The Why of Professional Associations

what is the answerThe traditional description of a professional association is a membership-based organization supporting a closed community and offering member-only services. Historically, because forming and maintaining a professional network and finding and accessing relevant information could be challenging, membership fees and value could be justified. However, the rise of the Internet economy and online professional networks has changed the landscape for professional associations. These reasons are no longer strong motivators for an individual to pay membership dues.

The value an association offers has transformed. Adapting to this change requires a reimagining of more than marketing or services offered. Professional associations must rediscover their purpose, and infuse it into everything they offer and all of their relationships. This means a shift away from the members-only perspective, towards purpose-driven stewardship of the entire community. Putting the community first – ahead of the association itself – is a key step to making the association succeed.

This shift has many implications. Perhaps the most striking is a redefinition and expansion of the categories of membership, to include many relationships with many stakeholders. For example:

  • Traditional Members—Practitioners, Students, Academics
  • Affiliates—members from peer associations
  • Corporate Members—some or all practitioners in an organization
  • Managers—Employ/Hire Members; services promote hiring, advancement
  • Channels—Consultants, Training Providers, Headhunters, etc.
  • Guests—Interest in profession; work with professionals

The stakeholders who employ, manage, or support traditional members deserve new focus because of their contribution to the size, health, and reach of the entire market for practitioners. They increase the relevance of the profession, increase the market for professionals, and increase the influence of the association.

What do associations offer? Why is this important? How is it accomplished?

In the short term, professional associations need to shift their communications, engagement practices, and services to include all practitioners, members or not. At the same time, preparation should begin to transition revenue streams from individual memberships to organizational memberships, to offer premium services for a fee, and to strategically monetize high-value transactions in the community.

Advocate for the Profession
Increase Recognition, Appreciation, Respect, Use
  • Outreach to employers, governments, and other supporting stakeholders
  • Targeted advertising online and within publications
  • Pursuit of traditional media exposure (interviews on radio, TV, newspapers)
  • Creation of Job profiles and career progressions / alternatives for hiring managers and HR professionals to use
Define and Formalize Individual Performance Standards
Drive consistency of understanding, language, and application of generally accepted practices and/or best practices
  • Develop and support Individual Standards
  • Develop and support a practitioner Body of Knowledge
  • Develop and support a practitioner competency model (skills, behaviors, and knowledge required by the practitioner to be effective)
Recognize Practitioners
Establish a baseline of performance
  • Raise perceived value and expectations of the role
  • Differentiate between levels of competency and quality
  • Develop formal recognition programs (e.g., Certification, Certificates)
  • Support opportunities for professionals and academics to publish
Educate Professionals
Increase knowledge, improve abilities, and raise levels of practice
  • Provide on-demand information (webinars, podcasts, online library, discussions)
  • Host Conferences
  • Create and assess others’ course material
  • Support volunteering
Govern Organizational Practices
Establish baseline capability and assess consistency of execution
  • Develop organization maturity models
  • Conduct assessments or practices within organizations
  • Accredit suppliers, corporations, and government bodies who are aligned to established standards
Promote and develop the community
Build cohesiveness, encourage ongoing growth, and support improved capability and contribution of professionals, academics, and organizations
  • Host professional conferences; participate in and/or recognize other events
  • Promote chapters, using them as a “store-front” for outreach into the community and to provide a “face” to the professional association
  • Engage Volunteers in professional association activities
  • Develop special interest groups / communities to further focused growth
Assess Suppliers
Assess alignment to and support of practice standards
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support continuing education, accredited courses, and training aligned with industry standards or accepted practices
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support other professional and industry conferences
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support tools to enhance performance (software and physical)

These products may not drive any individual professional, academic or corporation to join the association. Instead, by becoming a platform for the community, they encourage all stakeholders to participate and support its growth and success.

PMI Expands Offerings in Requirements Management

ColoRace 5Today, a friend of mine forwarded an announcement from the Project Management Institute (PMI), “the world’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management profession” announcing its new Requirements Management Knowledge Center of Excellence and Practice. The email also announced a number of other critical initiatives under way at the organization:

  • PMI’s Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) Certification going into pilot over the next few months
  • Practice Guide on Business Analysis coming in 2014
  • Practice Standard in Requirements Management in 2015

As the founding President and former CEO of IIBA, how do I feel about PMI playing in the BA space?

