How to Explain Big Data to your Grandmother

Solink recently published an infographic with the title “How to Explain Big Data to your Grandmother“.

It was put together for The Grandma prize, at Montreal’s Internatonal Startup Festival. To claim this prize, you have to break your idea down to its fundamental parts, and pitch it to a group that will not be up-to-date on the latest jargon and technological advances.

The infographic does that quite well. What do you think of it?

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8 tips from Paul Newman on being a Business Analyst

butchcassidynewman

Paul Newman, – actor, film director, entrepreneur, professional racing driver, auto racing team owner, and auto racing enthusiast, and … Business Analyst guru.

What?!! BA Guru? 

Yep…draw closer and I’ll tell you why…

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Simple advice – How to Make Ugly Slides Beautiful

This slidedeck presents some fantastic tips on turning slides from dull to wow. I really like this one.

Collection of interesting infographics for those touring the world


In a slight diversion from my usual subject matter, here’s a collection of interesting infographics that accorhotel.com has made about the following popular travel destinations:

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The BA is the least knowledgeable about Agile

most knowledgeable

According to VersionOne’s 2013 State of Agile survey, Business Analysts rank as the least knowledgeable about Agile.

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CASE 1- CATWOE & Value Proposition

markjowen:

k@twoah

Having recently “discovered” CATWOE, I found this to be an excellent article.

Originally posted on The science of enterprise—and doing good.:

This is a real life example (has to be anonymous) that shows how defining the core-purpose of your business enables you to define and understand the essence of the value proposition. First up is what the owner described as a manufacturer of coated parts, but what was the value proposition? You’ll need to remind yourself of what CATWOE is here, and my interpretation of what must comprise the value proposition.

1. Hermann Engineering Ltd
Herman Engineering Ltd (HEL) was founded in 1890 by two partners James James and Robert James. It  started its long life near Cardiff in South Wales. It was set up originally to provide a service to the local steel industry, which started to go into heavy decline at the beginning of the 1970s. The company’s principal activity had always been the surface treatment of metal components. Surface treatment involved a variety of processes including, simple…

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Don’t forget’s! when designing for the Web

HQ have put up a great presentation on Slideshare, It that encapsulates some very important factors that must not be forgotten when designing for the web.

I encourage you to have a look…

Is Agile a Cult?

together

Agile: a set of software development methodology principles in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams.

Agile software development is very popular at the moment. It offers a responsive way of developing, and companies are adopting it at a rapid rate.

I’m not going to talk about the benefits of agile – a simple Google search will tell you more than you need to know.

What I do want to touch upon is a comment that someone made to me -Agile is too much like a cult“.

So, let’s have a look … is Agile a cult?

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Back from the Darkness

I'm Back

Time: Friday evening, 23 August 2014

Place: Here

I clicked on the link to my blog to discover ...

24-08-2014 21-35-21

Aarghh … Wordpress had suspended my blog due to a breach of their Terms of Service.

I went through the terms with a magnifying glass. There was nothing that I seemed to have blatantly ignored. Maybe there was something that I had accidentally infringed…

I quickly found their response form on their site, and asked for more information. 

And … it turns out that it was a mistake

Phew! 

Darkness

Asking the question: GOOD; asking it over and over: BAD – where social engagement in the workplace fails.

same_tune

Using social tools within the enterprise is a valuable thing. It lets people ask questions to a bigger audience than just those sitting within hearing distance of their desk.

I’ve discussed this in earlier posts (ESS (Enterprise Social Software) – user adoption, and Let’s share!). It’s incredibly valuable to be able to draw on the knowledge of others. That’s why it’s good to be able to ask questions. The answer given helps not just the asker, but can help others, and at the same time, others can add to the answer creating even more value.

Where I feel this all falls down though is that, often, there is no real way to capture that knowledge that came about from the questions asked. Continue reading

Now this is the right way to do it – webinar times in a big world

Kudos to ProjectTimes.

The Internet is a global thing. This means that anything that you publish on it could be read by pretty much anyone in the world. As a result, it is incredibly valuable to offer times, dates, et cetera, in a way that can be easily “localised’.

