Tag Archives: project success

You need to master more than just data.

Organizations, leaders, groups, units, business models, priorities and pretty much everything around you is in a constant state of change. How do you manage to stay on top of things and continue to play a role is helping to shape what the change looks like? Do you think that if you keep your head down and soldier on that you will have any influence on the shape or structure of the new group, leader or business model? Perhaps. But not much, or not where it really counts. You need to speak up, sell yourself, play a role and help shape the next iteration if you will. You have the skills that are needed, you wouldn’t be here otherwise. So what makes you so special? What do you have that will help the NEW (whatever) succeed? How can YOU have any influence on what the next iteration looks like? How can YOU master your destiny?

It’s pretty simple. You need to package and sell your rockstarness. (Okay rockstarness is not really a word but it gets the message across and we love making up new terms). You need to let the people who are accountable for shaping the change know that you have some of the right stuff needed to make this happen and that by including you they will have increased their chances for success! Heck, I’m sure you have a business case already in your head. You see the change beginning to happen and you say to yourself:” I could help with this”, or “I know how to make this work”, or even “I can bring these people together to help make this work”. You might even be losing sleep or feeling some stress because you feel so strongly about your ideas for shaping the new change and are frustrated that you are unable to help.

Package Yourself

Write down the stuff that’s in your head. Package it up. One page should do. Send it to some colleagues or mentors and ask for their feedback. Incorporate their feedback. Make it sing. It’s you in one page. Keep it simple and strategic (if you can). Use common language (please) as the potential for You in One Page to be circulated is there and you want it to resonate with anyone who comes across it. You are now prepared!

Now Sell the Package

Request to meet with the influential leaders who are accountable for the change. Let them know you have some skills that can help them and ask for a brief period of their time to discuss the value you hope to bring to the change. I guarantee they will accept your invite and be very happy to talk with you. After all, they have been tasked with this change and will everything they can to ensure its success. If you can help then all the better for them. And you!

Master your destiny!

No one else is responsible for selling you except for you. Take responsibility for shaping that destiny. If the leaders include you in the change then great! If not, then it’s probably not because of anything you didn’t do. It may be out of their hands due to other factors such as politics, culture or organizational readiness. Whatever the outcome, at the very least you won’t bemoan the fact that you didn’t do everything in your power to participate. But if you don’t, you might just get left behind, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. You are the master of your destiny! Make it happen!

Advertisements

The role of a Business Analyst in the Management of Information

A new article showed up the other day on our organization’s internal wiki. The topic was ‘The Role of a Business Analyst (BA) in an Agile project’. The content of the article is just starting to be developed, so I took it as an opportunity to add a comment in the form of a question on “the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset”. My goal was to generate some discussion around this idea, to see what others in the organization are doing/thinking, and to start the process to perhaps develop some formalized responsibilities in this area.

No sooner had I hit the save button when BAM, there was a response that showed interest in the topic and asked me to elaborate! Exactly the response I was hoping for! Muwah ha ha! You probably should know that the person who responded is a very good friend of mine who is quite comfortable with social collaboration and if it wasn’t for her I probably would be having a discussion with myself…ok it’s not really that bad but why is it that some colleagues have no problem updating their facebook status daily but when it comes to collaborating in a wiki they are running for the hills??  Sigh…subject for another day…

So what is the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset? A  lot may depend on how your organization is organized, what the culture is, what types of resources you have ( maybe you have BA’s solely responsible for information management) and how mature your IM (information management) practices are. But let’s say for the sake of this opinion that you have a somewhat immature organization from an IM perspective, and you are just starting to organize Data Governance and MDM initiatives. This could mean that you are just starting to develop governing principles and operating policies around IM, and you may not yet have them ‘baked in’ to how you manage and deploy projects. Since some resources within an organization may not be familiar with some of the concepts, my approach will be to describe some of the key outcomes that result from not-so-good information management practices, and how a BA might help to resolve them, or ensure they don’t happen to begin with.