It is not unexpected.

In early 2013, IIBA became aware that PMI was working on its own certification. A number of IIBA members (who are also members of PMI) were contacted by PMI about activities that it was undertaking in the requirements management space.

  • Firstly, PMI was looking for volunteers for it requirements management role delineation study. Role delineation studies are used to identify essential knowledge and skills required of a profession and are used for the development of qualifying or certifying exams. These studies validate the importance, criticality and relevance of both broad content areas and tasks. While not stated explicitly, the expectation was that PMI would be using the output of the analysis to formulate its own certification.
  • Secondly, PMI reached out to a number of experts in the BA field and asked them to help contribute to a learning guide that would identify key areas of knowledge and resources (books, periodicals) in the requirements management area. This learning guide would support the educational and knowledge requirements of individuals who wished to develop expertise in the business analysis area.

While no further details were made available within these communications, both these activities indicated that PMI was planning on entering the BA space.

It seemed that PMI finally realized what many of us have known for a long time: the best run project will not be successful if it fails to capture what is needed to solve the business problem. Effective business analysis is a requirement for project success.

What will this mean to the business analysis profession?

Even back in early 2013 when I was still running IIBA, I viewed it as a double edged sword. PMI is a HUGE organization and its reach is enormous. It will spread the message of business analysis/requirements management very quickly. In the short term, it will reach organizations that IIBA would have taken years to engage. Companies will invest in business analysis/requirements management. Practitioners will finally get the respect they deserve after years of neglect.

Is there a downside for the practitioner? As it is the Project Management Institute, its perspective on the role may be limited to a project. But it is a start. Raising awareness is the first step towards broader success.

And what about IIBA?

I believe competition is good. It is hard, but it will force IIBA to focus on its fundamentals. Why does it exist? What makes it special? How can it differentiate itself from PMI? IIBA should not go away. It provides a different perspective on business analysis – an enterprise view beyond the scope of a project. It will be a challenge, but IIBA may even grow as PMI pushes the boundaries of the whole market.

As Richard Branson said: “You can be a David vs. a Goliath, if you get it right.”

Amazon – Redefining Business

textbooksEvery day, I rise early for my morning walk with the dogs, first to Starbucks for a shot of caffeine, then along the beach for a romp in the sand. Mind you, the sand is currently covered with about 6 inches of snow. But with the coffee warming my innards and my duvet-like orange coat covering my extremities, I am reasonably comfortable even if the temperature has been fluctuating between -20 and -10 Celsius.

Until recently, these walks were solitary (not counting the dogs). However, the last few months, I have been accompanied by a friend who believes that adopting this daily ritual will encourage discipline as well as provide good exercise. Our conversations cover a variety of topics: the weather (top of mind these days); current events (Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford always provides entertainment); family; the economy; as well as philosophical discussions on how the world has changed (the longer we live, the more popular this topic becomes).

Today’s discussion was especially interesting as it was about the demise of the local bookstore and the struggles of the publication industry. As I frequent Amazon regularly for my fix of books, having long ago abandoned the bookstore for the convenience of the Internet, I tend to accept the passing or significant downsizing of these two businesses as a natural evolution of the industry. She was not so complacent. Two of her siblings had lost their jobs due to this change. As far as she was concerned, the end of the traditional book business should not be allowed. We ended the walk without resolution, only an agreement to disagree.

But that didn’t end my thinking about the topic for the day. As I was skimming through my latest print copy of the New Yorker magazine, I came across an article by George Packer: “Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers but is it good for books?” This twelve-page article described many of the same issues and concerns we had discussed, albeit in much greater depth and research supporting it.

What did it say? Amazon has redefined how book selling is done. It’s relentless focus on delivering exceptional service to its customers not only transformed buying habits but also changed expectations of the buying experience.

