Simple ideas are the best – BA toolkit?

Today I stumbled across a blog post from a year ago where Ron Healy suggests creating a “Temporary Whiteboard” to carry about. The “whiteboard” is created by laminating a sheet of white paper! Sometimes simple ideas really are the best. You can’t get much simpler than that!

Ron suggests having parallel lines on one side which can be used for:

  • multifunction swimlane
  • activity diagram
  • sequence diagram
  • class diagram
  • hierarchical chart
  • system & subsystem diagram

This is such a good idea. As I commented on Ron’s blog – I’m a Business Analyst and I have been been using a daily plan made the same way for years and it didn’t occur to me to extend the idea.

Simple ideas - Laminated Daily Plans
Simple ideas – Laminated Daily Plans

I have two “plans” which I use which you can see in the picture. There is an A5 size one which is punched with two holes so I can have it at the front of an A4 ring binder and an A6 size one which I keep at the front of my Time Manager.

The layout of my plan is based on the forms I used to use in my Time Manager, but I like to remind myself of the “Elephant” and “Frog” tasks I am dealing with at the moment.

Once way in which I differ from Ron is that he uses dry wipe markers. On the other hand, I use a permanent marker and then wipe the plan down with alcohol at the end of the day when I am planning what to do the next day.

More simple ideas: What do you keep in your toolkit?

“Simple ideas” got me thinking about the Business Analysis or BA “toolkit” I carry around with me. For at least some of my working life I needed to use public transport, and that encourages you to carry the minimum you need.

My toolkit contains:

  • Laptop
  • Laminated plan
  • Diary
  • A4 ring binder to contain the current notes
  • Pack of Post-It notes
  • Pack of file cards
  • Foolscap or A4 wallet folder to hold loose bits together
  • A4 spiral bound notebook
  • Whiteboard Markers

What do you keep in your toolkit?

Bug Hunting for Analysts

Do you deal with problems in your working life? If you work in IT (Information Technology), then I am almost certain that you do!

“Problem Determination” is the art of identifying where the cause of a problem can be found in a system, so that it can be fixed. I like to call it “bug hunting”. Having a reputation for being able to track down the causes of problems will make you more valued. Being able to perform Problem Determination efficiently, or manage others doing Problem Determination will enhance your reputation.

I’ve written a course which teaches you a simple 8-step framework which can be used to manage the Problem Determination process, and techniques which will enable you to isolate problems efficiently. As you complete the sections what you have learned is reinforced by a case study and you can check your understanding using quizzes.

Problems are inevitable. Dealing with problems can be stressful. Take this course and you will learn how to track down problems efficiently and reduce that stress.

Whether you work on a help-desk, or as a developer, analyst or manager the skills you learn from this course will make you more effective. Problem Determination is a powerful intellectual skill which anyone with an analytical and practical mind can learn. It is a skill which once learned can be carried with you and applied to different systems and in different industries.

I teach using a mixture of lectures  and exercises. You will learn by seeing, hearing and doing. With each step you build your knowledge using what you have learned already. An on-line course sets you free to work at your own pace and to review and revisit earlier material, even after you have completed the course.

If I’ve got your interest, then I’ve included links so you can purchase the course at a substantial discount. Go on, have a look now! It’s all supported by an 30 day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee too.

Bug Hunting - 50% Off!
Bug Hunting – 50% Off!

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50% Off! $10

Why bother learning SQL?

Why would anyone want to learn a 35 year old programming language? Especially if the language we are talking about was originally intended to be written in ugly CAPITAL LETTERS and moreover tries to make you think in a funny way?

If the language in question is SQL (Structured Query Language), then I think almost anyone who is involved in IT systems should at least consider investing a little time gaining a basic understanding, because SQL databases are at the heart of many commercial systems.

Understanding even a little about what SQL is and how it works and the terminology it uses will enable you to communicate much more effectively with the other members of the development team. Even a little knowledge will give you an appreciation of what SQL databases are good for, what their limitations are and how they compare with other technologies. It doesn’t really matter, whether you start from a programming background or not, because at its heart SQL is really rather simple.

