping and Impact Mapping.

Product Management or Refinement

Here we are concerned with delivery schedules or other items associated with defining the product. These answer questions like:

  • What is necessary?
  • When do we make a decision?
  • How does this align with our objectives?
  • When will features be delivered?

Examples include Minimal Viable Product, Product Roadmap, Purpose Alignment Model, Real Options, and Kano Analysis.

Requirements Management

For Requirements Management, the concern isn’t the requirements themselves so much as how they are collected, sequenced, reviewed, prioritized, or refined. For analysts involved in Agile, this can be a large portion of the work.

Several examples of this context include Relative Estimation, User Stories, Job Stories, Spikes, Story Elaboration, Story Decomposition, Story Mapping, and Behavior Driven Development.

Understanding Your Customer

The context of Understanding Your Customer involves techniques in which details about the usage or motivations can be conveyed to the team. Many times, understanding the motivations can have an impact on the final design.

Some examples include Personas, Storyboarding and Value Modelling.

Goals of Agile Analysis at the Delivery Horizon

Coming into Delivery, the Strategy has identified a need to be met, and the Initiative Horizon has identified a solution and its features. When working as an Analyst in the Delivery horizon, the key is to expend the least effort to discover information and support informed decisions about the solution.

I’m sure you realize it is not easy.  It requires a great understanding of what information is useful for decisions on the solution, as well as how to find quickly, and present it in a timely, understandable fashion.

Someone introduced me to the concept of “Planned Spontaneity”  That is where the person has things set up so that if they want to go on various kinds of excursions, they always have bags and supplies packed and ready to go. It takes a lot of planning to be spontaneous. Or, as Rod Stewart used to sing, “Her adlibbed lines were well-rehearsed.”

So when this “Challenge” involves the least amount of effort, I think that also consists of a lot of planning to make it happen, so that the work at the time it’s needed is minimal. To do this, the Delivery horizon addresses two questions. First, looking at the unfinished but defined backlog, the Analyst asks what has the highest value. Then the delivery team asks how to deliver value most efficiently, with the least waste.

A Ready Backlog

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 6.3.1

In the Agile Extension, there is a discussion of how to know when a requirement is ready, as well as when do you need to have it available.  On the first of these questions, the Extension talks about “Invest” criteria.  For now, we’ll say Invest stands for “Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Sized Appropriately and Testable.” I intend to get to the techniques later and will elaborate more at that time.

Whether you are talking about User Stories or other formats for requirements documentation, the INVEST criteria work well.  The point is that the requirement is well constructed with Clear and Concise acceptance criteria and is achievable and Desired as shown in Prioritization

For the second question, sometimes the requirements should wait and be ready in the near future. Agile suggests having things prepared for near term development. If something has to wait, then having it ready now is wasted effort, which takes away from the closer requirements.

Additionally, some frameworks offer suggestions for how far ahead to finalize requirements, so that you don’t rewrite the requirements as better understanding surfaces.

Prioritization and Sequencing

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 6.3.2

The next element of the Delivery Horizon is Maintaining the Backlog. Here we work with the Product Owner to Set priority and sequence to deliver value quickly. The purpose is to support near term development, and the outputs are decomposed features and refined requirements.

Supporting Delivery

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 6.3.3

The Agile Analyst’s efforts prevent obstacles in several different ways, such as facilitating a better understanding of dependencies, coordinating efforts with other groups, and removing roadblocks.

How do Analysts remove Roadblocks?

This question requires an understanding of the Analyst’s role versus other leadership roles on the team. Then, within the Analyst role, what are the roadblocks that can occur.

The first one is a lack of understanding. If the team does not understand, it will cause churn or will prevent the story from being worked.

Another is the interrelationship between features internal to the solution.  Without these interrelationships being understood so that proper sequencing can occur, you may be trying to develop against something that doesn’t exist.  So when it’s delivered, there’s no way to know if it works.  Remember, we’re delivering working software.

Another is external dependencies, which are much like what was just discussed.

Ensure Learning Happens

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 6.3.4

Next, there is Ensuring Learning Happens in the Agile Context, and in this, we first are talking about Processes. By Processes, we are talking about how the team works, not how the process works, or the stakeholders will use whatever is being delivered. 

The team is observing how well they are working, and can they work better.  These observations include feedback to the Initiative or Strategy Horizons because they need to know how to help Delivery better.

The other learning involves the product itself.  Constant feedback determines whether the value is being delivered and the expected results met.  This feedback may affect prioritization and also other horizons. Here is one of the distinctions between Agile and Waterfall – that feedback from Delivery can affect the other horizons. Waterfall would say, Delivery is the result of planning, so there’s nothing that goes back in time to fix what has been done.  Perhaps that’s a bit oversimplified. The Agile Mindset recognizes this project is not performed in a vacuum.  The speed of delivery affects resource availability for other initiatives and other needs.

