The best methodology is freedom – Nik Gebhard 0

Posted on 16, June 2011

in Category practitioner experience

There have been bounteous discussions around the need for new life to be breathed into business analysis methodologies. I have chosen to stay away from the agile versus scrum versus waterfall versus iterative versus I-don’t-care debate. I was always of the opinion that these discussions were intuitive and unnecessary. I was wrong.

Business is changing. So is business analysis.

Almost every article surrounding business today makes mention of the changing business world. Specific emphasis is placed on the doom that organisations face if they don’t adapt with the changing times. Cue the enormous gulp of fear. Given that a large focus of business analysis is on… wait for it… – business -, it seems only logical that the business analysis role needs to follow suit in the game of change. Tactics that have worked previously won’t necessarily work today.

It’s all good and well to highlight the pros and cons of various methodologies and then make an informed decision as to which is the best. The question is though – is there a best one? I’m not convinced that any methodology can be prescribed to squeeze the greatest result out of a project. In fact, I believe that, in hindsight, there will always be a better methodology. I use the term ‘methodology’ loosely, because I think that while methodologies provide a good set of guidelines, they shouldn’t be followed to the nth degree. I think most people agree on this point.

I can almost hear someone shouting: “Methodologies are project and scenario dependent. You must decide which one is best suited for your need.” I agree. To an extent. Off the back of every project comes a set of ‘lessons learned’. We live, we learn, we adapt. Concurrently, the business world is changing. This means we’re chasing a moving target. Perhaps the discussion we should be having is not around agile methodology, but rather about the need for agility in methodologies. Picking bits of a methodology that worked 5 years ago, is not necessarily going to work today.

It is up to business analysts to be innovative. Or is it?

Innovation and the ability to adapt are two key skills required by business analysis today. Bear in mind that adapting to an environment is the 101 of building initial rapport. Adaptation brings us closer to stakeholders. Getting closer to stakeholders means improved trust relationships. This, in turn, assists with requirements gathering and enriches teamwork. If your stakeholders suit up daily, so should you. If your stakeholders believe that neckties are simply neck warmers, so should you. Try it. It’s a simple first step to curing the ‘us and them’ syndrome.

So are analysts alone responsible for nurturing an environment that is conducive to innovation and creativeness? The short answer is: “Not entirely.” A certain level of interest is required before an individual will ooze innovation. You may argue that, in order to be an analyst, surely one would need to be interested in business analysis. Yes. No. Maybe.

Let me use an example of something that motivates me. Problem solving. I’m very interested in the topic. This may be because it is something I’m given complete autonomy over in my day-to-day job. I’m empowered to solve problems. How I do it, is up to me. I also have the necessary support structures in place to help me along the way. This motivates me to find innovative approaches to problem solving. I then have the opportunity to share my findings with colleagues.

A friend of mine lies on the opposite end of the autonomy scale. He has got an amazing eye for detail and loves solving problems. Never will you hear anyone talk so passionately about container shipping and specialist logistics. Of late he’s been extremely lacklustre about work. This is to the extent that he questions whether he’s made the correct career choice. It is disappointing to hear this because I know and understand his skill. I see it in action when he’s not at his job. So what has driven him to this mindset? His working environment. He’s not empowered to make decisions and innovate. He’s given a set of guidelines to follow. Creativity is tantamount to sin.

If you want a new methodology, liberate, don’t dictate.

Freedom to explore and innovate is essential. There have been endless discussions around reinventing methodologies. Good analysts are able to adapt to scenarios and apply themselves. It’s no good spurring an analyst on to innovate and then enforcing a strict methodology to which they must adhere. That’s counter-intuitive. Guidance and direction is always welcome. However, getting a really good result means that trust needs to be placed in an analyst to go against the grain and step outside of their comfort zone. This is an on-going game; not a one-off.

I have not yet applied a best ‘methodology’ to any of my projects. I don’t think I ever will. There will always be room for improvement. What I do know, is that I have the ability and freedom to adapt prescribed methodologies and come up with innovative, tailor-made ways to run projects that are sure to give them an edge over standard methodologies. I then have the ability to share what has worked and what has not.

Do you?

This article originally appeared on Bridging the Gap on 16 June 2011. Click here to view the original article.