Category Archives: Articles

The Analysis Cross-Matrix: A new or useful idea?

I want to present an idea I had for a business analysis artifact that I am currently calling an Analysis Cross-Matrix.  I don’t know if it’s original, although I haven’t seen it anywhere else.  I don’t even know if it might be particularly useful, or if there are existing techniques that can do the same thing better. That’s why I am posting this article.  I want feedback.  But so far it seems potentially useful and the initial feedback I’ve gotten from a few co-workers was mostly positive.

The idea originated when I came across an example of a Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix and combined it with some of the concepts from the Business Analysis Core Concept Model.

I took the main cross-matrix structure from Hoshin Kanri but changed the arms of the cross to represent information about Stakeholders, Needs, Changes, and Solutions.  These represent the Who, Why, What, and How of any initiative.  And depending on how you populate the cells of the matrix, we can add the When dimension as well.

The basic unpopulated matrix looks like the sample below. You can select whatever colors you prefer, of course.

AMconcept-1

The matrix is intended to be read in a clock-wise manner starting with the Stakeholder arm (at 9 o’clock).  Essentially, the structure is that Stakeholders have Needs, Needs drive the definition of Changes, Changes are realized via Solutions, and Solutions impact Stakeholders.

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Orwell’s Rules for Writing [Requirements]

In April 1946, an article titled “Politics and the English Language” by the English author George Orwell was published in the journal Horizon.  In it, he railed against the use of vague and over-stylized language in political speech and journalism, with the paragraph below providing a sample of the tone and content of the article.

 

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called PACIFICATION. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called TRANSFER OF POPULATION or RECTIFICATION OF FRONTIERS. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called ELIMINATION OF UNRELIABLE ELEMENTS. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. ” [1]

 

His main point was an argument that the ‘decline’ in the English language as used in journalism and politics was both a symptom of, and a contributor to, the decline of English civilization.   The article ends with the paragraph below in which Orwell appeals for readers to consciously improve their use of English as a way of improving their civilization:

 

” … one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language-and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists–is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase–some JACKBOOT, ACHILLES’ HEEL, HOTBED, MELTING POT, ACID TEST, VERITABLE INFERNO or other lump of verbal refuse–into the dustbin where it belongs.” [1]

 

So if you have read this far, no doubt you are thinking “What does this have to do with requirements?”  The answer to that comes towards the end of Orwell’s article when he provides six rules for improving English writing.   And these rules are just as applicable to writing good requirements as they were [and are] to improving political journalism.

 

Those rules are: [1]
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The CPRE-FL Certification and Exam – Thoughts and Experiences

After about three and half months of (mostly) weekend study, I sat for and passed the Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering – Foundation Level (CPRE-FL) exam today. And for anyone interested or who might benefit from it, I thought I would share some thoughts on the certification itself, the exam, and my study process.

The Certification

For anyone not familiar with the CPRE certifications from the Certification wiki page on this site, or the CPRE wiki page, you should be aware that the CPRE certification is offered by the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) as an entry-level certification for those who either wish to, or are, engaged in requirements engineering practices.   As a Foundation-level exam, the focus is on core concepts in eliciting, documenting, validating, and managing requirements.

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Better Business Analysis Through Problem Statements

NOTE: As part of a BA discussion group at work, we were discussing different ways to encourage a focus on defining the root cause of the problem before a solution is specified. We had all had far too many experiences with a business partner saying “the problem is that the system does not …. (have a drop-down here, have this extra screen, a button for this, etc.)”, where the problem is defined as the lack of the solution they have already decided upon without any investigation to ensure that the problem has been correctly identified. I brought up the use of Problem Statements, and was asked by my peers to write up my ideas in more detail. I ended up writing it in article format so that it could be shared ahead of time, and it was deliberately written to generate some discussion. I hope you find it useful as well.

 

Introduction

A problem can be defined as “a difference between the expected state affairs and the actual state affairs”. And according to Wikipedia a problem statement “is a concise description of the issues that need to be addressed by a problem solving team and should be presented to them (or created by them) before they try to solve the problem”. [1]

Problem Statements are a common aspect of Project Management. They are frequently included in a Project Charter, with the Problem Statement identifying what problem the project is focused on solving and the Business Case identifying why the problem should be solved (usually in the form of some specific benefit(s) to be gained).

However, problem statements should also be used in the Elicitation and Requirements Analysis aspects of Business Analysis work.

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