Admin to Analyst: Where does a Salesforce BA go for help?

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the  “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am still thrilled that I was asked to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

If you have a question that wasn’t answered in the session, please let us know.

A couple interactions recently caused me to write down my “go to” list of learning and knowledge about Salesforce.

  • @NickersUniverse  asked me (on the Power of Us Hub) “where do you go for Salesforce resources? “
  • One of the power-users at my org indicated that  she would not be able to go to DreamForce this year, due to timing and cost.  She indicated there must be other places for her to learn about Salesforce and connect with other users..

YES there is!  My answer was a list of all sorts of stuff:

 Out of all of the resources The best resource I have for help is the amazing Salesforce Community.  When I am asked if it’s more important “What” you know or “Who” you know, my answer is that all the best things I have learned I get from the smart people I interact with in the community.
“We are the music makers,
and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
– Willie Wonka
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Do you have other resources that you use to learn about Salesforce and connect with resources?   Add them to the comments or send me a message!
Thanks
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Admin to Analyst: Who makes a good Salesforce BA?

This is the 6th post regarding the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

I encourage you to bookmark this session and come join us – it will be a fun discussion!

Would you be a great Salesforce BA?

For those of you who are reading this that are currently a Salesforce Admin (#AwesomeAdmin), well, first of all thanks for reading!  If you have reading this far, you may be wondering if you should be a Salesforce Business Analyst.

I am here to break the news to you that you might already be headed down the Salesforce BA road, as the activity of “Business Analysis” goes beyond the role or title.

In my own background, I have been in the technology field for most of my life, and have held the following Roles:

  • Pre-Sales Engineer, where I was responsible for providing technical support to Sales staff during a sales process, performing product demonstrations, understanding customer needs, responding to RFPs and RFIs, work with both sales and marketing colleagues to transition prospects and leads into customers.
  • Help Desk Customer Support, where my role was to ensure that end users can accomplish their tasks in our hardware and software. This including triage, prioritizing, documenting, and actively resolving help requests.  Problem resolution involved the use of tracking tools.  I learned how to ask good questions and listen to the answers. I learned how to explain complex technical issues to customers and train both internal and external users on difficult functional processes.
  • QA Manager, where I was responsible for overall test planning.  At a small software company, I built test environments and scripts.  I gained analytical and problem-solving skills to help understand the software goals, document the metrics to meet those goals, and validate the processes through testing.   Over time, I also built strong bonds with internal developers, architects and management.
  • Technical Writer, where I authored, organized, and managed information in support of business units across the enterprise. (Information includes written documentation, visual models, and digital media.)  This included accumulating, understanding, and leveraging industry-specific knowledge for the benefit of the organization, its clients, its employees, and its business partners.  I was responsible for generating original content and knowledge assets.  Critical analysis and customer service skills were essential for this role.
  • CRM Product Manager, where my role is to supervise and maintain the installation, configuration, and support of the organization’s CRM software through best practices.  I analyze and resolve program issues and hold responsibility for monitoring data quality.  I also use communication & problem-solving skills to guide and assist end users on issues related to the design, development, and deployment of CRM software critical to business operations.

While these roles haven’t been titled as “Business Analyst”, they still require an understanding of the organization’s needs intimately and have the skills to communicate those needs in a way that all stakeholders can understand.  Other skills these roles share:

  • Ability to quickly get up-to-speed on an issue and understand how that issue affects the enterprise 
  • Establish trust and credibility with your stakeholders
  • Tailor communications to different audiences
  • Problem solving
  • Strong analytical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Intimate knowledge of users, and their business processes
  • Documentation skills

Why should I be a BA?

Laura Brandenburg, (CBAP certified leader) wrote 42 Reasons To Start a Business Analyst Career, but my best reason for pursuing the BA career track is that the role of a Business Analyst is both interesting & challenging due to the variety of industries & business problem challenges that it covers.  Some professionals are always searching for their “next big thing” and Business Analysis offers a very unique role that allows people be as challenged as they dare to be.

Also, there are compensation reasons someone may want to be a BA.  The Salesforce Career page refers to average salary, however the 2017 Robert Half salary study shows a CRM Business Analyst as having a 3.9% increase in salary from last year

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Technology Salaries in the United States, 2016, 2017 with the % Change

One additional side-note about that salary study:  They asked CIO’s “In which one of the following areas would you say tech professionals could use improvement?” They saw gaps in the soft skills that would be part of regular Business Analysis core competencies:

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Who would make a great Salesforce BA?

Just for fun, I decided to come up with my list of fun people who would make great Salesforce BAs.  (click the links in the lists below for videos!)
Who would you add to this list?