Project Times promoted a webinar, and were good enough, with the time, to add the offset to GMT. This meant that I could easily calculate what that time was in my time zone. (Rather than having to try and google a translation.)

webinar instructions

My only grumble with this, is that UTC should be used rather than GMT.
However they are both aligned so it’s not that bad.

Understanding the Frustration of a PM

Oops

So there he was. Charlie had been assigned as lead BA on a project with an external client. “Cool” he thought, but still felt a bit nervous. There were others in his department that had been in the game longer, and he was still reeling from having the proverbial  “slap in the face” in an earlier project that had turned slightly pear-shaped..

As such, Charlie decided to ask some of his colleagues for help. They were most forthcoming, and decided to hook in other expertise. “All fine” he thought, “the more experience available in this, the better.” 

Charlie drew up a elicitation plan, and scheduled several high-level interviews with the various stakeholders from the upper echelon of the company. On the agreed upon day, he headed on down to the client. He was joined by another BA (with a different skill-set), and the lead designer. Charlie was confident that, together, they would be able to get a deep understanding of the business objectives, business drivers, and expectations of the client. 

The interviews went extremely well. Because there were the three of them, each with a different background, and understanding, the notes gathered during these sessions were richer, than if Charlie had been on his own. Charlie was really chuffed. “This knowledge and understanding gathered today will be really valuable, not just for understanding the client and their expectations, but also when holding the lower-level elicitation workshops.” Charlie thought to himself. It was all good…

Until he got back. In his enthusiasm, Charlie had not actually thought about telling the Project Manager that there would be three people involved. The PM was furious. The two extra people meant that the man-hours used had just increased by a factor of 3. The project had already gone over budget. Charlie tried to explain that this meant better requirements had been gathered, and that it was going to help in the future, but this didn’t really help. The PM ended up having to have a very uncomfortable meeting with the client, and the project ended up coming in way over budget.

This story was inspired by a post on the ProjectTimes site titled A Business Analysts’s Best Friends: The Project Manager The key points from that post are:

  • The PM wants timely information from the BA.
  • Top-notch BAs
    • keep the PM informed.
    • ask for help when they need it
    • stay connected to other BAs
    • build great relationships with stakeholders,
    • build trust and ease users into changes.
  • Top-notch BAs have a broad vision. They can focus on the detailed requirements, but they understand how their piece of work fits into the larger project and organization at large.
  • PMs need to given firm estimates and implementation dates.
  • Successful PMs deliver projects on time and within budget.

Looking at Charlie’s story, you can see that he did do some things right. He asked for help, he focused on detailed requirements, and he worked hard to see how they fitted into the customer’s larger goals, and objectives.

At the same time, Charlie made some big mistakes. He didn’t keep the PM properly informed. And the consequences of this were quite serious.

What are your thoughts on this? Did Charlie really screw up royally? Or was he actually doing the right thing?

 

Is this a sign that the PMI’s BA certification is of more value?

Venus and Mars

In a recent ProjectTimes articleKiron Bondale described the oft-seen misalignment between Project Managers and Business Analysts.

In his article, he lists some comments made by each about the other…

From the business analysts, common complaints about project managers include:

  • Appear to be focused solely on cost or schedule constraints without also embracing the criticality of having good quality requirements
  • Demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to provide assistance in ensuring that stakeholders are attending and contributing to requirements gathering or review sessions
  • Don’t bother to read or understand high-level project requirements documents
  • Support or initiate scope change decisions without proactively engaging the business analyst

On the other side, I’ve frequently met project managers who complain about business analysts who:

  • Appear to have no sense of time or cost constraints when producing their deliverables or appear unable or unwilling to provide effort or duration estimates for their work
  • Produce requirements documents which are unusable by other project team members or which don’t address the customer’s stated and unstated needs
  • Appear to forget that the second word in their job title actually implies the task of analyzing, distilling and refining requirements as opposed to just parroting what’s been received from stakeholders
  • Become unavailable for the remainder of the project’s lifetime as soon as their requirements documents have been signed off

A lot of these comments see very familiar to me. As a Business Analyst, I have often felt that the interests of the Project Manager weren’t always in the interest of the customer. More or less exactly what the comments above describe.