A little while ago, I wrote a course which teaches these basics. It teaches the principles of Relational Databases and the SQL language. Although it is intended for “Analysts”, what it teaches will be useful to programmers or those who are just interested in how systems work.

This course is suitable for a novice. I start by explaining how Relational Databases relate to your experience in the everyday world. When you have completed the course and exercises you will have created a database containing several related tables, updated the data they contain and written many queries which extract and summarise that data.

I teach using a mixture of lectures, demonstrations and exercises. You will learn by seeing, hearing and doing. With each step you build your knowledge using what you have learned already. An on-line course sets you free to work at your own pace and to review and revisit earlier material, even after you have completed the course.
If I’ve got your interest, then I’ve included links so you can purchase the course at a substantial discount. Go on, have a look now! It’s all supported by an 30 day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee too.

SQL and Database for Analysts - 75% Off
SQL and Database for Analysts – 75% Off

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75% Off! $12

The Welshman, the guitarist and the ambulance driver

(Wednesday 7th Sept, written up Friday 9th Sept)
Gosh, that was a laugh! Impromptu jam session at “The Shoes”. Guitar courtesy of Jason was good (maybe even great), my part of the singing was poor (though I did contribute to the lyrics), the other singing was ok. Good humour and good craic! Not at all what I expected.
The evening started predicatably enough with me calling on friends who now live in a house where I used to live. Once again, nice to just chatter. Again, predictably, Colin and I wandered down to The Shoes. The place was almost empty, but eventually we became embroiled in the music. Silly and fun!

Arrivals and Departures, visiting and teeth

(Written on 9th September 2011)
I’ve had a pleasant week in Ashford. Most of the time has been spent relaxing and meeting friends. I’ve seen some people in their homes and others I’ve met in the Pub, or at Church.
Starting from the beginning:
I arrived early morning on Saturday (3rd Sept). I did very little during the day, except doze. The bus may be an effective and economical means of transport, but sleep on the bus does not seem to satisfy the body. I’m not sure if it is because the sleep is constantly being disturbed, or because the body is cramped, although I usually sleep at least some of the time, I always feel tired afterwards.
On Saturday evening I arranged to meet some of my friends at The George in Staines. A good time was had by all!
On Sunday (4th Sept) morning, I took the bus from Ashford to Feltham. I had breakfast in Jenny’s. I probably shouldn’t have had the “English Breakfast” but I used the excuse that I was on holiday and I certainly enjoyed it. After that, it was time for Church.
At Christ Church it was a Worship-group service. I enjoyed that, and I enjoyed meeting the other members of the congregation. I made a point of introducing myself as a visitor! I wonder if I will manage to go to church when I am in Siberia? So far, I have identified one church (cathedral) in the centre of the city.
Caz arrived from Belfast today, en-route to Slovakia. She leaves on Wednesday, so I’ve let her have the spare bed and, for the days she is here, I get the sofa.
Monday (5th Sept), I set of early for the Dentist! The detached crown had been preying on my mind and I wanted to get it fixed if at all possible.The dentistry proved to be a very simple undertaking. The Dentist still had my records, fitted me into the schedule and cemented the crown back. I left after three-quarters of an hour with a replaced crown, a strange taste in my mouth and a slightly lighter wallet.
I phoned my old next door neighbour to see that he was in. I called on him. He is okay I suppose, but the years are obviously taking their toll. I was surprised and pleased to find that my old tenants had cleared his front garden for him. It’s only a small thing, but certainly to their credit.
In the evening I went to visit friends in Brentford. I had a really nice time. It is good to meet up like that. I wish there were more opportunities to do it.
Tuesday (6th Sept), the “task of the day”, was to go into town and meet up with Dick near Waterloo. Another pleasant afternoon. In the afternoon I went to the quiz at The Shoes. I’m not sure how much of a contribution I made to my team.