Focus on Vision and Value

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 6.3.5

Finally, there is Maintaining Focus on the Product Vision, Customer, and Value. The Agile Analyst’s work continually promotes a shared understanding of how the work achieves the vision. Focusing on value means the most valuable things are prioritized and delivered early.

The Will to Overcome All Obstacles

About two years ago, I started on a journey that has changed my perspective on everything. At that time, I was overweight and had just come out of pneumonia, followed by the flu, back to back. I was disengaged from my family because I was constantly tired. And I decided it was time to do something about it.

I read about Keto and decided to try it. I added up what I ate every day and it was atrocious. I cut out all fries and sugary sodas, which cut my caloric intake in half. I cut carbs 80%. And I did full fasting once or twice each week.  Within three months, I lost 30 pounds. I felt great. My mind was alert. I was not tired anymore. That’s where the story begins.

Then came the obstacle — a huge one.

The Obstacle

I have had a problem with my gallbladder for a long time, so this isn’t Keto related. But it was time to do something about that too, and I had it removed on May 8, 2018. Later the doctors would speculate that a gallstone must have escaped during the surgery.

A week after the procedure, I started having complications in the form of violent pain and nausea. I went to the ER, who treated both symptoms and sent me home. And I returned the next night with the same signs. I was admitted to the hospital this time.

It turns out that the escaped gallstone had found its way into my pancreas and blocked a duct. That means the enzymes produced had nowhere to go except back into the pancreas. It was eating itself.

While in the hospital, I was also diagnosed with two blood clots.  One was in the leg, the other in the lung. This created all kinds of problems as treatment for one could not interact with the other.

For pancreatitis, they pumped fluids in me. The 30 pounds I had lost was put back on me in 2 days. The fluid was to keep my blood pressure up. Pancreatitis patients can die from low blood pressure as the body attacks the issue by diverting blood to the organ. I had six IV bags going at any one time.

Then the hiccups started. Uncontrollable. I couldn’t rest because of them. For days, every 20 seconds. And the staff all but laughed when I asked if there was something they could do about it. They did say to hold my breath or drink from the wrong side of the glass.

Lack of Trust

So I had a trust issue with this team. Some of the doctors included the same team that performed the surgery. I was in the same hospital that sent me home from the ER only to return the next night. And the physicians were telling me one thing but the staff something else.

On the 3rd night, I moved into a standard room. It was tiny, with a slit of a window positioned in the wrong corner so you couldn’t see out of it. I think Johnny Cash “heard a whistle blowing” through that window that allowed no “sunshine since I don’t know when.” It was depressing.

I assured my family it would be OK for me in that room. But after they left, I had a lot of time (between the hiccups) to think. Am I dying? What will happen to my family if I do? And I resigned myself to trust God to work out whatever my family needed, whether I make it or not.

Get Out NOW

About 2 am, I heard His response. It was so jarring when I heard it, but gentle at the same time. “Bill, you’re the project. This leadership team doesn’t know what to do. Get out of there before they kill you.”

All of a sudden, it made sense. God speaks to you in the language you understand. God was making it known that He was not done with me yet. Let that sink in a bit. I knew I was going to make it. In addition, He was reminding me that when project leaders do not know the way, the project always fails. And if I am the project…with this leadership team, I was going to die. Change the team NOW.

But I’m in a hospital bed with 6 IVs. I can’t just walk out. Somehow I had to get out.

I texted my wife, Kimberly. It was about 2:00 am. She was up trying to research everything she could. I told her to get me out and, they’re going to kill me if I don’t get out of there.

She contacted the hospital immediately and initiated the request for a transfer. We asked to transfer to either of two hospitals in Lexington and eventually got accepted into Good Samaritan, which is part of the University of Kentucky. It took until 6 pm to get the transfer on the road.

I would spend the next 2+ weeks at Good Sam.

Now I refer to this transfer from the local hospital to Good Samaritan as the time I fired the hospital.

A New Team, A New Vision

At Good Sam, they did the opposite of everything the previous hospital had done. They outlined a plan to me within an hour of my arrival and stuck to that plan throughout the stay. They took the fluid off (which required countless trips to the bathroom). They treated the hiccups (and replaced it with bathroom trips). And they paid attention to everything.

Between both hospitals I went probably a 10 days without any food. For a time, the only liquid was through the IVs.

The Damage is Done

Kimberly did not share her research with me until later. She found, among other things, an article called “The Atlanta Classification for Acute Pancreatitis.” This article outlined mortality rates for Walled Off Necrosis and explained that the best treatment is not to treat it. Any effort to drain the necrotic material risks infection. And because there are no surviving blood vessels through the necrotic material, there is no way to get antibiotics to treat any infection.

