Business Analysis Learning Techniques

Business Analysis is the discipline of understanding the requirements inside a business and to establish the apposite solution for the same. The solution can involve strategic changes in the organization and its policies. A business analyst is spoilt for choices when it comes to selecting the various techniques in their armoury. The techniques used have a dependency on the nature of the problem and its scope but the most common ones which serve an array of problems are listed below:

  1. MOST

    It is an internal analysis technique which involves four attributes defined by the analyst to track the progress of a project. The attributes are Mission of the project, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics.

  2. PESTLE

    It is an external analysis technique designed to scrutinize the external elements which influence a business or its operations. The six major traits of this technique are: Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental.

  3. CATWOE

    This technique encourages critical thinking about the business. It involves six traits viz. Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner and Environmental Constraints.

  4. SWOT

    This technique deals with both the internal and external factors having an effect on business. The major traits are Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

  5. The Five Whys

    This technique helps in reaching out to the root cause of all problems within the business.

In today’s world of cut throat competition, a successful business is impossible without understanding the customers. Consumer preferences are changing frequently and the business should have a clear idea of the expectations. Effective Project Management involves User Involvement, Executive Manager Support and Clear understanding of the requirements. The role of a business analyst is to provide an edge over the peers of the organization. A successful project involves modelling, systemic thinking, innovating, communicating and other analytical skills. Business analysis and Project management act as the two most important pillars of any organization.

5 Things Microsoft plans to keep aloof from Customers

Microsoft is trying to inch closer towards cloud by shoring up other money makers like Windows 8, Office 365 and other client based products. The plans from Redmond are concealed from public and the company prefers not to talk about the following 5 things:

  1. Emphasis on Windows Azure- The enterprise grade Cloud Platform:

    Windows Cloud Platform exposes you to a myriad of options making release experience exquisite. Flexibility to build, deploy and manage applications along with facilities of load balancing, automatic OS and service patching and resiliency to hardware failure makes Azure a winner.

  2. Business model to target Consumers:

    Windows RT which is the ARM based version of Windows on tablets doesn’t provide the same manageability features as 32-bit and 64-bit versions but the power efficient tablets are useful in difficult environments. The Metro interface has not gone well with entrepreneurs because it would involve UI training for its employees.

  3. Microsoft is favouring Pro-Windows decisions:

    Decision to stultify Visual Studio Express from producing any standard Windows application amazed everyone. Fortunately the decision was later reversed but it clearly proved once again that the decisions at Redmond are favouring Windows.

  4. Windows 7 is a rock solid upgrade over Win XP:

    The transition from Windows XP to Windows 7 is underway in most of the organizations at a time when Microsoft is planning to launch its latest OS, Windows 8. Market is not comfortable with another upgrade because it will involve a lot of training costs. Windows 8 boasts of some of the unique features like Windows To Go, a faster boot sequence and better Bit Locker support, but yet falls short of convincing entrepreneurs for a switch from Windows 7.

  5. The road ahead is blurred:

    Microsoft knows that they are running a marathon and not a sprint. Hence, the road ahead looks fuzzy and their moves are kept secret so that when the products are unleashed in the market, the brouhaha around it can be converted into sales.

Microsoft faces innumerable problems and only time can tell if their mammoth experience and solid vision can take them through.

30
Jul 2012
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5 secrets that Microsoft doesn’t want to share

Microsoft is reshaping its business objectives by moving into new territories. From its new client operating system Windows 8 which will be available from October 26, the focus has suddenly shifted to its flexible Windows Azure Cloud services. There are 5 secrets which Microsoft prefers not to share with you or your Chief Information Officer.

  1. Cloud services offers you first class release experience:

    As more and more enterprises are moving towards the cloud, there is a growing demand for Microsoft’s expertise in delivering world class products. The next version of SharePoint will be first in cloud and later in the premises. Cloud based Office 365 is easy to set up and use with options to work anywhere at lower costs.

