Notes from Business Analysis Conference Europe’2014

Luckily I had the pleasure to attend one of the most respected and awaited events in Business analyst community – Business Analysis Conference Europe’2014 as one of 416 attendees amongst delegates from UK, Germany, Malaysia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Ukraine and many other countries.

Just to fill you in some background of the audience – more than 370 BAs there – Principal, Lead, Senior, Team lead, Manager; a few nice job titles I noticed: Business analyst mentor, Managing Analyst, Principal Technologist, BA Resource Lead, IT Business analysis expert, Business Analyst Designer, Staff Business analyst, Mobile applications BA. That’s quite impressive BA density per square meter, isn’t it?

And last, but not least – three System analysts. Thanks, Canada and UK for not leaving me alone :) I did a small research and found out that this role has almost disappeared there. BA’s output usually goes to System/Enterprise/Technical architect as input, and architect collaborates with programmers. I believe we here in Latvia will experience the same soon.

Ok, moving on conference. It was a challenge to choose two-day road map when 5 tracks and 40+ interesting presentations there. The questions I had –

  • Is business analysis rebrending itself towards system analysis?
  • Is pretending to be agile really agile? If we have a meeting every day, are we using scrum?
  • What are default values in business analysis nowadays?

So I attended 16 nice events and would like to share some of my impressions and notes. I’ve divided this entry into four main topics – Communications, Agile, Business analysis and life, Experience. First of all, let’s start with warming up. You’ll find answer later, if you are in doubt. Which is BA favorite answer?

  • It’s out of scope
  • Let’s have a meeting about that
  • To be detailed later
  • It depends
  • This will be done automatically

Let me just touch on a BA manifesto I collected:

  • Soft skills über alles. Everything else can be learned
  • Communication – investment vs waste
  • BA must have survival skills and stress management techniques (under pressure, stress etc)
  • Know and do time management
  • Set a goal – every week become a bit more skilled
  • Ask questions! Great BA’s ask – WHY?
  • Understand your values
  • CARE ABOUT YOURSELF. No-one else will – you are a resource


It’s Not What You Say; it’s What’s Heard, Suzanne Robertson

  • Everything is communication. It’s a lifelong challenge
  • BA’s job is to move ideas from one thick skull to another: users, developers, management…
  • Always invest time to align expectations, share mental model
  • Avoid empty announcements, keep positive thread:
    • Flight delayed!
    • Flight delayed because of bad weather. We don’t know for how long but we will be back in 15 minutes to announce news
  • Make noise free environment. Eliminate or at least reduce any
    • visual noise (too bright picture, rough wall…)
    • audial noise (phones, cars…)
    • kinesthetic noise (smell…)
  • Put chairs straight, keep coffee hot, pencils sharp… or they’ll steal attention away
  • If BA knows a formal modelling language, it is like knowing one more foreign language
  • People write tougher than speak. Call!

 Information is beautiful, David McCandless, journalist

  • Protect yourself and others from lies
  • Single date is not truth. Provide context!
  • $ 100 000 000 cut!!?? Is it a big deal?


Be creative! You have so many dimensions!

  • Placement
  • Colour
  • Size
  • Text
  • Hierarchy
  • Font
  • Shape
  • Motion


Animation–free from static world, Andrew Turner

  • Visualize and animate requirements, events, scenarios
  • A picture is worth a thousand words and one minute of video is equal to 8 million words
  • 59% of executives would rather watch video than read text
  • Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video – compared to 10% when reading it in text
  • Ideas when to use animation:
    • Data flow in diagrams
    • Process flow in models
    • Process before/after
    • Data transitions
    • Usability problems, solutions
    • To align expectations with assumptions


Has the relentless march toward Agile eliminated the need for Business Analysts? Andrew Jacques

  • Software should be Agile unless there is a good reason to go Waterfall
  • Waterfall projects can still use Agile techniques within stages
  • A product owner will be involved full time, and ideally they will come from the business rather than IT
  • We have docs, but it’s not a purpose
  • Requirement management tools + documented code + documentation spread over requirements: f.e. JIRA attached user stories, mockups
  • No «pick solution» thinking. We «buy-in» solutions
  • Agile is not a way to reboot a bad team. Agile needs good team
  • 3 week sprints motivates – everyone sees a real result
  • Industry still has little experience maintaining agile projects

 Transition from Waterfall to Agile Tony Hanton, James Fitzgerald

  • Agile is not a silver bullet
  • Agile is a competency, not a methodology:
    • mindset, not template
    • culture, not methods
  • It’s hard to be agile when the team doesn’t understand the business domain
  • Short sprints motivate :)

Business analysis and life

The Business Analyst’s Identity Crisis Richard Shreeve, Consultancy director

Business analysis is increasingly blurred. While distinct roles yet, many of the same skills and competencies are required


Hints to survive:

  • Standardize on a repository-based tool to promote the sharing and re-use of business, information, application and technology models
  • Use frameworks
  • Create templates
  • Draw on existing models
  • Search for best practices
  • Use software for checking consistency etc.

