Sprinting toward new applications using BABoK®

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Agile lifecycle drawn on paper

As a Business Analyst, Enterprise Data & Information (EDI) at ABN AMRO, my job is to match the wishes of the commercial department to what is possible with IT. This sounds simple, but it can take some figuring out. To build the application or system that everyone wants, I need to identify ‘the question behind the question’.

What makes my job so interesting is the rapid pace at which the playing field is evolving Ed Stekelenburg Ed Stekelenburg Senior Business Analist Enterprise Data & Information (EDI)

At ABN AMRO we are working hard to redesign all our separate IT systems – an ambitious programme that has been going on for several years now. At the same time, we are modifying the existing systems, to provide our clients with the best possible service. The wishes of the units that deal directly with clients are leading in this process. Those wishes are often derived from company’s ‘direct business needs’ or its strategy (geared more toward the longer term).

Rapidly evolving playing field

What makes my job so interesting is that the pace at which this playing field is evolving is increasing all the time. In the past banks defined strategies to last five years. Although we still use those long-term strategies, we are making more and more adjustments – and faster too – when they are already in place. In many cases IT is the catalyst for change. IT can be used to modify applications and systems faster and faster, as well as for launching new income models quickly, for example. It is imperative to respond to those developments. This calls for agility and efficiency. It is no longer enough for organisations to deliver their solution after a year: by that time their clients will have left.

Clear-cut goals

As a Business Analyst, I help form the basis for the success of IT projects. I help to define clear-cut goals and to describe the requirements of the bank’s commercial units. These projects start with vague requirements and result in a solution that is aligned with the bank’s goals. Bringing together the wishes and requirements of the business is an iterative process: you start with a very wide scope and draw nearer to the essence as you go along. Often, it is a matter of identifying ‘the question behind the question’: this is what the commercial department is asking, but what do they really want? In some cases the vision is still unclear. Communication is also very important: everyone has their own ideas about requirements such as ‘accessibility’, for example.

Working in short sprints

A useful tool in this process is the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (the BABoK® Guide). BABoK is the globally recognised standard for business analysis activities. ABN AMRO’s Business Analysts receive intensive training to learn how to work according to the BABoK Guide. Essentially, using this standard means that all our analysts have the same way of working. BABoK also makes sure that we do not address the wishes of the business as separate elements, but instead adopt a much more overarching approach. We also use the Agile Scrum method, chopping projects into separate components and completing them in short ‘sprints’. To me, the advantage of scrumming is that we continually involve our client within the bank with what we are building. The client immediately sees whether it meets their expectations; if not, we can make changes before it is too late. Large projects stand or fall with the cooperation of all the stakeholders. When colleagues regularly see what you are creating, this generates support among the project team.

Flexibility and standardisation by adopting BABoK®

By adopting BABoK®, ABN AMRO has succeeded in introducing a uniform way of working. It offers a balance between flexibility and standardisation. We Business Analysts have ample scope to carry out the profession of business analysis as we ourselves think best, and because we use BABoK® we understand each other perfectly when we talk about our profession.

An exciting employer

I enjoy working for ABN AMRO. As a Business Analyst, I play an integral role in the success of IT projects, and I receive credit for what I do. It is a great feeling whenever I see the final result of a long-term project. ABN AMRO is an exciting employer for IT people: not only are the dynamics surrounding the bank very interesting, I also draw motivation from the size of the organisation. If you ever feel that you have nothing more to learn in your present job, you have so many possibilities to expand your horizons. The bank encourages its people to do so – which is only logical, since it gets better IT people in return!

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