Marge Gunderson (Fargo)

In the movie Fargo, Marge Gunderson is the chief of police in Brainerd, Minnesota.

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Why she would make a great Salesforce BA:

 

Columbo

Columbo is a talkative homicide detective who is first seen as absentminded, however is intelligent and solves all of his mysteries, usually to his ability ton observe mistakes or flaws in the killer’s actions & motives. 

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Why he would make a great Salesforce BA:

 

Captain Kirk

James Tiberius Kirk (fictional character) is the captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek shows and movies.

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Why he would make a great Salesforce BA:

 

Trailhead4All Students

Trailhead4All is a challenge within the Salesforce community to host at least one Trailhead event at a nonprofit, school, or any community gathering and spread the Salesforce knowledge before Dreamforce 2016.   Read more about the challenge at the annieforce blog

I had the honor of helping the Twin-Cities Tralhead4All event and it was a blast.  I would love to do this again.

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Why they are great Salesforce BAs:

  • Listening
  • Solutions Knowledge
  • Adaptability
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Tools and Technology

 

I hope to see you all at Dreamforce!  Have ideas or questions for further deep-dives in the life of a Salesforce Business Analysis?  Let me know!

Stuart

 

Admin to Analyst: Process Modeling & Prototyping

This is the 5th post regarding the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

I encourage you to bookmark this session and come join us – it will be a fun discussion!

Process! Solutions! Building!

If you are going to Dreamforce, you will notice quite a few sessions regarding how to Plan your solutions (you might hear some refer to it as “putting on a BA Hat”). If you are lucky enough to have a Salesforce BA (or to be a Salesforce BA) then you are already wearing that hat and Design, Process Modeling and Prototyping solutions.  If you are a Solo-Admin who also serves as the organizations Salesforce BA, then you are accustomed to thinking about these tasks as well.   I will point out some of the things you may want to bookmark for your Dreamforce Agenda:

 

A Builder uses a Blueprint

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At my house, we are watching a LOT of Bob the Builder, and one of the things that hits home to me is that Bob never just instructs his equipment to start digging dirt and placing concrete without FIRST having a plan and a blueprint.  Without the right design on paper, the structure can crumble and fall.  The same exists for your software customization and configuration.

So what techniques do Salesforce Business Analysts use to build the Design to use when Building Solutions?

Process Modeling

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A business process model describes the sequential flow of work across defined tasks and activities through an enterprise.  A system process model defines the sequential flow of control among programs or units within a computer system.  A process flow shows the sequential execution of program statements within a software program. A process model can also be used in documenting operational procedures.
(Hopefully your current operational procedures are not like the following…) 
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Process models generally include the following elements:

  • People – the participants in the process who either do the action or are affected by the action
  • Process – most processes can be broken down to their elements:  events that trigger the process, the steps or actions of the process (manual or automated),  the path that link these actions, and the ending results of the process
  • Places – where the action takes place, context of the action
  • Policy – the rules, limits, guidelines, or governance around the action being accomplished
  • Technology – the tools or systems used to complete the action.
  • Data – what are the inputs and outputs of the process.

Benefits of Process Modeling:

  • Provide a sequence of events or actions to your stakeholders
  • Provide a visual to accompany written documents
  • Shows events by people, rules, or passage of time
  • Define Current State (as-is) and Future State (to-be) processes
  • Effectively show how to handle large number of scenarios
  • Can be used for process analysis, verifying requirements, QA and training tasks

Process Modeling Best Practices:

  • Start Simple!  Models can get complex and hard to understand when contain too much activity
  • Use as Supplement to Documentation:  Problems that can happen in processes are not always identifiable by only looking at a model

Process Modeling Tools:

I have tried many different Business Process Modeling tools, and in my use, I have appreciated Microsoft Visio and Google Docs for the work that I do.  I am able to create all sorts of diagrams that help explain the Business and Process, including Org Charts, Swimlanes, Data Flow, Process Mapping, etc.

You don’t have to use Visio, here are a list of other tools that you may want to refer to.

 

Prototyping

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A good way of validating a requested solution may be to prototype the design in a very simple (crude) method.   Prototypes can be models or depictions of a proposed solution.  They can be used as a partially working construct of a product, or describe business processes through a series of diagrams.

Most prototypes fall into one of two categories:

  • Throw-away: prototypes created on cocktail napkins, paper and pencil or on whiteboard, does not become a workable product or deliverable once the final system or process is developed.  This method is helpful for identifying functionality or
    processes that are not easily to understand.  Where there is confusion or conflicting needs, it may be a good to use an inexpensive and malleable tool to confirm the accuracy of design.
  • Evolutionary or Functional: some prototypes are created as a possible working solution and may be used in the final solution.  Creating a “non-production” version of a technology that is well understood and has specific requirements  that can be demonstrated, tested and confirmed may be another way to design a prototype.

