Positioning as a service

In a world of opportunity, where we have precious time, limited space, and plentiful choice, which path do we choose?

Sometimes it’s easier for our stakeholders to switch off and not even engage to solve the problems they have. When it feels like an option is going to be insufficient, it’s better to do nothing. When the world is filled with promises of silver bullets and littered with past project failures, people don’t have faith in any of it.

Business analysts can choose to steer towards something. Instead of saying “We can build anything, what would you like?” the business analyst can start with the stakeholder worth serving, start with their perspective, beliefs and needs, and then craft a service for that stakeholder.

This requires going beyond.

Locating the points on the map.

Aiming for something, not just anything or everything.

Too narrow a choice

Traditional business analysis is built around the sponsor who pays for the project. It’s done to the stakeholder, not for them. Old-school business analysis is under the hammer of time, cost and quality, and any restrictive scope measures to solve the problem—to build the product, to land the service, to make the change.

When the stakeholder has little choice but to listen to you and live with what you give, when there are only three similar options, only one service provider available, only limited choice, the path to bottom-line might be the path worth pursuing.

But the newly enlightened stakeholder has discovered that what looks like distraction to the project sponsor feels like opportunity. They’ve come to realise that they have an infinite number of choices, an endless array of options. For the business analyst, they’re caught trying to facilitate the hedgehog and the fox one—a project simplified against one high-level idea versus a project that revolves around different questions.

Thousands of niche business solutions.

Hundreds of ERP system’s available in the market.

More experts, solutions and consultancies than they could ever consider, never mind engage with or hire.

Having this plethora of choice, most of it offered by people who are simply wielding a hammer, the stakeholder is making the obvious choice. Go somewhere else.

What’s an ERP for?

More specifically, what’s a retail organisations ERP for?

It’s not simply a need for an IT system. After all, when the organisation was growing up, they didn’t have that much of an IT system problem. And plenty of organisations make it through the growth years without an ERP system. This is a want, not a need.

Few technology purchases trigger more change than an ERP, and in this case, we’ll see different changes for different stakeholders.

For the retail organisation, an ERP enables a change from siloed divisions to integrated processes.

That’s a shift in control, in efficiency, and in power. It’s far bigger than excel spreadsheets.

For the executive, it causes a change from limitations with operations to offering visibility and scale. And it leads to significant discussions about procedures, opportunity, and about control?

What will our customers say? What will we tell ourselves about procedures? About information, opportunity, and management?

All of these changes are at the heart of the ERP decision. When the architect, the business analyst, and the subject matter expert see these changes at work, they provide more value, because they can analyse with these issues in mind.

Angry birds—More than one way to the box office

Six years after developing more than fifty mobile games that failed to make an impact, Rovio’s 52nd game showed up in various Top 10 Apps and Game Charts. More than four million downloads after it was first released, Angry Birds is the hit game that was an unexpected success.

In 2011, this was the fastest-growing game in history, spawning fan merchandise, full-length movies, and amusement park attractions.

This phenomenon happened with funding fast running out. Having significantly reduced its headcount. And most definitely without positive feedback from their previous releases. They didn’t want to shut the company down because… what if they could still make a game that would capture people’s imagination?

The thing is, it wasn’t about the gameplay or any strict criteria to determine which game to go with. It was designed squarely around the angry bird character. One evening a game designer called Jaakko Iisalo settled down to play some video games. As he immersed himself an idea started to form, and he sketched out a bird with large eyebrows, no feet, and a somewhat deranged expression. When he presented it to management the next day everyone found it irresistible. And so it began to spread.

Now with a series of eighteen video games (plus nine spin-off’s and compilations), there are 9.2 million daily active users. And we can ponder if trying something for the 52nd time is ever a good idea.

It should be no surprise that there will be a third installment of the movie in 2021. Box-office success again.

Curiosity, humility and utility

A business analyst is curious about their stakeholders. They wonder what they are grappling with, what makes them tick. They’re fascinated by their perspectives and beliefs.

And they have the humility to embrace the lack of time and availability that their stakeholders struggle with everyday.

People aren’t keen to give you their availability. The meeting you scheduled isn’t a blank cheque to buy something that is priceless.

Instead, we can trust that stakeholders will intentionally exchange their availability. Exchange it for something they want or need. Exchange it because they’re highly interested. Exchange it because they trust you to keep your promise.

Not everyone will be intentional. But if you do your job right, enough stakeholders will be.

The is the shoe and the foot. You’re not running around with a shoe trying to find a foot it fits. Instead, you’re finding a problem (the foot), and since you’re curious about their perspective and needs, you will find a solution (the shoe) just for them, one with utility they’ll happily exchange availability for.

A doctor doesn’t have to spend much time convincing the sick person. When you show up promising a remedy, if the sick person understands what’s at stake, you won’t have to drag them to your practice to get a prescription.