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July 24, 2015

5 Lessons Learned at the Project Summit BA World

4 mins read

Diversified Communications Canada, in partnership with the Baltimore and Washington, DC chapters of the International Institute of Business Analysis held it’s annual Project Summit (PS) Business Analyst (BA) World conference in May at the Hilton Hotel Arlington in Arlington, Virginia. This annual conference is designed to provide business analysts, project managers, business process engineers, and others in the project management and business analysis profession with an opportunity to gain knowledge, tools, and techniques as well as the best practices needed to support projects, requirements, and teams.

Excella’s own Bharti Rupani and Kelly Hobbs had the pleasure of serving on the Advisory Board for the conference. Their duties included aiding in the selection of speakers and identifying the focused symposium conference tracks. In addition to getting the opportunity to network with many thought leaders and professionals in the area of Business Analysis, they also learned a lot – here are their top 5 takeaways!

Lesson #1: The power of collaboration.

Bob Prentiss of Bob the BA shared his brushes with greatness on projects where project managers, business analysts, and developers all truly understood how to collaborate. On these successful projects, together they drove the vision and strategy for the product and the project. He encouraged attendees to break the mold of getting stuck in their siloed roles and eventually hurting the success of the product and project. When asked how one could get others on board, Bob made the controversial recommendation to introduce a level of crisis into the project to get everyone on board to collaborate. There was silence as he said these words to the room full of project managers and business analysts. He went to explain that if a level of crisis is introduced, everyone pulls together with a common goal and vision in sight.

Lesson #2: Build a creative toolbox.

Business Analysts are in key roles to facilitate innovation and creativity on their teams by keeping stakeholders engaged during collaborative meetings. Over time, stakeholders look to the business analysts to continue to bring innovation and creativity to the projects and teams. One of the exercises that Angela Wick of BA-Squared recommended during the session was creating User Interface (UI) mockups with the stakeholders. Everyone would receive a sheet of blank paper and a sharpie and be asked to do a quick mockup. Once complete, everyone can present their mockup and take a vote on features—not the actual mockup. By voting on the features, hidden, or missing requirements can be pulled out. After the initial vote, everyone can recreate a new mockup ultimately leading to a better mockup that highlights the key features and is agreed upon by everyone involved.

Lesson #3: Improvisation is not just for actors.

Like improvisation, much of what happens on projects is unscripted. For BAs and Project Managers, it is important to be nimble and find creative ways to increase communication and collaboration amongst the team and stakeholders. If the project team gets stuck on a concept, it’s ok to break the monotony and have some fun. One activity that Kupe Kupersmith, President and Principal of B2T Training, recommended was a group juggling exercise. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to pass a ball between members of the group without dropping the ball, ensuring that each member interacts with the ball once. As more balls are introduced, the group will quickly learn how to work together and help out when needed. Activities such as this are not only fun but may even help to generate some fresh ideas. Being able to quickly adapt and think on your feet will help ensure project success.

Lesson #4: Virtual teams are here to stay.

As virtual teams become the norm, Angela Wick of BA-Squared stressed how important it is to successfully implement tools that ensure the team stays connected and effective. Unlike face-to-face meetings where interaction and engagement are expected, many people are guilty of multitasking during conference calls. As people tend to multitask during meetings because they are bored, it’s imperative to get their attention and provide more opportunities to add value in order to increase participation. Once such tool that Angela recommended was Storm Board, which allows people to write sticky notes from different locations at the same time and can be useful for brainstorming.

Lesson #5: BAs need to stay connected and learn from each other’s experiences.

While conferences like PS BA World are great for getting BAs energized, the momentum shouldn’t stop once they return to work. Kupe Kupersmith reminded the attendees that social media can be great to keep BAs connected and continue to learn. On Twitter, for example, the hashtag #baot, which stands for business analysts on twitter, is great for staying current with what BAs are talking about. He encouraged attendees to get involved in the conversations!

Are you interested in learning about more trends and topics relevant to BAs? With an agenda packed with networking opportunities and a chance to build skills and hear thought leaders speak on topics relevant to the business analysis field, it is an event not to be missed. Excella is proud to be a premier sponsor of this event hosted by the DC chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA DC).

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