  2. Microsoft yearns to become a Pro-Consumer business:

    Tablets powered with ARM-based processors i.e. Windows RT will be a new terrain for Microsoft where it will compete with iPad and Android tablets. This step is seen as a measure to woo customers by providing power efficient devices. There have been a lot of changes made to the user interface of Windows 8. It has tried to ape the Metro interface of the tablet rather than the desktop UI.

  3. Windows client calls the shots at Microsoft:

    Visual Studio express was planned to be restricted for developing only Metro-style applications for tablets and Win 8. Luckily, the decision was reversed. Basically the instructions are loud and clear which says that the applications should be created to suit consumer products powered by Windows.

  4. Windows 7 is a success and apt up gradation over Windows XP:

    Win 7 has been accepted at the enterprise level and it looks highly unlikely that the companies will be comfortable to make another shift to Windows 8. Although, Windows 8 owns few nice features like faster boot sequence and better Bit Locker, still it doesn’t justify a transition from Win 7.

  5. A muzzy roadmap lies ahead:

    The efforts to mimic Apple and keeping things concealed from the customers in order to cash on the buzz and euphoria surrounding its product is no more working for Microsoft.

Microsoft is facing a plethora of issues and it calls for a committed effort in order to come off with flying colours. It’s a matter of time until things become clearer.

23
Jul 2012
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The Organic Project Manager

By Steven Macdessi

Whenever we define the duties of a project manager then we simply say that he is the one who plans, organizes and controls the resources required for completing a project successfully but have you ever thought about the human nature of a project manager?  Apart from planning, controlling and leading, a project manager should also behave humanly with his team. Although, it seems a little thing but it has a great impact on the working and efficiency of all the team members.

 

Project Manager Should Remember the Human Element

Team work is the essence of a project management. A project manager have to work efficiently in a team environment and this can only be done by keeping in mind the human element of his personality. By a human element, I mean to say that he should do planning, organizing and leading by keeping in mind that being a human being his team members may have some limitations. I have personally seen various project managers who make unpractical strategies that are impossible to achieve. This not only increases stress and de motivation among the team members but also decreases their efficiency.

Thinking and Acting on Human Grounds

Now when we have come to the point that it is very important for a project manager to behave humanly then the next question arises that how can a project manager think and act on human grounds? Following are some the things by doing so you can ensure a good humanly relationship with you team.

Understanding the Problems of Team Members

The most important thing you need to do is, understanding the problems of your team members as it will increase their confidence. You need to understand their personal as well as professional problems that may create hindrance in their work. By doing so, your employees will feel honored and happy on getting so much importance.

Know About the Psyche of Team Members

If you actually want to get your required results within minimum time then you need to know the psyche of every team member so that you may treat them according to their nature. You may divide your team members on the basis of their personality. Every person has specific skills and abilities and you have to take benefit from those skills. This is only possible when you know about your team members in depth.

Be Practical

The stamina of every person is different from the others. If one person can perform any task within 30 minutes then it is not necessary that the other person will also do it within the same time. You should divide the job tasks according to the working capacity of every individual. Setting an impractical goal has more harms then benefits. You should have a practical approach towards everything.

Good Communication

The success of a project mainly depends on an effective communication so being a project manager; you should have excellent communication skills. Instead of using a third mean, you should directly communicate with all your team members as it will decrease the chances of any misunderstanding about the project.

 

Encourage the Team Members

An efficient project manager is the one who encourages his team members to share their ideas and thoughts for improving the whole process. It has two benefits. Firstly, it will increase the confidence of team members and secondly it will help you to get innovative ideas.

Avoid Bossy Attitude

By a bossy attitude, I mean that you should not misuse your power against the team members. Some of the project managers force the team members to follow their decisions without listening to them. You should avoid doing so.

Taking Risks in Project Management

Risk is always a part of doing business. Whether it is deciding to move manufacturing operations to another country or pursuing a television advertising rather than print, every decision carries a risk. The key to emerging from problems relatively unscratched is risk management. In this article, we’ll take a look at your options:

Contingency planning

Basically, this option entails having a Plan B or a “just in case” plan. If you have a good contingency plan, you’ve already significantly minimised the risk if something goes wrong in the original plan. For example, choosing a preferred supplier is one thing but it is also important to have the contact details of other suppliers who offer the same product even if they charge slightly higher rate.