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Benefits of Prototyping: 

  • Provides a visual display of a solution concept
  • Identifies both missing or improperly specified requirements and assumptions
  • Should give stakeholders an idea of the functional scope, and allow for early feedback

Prototyping Best Practices:

  • Prototypes can start out as basic skeletons to represent actual solutions.
    • Start on paper
    • Move to digital diagrams
    • Evolve to mockups in software (such as Balsamiq or a Salesforce Sandbox)
  • Review periodically with stakeholders

Prototyping Tools:

I have to say that when I start a design, I LOVE using post it notes and whiteboards.  It allows for collaboration with others (there are virtual whiteboards for remote teams) and there is something magical about whiteboards and post it notes when starting to design a prototype.

Once you have a basic whiteboard picture, I really like Balsamiq for creating something that can look and feel like a product, without actually working.  This can be helpful to set expectations with users and executives.

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Once you have agreement on the design of your proposed solution, you may want to build a working prototype in your Salesforce Sandbox for a real-world scenario testing.

 

Validating Requirements

No matter what techniques you use, you should Validate the Requirements: ensures that a set of requirements or designs delivers business value and supports the organization’s goals and objectives.  Always ask yourself “Are the customer needs met?”  and “Will the solution do the right thing?”

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Got questions?   Want a deeper dive in any area?  Leave a comment and let me know!  Thanks for reading.  

Stuart Edeal  

Admin to Analyst: Training & Certification (If I Only Had A Brain?)

This is the 4th post regarding the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

I encourage you to bookmark this session and come join us – it will be a fun discussion!

Toni Martin surprised me a bit the other day on a prep call for our panel discussion.  She indicated that (SAFE HARBOR) question #4 of our DF16 presentation slides is “What training exists or is required for Salesforce BAs?”   What advice do I have to offer on this subject…..

Required?

Where I am getting stuck is the word “Required”.   What is required I believe depends on the context of your situation.   So I won’t be able to say “You Must Do This!” however, I will try to explain that there are many paths you might take on the road to learning about being an #Awesome Salesforce Business Analysis

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If we think about a Business Analyst, this is a person who has both Soft Skills and Technical Chops.  This is a person who can dive into the weeds on a topic, but still see the forest for the trees.  This person serves as a “liaison” between the Technical world and the Business world.   So with that understanding, we should consider these core skill:

  • Communication – able to communicate with both the technical teams, but also the end users and the C-level executives about a project or issue.
  • Problem Solving – be able to understand “problems” and their context within the organization.  Be able to triage issues and manage incidents that turn into problems. (Traige, Incidents and Problem Management are a nod to ITIL, which is a different training altogether.)
  • Critical Thinking – asking questions, considering options outside the box.
  • Facilitation  leading others through a process to transfer knowledge, resolve conflict (remember me saying a BA is like a Hostage Negotiator..); handle ambiguity in the workplace (clear the fog of doubt).
  • Camp Counselor – very often the BA is the Relationship Builder.  As you build trust with your teams and users, some will seek your advice on other leadership questions.
  • Industry Expertise – the BA is looked upon for “How should we do that?” type questions.  It makes sense, as the BA has a lot of Proprietary Intelligence from discussions with internal stakeholders.  Having Industry Knowledge will make this question easier to answer.
  • Technical  Skills – if you are going to analyze a problem with software, it helps to know about how it works.  Does this mean you need to be a technical expert?  Well, the answer is that CONTEXT MATTERS!

Context

For example, are you a Solo-Admin + BA?  You may find that YOU are the technical expert and should be always growing your Technical Skills.   Are you part of a larger team that has Developers, Support Staff and other Business Analysts and Systems Analysts?  Then you may find that you don’t require to be the technical expert, however you should understand the details enough to be able to communicate, discuss, debate and rally support with your counterparts.

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I am not a coder (yet) but I understand enough about how systems and integrations work to be able to map out a process for our technical guru’s or outside consultants to work with.

Training

Business Analyst Training

Technical Training

Don’t Forget Technical training as well.   Of course, there are lots of resources available for Salesforce Training.  I won’t mention them all, but I will give a shout-out to TRAILHEAD! Reach out to me if you want advice on How Trailhead helps the Salesforce BA, cause we could build a trail specifically around modules that do this.

