Category Archives: thoughtworks

3 in a row!

I’ve been part of 3 discovery/inception workshops in last 3 months. It’s been an amazing experience to work with some of the smartest ThoughtWorkers. Needless to say, different people bring in different perspectives, skill sets and I’ve learnt a lot from them especially around inception preparation, workshop facilitation, product management/lifecycle and in general keeping myself motivated while going through extended work hours, excruciating travels and depressing weather!

I am going to share few of the key techniques and learnings mastered over this journey.

1. Coming up with an agenda

First and the foremost, don’t spend too much energy in planning the agenda for these workshops. It’s important to make sure you have key stakeholders involved, if there are too many of them, block their calendars upfront. Try and come up with objectives for the entire inception duration based on your understanding of the client problem. Now work backward from these objectives to the workshop sessions. Think about which workshops/sessions will help you achieve these objectives. Key is having a rough plan and revisiting the plan every evening after daily retrospective with your team. Here’s what worked the best, a simple To-do, Doing, Done chart.

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2. Inception preparation

Get your drawing toolset together and sketch out important posters like ground rules, parking lot etc. Effectiveness of your sessions depend on your ability to use these posters! An example is the way you can use ground rules, parking lot in case of arguments, off-track discussions. One of the team I worked with had too many creative heads on it and we decided to make the posters too beautiful, only to realise it made people conscious to put anything on them! No need to over-engineer, make them look neat and tidy that’s it! Along with the posters, make sure you run through a checklist of stationary required if the workshops are offsite. Here’s another example of the most common posters you’ll need on the first day!

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3. Inception kickoff

Be confident, start with an ice-breaker session (Refer the gamestorming website for few examples or just use your creativity!) to make people feel comfortable with the new faces around. Keeping high energy level not just being the facilitator but also with the whole group makes a lot of difference. The sessions tend to be intense and it’s difficult to keep brains turned on throughout the day, plan for regular breaks.

Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share few specific workshop activities from the last 3 inceptions.

Learnings from recent discovery workshop

“Don’t plan for every session upfront, have a rough session plan for first/next couple of days and keep re-visiting the plan every evening.” 

I’ve seen some inception/discovery workshops in the past where teams kick-off with a tight, optimistic schedule for every single session for whole of 2-3 week duration. I’ve also seen people forcing themselves to stick to this plan, even when you have a feeling somewhere back of your mind that you need more time.

However, this approach will only be effective when you have a strong facilitator, extremely involved participation from stakeholders and facilitators ability to shuffle things around quickly and convincingly.

Business analyst : Domain expert or Generalist?

I know most of the people in our community would have given a thought to this question. Business analyst should be domain expert or a generalist? I was caught up in a similar dilemma some time back and brainstormed with a lot of people having diverse experiences in the industry. Here’s my take on the question. It’s dependent on various factors :

Industry in which you are working

I think being a domain expert might work out as the best solution in primary economic sectors like mining, farming etc. The same would work out in the secondary economic sectors like construction, manufacturing etc and may be in tertiary economic sectors like distribution of manufactured goods. The area of concern is the newly formed industry a.k.a quaternary economic sector which deals with technological research, design and development such as computer programming, and biochemistry. I think a good combination of generalist BA’s and domain experts would work out the best in this case. Also, diving more into the IT industry, it’s dependent on the type of IT company one belongs to. For e.g. Product development companies would rather have domain experts as the product they are developing would serve a specific industry sector, IT Services companies would have more of generalists as they have varying demands from their clients and they cannot just hire domain experts and wait until they get a suitable assignment. Again the solution I proposed (having right mix of domain experts/generalists looks promising in this case).

Personal interests

At the end, the decision to become a domain expert or a generalist is left to an individual.

Though I do not have much to say about the pros and cons of each.. just wanted to bring up this thing once again with the broader community and get more opinions!!