Why live-audits makes sense?

GRC and Process

Live audits are conducted when the process owner or an operator performs his jobs while the auditor observes and asks process and work related questions while the live job/activity is performed. This happens practically at the process owner’s work place and work environment.

Process and procedure documents can be requested well before in advance before the live audit is conducted.

How should we conduct a live audit?

1. Observe how process owner perform his job, stop him/her and ask “Why” is the particular activity is performed.

2. Secondly ask “why” is the activity performed in a particular sequence. Match the activities and sequence in the process documents. If it matches then not only it helps you to gauge that training is provided to process owner or job owner but also implies they follow the process.

It is always advisable to question at least two process/job owner to determine uniformity in…

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When to Use Cross-functional Process Maps (or Swim Lanes)

Power of BPI

Have you ever wondered when to use a cross-functional process map? Or, wondered what one is?

These maps consist of cross-functional bands, or rows/columns, used to show the functions or departments involved in a business process. The cross-functional bands can represent as many functions as required. Cross-functional process maps can have two types of bands: the more common horizontal band (or row) or the vertical band (or column). When using this style, include a new functional band for each department or function involved in the process, label each band with the function’s name, and place activities in the appropriate bands depending on the function or area responsible for the activity.

You may hear this type of process map called a swim lane because of the similarity with Olympic-style swimming pools that consist of eight lanes each 8.2 feet wide. Using a cross-functional process map makes it easy to see when…

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The Current Top 20 Most Popular TED Talks

TED Blog

8506166674_27b6649d38_b As 2013 draws to a close, TED is deeply humbled to have posted 1600+ talks , each representing an idea worth spreading. So which ideas have had the most widespread impact? Below, a look at the 20 most-watched talks as of December 2013. These viewership numbers include all the platforms we track: TED.com, YouTube, iTunes, embed and download, Hulu and more.

Some fascinating things to notice on this list, if you’d like to compare and contrast it to the most popular talks in 2012, and to the list we shared back in 2011: Amy Cuddy, Susan Cain, David Blaine and Pamela Meyer are all newcomers to the list, with Cuddy’s talk storming to spot #5 thanks to you sharing it. Meanwhile, Brene Brown’s talk has doubled in its number of views since 2012, with Simon Sinek and Mary Roach’s talks coming close to that line. And finally, Ken…

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Arvind Kejrival’s stunts. Why resign?

The reason Arvind Kejriwal departed the Lokpal movement for the very own fact that nothing much can be gained from such movements and one has to play inside the political battlefield to earn your objectives and goals. This is the very own reason why AK formed a political party (AAP).

Why resign now from the post earned with hard work and mammoth efforts after entering into politics to achieve the said objectives?

If AK resigns due to only one reason of “not tabling the Lokpal bill”, let me throw some light on it, the bill was not tabled just for the matter of fact that it did not followed the due process to represent a bill in the assembly. Lokpal bill is considered as Financial bill and it has its own caveats that the state government must follow. Also there is already a Lokayukta law in Delhi, maybe not in great condition but yes it is there. So why should there be challenge in strengthening the bill and why such stunts to resign?, will threatening solve the problem?. Anarchy?

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I was happy when Arvind repeatedly said he will not take support of either Congress or BJP but shamelessly took the support of Congress and back-stabbed all those voters who either voted for BJP or AAP.

Here is another quote which clearly displays the intentions of AK as well as AAP. All those things that were practical at one point of time is now not practical. Are we practicing trial and error to develop governance?

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People say AK was harassed by both Congress and BJP, I dont know how BJP harasses AK but yes congress is not only in center but is also in support with AAP in Delhi and yet AK claims harassment by Congress as well as fails to continue with this government.

On the contrary, there are other states who has passed the Lokayukta acts despite challenges from both “Center” as well as Opposition, for instance Goa, has managed to pass the law without any fuss. Goa is one of the BJP states where despite center pounding pressure on the state the Chief Minister, Manohar Parikkar has managed to overcome these challenges and has managed to run his state well.