  • Aggregation. Search on a topic of interest and Amazon’s will come back with pages of potential titles, pricing for different buying choices and a summary rating based on user feedback.
  • Curation. Click on a specific title and you are presented with a detailed description of the product and most current and highly ranked customer reviews.
  • Availability. Even if it doesn’t currently stock it, “the everything store” provides various options for acquiring it. Even the most obscure or out of print books can be sourced.
  • Comparability. If my request is broad enough (e.g., dog training), Amazon provides multiple choices, at numerous price points. I can easily assess alternatives before making my selection.
  • “1-click” purchasing. It doesn’t get any simpler or dangerous than this. With your permission, Amazon retains your credit card information and shipping address and with one click, your purchase is on its way. Instant gratification!
  • Predictive analytics. Amazon knows what you want before you do. Based on past searches and purchases, Amazon makes recommendations, both while you are on its site as well as through email notifications. You never realized how much you didn’t have until Amazon came along and informed you.
  • “Forever” shopping cart and wish list. You may have been strong enough to leave the site without spending money but Amazon will keep that basket filled with your “almost” purchases just in case you change your mind.

Buying books has never been easier.

On the other hand, Amazon changed the business model of the publishing industry by introducing and supporting new competitors (itself, self-publishers, print-on-demand) and by offering alternative formats for reading (e-books, audio). Many publishing companies and their associated downstream retail outlets have had to downsize staff or merge with other organizations and some have even gone out of business. My friend’s siblings were casualties of this transformation.

So what is the solution? Like many other businesses, publishing and traditional bookstores need to reassess their customer value propositions to ensure they are still relevant. Can their businesses continue to thrive given the Amazon Tsunami? In a study done by Innosight on rankings of companies in the S&P 500, the 61-year tenure for an average firm on this index in 1958 narrowed to 25 years in 1980 and to 18 years in 2013. Previous leaders of their respective industries had failed to keep up with the changes in their markets. What worked yesterday was no longer a guarantee for tomorrow.

We think of change as something we need to respond to; something that impacts the status quo. Businesses produce products and services for customers and support distinct change systems to implement improvements or expand capabilities. But that is no longer a viable approach. Amazon continuously reassesses and updates what it does and how it does it. Change has become its status quo. The publishing companies and bookstores of tomorrow will have to embed this kind of change thinking into their operational systems to survive.

And so will we.

Learning to Network

Network 2I suck at networking.

Going up to someone I don’t know, introducing myself, asking who they are, and starting a conversation is very difficult for me.
I dread it.
I go into a state of panic.
I shut down completely.

Note to self: Get over it!

While I have been keeping busy since my departure from IIBA in August of 2013 – public speaking, improv lessons, book writing – it is time to get focused on getting (or creating) a job. And while I hate to admit it, that requires networking.

So here goes…
First step, go online for hints on how to network. It seems, I am not alone in my fear of schmoozing. There is a lot of material to wade through! That’s good, though. I can select what I think will work best for me from all the advice I find.

Below is a list of the “helpful hints” based on my specific needs.

How to get “Psyched-up” for the Event

Make it part of your “job”. There are many things we have to do for our jobs we don’t enjoy but we do them anyway. This is just another item on that list.

Treat networking as a learning opportunity. You only get better if you practice, so practice. And don’t expect too much from yourself, especially in the beginning.

Convince yourself it will be FUN. There are so many interesting people you haven’t yet met and this networking event will give you an opportunity to meet more of them.

Know why you are at this event. Set goals for yourself and monitor your progress. Prepare your “elevator pitch” so when someone asks you the same questions you asked them, you will have an answer!

Do your research before going. Who is hosting the event? What kinds of people attend? Look at websites, blog posts, write-ups of past events.

Don’t be afraid of dud conversations. They will happen. Just don’t take it personally.

Where to go when you walk into a room of people you don’t know

Find a line and stand in it! You will have someone in front of you and someone behind with whom you already have something in common – you are stuck, waiting. I talk to people when I wait in the grocery store lineups. Just apply the same principles at a business event.

Find someone else who is by his/herself. They will be relieved to have someone else break the ice.

Go to the sponsor(s) table. If it is busy, you can listen in on the conversation. The ongoing discussion can provide a great segway to later discussions with others who were listening in. If there is no one else there, you can let the individual in the booth talk to you. Remember, they are happy you stopped by. You may even get them to provide information on others in attendance.

How to start a conversation with someone you don’t know

Real simple. “Hello, my name is [insert name here]. Who are you?

Slightly more complex. “Have you attended one of these events before?”

A real conversation starter. “What brought you to this event?”