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Certifications

I am not going to tell you to get certified or not.  I can give an overview of what Certification means to me:

  • It demonstrates a professional level of capabilities on a subject
  • It provides recognition of competence by professional peers
  • It should increase confidence by employers during candidate search and hiring

Business Analyst Certification

There are several types of certifications available to Business Analysts: Industry credentials from IIBA®and PMI®, which are primarily knowledge-based, and Academic Certification, which is a blend of skills training and theory.

As of September 30, 2016 the IIBA has announced new levels of Certification:

ECBA™ (Entry Certificate in Business Analysis)
Awarded By International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®)
Experience Needed A minimum of 21 hours of professional development training in the last four years is required.

For more details, visit the IIBA® Website.

Steps to Credential Application process and a 1.5-hour, 50-question multiple-choice exam
Best For Recognizes individuals entering the field of business analysis.
CCBA® (Certification of Capability in Business Analysis)
Awarded By International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®)
Experience Needed 3,750 hours of BA experience + 21 hours of professional development training.

For more details, visit the IIBA® Website.

Steps to Credential Application process and a 3-hour, 130-question multiple-choice exam
Best For Recognizes BA professionals who have 2-3 years of experience.
CBAP®  (Certified Business Analysis Professional)
Awarded By International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®)
Experience Needed 7,500 hours of BA experience + 35 hours of professional development training.

For more details, visit the IIBA® Website.

Steps to Credential Application process and a 3.5-hour, 120-question multiple-choice exam
Best For Recognizes BA professionals who lead and have over 5 years of BA experience.
CBATL™ (Certified Business Analysis Thought Leader)
Awarded By International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®)
Experience Needed Require a minimum of 10 years’ experience and will be assessment based.

For more details, visit the IIBA® Website.

Steps to Credential TBD – assessment based application
Best For Recognizes BA professionals who advance the BA profession and have over 10 years of experience.
.

 

PMI-PBA®
Awarded By Project Management Institute (PMI®)
Experience Needed With a High School Diploma or Associate’s Degree: 7,500 hours of BA experience + 35 hours of professional development training.

With a Bachelor’s Degree: 4,500 hours of BA experience + 35 hours of professional development training.

For more details, visit the PMI® Website.

Steps to Credential Application process and a 200-question exam.
Best For Current CBAP or PMP, “hybrid” BA-PM.

Also, there are college degrees that are specific to BA fields, if that is a route you wish to take.

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Masters Certificate or Associate Certificate in Business Analysis
Awarded By Universities
Experience Needed No previous experience is required.
Steps to Credential The successful completion of required courses and may have an elective course depending on the program.
Best For Anyone, with any level of experience, interested in making business analysis their career or seeking to broaden their knowledge or experience in the discipline of business analysis.

 

Salesforce Certification

Why get Salesforce certification?  I found an article by Shell Black that can give you a more detailed reason around this:

“I think this is an extremely important factor in accessing a Salesforce administrator’s value to a company. If the administrator just a “doer” (and simply implementing the decisions of others), they have less value to an organization versus an administrator that is providing options and strategic direction on how to solve business problems with the Salesforce platform. An individual that is involved in the decision making process, or even better the strategic direction of a company, has inherently more value to an organization.”

 

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Admin Track -> Administrator Certification, Advanced Admin Certification
Awarded By Salesforce
Experience Needed No prerequisites are required.
Steps to Credential Application process and a 60-question exam.
Best For Candidates should possess broad knowledge of Salesforce applications, regularly configure and manage Salesforce, and continuously look for ways their companies can get even more from additional features and capabilities.
Implementation Track “Consultant” Certifications -> Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Community Cloud, Marketing Cloud, (Pardot)
Awarded By Salesforce
Experience Needed Prerequisite: Current status as a Salesforce Certified Administrator
Steps to Credential The successful completion of required courses and may have an elective course depending on the program.
Best For Candidates should be able to successfully design and implement solutions that are maintainable and scale-able, and contribute to long-term customer success.

So, Is Certification Required?

I was recently asked “Did taking the Salesforce Admin Certification help you in understanding Salesforce?”  My answer is no and yes – here is why.  “Taking” and “Passing” the certification test didn’t make me smarter nor does it mean I am an expert in all things Salesforce (I mean, who really is an expert in ALL things Salesforce?)  What did help me was “Studying” and “Preparing” for the test.   This journey down the yellow brick road of knowledge was the thing that for me was the key.  Getting the diploma is nice, however it is only a milestone on the continuing journey.

Similar with BA Certification.   While it is on my roadmap, I have not yet taken the CBAP certification, however I have gone through 2 study groups specifically for certification.  I know that, like the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, getting the certification is only a blip on the journey.  Maintaining my knowledge, continuing to grow and networking with others is an ongoing process.

