Back in the days when most BAs were able to work in offices, there’d be nothing I’d like more than a nice process discovery workshop.
As analysts, we’ve probably all run those fantastic sessions with huge lengths of brown paper adorned with sticky notes carefully placed by stakeholders, each sticky note representing a task or sub-task. It’s a great way of helping to uncover the complexity of existing processes and work out how they can be improved. Of course, today, these sessions are still fun but with many parts of the world in ‘lockdown’ it’s necessary to conduct the sessions remotely using a virtual whiteboard or modelling tool.
Whether the sessions are conducted remotely or locally, one thing that we should be aware of is that process discovery or a process improvement workshop tend to be ‘framed’ in a particular way. Just using the word ‘process’ tends to imply that a certain viewpoint will be taken, and people may (quite naturally) have certain expectations on how the session will run and what the focus should be. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s easy for conversation to become restricted and siloed. It’s very easy to focus purely internally without thinking of what the customer actually wants to achieve…
Let’s take an example and imagine that we were examining the process in the claims department of a home (property) insurance company. Rather than getting people to phone with their claims it would be much more efficient if they logged on and submitted their claim online. That way they could upload photos of any damage (or scans of police reports in the case of theft), and have an interactive view of their claim as it goes through the settlement process.
That sounds great, doesn’t it? However, the conversation might soon extend to ensuring that a claim can only be submitted when all the necessary information is input. Oh, and it’d be great if we had lots and lot of information up front—someone might suggest getting the customer to select the specific area of coverage or ‘peril’ that has occurred so that they can log the claim. All of these things sound completely logical but when you add them all up you suddenly get a long and unwieldy form. Plus, if a customer has (sadly) experienced a house fire, caused by lightening hitting the property, and their possessions were damaged by water from the fire brigades hoses do you really expect them to know whether to select “fire”, “lightening”, “flood” or “water damage” from the drop down menu?
Inject The Voice Of The Customer
Of course, I’m using a deliberately extreme and provocative example, I’m sure no BA in their right mind would define the interface that way, but it illustrates a wider point. If you only have internally-focused stakeholders in a process improvement session, you’ll get a process that is internally-efficient. However it might be extremely inefficient for those who weren’t involved in its design, particularly external stakeholders such as customers. And if we’re not building processes for customers, who are we building them for?
Part of the antidote to this is to inject diversity of opinion into the discussion, including representatives from groups that are often unheard or misrepresented. In the insurance example mentioned above, clearly it wouldn’t be possible to have every customer present—but it would be possible to have somebody representing the ‘voice of the customer’. This should be someone who has a close understanding of actual customers, ideally based on research and lived experience of dealing with their problems. In some cases there might be two people covering two different perspectives—perhaps a front-line contact center worker bringing in their experience of customers’ likes & dislikes, and a marketing stakeholder who has conducted detailed research.
It’s Always A Balance//:: It’s Always A Balance
The old phrase ‘the customer is always right’ is only true some of the time. I suppose we might update this to ‘the right customer is always right’, there will be some customers who have expectations that don’t match with the organization’s value proposition and also the external constraints that the business and legal environment places on them. I might want to open a bank account quickly, without showing my ID… but there are rules and regulations (ultimately for my protection) which mean this can’t happen.
In many cases process design is a balance—the aim is to create a process that is more convenient and efficient for all relevant stakeholders. To do this we need to consider and have them ‘in the room’ (virtual or real) when the decisions are being considered.
Credit: Adrian Reed - BA Times
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The Pandemic hit us suddenly and yes it came without any notice to our lives as a transient thing but became the new normal way of life.
Some of us were initially worried thinking about what lies ahead, some were shocked, some found pleasure being relieved from the daily commute, time on the road, and traffic jams.
With the COVID 19 pandemic hitting us globally, organizations have embraced remote working as the new way for 2020, and some have announced it for 2021 also.
MOVING TO WFH
IT industry has moved to this new model in a relatively easier way, and the transition is relatively smoother.
But for the traditional industries, it's a big shift, and the mode of working and infrastructure needed rethinking, planning, and to be worked out.
In most countries, the pandemic hit so suddenly that it left no time to prepare for the upcoming times. Going remote isn't an easy task for many, as we may think.
However, as it's popularly said, every cloud has a silver lining; similarly, every challenge comes with an opportunity. It's up to us to step up and embrace this change and take benefit of the opportunity.
