Checking job postings important for Project ROI.

This past week I was hired by a client to research a product idea that they had.

The client had done their own research and found out that the product did not exist today in the form they presented. They had even found a similar product targeted towards a different set of customers. Given that, they felt strongly there was an opening in the market for their product targeted against the customers they had identified.

Once I was hired, I gained an understanding of what the benefits of their new product was and who the likely customers were. I asked them to establish why they felt the opportunity was there – what made them unique.

Taking the knowledge provided by the client I then did research of my own.

1 – I confirmed that indeed there was potential for their product.

2 – I identified that indeed the product did not exist in the current form that the client was wanting to create.

3 – I crunched the numbers of the expected product cost against potential.

4 – I researched other companies that provided the same proposed solution but in a different market.

All looked strong for my client’s desire however I found a fly in the ointment.

Taking the list of companies in the different market who dealt with the same potential clients as my customer but without the product that my customer was planning to create, I did a job vacancy search.

Luckily for my client, the competition did not consider it a strategic risk to post their employment needs along with their company name. In fact with the strongest possible competitor, that company was advertising exactly for the skill set that my client would need to create their proposed product. In the company’s job advert, they went to great length to explain the direction the company was moving in and how it was a great opportunity to come on board and build the product.

A little bit of research saved my client from putting money into a product that another stronger competitor was getting ready to build.

I cannot say this will work every time because if the job openings had been filled at the competitor I would not have stumbled across the  job vacancies that described the direction of the company. As a back up solution, you can check the patent registry to see if any competitors have filed patents closely related to the product you plan to build.

When is the UI too simple? A study of www.mojomotors.com

Today I will tackle the subject of when the User Interface is simplified to improved the user experience at the expense of other users.

I was reading an article about car buying that suggested that existing sites like www.AutoTrader.com and www.Cars.com were cluttered sites and that people considering buying a used or new car should try www.MojoMotors.com. Since I buy used cars on a fairly regular basis, I was intrigued and decided to give it a look.

Unfortunately I found the site a disappointment after reading the hyped up article but I do not think it all bad, just that I was not one of the “Personas” of users that was considered.

In User Interface and User Experience, we have to consider who are the people that are likely to be using our product. We then group people with like attributes together to create various personas. To go further, we would tie the personas into market research to see which group is likely to make our product the most successful by identifying some agreed upon measure that could be applied across the different personas – could be number of users, amount of income created by the product etc… This would then be used to justify the strategic investment in the development of the solution. Unfortunately it is cost prohibitive to develop a solution for all personas identified.

As I landed on the site I was not greeted by some open white space as I expected from reading the article – think early Google – but instead by a top navigation bar, data entry line, lots of stuff about the company, links to how wonderful it is and of course a picture that has nothing to do with cars but rather a person – at least Cars.com has a car in their picture. So strike one. However please note that it is lighter in look than AutoTrader.com  – as it has the large banner advert at the top – but Cars.com looks a lot more inviting to use.

The icons in the top navigation bar, I could guess at what they mean but I could not see a help option to walk me through them above the fold. In today’s world, I would expect a video welcome to walk me through the benefits of this web site – above the fold or at the very least some help icon. By the way if you click on “Reviews” in the bottom navigation – you lose the icons at the top and no matter how often you click on the top “Mojo” icon it does not bring them back – Strike 2.

Now that I have the site at 2 strikes, let me explain why I strike out completely for my use. I buy used cars regularly every couple of years but at the time of my purchase I do not know what make or model of car I am going to buy because car availability varies by time of year, geographic location, fuel costs etc.. I have a budget and I look for cars that have features – such as 4 doors, pick up, convertible etc.  With the results of my search I narrow my search down to specific models that come within my price range for the location I live in. MojoMotors does not seem to allow me to do the initial search. www.cars.com, www.autotrader.com and even somewhat www.craigslist.org all allow me to get in there and do a generic or advanced search. www.mojomotors.com is therefore by itself useless for my user persona. Strike 3.

What is the saving grace for www.mojomotors.com? For people that know exactly what model/s they are looking for (but you can’t specify year – another issue) , I think it is possibly a good site because they can let the site keep an eye on the market for them and let them know when a car price drops. I presume it also allows the dealers to track what cars are being watched/purchased the most so that they can steer their inventory in that direction and be aware of what price they are selling for.

Looking back at the original article I read on MojoMotors.com, it made me visit the site but the site failed to come close to my expectations. In its current form I would be very unlikely to use it to purchase my next used car. Simplicity of site that was inferred by the article did not fit my user persona at all. I do however wish them luck as they grow and develop. If you come back to that site in a year, I am sure it will have some of the changes that make it not work for me in its current form.

If I have missed or misrepresented something on the web sites mentioned by writing this article, I will gladly correct it once it is brought to my attention. My purpose is not to harm the owners of the web sites represented but to explain why a particular web site does not always work for everyone.

 

 

 

Business Analysts are a waste of money

Today I wanted to rock the boat a bit and state that Business Analysts are a waste of money and how employers should avoid the waste.

Why you may ask am I saying this?

I am saying this because too often a Business Analyst is seen as the solution to any problem with a project.

Short a project manager or tester, hire a Business Analyst to do the job.

Last release was a mess, hire a Business Analyst to fix it.

Need some documentation done, hire a Business Analyst to write it.

Business strategy not getting implemented quickly enough, hire a Business Analyst to implement.