Of course, there is always the weather, traffic, and currently, the Olympics. Local news highlights might also provide good ice-breakers. Make the questions open-ended and remember to listen. People like to feel important and if you are fully engaged in the conversation you will create a positive connection.

How to leave one conversation and move on to the next

Everyone else is there to network too so don’t feel bad about moving on. Thank the person(s) for chatting, exchange contact information (don’t forget your business cards), and let them know you will be in touch. Before you move on, make sure you ask them if they know others at the event that they could introduce you to. You now have something in common – each other – that can be used in starting your next conversation.

If you really don’t want to follow up, excuse yourself with a “time to get a drink”, I need to say hi to…”, or “I have to head out now”, but remember to always thank them.

What to do after the event is over?

Follow up promptly via email, instant messaging, or even a phone call. Thank them for their time. Identify next steps. But remember to be brief. You don’t want your message getting lost.

Sign up for the next event. You are getting better already!

Walk a Mile in my Shoes

ugly shoes

Walk a Mile in my Shoes
By Joe South 

If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

Chapter 2 – Polite Politics

I first met Michael Gladstone (IIBA CIO) in 2006 when we agreed to participate in a Business Analyst(BA) / Project Manager(PM) debate at the local Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter. Michael and I would form the business analyst team against an opposition of project managers. The topic was, “What is more important, a BA or a PM to the success of project outcomes”.

While the facilitator hoped for some humourous exchanges between the teams, the debate itself would be run professionally with opening remarks from each team followed by rebuttals. The audience would vote on the most compelling arguments at the end of the presentations. To make the debate more entertaining – and to stretch the abilities of the debate teams – the project managers would argue for the business analysts and Michael and I would make the case for project managers.

What a challenge! Not only would I have to develop a convincing case for project managers, Michael and I might win? I don’t like to lose but did I really want to win this argument? What did that say about the importance of business analysts? How could I possibly find reasons to have a project manager over a business analyst?

That’s when I realized that I had to turn the problem around – I had to “become” a project manager. Instead of looking at it from my viewpoint, I needed to see the situation from their perspective. After that, my points came together easily. I was ready to make my case for the project manager.

At the event, Michael Gladstone presented our opening remarks, followed by the opposing team. Taking their points into consideration, I presented our rebuttal, and they did the same. Both sides made excellent arguments. There was no clear winner. The choice of which role – BA or PM – was not obvious.

The debate provided me with a powerful lesson in politics. While I think I am right, other people may have very strong and valid reasons why they disagree. It is only when I walk in their “shoes” that I can appreciate and understand their reasoning and identify a middle ground that might support both sides.

How do you practice walking in someone else’s shoes? Learn to argue the other side. If you need an opponent, use a peer to help. People do have reasons. They may not seem rationale from your perspective but that doesn’t mean they are not legitimate.

Remember, there are always at least two sides to an issue or position. By understanding other viewpoints, you can help control the disagreement and possibly facilitate a positive outcome.

Who won the debate? I am sad/happy to say that Michael and I lost. The project managers convinced the audience of project managers that the BA role was more critical!

Polite Politics

iStock Handshake in an elevatorHow to apply influence to get what you need without compromising your soul


In August of 2013, my life changed. While I remained the founding President of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), I became its former CEO.

It was not my choice. But I believe that every change presents new opportunities – for me, for IIBA, for everyone.

I also believe that the achievement of any significant milestone requires a look back or post implementation review (retrospective, if you are an agilest). What went well on the journey to this point and what could be done better?

Polite Politics is the outcome of that assessment.

Since I think in PowerPoint slides, I captured my thoughts first as a presentation. I also plan to make it into a book. Over the next few months, I will share my lessons learned and, hopefully, my experience and realizations will help you manage the ups and downs in your career as well.


The world is run by politicians. It is not good or bad – it is. And while none of us believe we will have to play the game of politics to succeed and prosper in our jobs, we need to understand the rules of our environment – social, political, legal, implied, personal, and how we can apply them within the constraints of our own values.

In my search for understanding, I read a number of books on various topics associated with politics. One of them, Survival of the Savvy, by Rick Brandon & Marty Seldman, describes politics as a continuum. On one end of the continuum (the non-political end) is the power of ideas. On the other side of the continuum (the extremely political side) is the power of people. Neither end is good; neither end is bad. They represent different approaches to getting work done. Any of us will drift along the continuum depending on the issue. We may not move much but depending on the context, we may shift our approach.

