Customers are demanding better service and they know they can get it and BAs have a duty to provide it through Lean Business Analysis (LBA).
Not because customers see better service from a business’s competitors. But because they get it from all the other companies they interact with in their daily lives as consumers of Uber and Apple and Amazon and Netlfix and many more. They don’t care that one company is a bank and Uber’s an application Or that one makes bathroom detergent while Netflix is a streaming service. If one company can take the time and put in the effort to improve customers’ lives then why can’t another? And if a business doesn’t then why should it get their custom?
Another problem is that if companies don’t make things simpler, quicker, and easier (or have good reasons why they cannot) then people are going to talk and share their conversations with all of their social media connections.
HOW BUSINESS ANALYSTS MUST CHANGE:
All of this means that organisations like yours must be responsive, flexible, and they must make things happen quickly. And that means that Business Analysts must change too because the way we used to do things no longer works. We can no longer analyse upfront, work in silos, check quality at the end, and repeat this lengthy and prescriptive process.
So our businesses need to get closer to their customers to be more responsive and flexible and adaptable, but how do we help them? It seems more and more stuff is happening on the Web these days and there’s less face time with customers. There are many opportunities. For example, I tried to get my mother a new phone, one that met specific requirements. The buttons and screen text had to be large because her eyesight is poor. I found just the thing from a cellular service provider here in South Africa but the problem was that they only sold it with a contract. I didn’t want a contract. I had a contract. I just wanted the phone. I wanted to give the company my money but they wouldn’t take it. Their processes didn’t allow for it so they lost my business.
Even though I called in and queried and eventually complained in a polite way I knew that nobody was listening. But that shouldn’t be the case. One of my favourite quotes as a Business Analyst is: “Angry customers are your best friends”. Our angry customers guide us to deliver better products and services. In the example I mentioned the Business Analysts undoubtedly developed a good process for signing a certain demographic of customers up for new contracts but they missed a broader opportunity to grow revenues and develop potential return custom. And worse, their process didn’t cater for finding out what the potential of that business was. So we need to ask ourselves: are we serving customers or just ticking boxes?
We can only begin to deliver LBA 'Lean Business Analysis' by understanding our customers’ frustrations because that gives us the quickest and most direct route to proving our hypotheses correct or incorrect and it forces us to focus only on what’s most important. What’s important is helping customers (and sometimes those are other employees) get what they need.
KEEP THE HEADCOUNT LEAN:
We must also only work with the people we need to work with without involving a bunch of other people who may, at some point, play a role in the project but don’t need to be involved with what we’re doing at the outset. We must also build quality into our products from the outset and we must avoid all unnecessary steps.
How does that translate into what we do? We traditionally document requirements. Why? We’re dealing with adults who can make their own notes about what’s expected of them. And did anyone ever read the reams of documents we traditionally created anyway? Scope creep is going to happen anyway so it doesn’t safeguard you from that. What we need instead are cross-functional teams of only people who pertain directly to what we’re trying to achieve. Let them talk because the more they talk the less you have to document.
It gives you the point of departure to create the smallest possible solution to meeting your customer needs and begin generating revenues. But it must go beyond being just a viable product and be a lovable product so that customers actually adopt it.
YOU’LL KNOW WHEN TO PULL THE PLUG
We achieve that by figuring out what customers love by creating the smallest iteration possible, as I mentioned above, then giving it to early adopters to use, then listening to their anger (frustrations) and developing further based on that. Or deciding to pull the plug because the product isn’t going to make it anyway. Google does it as a matter of routine. The Internet giant gives its people 20% work time to create any product they fancy. They release it online and immediately gauge uptake and responses. They test their assumptions, their hypotheses, rapidly without investing a lot of time and money.
But right upfront our Business people need to know what products to even begin developing. They can only do that if they have the right information (from the customers) provided through the Business Analysts. That’s our role. We have all of our traditional communications tools to make that happen.
We must help these business-people deal with the adoption life-cycle. Innovators adopt first, followed by early adopters, then the early majority, then the late majority, and finally the laggards. But right in the beginning there is a chasm between the innovators and the adopters, the first and second groups, which can derail a product that would otherwise be widely adopted. The Business Analysts can facilitate the transition by getting feedback from the innovators to the product development team so they can build the qualities people will come to love into the product. And that’s how we help to create minimum lovable products that will ultimately perform well for our organisations – or bring fruitless expenditure to a rapid end.
credit: Robin Grace
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