Effective Business Analysis in the IT Industry: Reduce Project (1) Risks (2) Costs and (3) Duration

A Few Items to Mention

Business Analysis is a discipline based on project planning required for every project, regardless of the size of the project: regardless if a single developer works on a website or an entire team works on a scalable multi-platform system architecture. There is no set limit on how much analysis can be done, and so this can reflect on the size of the project. When no Business Analysis is performed we usually see the following penalties:

  • Project Risks: Unforeseeable circumstances may cause the project to fail
  • Project Costs: The poor management of resources cause additional project costs
  • Project Duration: The poor management of overlapping tasks cause projects to take longer

Business Analysis has a foundation of widely accepted best practices which will be discussed in this article. However, it is not an exact science, and there are some conflicting opinions in regards to some of its practices. Most organizations which rely heavily on Business Analysis may even refine their own practices that work best for their industry.

Business Analysis is an intricate discipline, and cannot be thoroughly covered in a single article. Rather, this article contains several carefully chosen topics aimed for those with little to no experience with the discipline, and aimed for businesses researching whether the practice is right for them (hint: it is).

Who Should Perform Business Analysis?

It is rare that an organization has a person dedicated to Business Analysis. Rather a Business Analyst is someone who can wear many hats, and can include one of the following:

  • Software Engineer
  • Team Leader
  • Project Manager
  • IT Manager

Although a Business Analyst can be almost any member of a project, it is essential that the person has a fair amount of technical knowledge as a technical solution is the end goal of Business Analysis practices. In larger projects, a Business Analyst may not be able to have an understanding of all the technologies involved and may consult with other software engineers involved in the project.

What Tasks does a Business Analyst Perform?

There are many activities performed by a Business Analyst, however the most basic and widely accepted best practices include the following activities:

  • Gathering Project Goals
  • Creating a Project Scope
  • Refining Project Scope into Project Requirements
  • Refining Project Requirements into a Project Technical Specification

These tasks are broken down into more details in the following sections.

Activity 1: Gathering Project Goals

This is the first task a Business Analyst must perform, and unfortunately it seems so simple that its difficulty is oftentimes underestimated. In this activity a Business Analyst must obtain a clear list of project goals that the project will be built upon. The analyst must discover the real business needs in order to eventually propose a solution that satisfies these needs instead of implementing a guess solution.

Here are some common mistakes that novice Business Analysts will make in this step:

  • Talk to the wrong person: Project goals can only be obtained from a person who has the authority to set the scope of the project. The goals should not be obtained from another project team member, but ideally from the client or organization which is funding the project.
  • Ask the wrong questions: At this point in an analyst is focused entirely on obtaining the scope of the project. The Business Analyst should not gather any project goals that are oriented towards a specific solution or technology, unless this is a direct project constraint imposed by the client.
  • Poor organization of project goals: When written down, project goals should be written down in atomic form to be easily referenced (ideally by a numbered list). Business Analysts avoid compound sentences or writing down more than one goal in a sentence.
  • Incomplete project goals: A Business Analyst must double check and triple check that the Project Goals indeed consist of all the goals that the client requires. It is often without exception that the goals are not properly collected which results in the client attempting to introduce them in the project while it is in the development stage.

Activity 2: Creating a Project Scope

In order to fully ensure that the Project Goals are complete a Project Scope document is created, which contains the full scope of what the project solution will contain and what the project solution will not contain. This is the first form of risk management performed by a Business Analyst, as it ensures that the client and project development team are on the same page in regards to the project tasks that must be completed. If the client does not agree with the Project Scope at this stage in the project, then the Project Goals must be refined and a new Project Scope must be created.

Activity 3: Refining Project Goals into Project Requirements

Loosely put, a requirement is a capability to which a specific part of the project should conform. When specifying Project Requirements, a Business Analyst must take the Project Scope and create an enumerable list of specific tasks that the final project solution will be required to perform based on the scope (however the analyst should not specify how to implement these requirements, as that is the next activity). A Project Requirements document allows software engineers to easily translate a requirements specification into a software technical specification (which is actually the next activity discussed).