Multiple sources, conflicting rules and differing business uses of information

In order to resolve these types of issues you need to link the data to business objectives. This is standard stuff that I don’t often see. I’m not talking “here’s the data I need for this report”. That is not a business objective. The objective should describe the business decisions or triggers or changes that are the intended result.  e.g. This piece of information is used to determine what type of industry our customer is in so that we may ensure that the best person is assigned to them to help them with their needs. When the business objective is clearly linked to the data, it helps IT resources determine how to best architect the data, and business leaders with the information that they really need. It also helps in the resolution of conflicting rules. E.g. while one unit may use the information to identify the appropriate account manager, another business unit may use the information to identify the total amount of risk they have in that industry so that they can ensure they follow regulatory rules. You cannot resolve conflicting rules without having a good understanding of what the information is used for.

Lack of common understanding of what the data means

Ensuring the data has a clear and easy to understand definition and communicating it broadly reduces errors when data is created, transformed and reported on. Eg.  ‘Address’: describes the street location where the company physically resides. Although it looks somewhat self-explanatory, unless it’s clear and understood, what usually happens is you get all kinds of addresses: the mailing address, an email address [I kid you not], a city, etc..  You cannot assume that everyone has the same understanding of what a piece of data means.

There is a problem with the data but no-one seems to care

Identifying who will be responsible for business decisions on the data (and describing what that responsibility is) will ensure you don’t waste time when something needs to be resolved. This need not be a steward of the data as the organization may not be set up that way, but it could be a person or a role, and it should be written into the requirements that there is someone somewhere responsible for making business decision. E.g. The person (or role) responsible for making decisions regarding this data is XXXX. You may find that you are having difficulties getting someone to actually agree to having their name or role written down and being responsible. If this happens, don’t give them the data. Simple as that. No name, no game!

The data is in a mess (still….) and needs to be cleaned up!

Cleaned up to what? Including quality attributes as part of business requirements ensures that everyone understands how good the data needs to be and allows you to better manage  keeping it that way. E.g. The address information must be updated at least one per year to ensure freshness. It cannot contain phrases such as ‘unknown’ and special characters are not allowed. Using the quality requirements allow you to either perform an analysis of the data to understand how bad (or good) it is, and you can also provide the business with a weekly, monthly or yearly report on the quality, so that they can determine if it still meets their needs.

Here’s the summary of my opinion on how a BA can help in the management of our information as an asset

  • Link the data to business objectives
  • Ensure the data has a clear and easy to understand definition
  • Identify who (or what role) is responsible for business decisions regarding the data
  • Identify quality requirements for the data

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does go a long way to helping manage information as an asset. And it’s easy peasy stuff! The hard part…ahhh…the hard part.  Try telling someone a report is not really a goal and see what happens. Not really a good approach. The best way to go about it? Keep your rule/definition/goals antenna on at all times. Although it may seem hard to extract this information in a formal setting, most business stakeholders talk about this stuff all the time. In fact, that’s all they talk about! We just need to be really good at hearing it!

The role of a Business Analyst in an Agile Project while taking Information Management best practices into consideration (whew!)? That is a story that I hope we are beginning to work on!

Don’t! Lie to me.


Lie to Me is one of the few shows on TV I actually watch. I LOVE it! It tells the story of Dr. Cal Lightman (played by another favorite: Tim Roth) and his team who use applied psychology to read facial and body language clues to expose the truth and lies in criminal investigations. The show is so popular that in November of last year it was renewed for another 9 episodes the first of which is scheduled to play on June 7th. I can’t wait!

What does this have to do with Data Quality? Nothing specifically, but it has everything to do with working with others to achieve common outcomes.

If you have been following my blog or tweets, or have read some of the comments I have posted on the blogs of others, you may have noticed that I sometimes make reference to behaviors I have observed that don’t enable trusting, collaborative partnerships; in fact they do quite the opposite! And these behaviors, displayed through facial and body language and, although quite subtle, can be very detrimental to the successful outcome of any project or program.

So why am I writing about this? I read body language. Steady. All the time. In every single encounter and meeting. I know pretty much what you’re thinking, who you like or dislike, what pushes your buttons, and when you are lying (OK, that’s pretty harsh, how about ‘when you are not telling the truth‘). Yes, those times when you verbally agree to something while shaking your head in a back and forth manner tell me that actually you DON’T agree at all, and if you do it with your arms folded across your chest or without eye contact it also tells me that you STRONGLY disagree.