Having a Certification is one thing.   Using it is yet another.  I encourage you, if you do have a Certification, use it!  Train, Teach, Encourage Others.  Volunteer where help is needed in your local community.  Maintain your learning and don’t let it go stale.

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 Got questions? Want a deeper dive in any area? Leave a comment and let me know! Thanks for reading.   

Stuart Edeal

Admin to Analyst: “I Would Do Anything, But I Won’t Do That” – Decision Making and Prioritization

This is the 3rd post regarding the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

I encourage you to bookmark this session and come join us – it will be a fun discussion!

Just like Meat Loaf, there are things that a Salesforce BA (and Awesome Admin) should decide to do or not do based on Priority and Resources.  After review of the lyrics, The Salesforce BA can agree with Meat Loaf that we will “never lie to you and that’s a fact.”

Can We Start Building Now?

Ok, so let’s recap from last post -> Salesforce BAs know how about intelligent information collection methods.   So, once we know all of the pain points of our users and stakeholders, we are ready to start designing, building and solving problems, right!

Well, not quite yet – believe me we are so close – but we have to take a step back and think some more.

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(yes, I really like this little bear)

First things First

As a Salesforce Business Analyst, you met with the business and the techies and you have your list of the “Issues” that you know about.  It’s a big list.  It’s a really big list.  When I started at my current position, the list I had developed after the first round of discussions was over 21 pages of items that needed some help.  So what’s the problem with that?  Well, nothing, except – which ones do I do first?

I was recently was reminded by a photographer friend of mine that when taking a picture, you can focus on the background and the foreground will be blurry, or you can focus on the foreground, however the background will be blurry.   Its hard to get both to be clear.

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Same applies with Organizational Priorities.   Remember that as a Business Analyst, some of your responsibilities include:

  • Decision Making
  • Organization Knowledge

So at this time we need to make some decisions.  Why “we”?  Because the BA knows the most about the point of view of the main stakeholders in the organization.  The BA IS the link to understand both the Business Needs and the Technical Resources, and therefore needs to be involved in Priorities and Roadmap decisions.  Who else in the organization is prepared to ask these questions:

  • How much can we do?
  • What should we do?
  • Are these the “right” problems to solve?
  • Is it worth it?

On this topic, Let me introduce you to Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian Economist, born in France, who demonstrated that “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes” This is know as the Pareto Principle.  This same principle has been observed in non-economic industries as well.

For example, Microsoft noted that by fixing the top 20% of the most-reported bugs, 80% of the related errors and crashes in a given system would be eliminated.[12]

What does the Pareto Principle mean to me?  I have found that by focusing on the “Critical Few” – those items that have the biggest value or impact on the organization RIGHT NOW – should produce the greatest of effects.

Techniques

So how do we decide what are those 20%?   Luckily, there techniques Business Analysts can use to help make these kinds of decisions .

Estimation

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Estimation is forecasting the cost, effort and benefits involved in pursuing a course of action.   For the most part, these are “rough numbers” only.  Some common estimation methods include (I have used the ones in bold and would be glad to walk anyone through these):

  • Bottom-up Estimation: using the lowest-level elements to examine the work and estimate the individual cost or effort, and then summing across all elements to provide an overall estimate.
  • Rolling Wave: repeated estimates throughout a project, providing estimates for near-term activities (such as an iteration of the work) and then extrapolated for the remainder of the project.
  • Three-point Estimation: each component of the estimate is given three values: (1) Optimistic value (best-case scenario), (2) Pessimistic value,
    (worst-case scenario), (3) Most Likely value. These estimations are calculated in a weighted average:  (Optimistic + Pessimistic + (4 x Most Likely))/6.
  • Delphi Estimation: uses a combination of expert judgment and history. There are several variations on this process, but they all include individual estimates, sharing the estimates with experts, and having several rounds of estimation until consensus is reached.
  • Analogous Estimation: using a similar project that is like the one being estimated
  • Historic Analysis: using previous examples of work from this organization.
  • Expert Judgment: leveraging the knowledge of your stakeholders and subject matter experts.

Benefits of Estimation:

  • Helps make better decisions based on improved understanding of likely outcomes from an initiative
  • May discover resources needs in order to complete a project

Estimation Best Practices:

  • Don’t treat estimates as commitments or expect the solution team to meet the
    estimated time and costs

 

Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

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Indicators that identify specific measurement for a goal, impact, or activity.  When describing KPIs, I like to use the term Critical Success Factor.  What is it that we will use to determine the ROI of this project.  What I have told my C-level Executives is “In 12 months, you are going to ask me if the Salesforce implementation has been successful!”  In order to answer that question in the future, I need to know What you want to measure to track what “success” looks like.