The damage to my pancreas is severe. 70% of it has been liquified – a condition called Walled Off Necrosis. I became a type 3c diabetic, insulin-dependent and requiring digestive enzymes.

The Importance of Kindness

Dr. Calder was finishing up his residency at UK that month. I was one of his last patients before he finished. Several times, he wheeled me out of my room and ate lunch with me. I still get emotional thinking about that simple kindness.

I finally made it out of the hospital. I walked around the yard. Then twice around the yard. Eventually, I returned to work.

I lost another 20 pounds after leaving the hospital. So that means I lost 30 over three months before the surgery, gained 30 in two days, lost 30 in 2 weeks, then lost an additional 20 over the next two months. Now that I’m diabetic, I do not try the Keto diet. That does not mean I’m against that diet, just that my organs already have some extra strain so I choose to be more normal.

The Importance of Community

But the obstacles were not done. Every demon tries to kick you one last time as it is banished.

Back in May, just before the surgery that started all this, several people were let go from work. Our staff of Business Analysts was cut from six, counting the director, to three. About two weeks after returning, I also was released.

One of my friends, Richard, who had been released in May, provided me contacts for jobs he had worked. So, I landed a new job without missing a paycheck.

Between my family, Dr. Calder, the staff at Good Sam, and Richard, I owe so many people so much.

Full Recovery

When you look at me now I look and act as healthy as most people. I have more energy than most. My mind is sharp. The only difference is that I must know how many carbs I am eating so that I know how much insulin to take. As long as I know, like most diabetics, I can eat what I want. With that in mind, I also have to know if my blood glucose is high or low, so I can adjust my insulin dosage accordingly.

If you see me jittery, that means I’m running a bit low and I need something with sugar in it. I have a built in excuse for junk food. But really the best thing is 100% juice with the sugar.

At the beginning of this article I talked about how this medical event changed everything. Since the medical event:

  • I started taking the stairs at lunch. In December 2018, I was able to climb up to 21 stories. Not bad considering the building was only seven stories, and I could barely walk around the yard in June 2018. No one else was doing that in the building.
  • I understand how viewing things through a project lens can illuminate the need for change. I believe God used my project oriented mind to save my life. If you think that is exaggeration, then read this again.
  • I am grateful for simple things. I do not want anything fancy at all. I just want things to work. Simplicity is the key to abundant living.
  • I’ve completed my AAC certification from IIBA and my PSM-1 certification from Scrum.org. And I’m currently working toward Salesforce Administrator. This is on top of my CBAP certification from IIBA.
  • I’ve developed a course to teach AAC certification to other Business Analysts. The course has caused ripple effects in my local IIBA chapter, causing a change in approach to other certification courses. (See, this article is relevant to Agile Analysis).
  • I started this website, and in doing so, I taught myself WordPress and took some courses on writing. Related to that, I revisited a course on Web Development.
  • I’m working to improve family relationships that were damaged through my neglect back when I was fat.
  • I have convinced my family about changes we all need to make for long term financial stability.
  • I am always aware of my health. I’m not obsessive about it. But I have to test between four and six times each day, inject insulin with meals and bedtime, and take enzymes with meals. With that kind of regimen, it is impossible not to be aware.
  • I realize the importance of being your own health advocate. I know that you must make people listen when it comes to your health. I’ll never know how much less damage there would have been if the ER admitted me the first time. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FIRE THE HOSPITAL. I DID.
  • I have had a personal revival of faith. Although I had never walked away from my faith, I had gone through the motions there for too long. I am currently reading the Bible through for the second time since the medical event, this time my goal is in 4 months. And by reading larger sections at a time, I am making connections that I had missed before.
  • I am constantly listening to podcasts that inspire and educate me toward goals I am attaining. My favorite is ChooseFI, which I’ve binged in it’s entirety, and talks about everything, not just finances. Between that, my family and my faith, I consider this one of my major sources of motivation.

I’ve been told to never make more or less than three points. I just blew up that rule. That’s twelve different areas of improvement in about 18 months.

Summing it up. I no longer neglect my family relationships, my faith, my health or my career. I thought I was taking care of family and career before. Now I am seeing how much more I can and will do on all fronts.

Do I want my pancreas back? You bet. Am I better off now than before? If that is still in question, then read the last section again. Because…

Obstacles are there to make you better in all areas of your life.

If there is anything to take away from this story, I hope it is one of these three ideas.

  • Simplicity is the key to abundant living.
  • Be a vocal advocate for your own health, even if it means overriding what professionals say. Don’t be afraid to “Fire the Hospital” if you have to.
  • Obstacles are there to make you better in all areas of your life.