July 31, 2019

UX learnings from a BA conference

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Susanne Schmidt-Rauch, a Swiss 'UXlerin', visited our latest BA & Beyond conference in March, where she talked herself about how user experience complements business analysis. She wrote about her learnings and experience recently. Very interesting to read how a UX person perceives business analysis! It's in German, but I've hand-picked a few key points that stick with me. Thanks for your article, Susanne!

Day 1 — Brussels

Starting out in Brussels, one of Susanne's first take aways is that "Something else has to happen between listening to a request and putting it into action, that's exactly what analysis work is!" and then elaborates "… clarifying and presenting the conflicts [between stakeholder needs] is a critical success factor for Adrian Reed."

Susanne, having a UX background, also notices that "business analysts are not as heavily influenced by psychology in their knowledge structure as UX-ers" and I agree we can learn a lot from psychology and UX both in our analysis work and in our facilitation work.

When talking about iterative approaches, Susanne challenges:

"… that nonsense with 'fail fast and fail often' must stop!"
"Either we realize that at the beginning of a concept we want to experiment and learn something that has absolutely nothing to do with failure, or we leave that alone. […] We do not want to fail. Sometimes we just have unanswered questions and then we have to make them visible."

Triggered by Christina Lovelock's talk 'When BAs go BAD', Susanne suggests "If more subject matter experts regularly asked themselves if they were proud of what they produced, they would probably ask themselves more often why maybe not …" How often do you look into the mirror, both for your work and your behaviour?

Then about our keynote speaker Lynda Girvan:

"Was ich nicht wusste ist, dass Lynda so etwas wie ein Popstar in der Business-Analyse-Community ist."
I'm sure you can understand this without me translating it, Lynda! 🙂

As Lynda presents 'waiting' as one example of project waste, Susanne realises UX-ers and BAs are in the same value chain, should work together and not in sequence, and should understand each other's language. "It would be good if we have a common vocabulary with business analysts, they can distinguish prototype from mockup, wireframes from design studies, a usability test from a contextual inquiry, etc." Definitely a justified call for collaboration.

Day 2 — Amsterdam

During the second conference day in Amsterdam, Maja Golubic and Mateja Blazevic show that you can build a strong BA community if you put your mind and efforts to it, using a few guiding questions, like those presented by Tom Colpaert who speaks about knowledge transfers ("Hey, this is a project. Become an expert in 2 hours!"):

  • Who should receive the knowledge? (Individual vs. group)
  • What knowledge is needed? (also organizational knowledge, knowledge about stakeholders)
  • Where is the knowledge included? (mostly people)
  • Which knowledge is missing completely?
  • What effort will it take? (Tom calls a lot of weighing factors such as availability of knowledge carriers, impairment of other activities, etc.)
  • Which transfer method is the right one (sharing session, reading, test cases, reverse engineering etc.)?
  • How exactly do we proceed? (Schedule – and here: treat it like a project!)
    Susanne also very much appreciates how Amsterdam co-host Joost Gordijn from Le Blanc Advies refreshingly and personally approaches their sponsorship. A conference is much more than just slides and presentations.

Antiono González' talk discusses methods like Design Thinking and Agile Inception. It makes Susanne realise that "For decades, we have been exploring the first or early stages of brainstorming, beginning with Osborn in 1953." While 'new' approaches are fun and sexy, can and should we not learn a lot from older approaches as well?

During her own talk, Susanne notices that her most photographed slide is not her flowchart as she expected, but the definition of what UX is and is not. "Hm, so we are not yet at a basic level of knowledge?"

In the workshop following her talk, Susanne experiences how Ritual Dissent makes people challenge their own concepts and designs, which is often not so easy. With this approach, you can give feedback without unintendedly getting personal. "I think that's worth trying."

Damien Braeckman's closing keynote on "Agile Business Cases and Beyond" triggers an after conference discussion on how people experience agile projects, with "answers ranging from: 'I've never seen a successful agile project.' to 'It felt like a liberation.'"

"For me, the days were great and the trip to the sister discipline was very worthwhile."
Hope to see you again next year, Susanne!


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