Good indicators are

  • Clear
  • Relevant
  • Quantifiable
  • Credible

(I do have a separate list of Salesforce KPIs that I can help you with, if you would like to look at these.)

Benefits of KPIs:

  • Allows stakeholders to understand how a solution meets it’s objective

KPI Best Practices:

  • Keep Metrics Simple.  Too many data points beyond what is needed can be expensive and distract the project.
  • Don’t use as a personal evaluation tool. Performance metrics for individuals may be a detriment to other activities since focus is on individual measures.

 

 

The Core Concept Model

The final help with Decision Making and Prioritization comes through the Business Analysis Core Concept Model™, which reminds us:

Business Analysis is the practice of enabling Change in an organizational Context by defining Needs and recommending Solutions that deliver Value to Stakeholders.”

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This BACCM™ diagram reminds me to stay focused on these key points when making decisions.   (This graphic reminds me a little of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock but it does keep me in line with the fact that each decision affects another decision).

  • The Context determines the scope of Change and how Stakeholders deal with Change
  • Solutions that are being created should fit the Needs of the Stakeholders and ultimately provide Value

As I look at my list of “to dos”, I need to take the time to think about these pieces and how they fit together.   When prioritizing work, how are you affecting your Stakeholders, what Value is being offered, what Needs are being met, and what is the Context in which these Changes are going to live.

So hopefully these tools can help you put Focus on your work as we get closer to the actual step of Problem Solving!   (its coming soon..)

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Got questions? Want a deeper dive in any area? Leave a comment and let me know! Thanks for reading.   

Stuart Edeal

Admin to Analyst: Hostage Negotiations

This is the 2nd post regarding the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

I encourage you to bookmark this session and come join us – it will be a fun discussion!

In my previous blurb, I indicated that one of the responsibilities of a Salesforce Business Analyst is “Understanding Enterprise Problems and Goals“.   This is an incredible responsibility, and something that not every organization does well.  It is critical, however.  I think of an organization that does not understand it’s Problems and Goals is like the captain of the Titanic realizing too late that it won’t make it’s destination:

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Some may think that this responsibility is the job of “Gathering Requirements.”   While it is true that Salesforce BA’s may Elicit Requirements, it isn’t “gathering” as if they are berries waiting to be picked.   While understanding business needs and their context is very important, it is MORE than just serving as stenographer.  

One definition of a Salesforce BA which I like is that it is similar to that of a Hostage Negotiator or Interrogator, as part of human intelligence (intelligence collection).  Oh yeah – “Jack Bauer is your new Business Analyst!”

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Techniques

Salesforce BA’s (Hostage Negotiators) have a number of techniques they use to foster good elicitation. Here are some of my favorite Techniques for “intelligence collection”

Brainstorming

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Have you ever been part of a brand new project OR in a situation where your users say “We don’t like what we have , but we really don’t know what we want!”  (One of my favorites was a VP asking “How do we make ticket sales actionable?”  It took a while to dissect that question!)  Brainstorming works by focusing on a topic or problem and then coming up with many possible solutions to it. This technique is best applied in a group as it draws on the experience and creativity of all members of the group.

Benefits of Brainstorming:

  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Can produce many ideas from a group
  • Can be a great technique for identifying problems, risks and assumptions

Brainstorming Best Practices:

  • Communicate and agree on the rules (time limits, communication style, goals, etc)
  • Consider using a “paper method” of writing & sharing ideas to allow for full participation.
  • Be active during the facilitation but don’t take over, perhaps assign someone to be the “idea recorder”
  • Evaluate the “Top 10” ideas, review the context with stakeholders
  • Retain relevant notes, posters, summary thoughts

Observation

observation

I have always thought of Observation as “Job Shadowing”.  When working with a new group or department, I like to take time to understand their perspective, up close.  This is actually one of the more interesting parts of my job, as I learn what that business is doing.  Observation of activities involves examining a work activity firsthand as it is performed. It can be conducted in either natural work environments or specially constructed laboratory conditions.

Benefits of Observation: 

  • Watch the actual operation of current business processes
  • Learn the scope and context in which people do their work

This has always been a great networking opportunity for me.  (I will tell the managers, “Let me be your employee for a week, so I can learn more about what you do”.  They get free work out of it, and I come away with an understanding of job specifics.)