Though many are happy with the new way of working for the reasons like:
For this article, we will take a deeper look into the business analysis profession, what seemed to have worked well, the new challenges thrown, and how we can make the best of it in the new normal.
As a business analyst, one is responsible for:
PRACTICAL CHALLENGES FOR BAS IN REMOTE WORKINGAs part of the solutioning, requirements elicitation, user story reviews, prototyping, or any other phase of the project a BA needs to have close interaction and work with stakeholders, the tech team, the QA team, and other BAs.
Some specific challenges are:
Staying Engaged with Stakeholders
Most of these tasks were done traditionally with stakeholders using pre-dominantly following techniques such as Workshops, walk-throughs/Reviews, Brainstorming, and Observations.
Here is a list of challenges and a few things that worked for many business analysts as shared by them when we asked them - https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6687061335701778432/
Challenges most of the business analysts faced:
Few practices that worked well for most:
They can avoid office distractions and have their best productive time put to work.
Some say they can have a good time with children and pets, and having them close brings their best self out.
STEPS TO FOLLOW IN ORDER TO OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES
Maintaining Work Discipline
Few things that will help when you start as a practice/discipline:
Let us play a game!
You get 1 point for every correct answer:
Scenario: I call my bank  via their general enquiries telephone number obtained from their website. I just want to understand what their local branch hours are during lockdown. (No, their banking hours have not been updated on their website)
Q1: How long did I have to hold before I was able to navigate through the IVR options and successfully speak to an actual human being?
Q2: How many options did I need to select before I was able to speak to a human being?
Q3: How many times did I need to re-enter my Identity number before I was able to speak to an actual human being?
Q4: How many times did I need to repeat my REASON FOR CALLING to the BOT what asked me what my query was about before passing me through to the next IVR option?
Q5: Did the BOT direct me to the correct division, based on my (finally accepted) response? (This is a Yes/No question)
Q6: Did the human agent ask me for my REASON FOR CALLING? (This is a Yes/No question)
Q1- Three of the longest minutes of my life (I suspect this was a good day and I should be grateful)
Q2- Six – but to be fair, I bailed out after starting to beat my head on the desk… so by repeatedly entering the ‘#’-key, the IVR gives up and transfers you to an agent (#NoteToSelf, #TimesavingTipForFuture, #YesWeCanBypassYourSillyIVRTree)
Q3- I gave up after the third time. (I was extremely careful to enter right correct numbers)
Q4- Three. BOT > HUMAN? (I don’t think so) 
Q5- What do you think? – NO!
Q6- Yes (…I did not and still don’t have words…)
If you got too many questions right, I think we are all in more trouble than we thought we were…
This was (unfortunately) a real-life experience. No kidding! You know I am not kidding because I bet you’ve experienced it too…on numerous occasions…am I right?
Why does this happen?
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) is a technology that gathers information and then routes calls to the appropriate recipients or divisions who have been trained to deal with that specific type of query.
It is implemented by organisations to primarily save themselves some money. Bottom line.
IVR systems are typically rolled-out in call centre environments where agents are quickly trained in only 1 or 2 specific skills (silo-based) and if something is encountered that is beyond what they were trained on, they would need to transfer the call. This is probably dictated by business models where call centre staff are paid minimal fees, work in shifts, are youngsters/students/temps and where the turn-over of staff is very high. The IVR call-tree helps business manage calls across their workforce. It begs several questions around how serious such organisations are about serving their customers or giving them a wonderful experience…but let me not completely derail myself here.
I’m not sure if customer experience has EVER played a major role in deciding whether to implement an IVR solution (come on – be honest….), but I would venture that costs typically override customer experience…
Maybe the heart of the matter is…what culture are we trying to create?
These are processes that are NOT:
S - stupid
U - ugly
C - confusing
K - killing your customer’s enthusiasm to buy from you again…ever!
Obviously no-one (in their right mind anyway!) ever sets out to design processes that qualify in the above categories, so why then do we end up with them?
This might be because of tight deadlines, not starting with the customer in mind, not testing the processes with the target audience or even not updating implemented processes once they are found to be sub-optimal or S.U.C.K.’y…..
Whatever the reasons, we should seek to prevent the creation of processes like these by all means.
Here are a few suggestions to consider next time when you design your next process:
“Knowing the right thing and not doing it is the ultimate cowardice” as well as Ignoring to do the right thing when required
Credit: Danie Van Den Berg