Recently I was able to attend the Building Business Capability Conference in Hollywood and would like to provide a short summary of what happened there.

At the same time I would like to encourage you to ask me about anything that attracts your attention, I may not be able to answer all your questions in details but I will do my best to share with you what I have learned while being there.


Building Business Capability – BBC – is an official conference of International Institute of Business Analysis – IIBA – an independent non-profit organization for business analysts.

But BBC is much more than “just” analysis, this year it covered eleven conference themes:

  1. Business Strategy & Transformation
  2. Business Architecture
  3. Agile
  4. Analysis & Design
  5. Techniques
  6. Professional Journey
  7. Team Excellence
  8. Changing the Organization
  9. Management of Business Analysis
  10. Leadership
  11. The Way Forward

For the complete list of tracks I was able to participate in please find the google docs link: BBC 2014 – tracks.

Below you can find a summary of a two of them.

Delivering Business Value incrementally; Gone are the Days of the ‘Big Bang Approach’

Track: Business Strategy & Vision
Speakers: Susan Conelly, Chris Castleberry

I have chosen this lecture because of our recent discussions with one of our Clients.

Is Big Bang approach still an option? Why does it sound safer to the Business? How to convince Business that delivering business value incrementally is better? These were just a couple of questions I had in mind when I was entering the room and the answers I received were not disappointing.

The speakers came from the insurance industry – the Unum Group Company – where they were continuously struggling to realize projects on budget and on time (can you imagine?).

Fortunately, at their Senior Management level they decided to give the scary Agile a try.

As their pilot they have chosen a rather small and uncomplicated project and they had quite a flexible budget for it. Wise guys. However, their business was still very hard to convince to the new methodology.

Business people were used to preparing plans for the next half of the year or even the whole year ahead and still deliver. The big questions they had in mind was – if they are able to do it how come the IT cannot do the same for them?

Additionally, what we learned from the speakers, the word “trust” was long forgotten in their company culture. Because of failed deliverables the business did not trust the IT. What is more, they were always hearing promises about the famous “phase 2” of the projects but they never experienced it happening.

How did they manage to succeed in such environment?

Well for starters they hired the right people on their management level. Secondly, they educated the senior leads about the engagement they needed, especially at the beginning of the transformation. Lastly they have chosen the right project for the pilot and covered it under a flexible budget. Moreover, they addressed the cultural challenge of rebuilding the partnership between Business and IT by defining a Unified Delivery Team consisting of people from both sides of the world.

What we can learn from their experience?

Success is hard to stop. After they proved that agile and delivering business value incrementally works they are receiving more and more important, core projects from their Business.

Additionally, there was one thought from the business person that I really liked:

“At the beginning we thought that the IT needs too much of our time. At the moment we finally realized that we simply cannot afford not giving it to them”.

Let us hope for such educated Product Owners or let us help them to understand the value behind it in 2015.

The Future of Business Analysis: The Path for Business Analysts

Track: Agile
Speakers: Dave Baker, Richard Larson, Kevin Brennan, Kupe Kupersmith

For the second summary I have chosen a panel discussion about the future of business analysis.

At the beginning the hosts attempted to define the business analysis profession, what a business analysts should additionally take care of besides all the straightforward things like eliciting the requirements, building the backlog, etc.

There were a couple of things mentioned:

  • building and maintaining the relationship with the Client (in our language getting to know our Product Owners, monitoring how they perceive our delivery and making sure they are simply happy with the product)
  • assuring effective collaboration (our triangle meetings are a good example)
  • making sure the communication works (on the Client side, on our side, in our Team, between Business and IT, basically everywhere)

and above all, a quote that is to my mind a perfect description of the business analysis role:

“The business analysis profession is not about the artefacts we produce (documents, diagrams, models and so on) but about whatever that brings Client the value”.

In other words, it does not matter if we create outstanding use cases, draw beautiful Visio diagrams or produce ten pages long swimlanes unless they deliver real value to our Customers.

As far as the future of business analysis profession is concerned the speakers did not agree on one direction only.

Some were sure that we are going more and more into a way to visualize the requirements so that they become even more understandable.

Others mentioned that, as agile becomes more and more common for our Clients, the relationships we are building will become more and more important (after all, we are often not getting paid to immediately know all the answers but rather to build the relations and find someone who knows the answers as quickly as possible).

All agreed that we as business analysts could do much more for our customers if we were parachuted to our clients earlier than when the projects actually starts.

How to achieve that?

An interesting thought to change the way we are being perceived from business analysts to business consultants. This way the CEOs would probably be keener on inviting us to the meetings where we can really bring value. Where instead of being in the need to ask “what?” or “how?” we would be able to ask and challenge the “why?”.

To sum up

BBC 2014 numbers: 1400+ Participants, 48 states, 35 countries.

Poland was represented by three people:

BBC Conference tweet
(too many UK people there, sorry guys)

Additionally, if you are into twitter here is a couple of people worth following:

  • @BobtheBA – Bob Prentiss, excellent full of energy speaker
  • @Kupe – Kupe Kupersmith, relationship-focused BA expert
  • @ellengott – Ellen Gottesdiener, Agile & Value expert

and if you are interested here is the online summary of the conference on Storify:

Finally, if you ask me what were the most important words repeated on most of the tracks during the entire conference I would answer “value” and “why”.

We as IT serve Business needs, we do not exist as a separate being.

While delivering our projects there should always be this thought at the back of our minds that forces us to ask – Why? Out loud.

So that we are sure that we are focusing ourselves on delivering real value – the value – the business value.