What hat are you wearing? Perspectives on Business Analysis

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Over the last 20 years I’ve been helping companies understand, document and drive adoption of their operational business processes. It is important to recognize there are a number of different and competing personas, each of whom believe it is THERE process content.  

So to keep things simple, we’ve found it useful to consider the different perspectives and to use hats.  Each of the four groups has (in most cases) valuable inputs and concerns about any given process. But it is important to ensure that the way document the processes supports their differing needs and perspectives. Rather like the HSBC ads we used to see in airports.

Using the hat system described below in workshop situations has meant it is easier for people to appreciate other views, easier to build consensus and easier for people to identify risks and priorities. The following is a simplified take on what each hat represents and the key needs of each group represented by the hat color and style.

End Users (Green Hats)

End users (or business users) are focused on delivering business results through processes. They understand that processes are how they work and deliver the products or services that provide value to our customers. These people also understand that good internal processes assist with staff training and ensure consistency. For some business users good processes also make it easier to move staff around or to expand operations, they use them to enable scalability. They are interested in ensuring that processes are logical, effective and accessible — in short they want processes that help them work the way they need to, they do not want to have to change the way they work to suit a new system.

These people understand the problems in the business and the frustrations of their customers. They are the source of a massive amount of knowledge.

On the down side they can also be blinkered at times into only seeing solutions from a very narrow angle, they can be the type of people that Henry Ford was thinking about when he said “If I had asked them they would have asked for a faster horse!”.

These End Users we refer to as our Green Hats.

IT /developers (White Hats)

IT/ Developers want to understand the business users’ view of the operation to ensure that the IT systems they build and maintain truly support the business users, at minimum cost. They want to ensure that there is integrity of information as it flows around the systems. Paradoxically although they suggest that they are very interested in process, they are in fact interested really in procedure because it is at this level the software applications operate. The reasons being that in order to build a system one has to know exactly how a decision is made and which path to go down when, there is no room for ambiguity?

Traditionally IT departments have not had a great track record in understanding the business or the real needs of customers, but happily this is now starting to change. Conversely though because of technology there are new and innovative ways of doing business that many of our Green Hats could never dream of. So ensuring we that we are getting great advice from the IT department is vital, to ignore them is highly risky in today’s world.

The IT / developers is staffed with the White Hats.

Business Analysts / Admin / Consultants (Blue Hats)

Business Analysts / Admin / Consultants want to ensure that the configuration of the Salesforce system is managed accurately and that it hangs together end-to-end i.e. passes System Testing and User Acceptance Testing. In short, they are looking to ensure that it meets the user needs, but more importantly perhaps that they can get paid quickly. Of course they do also want to ensure that they have happy and referenceable customers.

Although they talk to solving business problems and so try to align themselves with the Green Hats, they frequently find themselves as having more in common with our White Hats. In an ever changing landscape they find themselves having to increasingly act like chameleons, on one hand they know that the Green Hats control the budget for them, while on the other hand the White Hats control the ability for them to be delivered.

Business Analysts / Admin / Consultants are Blue Hats.

Risk and Compliance (Red Hats)

The Risk and Compliance Officers want to be able to demonstrate to auditors that end users are following a documented process, and that the correct risk control points have been identified and are effectively managed from a governance, ownership and auditing standpoint. Unfortunately in an ever regulated and litigious society the needs put upon business by risk and compliance is getting ever greater. This burden seems to fly in the face of waste removal or Lean initiatives, but does not look like getting better in the near future. So the risk and compliance team have a vital part to play in identifying, managing and improving processes.

The prime interest then is that of auditability and provability, some suggest that in simple terms their role is to keep management and executives out of jail. Whilst this may seem glib or trite it may be nearer to the truth than some people realize. 

As with the other groups, they will look at the problem from their own perspective. The risk of course being that the cost of being compliant far outweighs the commercial benefit of compliance, as ever it is a balancing act.

This is the Red Hat perspective.

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