Below is a list of descriptors associated with each.

Power of Ideas
(less political)

Power of People
(more political)

  • Substance power
  • Focus on feedback & learning
  • Do the right thing
  • More open agenda
  • Meritocracy-based decisions
  • Results & ideas speak for themselves
  • Position power
  • Focus on image & perception
  • Do what works
  • More private agenda
  • Relationship-based decisions
  • Self-promotion


Looking at those characteristics, many of us would shy away at the idea of being self-promoting or having a private agenda (i.e., falling within the Power of the People spectrum). Doing a good job, delivering on expectations, working hard should be enough to ensure us a long and happy career in whatever organization we choose to work. But that is not case. We all work in environments with a variety of different types of people. To survive, we need to understand where they fall on the continuum and alter our behavior (within the constraints of our values) to work most effectively with them.

How could any of those characteristics on the right be considered “not bad”? There are many cases where individuals utilize some of the more political characteristics yet would not be viewed as a typical politician. For example:
A manager wants to get someone in his/her group promoted. S/he is competing with other areas with similarly qualified candidates. This manager may potentially draw on a past favour, negotiate an exchange of favours with the decision maker, or leverage the reputation of the group to ensure a fighting chance for his/her candidate.
Would we consider that political? Maybe? Would you want to work for that manager? Probably. Situations are not generally black and white, yes or no. There is always nuance. You have to recognize it.

Rick Brandon & Marty Seldman offer many additional insights and tools to help you survive and thrive. I highly recommend you check out their book. You can also watch an IIBA archived webinar by Rick Brandon, What’s Your Political Style – Learn Tactics for Career and Company Success on the IIBA public webinar archive page.

Future topics (and lessons learned) I will share will include:

  • Politics is not a dirty word
  • Everyone has a boss
  • Don’t be afraid of compromise
  • Never say “NO”
  • Focus on the common ground
  • Care but not too much
  • Play the long game
  • Walk a mile in my shoes
  • Good intentions are not enough
  • Know what you believe in

In the meantime, if you have relevant experience or stories you would like to share, please contact me through my website contact form or through LinkedIn. I am looking to interview people who can add breadth and depth to the discussion.

The New Virtual Reality – Managing without Bricks & Mortar

Rainbow social networkPart 1 – Introduction

In 2003, I led a team of Business Analysts in creating and growing a virtual professional association, International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). When I left in August of 2013, IIBA had grown to 29 staff with revenues of over $5 million. It had 27,000 members from over 130 countries. Yet, we remained completely virtual. While over half the staff lived in and around Toronto, Ontario, the rest hailed from ten other Canadian or American cities. Everyone worked from his or her home. Meetings were held almost exclusively via phone or chat.

IIBA is not the only company running completely virtually, although there are not many others with the diversity of products and services and complexity of operations. Companies with dispersed, distributed sales forces or global consulting groups don’t depend on team collaboration in the way IIBA does. Their staff work relatively independently, or in ad hoc, short term teams. Many IIBA staff are involved in virtual working sessions to develop products, make plans, or create content. Even firms that outsource elements of their production line maintain some physical presence to support their remote teams.

How did we manage? To survive and succeed, we needed to assess whether traditional tools for running a “bricks and mortar” operation could apply to our virtual environment, and if not, determine how they needed to evolve or be replaced by alternative approaches. Since there was no rulebook or management guide to reference to help us along on our journey, we made it up as we went along: what worked, we kept; what didn’t was discarded. In moments of inspiration or great learnings, we agreed that we should write the book on running a virtual organization. Now that I have some perspective on things we did well and what we did wrong, I’m in a position to make that book a reality

Over the course of the next few months, I will share with you the lessons learned during the course of my tenure at IIBA, how those lessons were applied, and challenges faced in implementation.

Virtual organizations will become more prevalent as companies attempt to minimize investments in assets that don’t contribute directly to the bottom line. As well, the need to hire the right talent regardless of where those individuals are located will also drive greater “virtualization”. IIBA may be one of the early adopters, perhaps even an innovator in this space, but the early majority is not too far behind. Companies who wish to continue to succeed will need to better understand how to incorporate elements of a virtual workforce into their organizations, and I’d like to help.

