3 December 2008

C.R.A.C.K. Requirements managers

Call in the S.W.O.T. team, we have a C.R.A.C.K. addict in the blogging community...

Dear B.A. readers

As our 'user representatives' you need to be a CRACK Business analyst.

Researchers (Barry Boehm no less) have looked at what makes the difference between effective projects and failed projects across many dimensions. One particularly relevant one is the personal attributes of the requirements manager.

What is most important and how do they break down into tangible things?

Collaborative -You work as a team member with both user groups and the development team. You are a boundary spanner and work across organisational boundaries.
Representative - You are genuinely representation the best interests of your (real) customers, and they know it. They have given you authority to represent them, not just at a formal level but at a personal level.
Accountable - You are willing to stand by your decisions, but you are also willing to wear the consequences of your mistakes.
Committed - You want the project to succeed to the degree you are willing to work beyond the requirements of the job description.
Knowledgeable - you have sufficient knowledge of the development process, of the customer domain and of good business practice generally, and this is sufficient to help you make on the spot decisions without having to refer all questions upline to frontline users or customers. This usually takes some sort of ongoing market research to establish and maintain.
Sure we can joke about the acronym, but take a look at what is needed to be effective as a customer representative these days.

It is likely you have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. It's worth collaborating with your friends in the IT team and in business units to help augment or develop any weak spots.

Further reading @ Tyner Blain under the ever so droll heading of "Crack users are addictive!"

Photo by eqqman CC @ Flickr


  1. Greetings,

    Business Analysts (at least in the US) are typically employed by the IT department and act as the liaison between "the user" and the IT department. One could say that they are translators of a sort.

    However I find exception to using that title in that type of function. A business analyst should be responsible for analyzing the business. There are many Business Intelligence tools available on the market but their usefulness is limited. They are a postmortem on activities that have already transpired and don’t provide the context needed to make informed decisions.

    Here is what I think a business analyst should be doing: analyzing whether the business' high-level goals can be achieved and the existing strategies executed given the design of the business and the competitive environment in which it exists. Now that is business analysis.

    Up to this point people have been able to set goals, develop new strategies and do an environment assessment. What they have lacked is a documented business design which would identify any performance constraints. Every person reading this comment should realize that just because you set a goal does not mean it can be achieved. And just as true is the fact that just because you create a strategy does not mean it can be executed. I can give you plenty of examples of unachievable goals and strategies that can’t be executed. Setting unattainable goals and creating meaningless strategies are harmful.

    There is now a process that can document the design of a business in only 4 - 6 weeks. That design can be used and should be used to do actual business analysis. Check out www.stankirkwood.com and www.businessdesignconcepts.com to learn more about business designs.

    Stan Kirkwood

  2. You're a kindred spirit Stan.

  3. Oh yeah, 'Business Analyst' is a rotten title, its merits (or lack of them) discussed many times. However, it has seemed to have stuck to those of us who work in the analysis/requirements sphere of IT projects. I suppose it came to be in order to differentiate the role from Systems Analysts.

    As for those people involved in analysis of business operations and results, people using BI tools and the like, I am not sure if they were using the title before after IT grabbed it. If you go back far enough, you had people who did efficiency studies, and time & motion studies.

    As for CRACK, I like to be as Knowledgeable as I can about a domain when I do requirements for it, but the resulting requirements belong to the business people who I elicitated them from, not me, and any changes have to be approved by them. If you make a decision for them, and it turns out to be wrong, that's not good.

  4. David,

    Have you joined the IIBA? They are in the process of finalizing their version of the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge). Seems to be a growing organization and one where you can receive a certification - again alongs the lines of PMP - Project Management Professional.

    Perhaps "that ship has sailed" when it comes to getting the BA title changed in IT. Probably too many people have too much invested to have them use a more descriptive term.

    More than 20 years ago I was a Systems Analyst. I am not certain what the difference is between BA and SA. Where I worked my responsibilities are what you described - working directly with the user of the system to gather requirements and make changes to the system to enable those requirements. (Testing, version control, movement into production, training,...). That was quite a few years ago and several languages.

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  6. Craig,

    I too, am addicted to CRACK. I find that is leads to greater job security in these tough economic times.

    I've also found is that the only way to stand out is to be able to do projects that bring a company immediate and real value. And its not enough to simply talk the talk, you have to walk the walk (or bring the CRACK).

    The Project Management Professional certification is the one credential that can help you get in doors fast. I know that people who have gone through
    Cheetah Learning to get PMP certified say that it has helped them get jobs and the other courses they took through cheetah to maintain their PMP helped them keep their jobs.

    Even if you can't take one of their courses right now, Cheetah has some great free downloads
    that you should check out at http://tinyurl.com/freepmtools.

    Thank you Craig for the always insightful blog posts.

    Kristen Kent