Author Archives: Geri Schneider Winters

About Geri Schneider Winters

Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Why is Software so Awful to Use? A Case Study and Call to Action.

Why are apps, websites, software, and other products still not very nice to use? We’ve spent more than a decade as an industry focusing on user experience, and yet I consistently find myself frustrated with the miserable experiences I have doing the simplest things on websites, in apps, in other software, and using a variety of consumer products.

I just went through a miserable experience trying to update an airline reservation. I won’t mention which airline because despite their really awful website (let me fix it, please, please, please) I love the company and in real life (not the web) my interactions with them are superior. Bear with me as I describe my experience (or see my conclusion at the bottom).

I found my reservation easily enough and found the button to change just one leg. That was nice. I wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally changing the other leg. On clicking the button, I expected to see details about that leg, but instead I got a choice of four buttons: change cities, change dates, change times, change seats. Ummm, I’m changing all of them. So what should I pick? I choose change cities and assume the rest will be changeable as well (this turned out to be a correct assumption).

I see my current flight information across the top. That is nice. It verifies what I am changing. It turns out having that information was REALLY IMPORTANT. There are 3 radio buttons: round trip, one-way, multi-city. Round trip is already selected. Wait, I’m changing only one-way. Why is round trip selected? The whole trip is round trip, but I’m only changing one part. What to choose? I left it alone because surely they would have defaulted to the right choice. Being skeptical I scrolled down the page and saw they wanted me to select travel in two directions. So they didn’t default to the right choice. I scroll back to the top and select the one-way radio button.

I had to wait for the page to refresh. When it refreshed the page now showed select a date. Wait, I haven’t changed my city yet! I scroll back to the top to pick a city. The departure city is fine, I select the destination. The screen refreshes back to select a flight and the departure city is not the one I selected. What? I did not change the departure city and I have yet to select the date. Scroll back to the top and select the correct departure city. Which changed the destination too, so I had to reselect that.

Wait for the screen to refresh. Again. It refreshes at select a flight. Thankfully it now has the right cities, but I have not yet selected a date. Scroll back up to select a date. The screen refreshes back to select a flight, but the date has not changed. Scroll back up and see that the correct date is selected. Re-clicking it does nothing, so I select a different date. The screen refreshes at select a flight and it does have the date I just selected (which is not the date I actually want). I scroll back up and select the date I really want. The screen refreshes again at the point to select a flight.

At least now I have the right type of flight (one-way), the right cities, and the right date. Now I select a flight. I get a banner saying the change is being processed, then a message that said something went wrong, try again, or call us.

I just wanted to cry from frustration at that point.

This whole process took me far longer to do than it took you to read about it, and they are asking me to start over. They even provided a helpful start over button!

Sadly, my experience that day was far from unique. That is crazy. We humans should not have to work so hard to do simple things with a computer.

I want to do something to make things better. This is what gets me so excited about Solution Anthropology.

Solution Anthropology blends practices from Business Analysis, User Experience, Solution Design, and Anthropology for the purpose of creating solutions that delight the users. It is a user advocacy role and a terrific way for Business Analysts to grow their knowledge in a way that expands career opportunities. Solution Anthropologists work in companies of all sizes from major corporations to startups and work on solutions in areas such as software, business process improvement, branding and imaging, mobile, and product development.

I am working with my clients to incorporate Solution Anthropology practices into their projects, whether Agile, Waterfall, or other. Everyone is happier when we do. And maybe someday I’ll get my favorite airline to apply Solution Anthropology to their website!

Geri

Tips for Job Searches

Many people come to this blog because they are changing careers. I recently put together a workbook that steps you through using the Strengths Finder quiz to find keywords to use in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letters. These keywords are your strengths, as well as being the search terms that recruiters use to find people for jobs.

Right click on the link to download the PDF.

Using Strengths Finder to Get the Job You Love

I hope you find this useful.

Geri

New BA Video Tips

http://www.youtube.com/user/Wyyzzk

I have set up a video channel for Business Analyst tips on YouTube.
There are 15 videos there at present including:

  • 5 steps to better use cases – parts 1 and 2
  • Business rules versus Technical Constraints
  • Use Stories versus User Cases
  • Business Analyst Career Paths
  • and 10 videos on how a BA would start to work on a project
  • There are 10 different project types, so 10 different videos

I’ll be adding more over time, so let me know if there is something you want me to make a video about!

Here is the link again:
http://www.youtube.com/user/Wyyzzk

Pass on the link to other BA’s you know.

Thinking about your BA Career

In the early part of each year, I often get a flurry of people writing to me to ask for career advice. I get questions such as:

  • Is Business Analyst a good career?
  • Which job is better, XXX or Business Analyst?
  • I have been a Business Analyst for XXX years, what can I do now?

I cannot really answer these questions because the answer depends on what you want for yourself. My answers are always suggestions of things to think about, so that you can find the best answer for you.  The suggestions are generally about career planning.

You need to spend some time thinking about what you want from your career. You can change your mind later, but you need to have some kind of career goal, or you have no basis for answering these kinds of questions.

I made a video that goes through quite a bit of information on common career paths. It gives you a lot to think about, so that you can choose what appeals to you in terms of a career goal.  You can find that video on Wyyzzk’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Wyyzzk

Once you know what you want, the answers about whether or not to pursue a BA role or what you can do next become obvious.