Observation Best Practices:

  • Inform the user what the goal of Observation is.  (Reduce fear of being replaced)
  • Whether Passive or Active, focus on the “work” not the “person”.  What is being accomplished and how is it done?
  • Ask Questions, Listen!
  • If there is time, review your findings with the users
  • Take good Notes, and Summarize findings and observations.

 

Survey/Questionnaire

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A survey or questionnaire presents a set of questions to your subject experts, whose responses are then analyzed.  The questions can be submitted in written form or can be administered in person.  I like to do surveying through a process called “Voice of the Customer”

Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used in business and Information Technology (through ITIL, for example) to describe the in-depth process of capturing customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.

from Wikipedia

Benefits of Survey/Questionnaire: 

  • Information from many people in a short amount of time
  • This can reveal problem areas among the target group
  • Discover “Big Picture” themes and similarities from questions about direction, trust, change management concerns, etc.

Survey/Questionnaire Best Practices:

  • Spend time (lots of time) defining the purpose of the survey & target group
  • Develop the questions, distribute the survey, compile results
  • Plan for a low response, and uncertain results
  • Look for “outliers”, new insights, or places with vast disagreements (Are all the answers in sync? Does the target group agree on vision, mission and direction?)

 

Document Analysis

document analysis

Document analysis may include reviewing technical documentation, training materials, problem cases, previous implementation documents, and procedure manuals in order to validate how the current solution works and why it was implemented in its current form.

Here is the nice thing about being a Salesforce BA, and that is Salesforce has a plethora of documentation that you can use to help understand the platform.  Here,  here, and here for example.

Benefits of Document Analysis: 

  • Allows for self-paced learning to get a jump-start on a project.
  • May provide context about the product/project that users don’t remember.

Document Analysis Best Practices:

  • Look for relevant documents (has the information expired?)
  • Read and create notes on your reading
  • Follow-up on new information with your subject matter experts
  • Use documents as input to future requirements.

 

Interface Analysis

interface analysis

Most systems require connections with other applications, hardware and devices. Interface Analysis helps to identify these connections to determine how these systems interact with one another effectively.  Interface types may include:

  • internal and external users, directly interacting with the system
  • business processes,
  • data,
  • application programming interfaces (APIs), and
  • hardware devices.

As a Salesforce BA, you have many tools that can help you in this area.  First of all – Developer Sandboxes, of which you can sign up for today.  Also, Trailhead!  For Example, if you want to know more about how Salesforce API works – awesome! – There is a Trailhead for that!

Benefits of Interface Analysis: 

Interface Analysis helps define the boundaries, inputs/outputs and scope of a system.  Another way to think about it is that Interface Analysis clarifies the following:

  • Who uses the interface,
  • What data is being exchanged, (and the quantity of that data),
  • When data will be exchanged and how frequently,
  • Where the data exchange will occur,
  • Why this is needed (technical and business reasons), and if possible…
  • How the interface is implemented.

Interface Analysis Best Practices:

  • Review current documentation (API, Implementation Guides, Design Documents)
  • Try to describe user interface, apps, hardware in common language
  • Review findings with developers and architechts, if possible
  • Use Diagrams and Images to demonstrate the interface flow

 

Interviews (Where were you on September 25th….)

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According to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), an interview is a “systematic approach designed to elicit business analysis information from a person or group of people by talking to the interviewee(s), asking relevant questions, and documenting the responses.”

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………………..   Oh, sorry I feel asleep there.  Ok, I am back now.

What I do instead of “Interview” my stakeholders, is go get some coffee with people I need to connect with.  At the 2016 Southwest Dreamin’, Mary Scotton delivered the Keynote: “Go to Coffee: the Power of Authentic Connections”.   One of the takeaways I got from that talk was that one of the greatest superpowers you have as a Salesforce BA is CONNECTING with people and UNDERSTANDING their needs.  For my Interviews, I like to grab a cup of coffee together, go for a walk or find some non-cubicle space in which to discuss.

Benefits of Interviews: 

  • Establishing relationships
  • Building trust
  • Increase involvement and rally support
  • Communicate and Understand Context  (Why are we here?  What is our Mission/Vision?  What do we do well?)

 

 Next Step:

Congratulations!  You know how to be an Information Hostage Negotiator.  Use these techniques to sharpen you skills and over time you will be able to understand how to help guide this ship to avoid the “icebergs” that you may see along the way. A Salesforce BA will use the information collected through these techniques for Problem Solving…..

Stuart Edeal
P.S.: Remember that with Information – comes great power but also great responsibility.

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 Got questions? Want a deeper dive in any area? Leave a comment and let me know! Thanks for reading.  