Risk Mitigation

If it is possible to reduce risk, it is important to do so. Risk mitigation involves making a judgment based on the probability of success of failure of a project. This method also foresees the consequences for the project or company if something goes wrong. It can be the loss of time, loss of money, or loss of manpower. Risk mitigation tries to minimise the losses associated with these.

Risk Monitoring

Having an adequate system that tracks risks probability can be highly beneficial. In order to be effective though, the system should also be flexible enough to evaluate the probability at different stages of the project. Monitoring entails accepting a level of deviation from the initial plan; in essence, the project manager determines whether the variance is acceptable.

31
Aug 2011
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Methods of Being Organised at Work

Majority of people will tell you that being organised is one of the most difficult challenges they face. Procrastination, excuses, and lack of priority are just some of the reasons why people fail to organise their work and even their life. Fortunately, there are methods that can help you stay focused and complete the tasks at hand.

  • Plan – once you know which tasks have to be given priority, the next step is to plan on how to accomplish these. This involves getting all the necessary resources including team members, tools, and equipment for the task to push through.
  • Delegate – if you’re in a position to delegate, do it. Routine tasks can be handled by your subordinates, which will give you time to think, strategise, and focus on the things that really matter.
  • Set Deadlines – this is especially important in project management. Whatever task you’re working on, having a deadline will ensure that the project will be completed with some time to spare.

People with certain personalities, especially the creative types, may sometimes lack organisational skills. With these tips though, it shouldn’t be a hindrance in letting you achieve your potential.

29
Aug 2011
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Project Cost Management

By Steven Macdessi

Project Cost Management includes the processes involved in estimating, budgeting and controlling costs so that the project can be completed within the approved budget. The budget is the most important single measure of project performance, and in the end, schedule and quality are reducible to budget. The briefing and design process carried out during the Scope Management process of the project effectively sets the budget.

The reduction of uncertainty through time has an important effect on the project budgets. Budget estimates made early in the project life cycle are relatively inaccurate compared to those made later as more information becomes available regarding the precise work to be done and the current market level of prices.

The Project Cost Management process includes the following:
1. Estimate Costs – The process of developing an approximation of the monetary resources needed to complete project activities;

2. Determine Budget – The process of aggregating the estimates costs of individual activities or work packages to establish an authorized cost baseline; and

3. Control Costs – The process of monitoring the status of the project to update the project budget and managing changes to the cost baseline.

These processes in practice may overlap and interact with each other as well as with other project management processes. On some projects, especially ones of smaller scope, cost estimating and cost budgeting are so tightly linked that they are viewed as a single process that can be performed by a single person over a relatively short period of time.

1. ESTIMATE COSTS
Estimate Costs is the process of developing an approximation of the monetary resources needed to complete project activities. Cost estimates are a prediction that is based on the information known at a given point in time. The reduction of uncertainty through time has an important effect on project budget estimates. Budget estimates made early in the project life cycle are relatively inaccurate compared to those made later as more information becomes available regarding both the precise work to be done and the current market level of prices.

Estimate Costs – Inputs
The following information is generally required for formulating project estimate costs:
Scope Statement (refer to Scope Management lecture notes);
Work Breakdown Structure (refer to WBS lecture notes);
Project Schedule – the type and quantity of resources and the amount of time which those resources are applied to complete the work of the project;
Human Resource Plan – project staffing attributes, personnel rates and related rewards/recognition;
Risks – can be either threats or opportunities that typically have an impact on both activity and overall project costs;
Enterprise Environmental Factors – Market Conditions (regional and/or global supply an demand conditions) and Published Commercial Information (resource cost rate from commercial databases);
Organizational Process Assets – Cost estimating policies, cost estimating templates, historical information and lessons learned.

