Articles on CoP & CoE

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<p>Establishing a Business Analyst Community of PracticeI want it. I have to have it. What is it? Its commonly agreed that its good to floss, eat plenty of fruit and have a Business Analysis Community of Practice. So why there is no common industry definition of what a BA CoP is, what it does, and how to protect it from cost-saving initiatives?</p> <p>Definitions Since BA Center of Excellence and BA Community of Practice are often used interchangeably, lets look at the background and use of these terms. 1) Center of Excellence Although Center of Excellence has entered the corporate vocabulary, its origins had more to do with marketing than with excellence. Hamilton and Fisher write, The term Center of Excellence first came into general use in 1991 when the Centers for Medicare &amp; Medicaid Services (CMS) started its Medicare Participating Heart Bypass Center Demonstration project. Initially, designation as a Center of Excellence had nothing to do with providing excellent health care; instead it described hospitals participating in the project, which had lowering health care costs as a primary goal. (http://www2.aaos.org/aaos/archives/bulletin/feb06/fline8.asp) Center of Excellence has been discharged from a purely hospital setting, and is now in very wide use, wandering around the corridors of private and public bureaucracies, with no name-tag or precise definition attached. Center of Excellence has come full circle to where it began: a self-designated title, not a description of functions, activities or purpose.</p> <p>2) Community of Practice The term Community of Practice has a richer definition and substance. Its origins are in the anthropological study of apprenticeships as learning models. Etienne Wenger states, Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems - in short a shared practice. (http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm.) Because it has both provenance and meaning, I will use Community of Practice in this series of articles.</p> <p>What does a BA Community of Practice imply? A Champion A champion is a tireless, ceaseless promoter, advocate and doer. Optimally, he must be someone on a senior level within an organization. No champion, no CoP.</p> <p>A Core Group Advisors, who help with start-up, planning, organization and dissemination. This includes setting up monthly meetings, maintaining a shared intranet or SharePoint site, creating agendas, presentations and training materials.</p> <p>Alignment and Awareness Internally: with the IT Organization, PMO, SDLC, IT and Business Strategies. Externally: with the BABoK, BA Methodology and emerging industry trends.</p> <p>Apprenticeship What the new need to know, but the old withhold. Cohesiveness The CoP is the picnic table, bringing together physical and virtual teams from a variety of projects. It is where the babes can come out the woods, and munch their lunch as one.</p> <p>Community Business analysts and the people who love them. This can include PMs, Developers, Architects, program managers, SMEs, sponsors and organizational leadership.</p> <p>Curiosity Passion, excitement and inquisitiveness. This is a much more fundamental driver than career development.</p> <p>Expertise If BAs could lift their eyes briefly from their oars, and close their ears to the sound of the cracking whip, theyd realize that along with their project skills, they have deep expertise in: Analysis Collating massive amounts of information Communication Creativity Facilitation</p> <p>Organization Problem solving Thinking (critically endangered, and perhaps close to extinction)</p> <p>What if these tools could be used to solve organizational, economic and social problems? At least youd stop rowing.</p> <p>Leaders The senior point-people. They act as mentors, trainers and creators of the BA Toolkit. They are often a subset of the Core Group.</p> <p>Learning by doing Show me, dont tell me. This is best done by collaboration: web meetings, job shadowing and mentoring.</p> <p>Looking outside I call the conventional requirements tools and templates the BA Armada. There is an enormous amount to be gained from incorporating tools, techniques and approaches from other disciplines, including: Lean Six Sigma Systems Thinking Process Consulting</p> <p>Alan Weiss wrote, Organizations tend to be extremely introspective and self-centered. They fail to consider the competition, consumer trends, economic developments, technological improvements, and so on. Find those outside influences that may have the greatest effect on the success or failure of current strategy and offer suggestions on how to avoid, escape, tolerate, or exploit such external factors. (Organizational Consulting, Wiley &amp; Sons, 2003)</p> <p>Mentoring This can be done by the BA Leaders, or by consultants external to an organization. Either way, its helpful to have the consulting mindset: an objective advisor, a trusted expert. Participation Opportunities to create and teach, to learn and share. We can also call this a BA Community of Participation. How do we get people to participate? We give them things they want to learn.