Blog Archive

Story: Control Your Anger, Otherwise...

A man came out of his home to admire his new truck. To his puzzlement, his three-year-old son was happily hammering dents into the shiny paint of the truck. The man ran to his son, knocked him away, hammered the little boy's hands into pulp as punishment. When the father calmed down, he rushed his son to the hospital.

Although the doctor tried desperately to save the crushed bones, he finally had to amputate the fingers from both the boy's hands. When the boy woke up from the surgery saw his bandaged stubs, he innocently said, "Daddy, I'm sorry about your truck." Then he asked, "but when are my fingers going to grow back?" The father went home committed suicide.

Think about this story the next time someone steps on your feet or u wish to take revenge. Think first before u lose your patience with someone u love. Trucks can be repaired.. Broken bones hurt feelings often can't. Too often we fail to recognize the difference between the person and the performance. We forget that forgiveness is greater than revenge..

8 Steps to Being an Effective Business Analyst


The Business Analysis Process:

Being assigned to a new project is an exciting time as a business analyst, but it can also be nerve-wracking. You might be wondering what exactly is expected of you, what deliverables you should be creating, and how to guarantee success on your project.
In this article, you'll learn about the 8-step business analysis process that you can apply whether you are in an agile environment or a traditional one, whether you are purchasing off-the-shelf software or building custom code, whether you are responsible for a multi-million dollar project or a one-week project.
Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you can go through these steps quickly or slowly, but to get to a successful outcome you must go through them.
(We cover each of the 8 steps in even more detail in our BA Essentials Master Class – in fact, each step gets an entire lesson in this virtual, self-study course.)
First, take a look at this process flow below which shows how the 8 steps fit together and how you might iterate through them on a typical business analyst project.
Now let's look at each of the 8 steps in more detail.

Step 1 – Get Oriented

Often as business analysts we are expected to dive in to a project and start contributing as quickly as possible to make a positive impact. Sometimes the project is already underway. Other times there are vague notions about what the project is or why it exists. We face a lot of ambiguity as business analysts and it's our job to clarify the scope, requirements, and business objectives as quickly as possible.
But that doesn't mean that it makes sense to get ourselves knee-deep into the detailed requirements right away. Doing so very likely means a quick start in the wrong direction.
Taking some time, whether that's a few hours, few days, or at the very most a few weeks, to get oriented will ensure you are not only moving quickly, but also able to be an effective and confident contributor on the project.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Clarifying your role as the business analyst so that you are sure to create deliverables that meet stakeholder needs.
  • Determining the primary stakeholders to engage in defining the project's business objectives and scope, as well as any subject matter experts to be consulted early in the project.
  • Understanding the project history so that you don't inadvertently repeat work that's already been done or rehash previously made decisions.
  • Understanding the existing systems and business processes so you have a reasonably clear picture of the current state that needs to change.
This is where you learn how to learn what you don't know you don't know, so to speak. This step gets you the information you need to be successful and effective in the context of this particular project.

Step 2 – Discover the Primary Business Objectives

It's very common for business analysts and project managers to jump right in to defining the scope of the project. However, this can lead to unnecessary headaches. Uncovering and getting agreement on the business needs early in a project and before scope is defined is the quickest path forward to a successful project.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Discovering expectations from your primary stakeholders – essentially discovering the "why" behind the project. (Our BA Essentials Master Class covers 7 different business analysis techniques that can be used as part of this discovery.)
  • Reconciling conflicting expectations so that the business community begins the project with a shared understanding of the business objectives and are not unique to one person's perspective.
  • Ensuring the business objectives are clear and actionable to provide the project team with momentum and context while defining scope and, later on, the detailed requirements.
Discovering the primary business objectives sets the stage for defining scope, ensuring that you don't end up with a solution that solves the wrong problem or, even worse, with a solution that no one can even determine is successful or not.

Step 3 – Define Scope

A clear and complete statement of scope provides your project team the go-forward concept to realize the business needs. Scope makes the business needs tangible in such a way that multiple project team participants can envision their contribution to the project and the implementation. 
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Defining a solution approach to determine the nature and extent of technology and business process changes to be made as part of implementing the solution to the primary business objectives.
  • Drafting a scope statement and reviewing it with your key business and technology stakeholders until they are prepared to sign-off or buy-in to the document.
  • Confirming the business case to ensure that it still makes sense for your organization to invest in the project.
Scope is not an implementation plan, but it is a touchstone guiding all of the subsequent steps of the business analysis process and tasks by other project participants.