A good administrator is one who take these challenges on his soldiers and run the state and not run from them.

If AK implements the dreams shown to the people, that day will definitely be one to cherish and celebrate, but the way these stunts are practiced it makes me believe that this was just one of the characters that once again has ruined our hopes of better governance and corruption free India.

I am sure AAP supporters would disagree considering the fact the shield that media has created and provided to them, but this mask or shield is no longer to stay and truth will prevail.

Design prototype above all – Function follows form

Settle to a development framework, I say to myself, in recent past I believed form follows function was a great approach to develop web applications. But our brain is wired such that the real function of the realistic application is somewhere hidden inside our mind. Once the function is ready and later when we design, tons of features, logic, navigation, routes and relationships looks a miss out.

In some cases at design stages we feel the logic is incorrect and the entire application requires rethink and re-looked. In addition, pain to developer and multiple communication loops only adds to existing chaos.

This is why I believe “Function follows form” is a great alternative to application development process. This approach helps us to deliberate on actual requirements, feature list, navigation and routes, application logic and data relationships very early during the development stage.

Trust me, this approach is hard. Television, book reading, holidays and family time all takes a back seat while you change the world. Constantly your mind drags you to the next best feature you want to incorporate in your design or the application logic you need to define. Application logic still stays into documentation to a large extent but by now you are clear with your requirements.

In this advent of technological advanced era, believe me you don’t need millions of cash, costly hardware and expensive tutorials. What you need is a design framework such as Twitter bootstrap, Foundation, Gumby and its likes and self motivation. You could learn about twitter bootstrap in couple of hours and jump right into the app design. It is that easy.

Function can always be integrated later with the language of your choice. My personal preferences are Ruby on Rails, Python on Django, Meteor JS, Angular JS and PHP.

For a beginner most seems difficult, there will be phases where we feel that things are not working but then there is Google and Stack overflow.

Scratch your own itch – You won’t believe, I spent more than 20 minutes to figure out how images are embedded in the HTML but eventually I figured out that the answer was exclusion of double quotes. I spent 30 minutes to figure out how to integrate dashboard in my design and I found them on Google in-house developed visualization API’s to satisfy my design needs.

There is no limit as to what you can achieve, so go ahead learn few frameworks, kick some tires and dive right into app creation from scratch.

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3 steps to requirement gathering.

Often, when  business analyst gather requirements, its natural that below questions to revolve and spin around their head.

Where do I start? Should I navigate through the process first or ask the process owners about their wish list or maybe jump to gather requirements of the TO BE system.  A great detail of confusion isn’t it? Over a couple of years and after few experiments and deliberations, I have arrived to a state that seems to be working for me. Before I share my experience let me inform you that Alec sharp has greatly influenced me to settle down with the current process of gathering requirement.

1. The process:

Process is the foundation to develop usable applications, especially when the request or transaction changes multiple hands. On the contrary if there are less activity owners then a jump to mock ups won’t really hurt. For instance requirement gathering for a facebook or instagram like app won’t require a process to be written.

2. Create Data relationships

Regardless of complexity, size or feature set, you can break down any web application into simple operational mechanics:

  1. The web app takes in data from users

  2. The web app processes and decides what to do with that data

  3. The web app produces some output for the users

All web apps work like that, so at the start, it’s best to break down your web app’s core features into data relationships to see:

  • How your web app should be built

  • How your web app might deal with user data and presentation

  • What features you need to prioritize

  • What web services and web technologies you’ll need to enlist and get familiar with

For example, let’s take the primary feature of Instagram — posting a photo up on the photo-sharing service — and break it down into the fundamental operational mechanics above:

  1. The web app takes in a photo from users

  2. The web app processes the photo to scale it up or down to the layout of Instagram and also what photo effect the user wants to apply to the photo