</p> <p>Purpose The mission of a BA CoP and its ramifications: Having projects run smoothly, efficiently and successfully. High quality requirements packages, that are genuinely useful to both business SMEs and developers.</p> <p>BAs who can think, and ultimately become enterprise and strategic business analysts, contributing to, shaping and redesigning their organizations.</p> <p>Shared Spaces This implies several things: Shared storage spaces: an intranet or SharePoint site. Shared knowledge: y y y y y y y BA Toolkit BA Playbook Templates Guidelines Project examples of artifacts in use Case studies Industry references</p> <p>Shared technology, which can include tools used for: y y y y y modeling prototyping requirements QA versioning</p> <p>Regularly scheduled meetings where people present ask questions and come together as a community. Shared training ensuring a level skill set, and shared understanding of BA methodology.</p> <p>Stability The BA CoP must be immune from constantly shifting organizational sands. It can't get lost in annual reorganizations and realignments. It shouldnt get disassembled as the BAs are buffeted between Business and IT, like kittens scampering from one side of the house to another. It has to be stable, and be afforded sufficient senior level protection.</p> <p>Standards The IIBA has done a profound service to all business analysts. Having industry standards for BA tasks, techniques and knowledge areas has definitively raised the profile of business analysis within organizations.</p> <p>BA CoP Quick Start Guide Part 1 of this series examined the components a BA CoP should optimally include. This article sets out the first four steps that must be taken in order to establish a successful BA CoP.</p> <p>STEP 1: The Champion The Champion is the RACI driver - Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. The Champion is in charge of getting the BA CoP up and running, and lending their guidance in the background once the CoP is established. Having a Champion is a mandatory first step. Who can be a Champion? 1. An existing BA leader. 2. A Senior IT or business leader who has a background in Business Analysis. 3. A group of senior BAs acting in this capacity, and providing redundancy: if one moves to another business unit or geographic location, the BA CoP still has continuity. What does the Champion do? Defines and shapes the direction of the CoP. Helps market the CoP internally. Participates in most CoP meetings. Gathers leadership support. Reports on CoP metrics. Encourages participation from all areas of the organization.</p> <p>It is not a good idea to "delegate" a Champion, or have an Executive Sponsor "stand in" as Champion. The role requires a high degree of participation, consistency and supervision. No Champion, no CoP.</p> <p>STEP 2: The Value Proposition to the Organization of starting a CoP It's crucial to get organizational buy-in early in the process of establishing a BA CoP. You must communicate the benefits to your organization: "The only true value is the value of changed, improved, or 1 somehow altered results." In other words, increased sales, lower project costs, higher customer satisfaction and better quality are the ultimate purpose . . . not more templates, process and Methodologie du jour. Garcia and Dorohovich write in The Truth about Building and Maintaining Successful Communities of Practice, "Potential members and business leaders expect CoPs to support real business needs prior to investing their own time and organizational resources to support the communities. If CoPs are properly implemented, benefits to the organization are faster and better-informed decision-making and a workforce 2 that has access to knowledge at the point of need." Garcia and Dorohovich state that a CoP also: Facilitates the rapid identification of individuals with specific knowledge/skills Fosters knowledge sharing across organizational boundaries Provides a safe environment to share problems, challenges, and test new ideas Facilitates collaboration across different time zones Fosters innovation (within and across organizational boundaries)</p> <p>Reduces learning curves for new employees Fosters interaction between new/more junior employees and senior/more experienced practitioners Facilitates the building of mentor-protg relationships</p> <p>Beyond the general business problems your BA CoP will focus on, does your organization have specific enterprise, program or project issues that must be addressed? For instance: Introduction of a new SDLC, BA or Development Methodology Reorganization or realignment (for instance, BAs moving from IT to a Business area) Mergers, acquisitions or new strategic directions Changes in technology Inconsistent BA processes, standards or methodology Poor communication or facilitation Unacceptable documentation Missed requirements Disconnection with SMEs, PMs, developers or QA</p> <p>Are there business and project problems that can be clearly attributed to a lack of BA skills? </p> <p>You will be much more likely to get senior-level support if you can show how a BA CoP addresses specific enterprise issues.