Step 4 – Formulate Your Business Analysis Plan

Your business analysis plan will bring clarity to the business analysis process that will be used to successfully define the detailed requirements for this project. Your business analysis plan is going to answer many questions for you and your project team.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Choosing the most appropriate types of business analysis deliverables, given the project scope, project methodology, and other key aspects of the project context.
  • Defining the specific list of business analysis deliverables that will completely cover the scope of the project and identifying the stakeholders who will be part of the creation and validation of each deliverable.
  • Identifying the timelines for completing the business analysis deliverables.
In the absence of defining a credible and realistic plan, a set of expectations may be defined for you, and often those expectations are unrealistic as they do not fully appreciate everything that goes into defining detailed requirements.

Step 5 – Define the Detailed Requirements

Detailed requirements provide your implementation team with the information they need to implement the solution. They make scope implementable.
Without clear, concise, and actionable detailed requirements, implementation teams often flounder and fail to connect the dots in such a way that delivers on the original business case for the project.  
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Eliciting the information necessary to understand what the business community wants from a specific feature or process change.
  • Analyzing the information you've discovered and using it to create a first draft of one or more business analysis deliverables containing the detailed requirements for the project.
  • Reviewing and validating each deliverable with appropriate business and technology stakeholders and asking questions to fill in any gaps.
Effective business analysts consciously sequence your deliverables to be as effective as possible in driving the momentum of the project forward. Paying attention to the project's critical path, reducing ambiguity and complexity, and generating quick wins are all factors to consider when sequencing your deliverables.

Step 6 – Support the Technical Implementation

On a typical project employing a business analyst, a significant part of the solution involves a technical implementation team building, customizing, and/or deploying software. During the technical implementation, there are many worthwhile support tasks for you to engage in that will help drive the success of the project and ensure the business objectives are met.
Your key responsibilities in this step include:
  • Reviewing the solution design to ensure it fulfills all of the requirements and looking for opportunities to meet additional business needs without increasing the technical scope of the project.
  • Updating and/or repackaging requirements documentation to make it useful for the technology design and implementation process.
  • Engaging with quality assurance professionals to ensure they understand the business context for the technical requirements. This responsibility may include reviewing test plans and/or test cases to ensure they represent a clear understanding of the functional requirements.
  • Making yourself available to answer questions and help resolve any issues that surface during the technical design, technical implementation, or testing phases of the project.
  • Managing requirements changes to ensure that everyone is working from up-to-date documentation and that appropriate stakeholders are involved in all decisions about change.
  • When appropriate, leading user acceptance testing efforts completed by the business community to ensure that the software implementation meets the needs of business end users.
All of these efforts help the implementation team fulfill the intended benefits of the project and ensure the investment made realizes a positive return.

Step 7 – Help the Business Implement the Solution

Your technology team can deliver a beautiful shiny new solution that theoretically meets the business objectives, but if your business users don't use it as intended and go back to business-as-usual, your project won't have delivered on the original objectives. Business analysts are increasingly getting involved in this final phase of the project to support the business.
Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
  • Analyzing and developing interim and future state business process documentation that articulates exactly what changes need to be made to the business process.
  • Training end users to ensure they understand all process and procedural changes or collaborating with training staff so they can create appropriate training materials and deliver the training.
  • Collaborating with business users to update other organizational assets impacted by the business process and technology changes.
This step is all about ensuring all members of the business community are prepared to embrace the changes that have been specified as part of the project.