Estimate Costs – Tools and Techniques
Expert Judgment – guided by historical information, provides valuable insight about the environment and information from prior similar projects;
Analogous Estimating (Unit Rate) – uses values of parameters from a previous, similar project as the basis for estimating the same parameter or measure for a current project (eg scope, cost, budget, size, duration). Used when there is limited amount of detailed project information. This process generally less costly and less time consuming than other techniques, but also less accurate;
Parametric Estimating (Ratio Analysis) – Uses a statistical relationship between historical data and other variables to calculate an estimate. For example, construction costs at $2,000/m2;
Bottom-Up Estimating (Bill of Quantities) – method of estimating components of work or activities with the greatest level of specific detail;
Reserve Analysis – Cost estimates include a contingency allowance to account for cost uncertainty;
Cost of Quality – Assumptions about costs of quality may be used to prepare the activity cost estimate;
Three Point Estimates – Provide a three point cost estimate between a ‘best case’ scenario (pessimistic), a ‘worst case’ scenario (optimistic) and most likely (mode or central estimate) outcome. Uncertainty is progressively reduced through time as more information is acquired:
Trade Input – Approach the market to provide quotations for work packages. Depending on the level of information and documentation available (scope) will influence the accuracy of the quotes received.
Project Management Estimating Software – Project management estimating software applications, spreadsheets, simulation and statistical tools are becoming more widely accepted to assist with cost estimating. Such tools can simplify the use of some cost estimating techniques and thereby facilitate rapid construction of cost estimate alternatives.

Estimate Costs – Outputs
Cost Estimates – The quantitative assessment of the probable costs for all activities required to complete the project work.
Basis of Estimates – The amount and type of additional details supporting the cost estimate. Eg, documentation used, assumptions made, known constraints, exclusions.

2. DETERMINE BUDGET
Determine Budget is the process of aggregating the estimates costs of the individual activities of work packages to establish an authorized cost baseline. A Budget is a quantitative expression of management’s plans. Both implicitly and explicitly it represents the intentions and objectives of management to all levels of the organization and provides a vehicle for monitoring the implementation of plans. It enables management to assess the adherence of individuals and organizational components to the goals stipulated in the plan and thereby to provide a quantitative basis for measuring and rewarding individual and departmental performance.

Basic Features of a Budget
1. A budget will reflect a financial plan, which in turn reflects the goals set by senior management for their organization,
2. A budget will be expressed in time phased and measurable terms with specific elements of work so that performance along the way can be determined,
3. All individual elements of the organization will be aware of their portion of the overall grand budget,
4. Performance against budgets will be monitored by management and reviewed periodically with each organizational segment.
5. Good and/or bad performance against approved budgets will be rewarded and/or disciplined by management.

Contingency
The provision of amounts in a budget so as to provide for the inclusion and subsequent costing of an activity, that can not be accurately pre-assessed, or estimated, using any other formal manner. A “guessed” allowance that will require the input of management in establishing the cost/s incurred in executing that activity at a later date

Cost Performance Baseline
The cost performance baseline is an authorised time-phased budget at completion (BAC) used to measure, monitor and control overall cost performance on the project. It is developed as a summation of the approved budgets by time period and is typically displayed in the form of an S-curve.

3. CONTROL COSTS
Control Costs is the process of monitoring the status of the project to update the project budget and managing changes to the cost baseline.

Project cost controls include:
Influencing the factors that create changes to the authorised cost baseline;
Ensuring that all change requests (variations) ar acted on in a timely manner;
Managing the actual changes when and as they occur;
Ensuring that cost expenditures do not exceed the authorised funding, by period and in total for the project;
Monitoring cost performance to isolate and understand variances from the approved cost baseline; and
Monitoring work performance against funds expended.

Cost to Complete
Identifying areas of future risk with the intent of eliminating them so as to more accurately predict the cost outcome.

REFERENCES

1. PMI (2008), A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), 4th Ed, Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, PA.

Project Management

A brief video by Steven Macdessi, Project Manager.