</p> <p>STEP 3: The Initial Project Plan Create an initial estimate of size, scope and timeframe for your BA CoP. Lay out the high level steps that need to be taken, including: 1) Defining Community size and location(s) How many BAs are in your organization? Where are your BAs located organizationally and geographically? What is the potential audience size for a BA CoP?</p> <p>2) Establishing Roles and Responsibilities BA Leaders. They make up the Core Group and can serve as: Content creators Meeting Facilitators Mentors Presenters SMEs Subject Matter Experts Trainers Webmasters or admins</p> <p>Executive Sponsors</p> <p>Business and IT (helpful to have sponsors on both sides of the aisle) Economic and political ($ and senior-level protection) Business Leads Consultants Developers Junior BAs Project Managers Six Sigma/Quality/Continuous Improvement groups Trainers Does material exist, or will it need to be created? y y y y y BA Toolkit Specific templates and guidelines Project examples of templates in use Introducing new processes or methodologies Training materials</p> <p>Audience - Allies and Impacted Groups </p> <p>3) Creating Content </p> <p>Who will create, update and manage the content? Audience Size Possible Dates Sample Agendas Potential Meeting locations y y Physical (conference room) On-line (for large numbers of geographically dispersed BAs)</p> <p>4) Holding Monthly Sessions </p> <p>Workshops Outside speakers Lunch and learns</p> <p>5) Assessing Technology needs SharePoint or shared drive space Webinars or NetMeetings Conference lines Evaluation, licensing or training on Software: y y Requirements Modeling</p> <p>y y</p> <p>Workflow Testing</p> <p>STEP 4: The Leadership Presentation Internal marketing is an often overlooked, but essential component of engaging key stakeholders. Along with the value of having a BA CoP, a presentation should demonstrate several ways that a BA CoP can immediately benefit your organization: 1. Better requirements - which lead to efficient projects, less rework and reduced costs. 2. Up-to-date skill sets - which result in higher quality deliverables, better communication and happier customers. 3. Industry standard practices - just as "interoperability" is the buzzword in Health - IT, BAs should have a standard and "portable" skill set. They should be able to function anywhere in an organization. 4. Alignment with the PMO and SDLC - one of the most common flaws of BA CoPs is lack of alignment and connection to upstream (PM) and downstream (Development) activities. Interfacing with PMs and Development early in the BA CoP's set-up will ensure smooth communication and more efficient projects in the future. 5. Closer partnership between IT and Business - the Shangri-La of all corporate planning. Always envisioned, but rarely achieved. 6. Having BAs who can function on an enterprise and strategic level - BAs who can think and innovate. The ability to think is the rarest and most highly prized commodity in the corporate world: valuable due to its scarcity. This is of inestimable use to an organization. A presentation to your organization's leaders should provide a high-level description of: 1. The BA CoP's potential activities 2. Interfacing groups: y y y y y y SharePoint or Intranet Team PMs Training PMO/Governance/SDLC Business leads Developers</p> <p>Estimated audience size Location of materials and anticipated content Communication Plan Tasks, timelines, milestones and deadlines Initial resource needs Estimated start up costs Next steps, including y y A Core Planning Workshop (required attendees, location, agenda) Scheduled meetings (dates and locations)</p> <p>y</p> <p>Status reports and success measurements.</p> <p>Why BA CoP's fail: 10 things to watch out for Understanding why BA CoPs fail is an essential part of strategic planning. If you can identify the gaps in your own organization, you will be in a much better position to put a plan in place to "Mind the Gap." This article will look at 10 common reasons why BA CoPs fail.</p> <p>Problem 1: Leadership (or the lack thereof) The wrong Champion BA CoPs fail when a Champion wants to have a CoP for cosmetic reasons. They feel having a CoP will make them look good within their organization, but they are not personally invested in its survival. Remember that it's not a good idea to "delegate" a Champion, or have an Executive Sponsor "stand in" as Champion. The Champion role requires a high degree of participation, consistency and supervision. The wrong CoP leader or CoP leadership team Finding the right person to be the CoP leade...</p>