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Andy Capaloff
July 19, 2015

These 3 IT Secrets Can Boost Your SMB

(Disclaimer: These things are far from secret within IT!  But the word “Secret” gave the heading a way better emotional score than “Skillset”!)

What Can IT Teach My SMB?

The Systems needs of very large companies, can be huge. I work on various aspects of systems, which can involve multiple departments, spread over 3 continents. It will not come as a newsflash to anyone that this requires specialised job descriptions and some really strict processes. What may surprise some people is that these skillsets and processes are scalable and can help their small and medium sized businesses (SMB).

The aim of this article is as much to put thoughts into the minds of people currently employed in Big Business, as in those of the SMB owners I am convinced they can help. In my experience, this will be no small task!

When I tell colleagues that I work on my wife, Jan Gordon’s business (Curatti) when I go home in the evening, most ask what it is. I generically reply “Social Media”. The majority reply “Hmmm. Interesting!”, before hastily making a strategic retreat. Few request details. Fewer still do so out of anything other than politeness. You see, most people in that world are happy for the security it provides them and aren’t interested in the new world that those who are already here often think of as THE world!

But there are opportunities all around. SMB owners who are interested in gaining a competitive advantage, should surely look to those who have already mastered the skills, if considering adopting them.

Here are just 3 of the transportable skills which can benefit both.

Business Analysis

thefunniespictures.comThere haven’t always been IT Business Analysts, but as technology and business needs have become ever more complex, their need has become ever greater.

Have you ever tried talking with developers? A breed unto themselves, aren’t they! In the 2+ decades that I was one, there was always a ‘them and us’ mentality about them – where us are smart and them don’t have a clue about…. well, most things really! Add lots of serious new technology and start calling geeks cool instead of kooks, and trust me, that aspect has not got any better!

Put them in a room with business users, and you see a prime example of people using the same language in very different ways. No wonder systems used to have so many problems! No wonder those that are developed without end-user input still do!

d1b39d8aa93ef63e6af9e9f197e43b11Enter the IT Business Analyst. They are essentially bi-lingual. After consulting first with the business and then with IT, they will turn needs into action plans.

The BA has specific business knowledge but can talk tech-speak. (S)he can present to partners and stake holders in order to achieve buy in – literally, actually, as these are the people who authorise payments!

The cornerstones of Business Analysis are the ability find and ask the right questions, and excellent writing skills. Because their paymasters are so exacting, a good BA will have mastered the balance between detail and brevity, addressing issues both known and previously unconsidered.

They will have researched any holes in their knowledge and they will know (or find out) how other companies deal with complex issues. If a package is being bought, rather than developed, they will perform comparisons and make recommendations with pros and cons, along the lines of a competitive analysis. They will perform gap analysis. Did I say the good ones are great writers?

So, do you think your B2B or SMB might benefit from this skillset?

If there are any Business Analysts reading this, do you see how you could transport your skills? By all means, do please leave comments!

Use Cases

use-case-example-online-shoppingThere are many methodologies employed in large-scale systems developement. Perhaps the most familiar one is Use Cases. As can be seen in this diagram, from uml-diagrams.org, this is typically represented in visual form, using uml, which as a programmer, I feel only loosely meets the designation it has as a language.

UseCaseExerptThe basic idea here is a simple one. A use case, whether written or in diagram, defines an aspect of business. It defines the start and end point, all ‘actors’, and what is involved in the journey from start to end point. Done right, it forces deep thought into every aspect of a business.

If you have a service to sell, the use case for the transaction will have you considering buyer actions, including a user profile and payment details. It will involve the steps you wish to take your buyer through, payment entry and interfaces, and how you deliver your product.

If you were to document your business, there would certainly be more than one use case. And you would surely find areas in which you are not covering.

Systems people create use cases as a pre-development tool, but I would recommend use cases for all businesses. I can guarantee that you do some things without thinking, you do some things inefficiently and still other needed functions are either missed, done out of sequence or just done wrong,

Agile and Scrum Methodology

This is used in systems development, but is highly transportable.

In a nutshell, Agile breaks up project development into fixed length ‘sprints’, typically lasting two weeks (sometimes shorter but I’ve never heard of longer). It entails fixed goals during that sprint, for all of the various functions – including testing. Each iteration allows for reassessment.

Scrum

standup_dilbertScrum covers both the team setup and meetings.

The 3 roles in a scrum team are:

  1. Product Owner: As it sounds – this is the person who has commissioned the work,
  2. Scrum Master: Purely a facilitator. This person makes sure all are speaking on a level-footing, and shifts the focus back, if it appears to be going a little wayward.
  3. The Team: Again, as it sounds! These are all of the people doing their various tasks.

 

As described by agilemethodology.org, there are actually 5 different meetings covered by scrum. These cover product planning, sprint planning, a sprint review and a product retrospective. In the middle of these, is the daily scrum – it’s a same-time-daily, 15-minute, fixed length, stand-up meeting.

Each attendee answers 3 questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What is impeding me?
  3. What will I do today?

 

How simple and useful is that and why can’t it be imported into non-systems development environments!

To be sure, there are more lessons that IT can teach Social Media based SMBs. I suspect I am not alone in seeing how these skillsets might be invaluable.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please use the comments, below.

I will try to break it down further, if requested to.

 

Lead Image attribution: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_texelart‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

BA Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/527413806334395330/

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Andy Capaloff

Andy Capaloff is the COO of Curatti. Prior to moving into the world on Content Marketing, Social Media Management and the day-to-day running of a Digital Marketing company, Andy spent over 3 decades in various aspects of IT. It is here that he honed his writing and technical skills, and his ability to ask the uncommon questions.