The video does not cover every possibility and individual people have had some very different career paths. I have focused on careers within the corporate environment, because that is generally where you find BA positions. Of course there are exceptions – I know many people (including myself) who work as BA consultants and contractors. But that number is far smaller than the number of people working within corporations.

Becoming a Business Analyst

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

Many people contact me because they want to be a Business Analyst. They are often in another job currently and want to change roles. They want to know “What do I need to do to be considered for a Business Analyst position?”.

A good starting point is to look over the IIBA BABOK to see how the BA role is defined. What is a BA? What does a BA do? What skills is a BA expected to have?

Then review your own experience, compare it to the skills in the BABOK and make an inventory of the work you have done that is also Business Analyst work. Have you elicited requirements, managed information, facilitated meetings, or used tools such as requirements management, version control, or UML modeling tools? Do you analyze information in your current position?

You will use this information to tune your resume, highlighting your experience that is applicable to a Business Analyst role.

You will also use this information to find gaps in your knowledge. What are some basic skills you need that you may not have gained from experience?

You can study books and online material for the information you lack. A better idea is to take a course for Business Analysts with a teacher experienced in the BA role.  Not only will you gain the knowledge, but the teacher will give you work to do and evaluate that work, so you gain some experience as well.

Finally, look at the IIBA certifications for CCBA and CBAP. You may find that you qualify for one of those certifications. Completing the certification process shows you have a certain level of knowledge and experience as a BA, and shows that you are serious about your career.

 

 

Business Analyst Podcast Series

Michiel Erasmus has a nice podcast series for Business Analysts. Michiel got the idea in 2009 to interview experienced BA’s so that he could learn more about the role. He decided to record the interviews and make them available so other people could benefit from the information as well. I quite admire him for his work on this series!

Michiel contacted me to be interviewed for this podcast series, and we met last week. He has posted the first part of the podcast (which is number 27), and it is available for your listening pleasure You can also explore the other interviews in the series.

http://thebusinessanalystpodcast.blogspot.com/

You can post comments on his blog and if you choose to, you can make a donation to help him pay for creating the series.

I hope you enjoy this great resource from Michiel Erasmus.

Geri

Followup on Iterative Planning Class: Resources

During the Q&A for the Free class in May on Planning Iterations, I referred to quite a number of resources.  I had some folks ask me to write up those references. Here they are:

Book: XP Explained, Kent Beck
Certified Scrum Master training – http://www.implementingscrum.com
Book: The Inmates are Running the Asylum, Alan Cooper
IIBA and certifications: http://www.theiiba.org

Analysis is a very important skill, analysis on the problem, the requirements, the solution

Requirements Management Tools
Spirateam from Inflectra:  http://www.inflectra.com
IBM Rational Requisite Pro, http://www.ibm.com
IBM Telelogic Doors, http://www.ibm.com

Free UML Modeling Tool
BoUML, http://bouml.free.fr/

Requirements Writing and automatic activity diagram generation
Ravenflow, http://www.ravenflow.com

Free Documentation Tool
OpenOffice,  http://www.openoffice.org

LinkedIn Group: Starting A Business Analyst Career
Laura Brandenburg – good resource as a BA, and helps people with tuning a resume and job hunting. Her blog is http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/

Network in the Local IIBA chapters – meet other BA’s  http://www.theiiba.org

Business Process Modeling Standard, http://www.omg.org

Increasing Productivity and Performance

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

I was asked recently how to increase productivity and performance as a BA. Here are some ideas based on my own experience.

  1. Before acting ask yourself the best approach to something.
    • For example, when collecting information we often assume that interviews are the best approach. Before scheduling interviews, think about the information you need. Maybe you can get the information you need more quickly from a document.
    • Another example could be effectiveness. It may be more effective to collect 5 people in a room together where they can discuss an issue, rather than you asking questions of each of the 5, then following up to resolve differences. Acting as a go-between is less effective than letting the people work it out for themselves.
  2. Do only what you have to do at each  point in time and no more.
    • Early in a project, we identify just the architecturally significant requirements so that the project architect can do his or her work.  The rest of the requirements are discovered later.
    • When I write use cases, I start with the basic flow. Sometimes I do not have to write any more, but if I do, I write the alternatives when they are needed.
  3. Keep focused on the goal of the project.
    • You should not be working on things unrelated to the goal of the project. If you are asked to do so, talk about it with your Project Manager.
  4. Keep learning your craft and get better at it.
    • Take classes in areas where you are weak.
    • Look for ways to get additional experience. Many of the skills of the BA can be practiced outside of work. For example, you can practice interviewing by asking a grandmother to tell you stories of her life while you write them. You get to practice asking questions, listening, and writing, and you have stories from grandmother that you can share with the family.

What do you do to be more productive? What things have you found that help you work faster?

 

Use Your Common Sense

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

In the context of the BA role, I see so much published on the internet that is just nonsense. How can you know who to believe and what to trust?

You have to trust in your own experience and common sense.

  • If something seems reasonable, some technique or process, then try it for yourself, and judge the results.
  • If it does not seem reasonable, then it might be the wrong thing for you in that situation.
  • If you do not have the experience to judge, then find someone else with more experience and ask his or her opinion.

Having said that, I also want to encourage you to keep an open mind. Something that seems reasonable, but that does not work today, might be just the right thing in a new situation. Re-evaluate what you know in the context of the current job, the current project.

I love this quote from over 2000 years ago:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

When have you trusted your judgment, tried something new, and it worked? What about the times where it did not work? In a new situation, have you applied something that did not work before and had it work for you in that new situation?