Improvisation – Lessons in Learning to Listen

Stage Door

  • Listening to what is being said
  • Connecting with your stakeholders
  • Facilitating constructive conversations
  • Synthesizing ideas

All critical abilities of a successful business analyst – and leader.

Where can you go to learn or enhance these skills? You could attend traditional education courses, participate in professional development programs, or you could sign up for improvisation class like I did. Improv is about understanding and engagement: listening to, connecting with and building on conversations with others.

Along with 12 other students, I kicked off my 8-weeks of three-hour classes last Sunday. By the time the first session was over, I was exhausted. But I am convinced that once I complete level 1, I will have made significant improvements in some very basic – but critical – business analysis skills.

The key element in improv on which everything else is built, is the concept of “yes and”. Regardless of how strange an “offer” or idea is, you never say no but accept and build on it. For example, we did an exercise called “the gift” where two individuals exchange imaginary boxes in a variety of sizes. The recipient “opens” the box and describes the contents with an explanation of why this is a perfect gift. The giver builds on this response and adds further justification. The humour in improv comes from the absurdity that grows out of this continuing escalation. No one in the exchange ever rejects the reasoning.

Why is “yes and” such an important tool for business analysts? While we are not generally looking to be funny when working with our stakeholders, we are seeking to gain agreement, support and commitment for the work that needs to get done. By avoiding “no”, we can maintain positive, open channels of communication and minimize resistance to the change we are facilitating.

Successful (and funny) improv happens because participants listen to each other and respond positively and collaboratively. The same thing holds true for BAs in discussions with stakeholders. How many of us have seen people disconnect and disengage when their contributions are ignored.

The class instructor helped us practice our listening abilities by utilizing a number of different games for the group to play. Below is an example which I feel could also be used for a session icebreaker as it engages everyone very quickly in a positive activity.

Red Ball

The team stands in a circle, facing each other. One member starts the game by cupping his/her hands around an imaginary ball, stating “Red Ball”, throwing it towards someone, who catches the ball and says “Red Ball”. That person then repeats “Red Ball” and then throws it to another member of the circle. This continues for a while until everyone has the hang of the exercise. Since everyone is following the same ball (even though it is imaginary), we are always making eye contact with the individual with the ball. Our listening skills are fairly focused.

But what happens when you introduce another ball?

Now, in addition to the red ball, we had a green ball that was being thrown around. Same idea: thrower says “Green Ball” tosses it to another member of the circle who is looking at him/her. The receiver announces “Green Ball”, makes eye contact with another member, repeats “Green Ball”, and passes it to that individual. Now with two balls in the air, you need to ensure you make eye contact with the thrower and receiver. If you are effectively listening, you can keep both balls in the air successfully. Depending on how good your group is, you can even add a “Purple Ball” to the mix.

Listening is so fundamental to human interaction, we often forget how easy it is to do it badly. Cell phones, email, text messages and just general noise in our lives have impacted our attention spans, causing us to disengage unintentionally from the people with which we need to connect. Techniques like improvisation can help us positively reconnect by improving our focus and listening skills.

Business Analysis Learnings October & November 2013

It has been a hectic October and November 2013.

In October, I traveled to Salzburg, Austria to participate in the first German speaking Business Analysis Development Day and then continued on to Vilnius, Lithuania; Warsaw, Poland; and Hamburg, Germany to participate in the Business Process Management Europe conferences.
In November, I attended the IIBA Building Business Capability conference in Las Vegas and then traveled to the IIBA Chicagoland Chapter to participate in a chapter event and the BA World conference. In addition to presenting, I had the opportunity to listen and learn from other presenters. I am still absorbing and synthesizing all the information I gathered but here are a few of my initial findings.

Business Analysis practice maturity varies around the world

As I have traveled from country to country throughout my tenure at IIBA and now as an independent consultant, I have had the opportunity to speak with local BA practitioners and to see first hand BA practices across different countries. Not surprisingly, business analysis practice maturity varies and is impacted by a variety of factors including the “personality” of the country, its size, and history. Leading the way – New Zealand and Australia, followed closely by the United Kingdom. Next up, South Africa. Then Canada, the USA, along with many countries in Western Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). The next group includes countries relatively new to business analysis that are either actively developing their BA capabilities or investigating how BA can provide a competitive advantage. It is comprised primarily of emerging economies – Brazil, India, Mexico, Poland, and Lithuania.