Stuart Edeal

 

Admin to Analyst: What is Business Analysis?

A Business Analyst (BA) is someone who analyzes the existing or ideal organization and design of systems, including businesses, departments, and organizations. BAs also assess business models and their integration with technology.

– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_analyst

I have been asked to participate in the upcoming “Admin To Analyst: Salesforce Business Analysts Talk Transitioning Roles” at Dreamforce 2016.  I am excited to be included with these other AWESOME presenters.

The session description speaks about Admins who have transitioned to Business Analyst role.  And check out the panelists… I mean, seriously, these are Salesforce All-Stars who Consult and Lead others in this ecosystem.  (There are two MVPs on this panel… holy cow!)   Honestly, I hope I don’t come off as having #ImposterSyndrome in this Panel.   I can only imagine this reaction to my name on the panel list:

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So who am I?   I am just a Business Systems Analyst for almost 20 years, and have been improving my BA skills, techniques and competencies ever since.  What are BA Competencies?    The International Institute of Business Analysis (yes, that is a thing) has authored the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), which contains descriptions of generally accepted practices in the field of business analysis.  This Guide indicates that core competencies of a Business Analyst are grouped into six categories:

  • Analytical Thinking and Problem Solving, which include:
    • Creative Thinking,
    • Decision Making,
    • Learning,
    • Problem Solving,
    • Systems Thinking,
    • Conceptual Thinking, and
    • Visual Thinking.
  • Behavioural Characteristics, which include
    • Ethics,
    • Personal Accountability,
    • Trustworthiness,
    • Organization and Time Management, and
    • Adaptability
  • Business Knowledge, which include
    • Business Acumen,
    • Industry Knowledge,
    • Organization Knowledge,
    • Solution Knowledge, and
    • Methodology Knowledge
  • Communication Skills, which include
    • Verbal Communication,
    • Non-Verbal Communication,
    • Written Communication, and
    • Listening
  • Interaction Skills, which include
    • Facilitation,
    • Leadership and Influencing,
    • Teamwork,
    • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and
    • Teaching
  • Tools and Technology, which include
    • Office Productivity Tools and Technology,
    • Business Analysis Tools and Technology, and
    • Communication Tools and Technology

Each one of these competencies areas requires more in depth conversation (and that may come over time, if you wish)

What I see in the list overall are things that not only are true for good Business Analysts, but these are true for good Salesforce Admins!

 

What does being a Business Analyst mean?

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The IIBA BABOK says that Business Analysis is this:

Business analysis is the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. Business analysis enables an enterprise to articulate needs and the rationale for change, and to design and describe solutions that can deliver value.  

The BABOK also provides information about that role – WHO does this work?

A business analyst is any person who performs business analysis tasks, no matter their job title or organizational role. Business analysts are responsible for discovering, synthesizing, and analyzing information from a variety of sources within an enterprise, including tools, processes, documentation, and stakeholders.

The business analyst is responsible for eliciting the actual needs of stakeholders—which frequently involves investigating and clarifying their expressed desires—in order to determine underlying issues and causes.
Business analysts play a role in aligning the designed and delivered solutions with the needs of stakeholders. The activities that business analysts perform include:

  • understanding enterprise problems and goals,
  • analyzing needs and solutions,
  • devising strategies,
  • driving change, and
  • facilitating stakeholder collaboration.

What does this mean to me?  What it says to me is that Business Analysis is for ANYONE who has critical thinking skills, understand how to communicate with business and has a desire to grow their technical skills.   Is there a path for Admins to become Analysts?  YES!

 

What does Salesforce say about Business Analysts?

Interestingly enough, Salesforce has a web page that discusses Salesforce Career Paths and lists Salesforce Business Analyst as one of these career paths.  If you google “Salesforce Business Analyst”, you will find many employers looking for good analysts. The descriptions of BA positions usually include some of the following:

“The Business Analyst provides a balance of functional and technical expertise and supports facilitation of analysis and design.  The Analyst implements the design using Salesforce declarative configuration and supporting the functional requirements for any further development required outside of declarative configuration.

The Analyst presents complex information equally well to a C-level audience or a developer community, and has hands on experience implementing Safesforce.com functionality and can act as a knowledgeable liaison between technical teams and business stakeholders during the implementation phase.

Analysts can also support internal practice development efforts as needed, providing input on industry based expertise and idea generation.”

 

In future writings, I will dive deeper into more specific areas regarding Business Analysis.  I will also be starting a “Toolkit” of sorts of things I read, tools and templates I use, and other places for knowledge and growth.

Thanks for reading so far and I hope to see you at Dreamforce in October!

Stuart Edeal