What does the BA Magic 8 Ball tell you?

    Heather Mylan-Mains

     

    I love toys. I am a kid at heart. I am an adult that attends children’s movies, plays on swingsets, loves amusement parks and coloring books, all sans children. I have a magic 8 Ball on my desk and use it to bring joy and laughter as I ask questions and shake the magic ball and giggle with the answers it provides. I ask, ‘Will I survive this project?’ The shake and answer ‘Ask Again Later’ creates smiles. It’s as if the frustration I am experiencing is known and the levity of the truth of that answer is needed to move on. This is a de- stress device and provides a great break from the frustrations at work. It’s a relationship building tool. People walk by my desk and feel compelled to ask a question give a shake and turn over to see ‘It is decidedly so’ or ‘Outlook not so good’. I wish I had a specific BA magic 8 ball to ask the most pressing BA questions and receive the insight I need at that moment. So, if I had a BA Magic 8 ball I would see these responses custom made for my BA needs.

    No more time

    One thing that seems to always be short for analysts is desk time to think, to process and understand. I need time to think through the beginning and end of the process. I need to consider integrations and data and the external agents involved. With limited time, there is a risk that important pieces are missed and requirements forgotten. So I ask in hope. Will I have enough time to analyze this problem? I shake the magic 8 ball turn and read ‘There is no more time’. An honest answer!

    No Scope for you/ Clear Scope ahead

    Projects swirl and spin lacking direction and clarity. Meeting after meeting is dedicated to understand what the focus is. What is our context? There is no clear direction and the sponsors won’t clarify what is needed. Many project teams struggle with this and the BA is caught in the crosshairs of the confusion. Trying to elicit requirements to meet a deadline while the scope is swirling with no boundary! The question this time is ‘Will this project scope ever be defined?’ I laugh to see the oracle read ‘No Scope for you’. Business as usual! Or the delightful ‘Clear Scope Ahead’ could surprise me and ease my frustrations.

    Requirements Not SMART/ SMART Requirements

    In the rush to complete requirements for the next deliverable, words run together. Requirement traceability is four levels deep. The requirements are grouped in logical order and cover everything that is known at that moment. The references and the process flows included and traced to statements. The peer reviewer starts and is looking for the scope context and assumptions. They are missing! At that point the reviewer asks the magic 8 ball in desperation, ‘Are these requirements complete?’ I am delighted to the message ‘SMART Requirements’ knowing then that the review will be a breeze! The answer, ‘Not SMART’ indicates a long feedback session is ahead!

    You are the Priority

    Weeks of meetings and discussions have yielded a colossal number of requirements. Fantastic models and workflow diagrams have created a beautiful requirements story. There are so many things to consider. I can do anything, but I can’t do everything! I need the business to prioritize the must have requirements. What will be included in the first release? However, no one is available and schedules are jam packed with no free spot for weeks. Help Magic 8 Ball, ‘Will I get these requirements prioritized in time?’ The answer draws a huge smile as I read ‘You are the priority.’ Such sweet words encourage me to keep looking for way to get the team together.

    No project plan. EVER.

    You are assigned a new project effort and told you have 10 days to complete requirements. You have a brief kickoff as a project team with no specific information shared. You email the project manager and ask about timelines and a project plan. There is no answer other than requirements are due in 10 days. You take the information you do know and formulate a requirements plan. It’s clear a week is not enough time for requirements. You ask again with no response. It’s time for the Magic 8 ball. You ask ‘Will I see a project plan? The answer pops up, ‘No project plan. EVER’. You go on doing the best you can and deliver what can be done in 10 days not knowing when or who will be using them in the project plan.

    Just kidding!

    It’s been a fabulous week. You have had great elicitation meetings. The information is flowing from your stakeholders. Over the weekend the sun is shining, it’s finally spring and the long cold winter seems to be over. You come back to work on Monday refreshed and ready for another smooth sailing week. You open up your email and see that there is an email about a disagreement with your elicitation results. There is a cancellation from your stakeholders for a key meeting. Calendars are booked for the next two weeks and rescheduling will force a missed milestone. And the last straw is the email with a new scope item that must be completed this week. You are spinning with frustration and you turn to your Magic 8 Ball and ask ‘Is this a joke?’ You turn for the answer and it reads ‘Just Kidding!’. You check the calendar and see it’s April 1 and laugh as you realize your team has pulled a good joke on you. April Fools!

    Sign off certain

    The glorious time has arrived. Your requirements package is complete. There is no more information to elicit. No more meetings. No more scope items left undiscovered and analyzed. You have walked through the requirements with everyone that needs to sign off. You are waiting for the ‘I approve messages’ to fill your in-box . Inexplicably, they are not. You wonder as you shake the Magic 8 ball, ‘Will I ever get these requirements signed off? The answer is a reassuring ‘Sign off certain’ Yes! You will get what you need!

    There’s no crying on projects

    It’s one of those days; the kind of day where nothing seems to be going right. The days starts off with a surprise team meeting discussing problems with the requirements. There is all hands on deck inquisition of what is wrong with YOUR requirements. You survive that firing squad and get to work on the requirements you need desk time to sit and think about and analyze, which are actually in progress and not complete so what’s the big deal. While at your desk you get a call from a stakeholder who has forgotten about a key interface that needs to be included in your analysis. Surprise! A very merry un-birthday present for you! You get through the shock of that announcement and formulate a plan to include that in your work. Then you realize you forgot lunch with the most difficult stakeholder you have been trying to build a relationship with, but you have just enough time to race to meet them. After a stressful lunch that took all the kindness and sweetness you have had in your entire life, you get back to your desk and find that your requirements workshop tomorrow needs to be rescheduled to next week due to an emergency. You had been prepping for weeks and now would have to delay and negotiate with the team for a different block of time. All this leads to a tiny bit of moisture, tears of anger and frustration and are welling up in your eyes. You ask the magic 8 Ball ‘Is it time to quit?’ The answer, clear as day stares up at you ‘There’s no crying on projects’. You smile and dry your eyes, take a deep breath and reschedule your meeting.

    Heather, A BA Without Borders

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