And when you ask for my feedback but focus your eyes elsewhere it tells me that actually, you have no intention of listening to my feedback and in fact, you are probably thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home :p

These types of behaviors do not show trust. They do not suggest partnership, ‘we are in this together’ or ‘I care about your opinion or insight’. They tell me that some form of approach, unilateral decision or direction decision has been made and that regardless of what my, or the insights of others may provide, it will not be taken into consideration.

This is an issue. If you want your project, program, event or activity to be successful, you need to be aware of the motivations and feelings of others, and especially if you are working together as a team. Team: –noun – a number of persons associated in some joint action..

So if you have a common goal, and you want to achieve a successful outcome, you need to work together as a team. And in order to work together as a team, you need to trust each other. And in order to establish trust, you need to be honest. Just tell the truth. If you are making a unilateral decision you might have a perfectly good reason for doing so. Explain the reason. Be open about it. Say: “I need to do X because of Y”, or “I appreciate your feedback but cannot act upon because of this reason”.

You will be surprised at what will happen. The team will appreciate the honesty. They will, in turn, be more open and engaging. You will establish credibility. You will gain supporters. You will have increased chances for a successful outcome. And guess what, your body and facial language will look more like someone who is relaxed, trusting, open and engaging: direct eye contact, informal stature, relaxed arms. You get the picture.

So why do I love the show Lie to Me so much? It takes the reading of body language to the next level. It shows examples of minute facial expressions and body movements that you might not have noticed before and provides some real life examples as to what they probably mean. And I’m a good student! So watch out! I know what you’re thinking. Don’t lie to me!

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything” ~Mark Twain~

Attributes of a Data Rock Star

Earlier this week, Jill Dyché (@JillDyche), successful author, blogger, BI, MDM and Data Governance consultant and all around information guru, created a flurry of creactivity (I just made that word up – it’s a combination of the words creative and activity), when she tweeted a simple response that suggested a couple of data rock star types, in response to an excellent on-line article Are You a Data Rock Star? by Elizabeth Glagowski.

Elizabeth’s article has some excellent descriptions and examples of the attributes of what makes a great data rock star and Jill’s vigorous (and often humorous) take on business and IT alignment always identifies the rock star behaviors of being able to communicate the linkage between a company’s information and its business value.

The results of the flurried creactivity, was Jean-Michel Franco (@jmichel_franco) coming up with a name that was quickly adopted; “The Rolling Forecasts”, and Jim Harris(@ocdqblog), in his latest Obsessive Compulsive Data Quality blog post, coined the brilliantly perfect and perfectly brilliant lyrics to the band’s first song: “You can’t always get the data you want”.

So what I decided to do here was attempt to compile all these rock start attributes and behaviors in a simple format, so that they can be easily re-used and referred to. I plan on adding these to our internal wiki and identifying them as behaviors of successful data stewards. I a) hope they get read and b) hope that they get people thinking, behaving, changing…

· Excellent communicator of business and IT concepts using common language

· Ability to link information to business value

· Effective at communicating concepts and new ideas at early stages in order to reduce change management efforts

· Has excellent self awareness and understands the link between trust and partnership

· Is able to express thoughts and opinions in various ways in order to be able to provide feedback when others may not be interested in hearing it

· And seeks out and is receptive to feedback and continuously provides the opportunity for others to provide it

· Actually listens to the feedback and changes behavior/process/approach for continuous improvement (don’t get me started on people who ask for feedback but couldn’t give a rat’s a**..)

· Understands the link between clarifying expectations and how that will lead to success

· Ability to know how to engage and enthuse others – must understand the body language, communication preferences, motivations and needs of others

· Must be able to spot opportunities and take advantage of them – and especially do it in a way that others are unaware of it

· Must be comfortable pushing the boundaries in order to change things and do so in a way that others are unaware the boundary is being pushed

· Must be comfortable exerting authority and using it appropriately – all the while smiling and engaging others

· Is able to identify key success measures from both business and IT perspective and communicate effectively – at the beginning to confirm what is expected and throughout to continue to re-iterate value

· Is well liked and respected – this will ensure access to resources, tools, other stakeholders, hidden information (you KNOW that happens), and will help pave the way through political and cultural roadblocks

· Be able to articulate solutions as practical and logical and tie them directly to group/organizational goals

What do you think?