There are two types of important Project Requirements:

  • Functional Requirement: A requirement that specifies a specific behavior or function. Broadly, it specifies what a system is supposed to do.
  • Non-Functional Requirement: A requirement that specifies criteria that can be used to judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviors. Broadly, it specifies what a system is supposed to be.

Requirements are beneficial because they are written in plain English, without technical jargon, and can be understood by higher level management who may not have IT experience. Thus, requirements are the essential cornerstone to communication between business management teams and IT development teams. On top of the list of requirements refined in his activity, a Project Requirements specification may also utilize several techniques and tools that can help facilitate the communication of requirements, such as:

  • Use Case Scenario Modeling
  • Entity Relationship Diagrams
  • Sequence Diagrams
  • UML Modeling

Finally, Project Requirements actually serve as another means of risk analysis because they specify exactly what the final project solution will do in minute details, even though a technological blueprint has not been completed yet. If there is a problem with the project solution, then it is identified early in the project life cycle before system development has begun.

Activity 4: Refining Project Requirements into a Project Technical Specification

In this activity a Business Analyst will (often with the help of other software engineers) specify a thorough technological blueprint for the final project solution. This will include all technologies and business processes involved in the creation of the solution. A substantial amount of software engineering will go into this activity, and so it can also be seen as the first activity of the software development lifecycle, even though nothing has been implemented at this point.

Theoretically, if two qualified Business Analysts performed Activities 1, 2 and 3 for a specific project, then they should obtain similar results. However, the Technical Specification in Activity 4 is a specific solution to the Project Requirements defined in the previous step. The possibilities for this solution are many, and so a Technical Specification should also provide a clear argument for why the specific approach was taken.

This is also the last form of risk management that the analyst will utilize, by guaranteeing that the approach taken is the most optimal solution to satisfy the functional and non-functional requirements. The specific technological implementation for the project solution should guarantee the following:

  • Business processes are improved with maximum efficiency through automatization or other means.
  • The technologies chosen satisfy the functional requirements in such a way that results in: faster development, cheaper software costs, or most reliable solution. At a point some compromises will be made, and those will have to be argued.
  • The software engineering approach provides a unique and efficient solution to the specific problems outlined in the requirements.

Forex Education Tips – 5 Steps to Successful Forex Trading

Close to 95% of all Forex traders will lose money. We’re not just talking about novices, either. Whether you trade Forex for a living, as a hobby or just for fun, odds are against your success. That’s a simply astonishing fact. However, the remaining 5% of Forex traders somehow manage to break even and there are those lucky few that actually make money in the currency market – consistently!Like the TV show says … “How’d they do that, anyway?”That’s the million dollar questions, isn’t it? Countless books, seminars and expos have been hosted to answer this very question. That sad fact is that thousands of books have been written and countless seminars and interviews have been conducted in an attempt to answer the magic questions. The reality of the situation is that there is no magic formula; no one single Holy Grail of Forex trading.So what do the successful traders do that the rest of us have simple not comprehended. They have mastered a process of winning where they combine and customize several factor to produce consistent results. They have mastered the Process of Trading.The Process of Trading is:Strategy > Money Management > Self-MasteryHere are some simple Forex Education tips to help you master the process of forex trading:Success Tip #1 – You’ve Got To Have a PlanYou must have a written business plan that will detail all aspects of your trading. When are you going to trade, how much to risk, strategies for entries and exits are just o name a few. To become a consistent (profitable) Forex trader you have to plan your trade sand trade your plan.