Step 8 – Assess Value Created by the Solution

A lot happens throughout the course of a project. Business outcomes are discussed. Details are worked through. Problems, big and small, are solved. Relationships are built. Change is managed. Technology is implemented. Business users are trained to change the way they work.
In this flurry of activity and a focus on delivery, it's easy to lose track of the big picture. Why are we making all these changes and what value do they deliver for the organization? And even more importantly, are we still on track? Meaning, is the solution we're delivering actually delivering the value we originally anticipated?
Nothing creates more positive momentum within an organization than a track record of successful projects. But if we don't stop and assess the value created by the solution, how do we know if we are actually operating from a track record of success?
Your key responsibilities in this step may include:
  • Evaluating the actual progress made against the business objectives for the project to show the extent to which the original objectives have been fulfilled.
  • Communicating the results to the project sponsor, and if appropriate, to the project team and all members of the organization.
  • Suggesting follow-up projects and initiatives to fully realize the intended business objectives of the project or to solve new problems that are discovered while evaluating the impact of this project.
After completing this step, it's likely you'll uncover more opportunities to improve the business which will lead you to additional projects. And so the cycle begins again!
Source: bridging-the-gap

Technology: What is Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that creates an encrypted connection over a less secure network. The benefit of using a VPN is that it ensures the appropriate level of security to the connected systems when the underlying network infrastructure alone cannot provide it. The justification for using a VPN instead of a private network usually boils down to cost and feasibility: It is either not feasible to have a private network (e.g., for a traveling sales rep) or it is too costly to do so. The most common types of VPNs are remote-access VPNs and site-to-site VPNs. 
A remote-access VPN uses a public telecommunication infrastructure like the Internet to provide remote users secure access to their organization's network. A VPN client on the remote user's computer or mobile device connects to a VPN gateway on the organization's network, which typically requires the device to authenticate its identity, then creates a network link back to the device that allows it to reach internal network resources (e.g., file servers, printers, intranets) as though it was on that network locally. A remote-access VPN usually relies on either IPsec or SSL to secure the connection, although SSL VPNs are often focused on supplying secure access to a single application rather than to the whole internal network. Some VPNs provide Layer 2 access to the target network; these require a tunneling protocol like PPTP or L2TP running across the base IPsec connection. 
A site-to-site VPN uses a gateway device to connect the entire network in one location to the network in another, usually a small branch connecting to a data center. End-node devices in the remote location do not need VPN clients because the gateway handles the connection. Most site-to-site VPNs connecting over the Internet use IPsec. It is also common to use carrier MPLS clouds rather than the public Internet as the transport for site VPNs. Here, too, it is possible to have either Layer 3 connectivity (MPLS IP VPN) or Layer 2 (Virtual Private LAN Service, or VPLS) running across the base transport.
VPNs can also be defined between specific computers, typically servers in separate data centers, when security requirements for their exchanges exceed what the enterprise network can deliver. Increasingly, enterprises also use VPNs in either remote-access mode or site-to-site mode to connect (or connect to) resources in a public infrastructure as a service environment. Newer hybrid-access scenarios put the VPN gateway itself in the cloud, with a secure link from the cloud service provider into the internal network.
Source: searchenterprisewan