Enhance your BA through UX! Yuri Vedenin

BA’s, please

  • …live in user’s shoes, not process
  • …start building more human centered products
  • …care more about your users preparing mockups and scenarios

Thriving in a world of change Professor Eddie Obeng


When you were a child you saw a similar puzzle.  In THAT problem the lines were same length.  And you learnt the ‘correct answer’

Correct answers don’t live forever. Be aware of them.


World has changed.

By the way Professor suggests: do NOTHING of NO use!

Play! Georgiana Mannion

  • «You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation»
  • A game helps to get rid of teached answers
  • The opposite of play isn’t work, it’s depression

A better way of working Lambert David

  • ~5 meetings a day, 60% of our time on email – when did you have 3 h uninterrupted work?
  • BA problem: no time to lift up your head and think…
  • There IS a better way! Extract maximum from
    • Physical space
    • Technologies
    • Culture

Besides, it was interesting to learn about a company where everything is designed for BA’s to achieve maximum efficiency. Actually there is no better picture and I use my fast photo just to illustrate the idea:


  • How it works there? A new project starts. Team gets it’s place. Stay, move – as your team or you wish. Where would you like work today? Go there! Find a place you feel best today or right now and work there. No reservations required, no limits set
  • You are mobile. IT and data fully equipped everywhere, just plug in
  • Various type of rooms for concentration
    • guaranteed silence, no other people movements near..
    • greenery, single chapels, meditation carpets, yoga…
  • Different rooms for small/medium/large teams, different types for any team:
    • formal meetings, long whiteboard, interactive shared whiteboards, tables, chairs…
    • informal meetings, brainstorming, creative
    • leisure, eating, snacks, recreation, kitchens, free drinks, snacks, food
  • Large open hub where all fit

Looking at the situation from a mortal’s view without having such a perfect office, what can we do TODAY?

  • Don’t wait changes from top. Change yourself and you’ll have followers
  • Change your environment. Make it nice, encouraging
  • Never let environment to eat up you or suppress your talent. Never!!!
  • Organize events
  • Share problems, solve problems
  • Provide feedback
  • Smile, be positive and noticeable


Can a BA add value to IS security project? Gillian Walton

  • Traditionally the Information security team is too focused on physical security of devices and less focused on security of information itself….
  • Through a partnership with security, business analysts can play a key role in ensuring adequate security controls are included in the systems requirements
  • Lawfirm’s project; management is a sponsor
  • Customers demand security
  • ~6 months preparing, studying ISO/IEC 27001
  • Business analyst : look at processes, document them and look no breaches possible
    • What to be protected?
    • Where are gaps?
    • Where are potential gaps?
    • Doubled, tripled data and process holders…
    • Communication channels…
    • Spreadsheets, printouts around, back and forth
  • Create culture!
  • that bunch was a hard nut but it was successfully moved to a new IS and later certified to ISO/IEC 27001

       – How do you know there are zero breaches?

       – I hope :) I know the processes and we did our best. Show people you DO care and do your best!

A Business Analyst Journey to a Lead Business Analyst  Isha Jain, UK IT Business Analyst of the Year ’2013

It was a totally amazing presentation! You are my stakeholders right now and I want to be sure that you step out of this room after achieving your objectives. Isha remembered every question (and name of the questioner) and got his or her confirmation after response.

When Isha started her carrier path as a business analyst, she had a lot of questions:

  • What is the scope? Is it replacing system for 200 people across the department or is it more?
  • What will business tell me as their requirements? Do I want to hear it?
    • System Problems?
    • Things they do in spreadsheets? (~100)?
  • Will that give real Value to the programme?
  • Can I be sure that the requirements will be the real business needs?
  • Can I be confident that these requirements will eliminate all inefficiencies in the department and deliver real business benefits?
  • Remember – people’s perception is built from how you position yourself

Naturally she was noticed and promoted. The next move was to define a BA role in the Company. I want a BA to:

  • Find real requirements that give real value
  • Document Requirements
  • Write Business case
  • Write an Investment proposal
  • Create business process models
  • Be bridge between business and IT
  • Help developers to clarify requirements

I got authority -> people started to believe me -> people started to follow me

Before there were 7 branches and a lot of “irreplaceable” analysts. Isha was certainly sure it’s not a sustainable situation and her direction was to BA’s as a single entity (a pool). Now as a senior management Isha:

  • Established framework – tools for req. management, templates, different workshop styles (200 people there)
  • Created BA service catalogue to avoid people body shopping – provide services, not bodies!
  • Recommends the best approach
  • Leading IS and senior leaders through change
  • Identifying best practices in the industry
  • Provide services not just to project but to wider business
  • Bringing visibility to BA Practice, mentoring BAs
  • Maintains performance hubs – measure, improve
  • Building Skills framework/Training catalogue

Some of Isha’s niceties:

  • Think. Ask. Repeat as necessary :)
  • Remember and answer questions. All questions. Always.
  • Proud and happy doing my job
  • Take time out to celebrate Success and Achievements

Now thank you for staying with my blog and, turning to the end of my notes, here come my findings:

  • Is business analysis rebrending itself towards system analysis?
    • No – it takes over the most pleasant part of IT
  • Is pretending to be agile really agile?
    • Seems yes… but not as dogma – great!
  • What are default values in business analysis nowadays?
    • Communication, talented BAs, requirement management tools

And finally – the BA’s favorite answer : it depends!

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