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Simplicity rules! Don’t make this plan too complicated. One sheet of paper for you mission statement and another for your trading plan should suffice. Anything more is probably too complicated.Success Tip #2 – Focus on Your Personal PsychologyKnowing yourself will allow you to master the discipline necessary to execute high quality trades with solid money management techniques. Lack of discipline is fatal in Forex trading. Go on a personal journey to identify you attitudes towards risk and money. Get intimate with your strengths and weaknesses as a trader and build in to your trading plan strategies to minimize those weaknesses and maximize your strengths.Different personalities lend to different trading styles. Get familiar with all the different styles and over time you will begin to gravitate towards one particular style. Don’t fight the urge like I did. I insisted I was a day trader, but had only limited results. I found my winning percentages were much higher when I entered swing trades. Guess what’s my bread and butter strategy now!Success Tip #3 – Be Realistic About Your ExpectationsThis is a hard one, I know! I am on the internet every day and the amount of advertising is staggering. Brokers are offering free education (fox in the hen house if you ask me), forums of all different trading styles and points of view. Gurus pushing their system as “the one” that will make you the big bucks. How do you get through all that noise?Let me tell you loud and clear right now – everyone is right and everyone is wrong. You have to make a personal commitment to become a successful trader, find a trading style that works for you and expect a slow and steady approach to wealth building through Forex.What works for me may not work for you. Expect to go through an exploratory period where you are learning and at the same time exploring yourself as a trader. Keep an open mind and don’t pay attention to all the noise out there.Success Tip #4 – Exercise PatienceRome was not built in a day and neither will your trading account. In fact, I tell all of my students that while they are studying to become successful Forex traders they should not look solely at their account balance as an indication of success or failure.By tracking and increasing your percentage of high quality trades you execute is a far better barometer of your progress than your account balance. Cause and effect rule here. Over time when you increase your probabilities through the execution of high quality trades your account balance will respond accordingly.Keep the focus on the process and with time your results will blow your mind.Success Tip #5 – Money Management Is Top PriorityI would rather have a shaky strategy and excellent money management techniques than the other way around. This topic warrants its own blog post to do it justice. Limited your exposure (read “risk”) allows for you to stay in the game and allow the laws of probability to work.

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Let’s take a casino for example. They need gamblers to frequent their slot machines to make money. Why? They have a game that has a greater than 50% chance of making money for the house. The more people that play the slots, the greater the casino’s profits.The casino controls risk by payout tables (always favoring the house!) and increases their probabilities by keeping gamblers at the slot machines (read “free drinks”). As a trader you must limit your risk by committing only 1% – 3% of available capital to a single trade. When you execute enough trades with a high probability strategy you too can clean up like the casinos – but only by staying in the game long term.In conclusion, Forex trading is not easy. It’s hard work and will test the limits of your patience and perseverance. If anyone tells you otherwise .., buyers beware! It can be a very rewarding and profitable venture if done correctly. In the end it is a profession that requires a learning curve and practical experience, no different than an airline pilot or engineer. Understanding how to approach and learn this game will allow you to reap all the benefits advertised. It is your Forex Education that you will master the Process of Forex Trading.

The Energy Healing Power of Natural Medicine

Natural medicine is a system that uses a variety of therapeutic or preventive health care practices such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. Alternative medicine is also known as traditional, naturopathic, natural or holistic medicine. Proponents of alternative medicine are not refuting the validity of discoveries in and the practical uses of conventional medicine, but are merely trying to put some things into perspective. Due to the widespread interest in natural medicine along with the disappointment and disenchantment with Western medicine, many people, especially in the United States and Europe, where conventional medicine has taken a dominant foothold, are seeking the advice and treatment from naturopathic physicians. These practitioners include herbalists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and others, who advocate preventative health measures as well as recommend wholesome foods and nutritional supplements for their patients and clients. Considering the growing popularity and effectiveness of alternative health treatments and products, certified and licensed professional practitioners of such medical practices should be given their rightful and respectful place in medical society. Natural medicine has been proven not only to be safe, but more effective than Western medicine in treating many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and many other diseases as well