For centuries, the world existed without the Business Analyst job title. Now the market is flooded with people claiming to be a Business Analyst of some sort along with managers thinking they know what a Business Analyst is.

This has led to employers hiring someone to fill a job because they meet the requirement of the Business Analyst title. In the best case the Business Analyst will adapt to the role. In the worst, they will fail miserably because the role is not a fit for their experience. In other cases the employer keeps the Business Analyst in their position long after the role has changed to something else just because they have a good working relationship.

So how should employers fix it?

Employers have to think about:

  1. What their perceived skills of a Business Analyst are and how does that relate to what the industry thinks a Business Analyst does? For example, Business Analysts can write but they do more than Technical Writing so if the role is purely for writing, hire a writer.
  2. What skills they need in the role?
  3. When do they need the skills and for how long? Take a development project for example, at some point the requirements will be 99% complete and then it is off to testing. So at some point the employer goes from a shortage of Business Analyst skills to QA skills.
  4. How structured and large is the environment? No point in hiring a fortune 500 Business Analyst if you are a mom and pop shop that is looking for someone to maintain your web site.

The above is not an exhaustive list but just rather something to make employers think.

Personally I will be one of the first to tell a client if I feel they don’t need my skill set at the time of hiring or later in a project due to role change and make suggestions as to who they should look for. It is always in my interest to make sure that the relationship between client and consultant is a win win for both parties. I know this is contrary to large consulting practice and has cost me work. I however feel much happier for it and so do my clients.

 

Business Analyst Salary – United States

What is the Business Analyst Salary? Anytime you are considering a career it is good to know what the salary expectations that go with it are.

This post is based on what I have seen (not necessarily earned) in the Business Analyst field in terms of salary and usually what goes along with the higher salaries.

Numbers presented in this post are in US dollars along with the assumption that at the high to very high end, the person would be working as a consultant rather than a permanent employee of a company and the company is US based.

The salary range for Business Analysts is large but not vast – you don’t get into the millions doing this. At your lower end, the starting pay can be in the low 30’s per year. In the middle you might expect anywhere from 50-80k. Once you get into the Senior Business Analyst role you might expect anywhere from 80- 130k. At the very high end, you might be able to bring in as much as 140k – 200k but those opportunities are few and far between, usually involve travel, being located in an expensive part of the country and specialized knowledge.

One thing I have to mention is that not all Business Analyst roles are the same and depending on what the Business Analyst is working on / responsible for can have a great impact of their dollar value to a company. At the same time not all Business Analysts are cut out to work in the high dollar roles because of the specialized knowledge and people interaction skills required. Eventually I will put together a questionnaire to enable BA’s to sense what direction they are being called in.

Looking at the numbers above, you may consider that being a Business Analyst is a great opportunity, however if your motivation is making money there are more lucrative careers out there in sales, marketing, investing. Eventually you will hit a plateau with the Business Analyst salary and may even see the salary shrink from time to time as companies merge or outsource opportunities. Most people that have been doing the Business Analyst role for more than 10 years have all reached a point where the salary raises have hit a wall. This means that sometimes the next role for these people can be a bit of a cut from the previous or involve taking time off while waiting for the right role to come along.

Some similar  types of roles that pay more than the Business Analyst salary:

  • Trainer for a specialized training company as long as companies are hiring training companies. When times get hard, training is usually cut back. I have known people to make in excess of 250k in those roles but it does involve travel.
  • Project Manager / Program Manager – I have seen these salaries get into the 200+k bracket
  • Product Manager – These roles offer more growth than the BA which leads to larger salaries.

To get into the higher Business Analyst salary bracket it usually requires:

  • Years of experience. Once you break the 5 years you are well on your way to being a Senior Business Analyst and generally anybody with 10 years is considered senior by default.
  • Specific software application skills. Knowledge of certain SAP software modules or Personnel software such as PeopleSoft goes along way here to raising your value. There are other software packages out there, so the best way to find out what is in demand is to search the job sites. Note that with the larger software packages such as SAP, salary is dependent on specific modules not just knowing any SAP module. Additionally the experience needs to be current to get the best dollar offer.
  • Data warehousing / business intelligence. This area is growing rapidly and Business Analysts with the skills to define data, access (write SQL) and report on it, are in big demand which has raised the salaries accordingly.
  • Specialized knowledge in a business process can take you into higher amounts of money, in some cases in excess of 200k. I have seen from my own experience that specific business knowledge makes you more desirable in the market place. However it boils down to supply and demand combined with a willingness to travel to the location where the demand is. Some samples of in demand business skills – Basel Compliance, Capital Markets (The various desks / trading products), ecommerce. This is only a small sample, the job sites can show you more. The demand can also be very temporary as corporations wish to respond rapidly to business change and then once it is over they have no desire to maintain the relationship with the Business Analyst because of the cost.
  • Specialized Certifications. I am not talking here about a Business Analyst certification but rather certifications that go along with specialized business knowledge. Examples would be a Business Analyst that at some point has held or still holds brokerage certifications. These certifications guarantee the Business Analyst understands the trading floor and states they can talk the same language.
  • Having a MBA helps open doors. It is however not a necessary requirement as companies will value relevant experience over a MBA.

I left Business Analyst certification off of the above list because it has only been around for a few years. This has most value for two types of people in the Business Analyst role. Trainers use it to prove their credentials to train. BA’s with only a limited amount of experience use it to get in the door on their next role as it supposedly states to the employer that they know how to be a Business Analyst.