Solution Assessment and Validation (BABOK KA)

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Every software team talks about project scope and team members often complain about unending scope creep. Unfortunately, the software industry lacks uniform definitions of these terms, and the requirements literature is short on clear guidance regarding how to even represent scope. I confront scope head-on in this series of three articles...

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Gathering and documenting requirements to develop software is often seen by business analysts as their core task. Actually, they are there to deliver value to the business—everything else is secondary.

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I never really understood the hubbub associated with system design. People tend to look upon it as a complicated process. Actually it's not, yet the corporate landscape is littered with disastrous system projects costing millions of dollars, all because developers overlooked some rather simple principles for design and focused on technology instead.

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This article reviews the complexity of the role of the business analyst (BA) facilitator in obtaining a stakeholder agreement (i.e., a consensus or a compromise) on solution features and/or user requirements. The BA facilitator achieves this agreement by maintaining a neutral posture in guiding the stakeholders though a dialogue in a series of meetings.

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Most of the projects inevitably struggle at some point or the other if the scope is not defined properly. The right note to start a project is to have a clear Project and Solution/Product scope at hand. It is very critical for a Business Analyst to clearly understand and define the Solution Scope in black and white before even going into the Requirement Elicitation phase. This article focuses primarily on key aspects of understanding and defining Solution Scope in traditional methodologies.  

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Checkpoint Beta is not mandatory. It is, however, extremely helpful for the business analyst. Checkpoint Beta is also an informal meeting, this time with the solution team. It is held prior to committing the solution to the final, formal solution document andobtaining final confirmation from the business community.

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Business requirements are usually captured in narratives and graphics that, regardless of how detailed, structured, cross-referenced and validated, are fundamentally imprecise. A data-driven approach to specifications has the potential to help avoid these problems and subsequently decrease the risk and increase the return on companies' IT investments.

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We present a requirements framework and methodology that may be different from what you are doing. Its three prominent characteristics are a framework, a new model, and visualization. The framework ensures completeness of all requirements. The new model is the Decision Model, transforming important business thinking into a tangible and manageable business requirement. The visualization simulates user scenarios, alleviating the need for abstract specifications or models.
 

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Until business analysts really begin to understand the difference between rules of the business (business rules), and choices about system design, we’ll keep falling to the same requirements and legacy traps as always. In my previous column I looked closely at the meaning of business rule. Now let’s probe the two fundamental categories of business rules: behavioral and definitional.

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Extreme Inspections are a low-cost, high-improvement way to assure specification quality, effectively teach good specification practice, and make informed decisions about the requirements specification process and its output, in any project. The method is not restricted to be used on requirements analysis related material; this article however is limited to requirements specification. It gives firsthand experience and hard data to support the above claim. Using an industry case study I conducted with one of my clients I will give information about the Extreme Inspection method - sufficient to understand what it is and why its use is almost mandatory, but not how to do it. I will also give evidence of its strengths and limitations, as well as recommendations for its use and other applications.

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The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK® 2.0) is the definitive guide to the profession of business analysis. Every business analyst can profit from it, and few analysts can afford to be without it.

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In Part 1 of  this article, I talked about the new skills and attitudes business analysts need to bring to agile development... Now it's time to talk specifics. What exactly do BAs do in agile development? How will your activities differ from those of traditional development? Let's take a look at agile business analysis from the perspective of the activities that make up requirements development and management, comparing traditional with agile analysis.
 

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If requirements management practices were songs entering a popularity contest, requirements validation would hardly be a favorite contender. It's easy to understand why: validation is usually a tedious, time consuming task, and, as with nearly every quality control activity, it is supposed to reveal defects, going against our natural desire of being right, not making mistakes, and singing in tune.

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The ubiquity of software project failures – with failure defined as projects that fundamentally failed to meet business-sponsor expectations, missed scheduled completion dates, or exceeded budget – is a pronounced theme in any number of independent research reports on custom software development. The Standish Group, for example, cited that only 31% of projects delivered 100 percent of the expected value, were on-time, and on-budget and a report from the Aberdeen Group found 90 percent of projects came in late, of which 30 percent were simply cancelled before delivery.

Analysts and users alike cite inaccurate, incomplete and mismanaged requirements as the number one reason for software project failure. The Standish Group’s annual CHAOS report indicates three of the top five reasons for project failure are related to requirements. Requirement miscommunications is also the primary factor behind the prevalence of rework, which according to industry statistics, can add up to 40 percent of the total development effort within a given software project. A 2005 survey conducted by iRise and Decipher found that almost three-quarters (73%) of organizations budget for rework, thus, in effect, planning for failure. Moreover, almost one-third set aside more than 25% in their budgets for these change orders, money that could be funneled directly into innovation rather than re-doing work that should have been com¬pleted the first time.

Ultimately, rework costs companies the ability to get to market quickly and saps competitive advantage; while companies are busy fixing applications, their competitors are busy capturing market share.

The solution to these costly, frustrating problems is the creation of accurate requirements before development even begins. By allowing the business analyst to col¬laborate with stakeholders, users, architects, user expe¬rience designers and developers early on in the development process, all parties are involved in the definition of the product and all parties know what will be built long before a single line of code is written.

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As a software architect and developer I’ve used Enterprise Architect (EA) from Sparx Systems (www.sparxsystems.com) for a number of years. In that time I’ve spent considerable time and energy trying to get our business analysts to do the same. While I’ve had some success I must admit it’s been an uphill battle. I suspect this is partly because EA is often seen as a technical person’s tool. And that’s not altogether surprising.

  • Enterprise Architect – the name itself is completely misleading. EA is not only for people with the title ‘Enterprise Architect’. It’s for the entire project team, from BA’s to Testers and even for Clients.
  • User Interface – for developers the user interface of EA is extremely familiar and intuitive. It looks like a lot of the tools they use already. For non-technical users more familiar with tools like Microsoft Office it is somewhat more intimidating.

So, if you’re a Business Analyst looking for a tool that can help you do your job more effectively then read on.

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