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The history of Natural Medicine and its roots can be traced back thousands of years to ancient cultures such as India and China. Ayurvedic (E. Indian) and Chinese medicine, along with their diagnostic and herbal systems, are still used in these countries extensively, as well as in the United States, especially in Europe, where alternative medicine is well respected. Chinese herbal medicine has a documented history of over 2500 years in China, and is now widely used by practitioners all over the world. It has been legally practiced in the United States. since the mid seventies by licensed acupuncturists. Homeopathy is also a well-known form of alternative medicine discovered in the 18th century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, but was practically stamped out in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century by the American Medical Association. In 1938, though, the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act finally recognized homeopathic pharmacopoeia as the legal equivalent of allopathic medicine.Another more contemporary and popular form of herbal medicine, called Western herbalism, can be traced back about two hundred years in America. Samuel Thomson, born in 1769, is considered the father of Western herbalism. He discovered over sixty different medically effective native plants by clinical testing, and on the basis of these findings, devised a theory of disease and botanical drug action. Randy Kidu, D.V.M., Ph.D., writes in his articled entitled A Brief History of Alternative Medicine: “The history of herbal medicine is interesting because herbs have been a part of our diet and pharmacy since man began roaming the earth. Coprophytic evidence (seeds and other plant part(found in preserved fecal pellets) points to herbal use by cavemen. Early herbalists practiced their trade since before recorded history in all parts of the world including China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, England, the Americas, and Europe. Many herbs are also mentioned in the Bible. Today, based on sheer numbers of folks who use one form of herbal medicine or another, it remains the most-used medicine worldwide.”Twenty-five hundred years after the advent of allopathic medicine, modern medicine is still grappling with the idea that herbal medicine could be an effective treatment, and not just quackery, although thousands of years of recorded history has proved its efficacy. A new model of understanding in medicine needs to be incorporated into the existing allopathic model. Because of the growing popularity and effectiveness of natural medicine, practitioners may eventually be given their deserved place in medical society. The incorporation of natural medical practices into the existing model of conventional Western medicine, including the training of new medical doctors, is now called Complimentary Medicine. In order to solve our health problems, this modern paradigm for treatment in medicine must be promoted. This can only truly emerge when bias, self-interest, greed and discrimination is discarded and diverse medical knowledge is promoted and shared, not only between university trained scientists and medical doctors, but among Alternative Medicine practitioners, philosophers, metaphysicians, and other intelligentsia of society as well.

Skip The Lines – Bring The Amusement Park Right To Your Own Back Yard

There’s no shortage of things to do in Atlanta. From professional sports to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. In fact, Atlanta is proud to house some of the nations largest amusement attractions, including the ever popular Six Flags Over Georgia. Children (and adults) love the thrill and adrenaline rush of the large roller coasters. However, one thing most people don’t like about amusement parks is the long lines. By the time it’s all said and done, you can spend several hundred dollars for your family to have an afternoon of fun, and only get a few rides in. This year, instead of spending the day waiting in long lines for short rides, why not bring the fun right to your back yard? With today’s technology, you can literally do just that! One of the advantages of living in a large city like Atlanta is that we have large rental companies that can make your special event feel just like a trip to Six Flags… complete with a train and an ice cream cart!

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If you’re trying to replicate the amusement park feel, there are definitely specific items that you’ll want to be on the lookout for. As mentioned previously, ice cream carts and trackless trains help make the special event feel more like a day at Six Flags.In order to make your next special event more special, try some of the following tips:

Head online to do some research on the party rental company that has the selection your looking for. If you want an ice cream cart to complete your theme park adventure, look around until you find what you’re looking for.

Don’t settle for the first website you see. There are literally hundreds of inflatable party rental companies in Atlanta. Keep looking for a website that offers a wide variety of rental items that you’re looking for.

It’s better to rent everything from one company. Renting in bulk can help you save money. Larger companies will offer discounts for larger purchases of multiple units and rental items.

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Having a day of amusement park fun is cheaper and easier than ever before. By bringing the amusement park to your front door by using a party rental industry, you can include more people at a lower price. So next time you’re planning a special day, instead of spending tons of money for just a few people and braving the long lines of amusement parks, invite the whole neighborhood and bring the amusement park right to your own back yard!