Entries for December 2008

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Why has it been necessary to write so many different, book-length treatises about requirements management on software projects? Is it not possible to develop an approach to handling software requirements that is simple enough to express concisely -- and yet can work with large, complex projects as well as smaller efforts?

At the risk of using a word that disturbs many in the field of software engineering, requirements management is just a process. The more simply this process can be described, the more likely it will be to work in real software organizations. So rather than consider every possible nuance relating to managing software requirements, this article will attempt to express the essence of an approach that can work well on virtually any Agile software development project. In the appendix, I include a detailed example illustrating the key ideas.

Author: Theodore F. Rivera, Software Group Strategist, IBM

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The problem of business-IT alignment is of widespread economic concern.

As one way of addressing the problem, this paper describes an online system that functions as a kind of Wiki -- one that supports the collaborative writing and running of business and scientific applications, as rules in open vocabulary, executable English, using a browser.

Since the rules are in English, they are indexed by Google and other search engines. This is useful when looking for rules for a task that one has in mind.
The design of the system integrates the semantics of data, with a semantics of an inference method, and also with the meanings of English sentences. As such, the system has functionality that may be useful for the Rules, Logic, Proof and Trust requirements of the Semantic Web.

The system accepts rules, and small numbers of facts, typed or copy-pasted directly into a browser. One can then run the rules, again using a browser. For larger amounts of data, the system uses information in the rules to automatically generate and run SQL over networked databases. From a few highly declarative rules, the system typically generates SQL that would be too complicated to write reliably by hand. However, the system can explain its results in step-by-step hypertexted English, at the business or scientific level.

As befits a Wiki, shared use of the system is free.

Author: Adrian Walker

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Good business solutions begin with good business analysis. But what's needed to excel as a business analyst and to get projects started on a good footing?

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about the set of skills that go to making a good business analyst. Forrester Research, for example, has published a spreadsheet (called the Business Analyst Assessment Workbook -- Note: subscription required) that lists more than 150 attributes of a good business analyst, grouped into categories such as Core Capabilities, Business Knowledge, Job-Specific Skills, Technical Knowledge etc. (I was particularly pleased to see this last category: It is important but not quite obvious that business analysts should also have a rudimentary general understanding of technology environments and architectures… mostly built up through seeing past analysis engagements fructify into delivered solutions).

Although the workbook is obviously intended as an assessment tool, I also found in it good for use as a training tool — for example, to bone up on technology approaches to business needs and to study sample projects, correlating the original business requirement with the type of solution delivered.

Here are 10 items from the Forrester list that I found particularly interesting and beyond the obvious (in no particular order)...

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It has been just over a year since I published my book, and that makes it easier for me to measure what has happened since then.

I have spent this year visiting many companies and discussing their business analysis function. In some cases, I have performed an assessment on the business analysts as well as the business analysis function within many large Corporates.

It has now got to the point where I could document the findings before I start the investigation. The reason for this is that the problems are the same. From articles and discussions from other countries it appears the problems are similar the world over. These are the problems I encounter most often:

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Why is it so challenging to get users involved in User Acceptance Testing (UAT)? Isn’t it called UAT because the users are the main participants? My experience has shown that involving users in all phases of the project, especially UAT, is the best way to ensure project success. This article will present a proven approach to increasing user involvement by addressing the problems with traditional approaches to UAT.
 
I recently worked on a project in which a major defect was found after the software application moved to production. This defect caused the users to perform three days of manual processes. Users on the IT project team worked countless overtime hours. The defect also resulted in a frustrated user group and business sponsor. The project team’s morale was low and the business users lost a great deal of confidence in the project team’s ability to deliver quality software solutions. To reduce the risk of making this crucial mistake in the future the project team improved the UAT approach by getting users more involved.
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Here we are, the end of another year, and the question I ask always is, what have we learned?

If we are not learning something, be it from a success or a failure, or something in-between, then how can we move forward?

Information security is something that needs to continuously improve and refine itself, otherwise it will fall behind the curve of those that choose a different avenue to your beloved data store.

A tool that information security practitioners often use, especially after a security incident like a virus outbreak or full out attack, is holding a “Lessons Learned” meeting.

The core concept is to be able to take something away for the incident, no matter how big or small, so that the next encounter of a similar kind does not have the same result as the first.

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Today the term Business Analyst is synonymous with a career in the IT industry but the most successful and valuable analysts are those who understand the 'business' rather than those who understand IT. So what exactly is a Business Analyst? What is the Business Analyst’s role? What is the best background for this job? What skill set is required? What type of person is the best fit? What training is required and available?

Each organisation seems to have its own ideas about the role, skills, responsibilities and expectations of the Business Analyst. Given the importance of the job, a common definition would assist both practitioners and employers. We explore some of the issues here.

Written by Derrick Brown, IRM's Director and instructional designer, it shares first hand observations and experience gained from training thousands of Business Analysts since 1980, first in the UK and since 1984 in Australia.

Author: Derrick Brown

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For most businesses and organisations, if IT stops, the business stops. Whenever a company turns on a new production line, opens a new retail store, launches a new product or provides a new service, there is invariably a new or modified IT system behind it. Going live is the culmination of time, effort, resources and finance. A problem-free IT system is the “acid test” of significant, often crucial investment.

Whilst the technical testing of IT systems is a highly professional and exhaustive process, testing of business functionality is an entirely different proposition. Does the system deliver the business functions that are required – does it follow the company’s business rules – does it support a government department’s obligations - does it cope with exceptions?

The people who have to make these decisions – to accept or reject the new system – are the business users. It is therefore critical to get the business user involved in testing and not rely only on the technicians. In this paper we explore the rationale behind User Acceptance Testing (UAT), why it is so important, and how best to go about it.

Author: Jan Kusiak

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“Where does UML fit?” is a common question among new (and not so new!) business analysts. We all know that the M stands for modelling but beyond this, perceptions start to differ. In its current form (V2.0) UML consists of 13 diagram types all of which provide a different view of a system.

In this article we’ll take a brief look at which of the 13 diagrams are of most relevance for us and how they fit together...

Author: Jan Kusiak







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