I guess because, often, the BA is the one that is talking with the various stakeholders (from Management level through to the people performing the business tasks each day), that it the BA feels that they “really understand” what the real users want, as well as understanding their pain points.

As a professional, also, the BA wants to ensure that they have correctly, and thoroughly captured the users needs, and business/technical requirements, so that these are reflected in the final outcome. This sometimes takes more effort than planned for, or expected. And this can cause issues with the PM’s expectations who, while also wanting to provide a good solution, is also concerned with things such as costs, ongoing impact, etc.

Does this “misalignment” occur because PMs are from Mars, and BAs from Venus? That because they come from different “worlds”, they have different views on reality? If so, realising that the PM is the one that is “in charge” of the project, would it mean that a BA with a better appreciation of the world/ideology/background of the PM be of more value to the project?

And … does this mean that the BA certification offering from the Project Manager Institute, is going to play a bigger part in projects in the future?

Your thoughts … ?

See also:

Look Down

In a recent post (“Is being Socially Connected online really that damaging?“), I discussed a response to a video on YouTube that preached the sadness of the way people are constantly online.

I’ve just discovered another response to “Look Up”. This one is called “Look Down“.

And here’s the link to another good one:

 

How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

I had been holed up for six hours in a dark conference room with 12 managers. It was a group-coaching day and each executive had 30 minutes to describe in detail a cross-cultural challenge she was experiencing at work and to get feedback and suggestions from the others at the table.

It was Willem’s turn, one of the Dutch participants, who recounted an uncomfortable snafu when working with Asian clients.  “How can I fix this relationship?” Willem asked his group of international peers.

Maarten, the other Dutch participant who knew Willem well, jumped in with his perspective. “You are inflexible and can be socially ill-at-ease. That makes it difficult for you to communicate with your team,” he asserted. As Willem listened, I could see his ears turning red (with embarrassment or anger? I wasn’t sure) but that didn’t seem to bother Maarten, who calmly continued to assess Willem’s weaknesses in…

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Customer Complaints Are a Lousy Source of Start-Up Ideas

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Consider this situation. A good friend of yours calls you one day to pick your brain about an innovative business idea. He’ll only consider pursuing this opportunity if you give him a positive review. This particular friend is unemployed at the moment, and he plans to invest most of his savings in the venture. So there’s a lot at stake for him.

On what grounds would you base your opinion? Would you trust your gut? Your past business experience? Look for examples of similar ideas you’d seen elsewhere or that have worked in the past? Try to find parallels from other industries that might also work in this case? Maybe you’d start by digging into a ton of data to confirm or refute your true opinion about the venture.

Clearly, there are many ways to evaluate an innovative business opportunity. But at the end of the day, whichever way…

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Hah! My first data scrape

leaves

I’ve just finished Module 2 of the MOOC Data Journalism course (that I mentioned in an earlier post).

The description for this module is:

This module deals with the range of skills that journalists use to obtain data. This includes setting up alerts to regular sources of information, simple search engine techniques that can save hours of time and using laws in your own and other countries.”

And (like all the other Modules) is made up of four parts:

  1. Setting up ‘data newswires’
  2. Strategic searching – tips and tricks
  3. Introduction to scraping
  4. Data laws and sources

In Part 3, I learnt to do some basic data scraping. This, essentially, is a way of grabbing content from lists, and tables, on web sites.

We covered a few tools that make this possible. The one that did surprise me was that you can use a spreadsheet created in Google Drive.

The command is IMPORTHTML(url, query, index)

Just as a practice I used it to scrape the list of Titanic passengers from Wikipedia.

Here’s the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Titanic_passengers#Survivors_and_victims

And here is the Google spreadsheet that I imported the data to: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1g_ngM049ZgAPh25UXMmwWwMDlvGY_nD6aGbFLhBJwXo/edit?usp=sharing

It was my first scraping, and nothing fancy. Also the data does need a bit of cleaning (in one case, there was extra info in the HTML that the scraping pulled in).

Also, this functionality is not just available in Google Spreadsheet. I have read that Excel can also do this. If you know of any more, please let me know.

Cheers