10 Super Neat Ways to Clean Data in Excel Spreadsheets

Data forms the backbone of any analysis that you do in Excel. And when it comes to data, there are tons of things that can go wrong – be it the structure, placement, formatting, extra spaces, and so on..
In this blog post, I will show you 10 simple ways to clean data in Excel.
#1 Get Rid of Extra Spaces
Extra spaces are painfully difficult to spot. While you may somehow spot the extra spaces between words or numbers, trailing spaces are not even visible. Here is a neat way to get rid of these extra spaces – Use TRIM Function.
Syntax: TRIM(text)
TRIM function takes the cell reference (or text) as the input. It removes leading and trailing spaces as well as the additional spaces between words (except single spaces).
#2 Select and Treat All Blank Cells
Blank cells can create havoc if not treated beforehand. I often face issues with blank cells in a data set that is used to create reports/dashboards.
You may want to fill all blank cells with '0' or 'Not Available', or may simply want to highlight it. If there is a huge data set, doing this manually could take hours. Thankfully, there is a way you can select all the blank cells at once.
  1. Select the entire data set
  2. Press F5 (this opens the Go To dialogue box)
  3. Click on Special… button (at the bottom left). This opens the Go To Special dialogue box Clean Data in Excel - Go To Dialogue Box
  4. Select Blank and Click OK Clean Data in Excel - Go To Dialogue Box Select Blank
This selects all the blank cells in your data set. If you want to enter 0 or Not Available in all these cells, just type it and press Control + Enter (remember if you press only enter, the value is inserted only in the active cell).
#3 Convert Numbers Stored as Text into Numbers
Sometimes when you import data from text files or external databases, numbers get stored as text. Also, some people are in the habit of using apostrophe (') before a number to make it text. This could create serious issues if you are using these cells in calculations. Here is a fool proof way to converts these numbers stored as text back into numbers.
  1. In any blank cell, type 1
  2. Select the cell where you typed 1, and press Control + C
  3. Select the cell/range which you want to convert to numbers
  4. Select Paste –> Paste Special (Key Board Shortcut – Alt + E + S)
  5. In the Paste Special Dialogue box, select Multiply (in operations category) Clean Data in Excel - Paste Special Multiply
  6. Click OK. This converts all the numbers in text format back to numbers.
There is a lot more you can do with paste special operations options. Here are various other ways to multiply in Excel using Paste Special.
#4 – Remove Duplicates
There can be 2 things you can do with duplicate data – Highlight It or Delete It.
  • Highlight Duplicate Data:
    • Select the data and Go to Home –> Conditional Formatting –> Highlight Cells Rules –> Duplicate Values.
    • Specify the formatting and all the duplicate values get highlighted. Clean Data in Excel - Highlight Duplicates
  • Delete Duplicates in Data: 
    • Select the data and Go to Data –> Remove Duplicates.
    • If your data has headers, ensure that the checkbox at the top right is checked.
    • Select the Column(s) from which you want to remove duplicates and click OK. Clean Data in Excel - Remove Duplicates select column
This removes duplicate values from the list. If you want the original list intact, copy-paste the data at some other location and then do this.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Find and Remove Duplicates in Excel.
#5 Highlight Errors
There are 2 ways you can highlight Errors in Data in Excel:
Using Conditional Formatting
  1. Select the entire data set
  2. Go to Home –> Conditional Formatting –> New Rule
  3. In New Formatting Rule Dialogue Box select 'Format Only Cells that Contain'
  4. In the Rule Description, select Errors from the drop down
  5. Set the format and click OK. This highlights any error value in the selected data-set Clean Data in Excel - Highlight Errors
Using Go To Special
  1. Select the entire data set
  2. Press F5 (this opens the Go To Dialogue box)
  3. Click on Special Button at the bottom left
  4. Select Formulas and uncheck all options except Errors Clean Data in Excel - Select Errors
This selects all the cells that have an error in it. Now you can manually highlight these, delete it, or type anything into it.
#6 Change Text to Lower/Upper/Proper Case
When you inherit a workbook or import data from text files, often the names or titles are not consistent. Sometimes all the text could be in lower/upper case or it could be a mix of both. You can easily make it all consistent by using these three functions:
LOWER() –  Converts all text into Lower Case. UPPER() – Converts all text into Upper Case. PROPER() – Converts all Text into Proper Case.
#7 Parse Data Using Text to Column
When you get data from a database or import it from a text file, it may happen that all the text is cramped in one cell. You can parse this text into multiple cells by using Text to Column functionality in Excel. Clean Data in Excel - Text to Column Example
  1. Select the data/text you want to parse
  2. Go To Data –> Text to Column (This opens the Text to Columns Wizard)
    • Step 1: Select the data type (select Delimited if you data in not equally spaced, and is separated by characters such as comma, hyphen, dot..). Click Next Clean Data in Excel - Text to Column 1
    • Step 2: Select Delimiter (the character that separates your data). You can select pre-defined delimiter or anything else using the Other option Clean Data in Excel - Text to Column 2
    • Step 3: Select the data format. Also select the destination cell. If destination cell is not selected, the current cell is overwritten Clean Data in Excel - Text to Column 3
Related: Extract username from email id using text to column.
#8 Spell Check
Nothing lowers the credibility of your work than a spelling mistake. Use keyboard shortcut F7 to run a spell check for you data set.
Here is a detailed tutorial on how to use Spell check in Excel.
#9 Delete all Formatting
In my job, I used multiple databases to get the data in excel. Every database had it's own data formatting. When you have all the data in place, here is how you can delete all the formatting at one go:
  1. Select the data set
  2. Go to Home –> Clear –> Clear Formats Clean Data in Excel - Clear Formats
Similarly, you can also clear only the comments, hyperlinks, or content.
 #10 Use Find and Replace to Clean Data in Excel
Find and replace is indispensable when it comes to data cleansing. For example, you can select and remove all zeros, change references in formulas, find and change formatting, and so on..