Roger Burlton, one of my co-presenters at the BPM European conferences and an expert in business process management, also assesses the maturity of BPM practices worldwide. His impression? Scandinavian countries lead followed by emerging economies such as Poland and Brazil. We are both impressed with the drive and attitude of practitioners and organizations in these emerging economies and as we continue to see economic improvement around the globe, it will be interesting to see if BA and BPM maturity has any visible impacts on the financial performance of these countries.

BA does not equal BPM but there is a lot of overlap

Business Process Management is comprised of both operational and change systems that support the multiple levels of the organization. Operational Systems either are / or support the factory / production lines that produce the products and services for the organization. The Change Systems delivers changes to the factory or production line. Business process management within the change system is Business Analysis.

Business Process Management

Process Level Change System (= Business Analysis)


Operational System
Enterprise Create Process Architecture
Develop Process Measurement System
Align Processes

Define & prioritize changes


Institute continuous improvement

Manage Enterprise processes
Monitor & Report on process performance
Process Understand Processes
Analyze Processes
Redesign Processes
Implement Redesigned Processes
Roll-out Redesigned Processes
Manage & execute specific processes
Define & prioritize changes
Institute continuous improvement
Implementation Implement projects to support process change (e.g., IT, HR) Resource & support functions (e.g., Training, Information Technology)

Business Architecture is Big “B” Business Analysis
Also known as Enterprise Business Analysis

Business Architecture describes the organization and includes: why does it exit – vision, mission; how does it operate – business processes; what does it produce – information, products; who does what – roles; where is it performed within the organization; and when is it done. These are all essential components of what a BA needs to understand before s/he can help facilitate the highest value change / solution for the organization.

What does an Enterprise BA do?

  • Identifies and defines business needs
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement
  • Understands overall business structure, strategy & impact on work efforts
  • Understands organizational culture, structure & impact on work efforts
  • Understands business architecture & can assess capability gaps
  • Identifies and proposes possible solutions Describes and selects a solution approach
  • Defines the new capabilities that the project, iteration or work effort will deliver
  • Determines justification of investment for proposed solution

Business Analysis is the first step in effective organizational change.
We need to educate business leaders on the importance of adopting and applying the discipline of business analysis.


What Lessons Popcorn can Teach Us

I know, I know. A bit of a stretch.
But I ran across this article the other day in the Smithsonian magazine (the only part of the American government still working is online distribution of content!). Since I love popcorn, I wanted to share it.

And there are lessons to be found in everything. Here is what the history of popcorn can teach us:

“Popped” corn has been around a long time (thousands of years) but has evolved to meet changing consumer needs.

  • Understand the user’s experience and profile when designing and evolving your products and services.
  • Just because your organization is successful now doesn’t mean that consumer’s tastes and needs won’t change as the market evolves. For a more current example of this reality, look at Blackberry and even Apple!

Popcorn is popular because it satisfies a number of different needs: it is easy to make; the process itself is “entertaining”; it is mobile; and it tastes good!

  • The reasons why products are successful can be many and they all need to be considered when introducing changes.
  • BA’s are excellent at conducting “What if” analyses. We need to help our multiple stakeholders understand how changes can impact product acceptability in the market.

The market for Popcorn went through some significant shifts based on external factors.
Lack of money during the depression made inexpensive popcorn one of the few accessible treats for many.
The introduction of television and new household appliances like the microwave changed where and how people consumed popcorn so packaging needed to evolve.

  • Changes in the environment open up new opportunities for mature products if marketed properly. You can help your organizations think differently by asking the right questions.

Movie theatre owners were hesitant to invest in the machinery to produce popcorn for their theatres so they “outsourced” production to third party vendors. They mitigated their risk of investment in an unproven market but were able to change their minds after they realized how profitable popcorn could be.

  • Your companies don’t have to absorb all the risk for trying something new. Partner with other organizations to spread the risk but make sure to have a plan to repatriate the product or service.

Movie theatres make an estimated 85 percent profit off of concession sales, and those sales constitute 46 percent of movie theater’s overall profits.

  • Business models are not always obvious and they can change. What made you successful yesterday is no guarantee for tomorrow. Help your organizations ask the right questions.