  3. The web app produces a modified image and displays it for the users

 Lets create a breakdown of the data relationships like this:

Users

Has 2 permission roles (User and Admin)

A User can upload Photos

A User can manipulate Photos

A User can like or dislike Photos of other Users

A User can comment on Photos

 

Photos

Photos are uploaded by a User

A Photo can get a Filter applied to it by the User who owns the Photo

A Photo can get liked/disliked

A Photo can get a Comment

A Photo can be deleted/edited/updated

A Photo can be private or public

 

Filter

A Filter can be applied to Photos

A Filter can be created by an Admin

 

Comment

A Comment belongs to a Photo

A Comment can be created, edited and deleted by the User who own the Comment

A Comment can be deleted by the User who owns the Photo where the Comment is on

 

3. Jump to mockups and prototypes:

Now that we have our process and data relationships in place, lets jump to creation of mockups. There are two types of mockups: Low fidelity and High Fidelity.

Low fidelity mockups are paper sketches that makes it easy to understand the requirement little bit more in detail. This kicks in the thinking process that aids in creation of high fidelity mockups and prototypes plus it saves a loads of time.

High Fidelity mockups are made using online tools that have interactive elements built in.

Prototype – Finally, at best prototype built on HTML5 and CSS3 serves as a virtual replica of your to be system. If you have loads of time before the development is to begin, prototyping is feasible solution. The second best candidate is high fidelity mockups in order to translate requirements to your developer.

Focus on Behavior and Less on Look-and-Feel-

Quite often, frustrations that people have with a web app come from the way it behaves, not the way it looks.

I’m not saying you should ignore how your web app looks altogether, but I think that this is something you can refine, polish, and invest in more once you confirm your solution is something users actually want.

What I’m suggesting is that you direct your time and resources into your web app’s value proposition — which for a web app is usually the fundamental problem it’s aiming to solve for its users.

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PS: The article is written keeping in mind building applications for small to medium scale enterprises but the ideas are not restricted to building large scale applications.

Thanks Alec for instilling process based thinking and Marc Gayle for inspiring on Data relationship based thinking.

Requirement gathering with an UI framework

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A “traditional” requirement gathering process typically involves gruesome activities such as process owner interviews, wish list walkthroughs, documentation of each requirement in extended form, data flow design, in-depth business rules, identification of various types of fields, validations and integrations and much more.

Enormous amount of time is spent to document these activities, but still multiple questions by developer flows and process owners do miss out on critical elements? Predominantly, this is because of huge gap between textual understanding of the requirement and visual thinking.

To bridge these gaps frameworks rescues you from such textual syndrome, Twitter bootstrap, Foundation, Groundwork, Gumby, HTML5 Kick-start, Boilerplate and few others give a rock solid foundation and support to your visual thinking machine. Business analysts are in an era where prototype designing is now a child’s play why not exploit it?

With the advent of these tools in no time we can create an ideal prototype that serves visual purpose of your clients towards user requirements, data flow, fields required, placement and types of components , validations, business rules and integrations required.

Perspectives:

Process owner – Visually senses the output of requirement instead of browsing tons of documents. The process owner does not have to wait till end to view the output demanded. Only to find during UAT stage the hits and misses including logical errors.

Business analyst – Frameworks assists analysts to draw the real requirement that is visually expressed and demonstrated to the process owner, client and developer.

Developers – Developers are apprised in advance of the effort required to build the application. They worry less about design and more about implementation of business logic. In addition, the frameworks are complied to work on multiple browsers, these frameworks not only makes developers life easy but also comes with a great online forum support in-case a help is needed.

These frameworks are free to use and in some cases inexpensive but packs and punches great features that may gather client’s requirements in a record time. Never before a business analyst is armored with this kind of environment that promises speedy requirement analysis and if you wish to further take the framework on steroids then development frameworks such as Ruby on rails and Python on Django is your answer. Not only your prototype is ready but when plugged  with a development frameworks your requirement and application sprints.

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