No Product or Service reviews leads to lost income.

February 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI 

Previously I have talked about the handling of Negative Reviews online but what about if you have no reviews?

If you are releasing a product or service be it new or updated, it is unacceptable after a week to not have any online reviews be they good or bad in the major channels of distribution for product or in the lead review sites for businesses such as “Yelp” or “Foursquare”. Having no reviews can be worse than having bad reviews as it means nobody has considered there to be a need to either compliment or complain. If your competitors have lots of reviews, it makes your Product or Service drop down into the also ran category.

When planning to bring your Product or Service to market there should always be a task included to get reviews published as quickly as possible. Even ongoing the reviews should be maintained for freshness.

Not that I am suggesting that you personally populate the reviews but there should be a grassroots effort to have people provide reviews by reaching out to those that have used or purchased the product/service and getting the press involved via press releases.

If nothing else, reviews can give you valuable feedback on Product or Service issues you are not aware of allowing you to improve and thus make more sales.

Think about it this way. When a new restaurant or club comes into being, the press and VIPs are invited to come to the opening to generate buzz. The next day the press will hopefully publish glowing reviews and in today’s twitter / Facebook world the VIPs will also talk about their experience. Your Product or Service needs a similar public relations treatment.

Four components to measuring success of your product / release.

Whatever you are working on will eventually end up with a new or updated product being released. Prior to that release date, consideration should be given to how to measure success.

There are four components to measuring success:
1 – Determine what is to be measured.
What is the new or improved product supposed to achieve? Hopefully you already know the answer to this prior to even starting development.
A business should have clearly defined goals as to what is expected via the release of the new or improved product. These goals should be quantifiable in a mathematical way even if you have to hire a PHD mathematician to determine the formula that quantifies it.

Examples:
a – Game averages 1000 downloads per day over a 3 month period.
b – LED Lightbulb increases market share for our brand over others.
c – New website design increases revenue from marketing and attracts more visitors.

2 – Identify Channels to supply the measurement information.
Now that you know what you plan to measure for success, the next question is where to get this information from?
Channels of information can come in many different ways:
a – Data could be collected from social media site such as Facebook to see how many positive comments a new product gets.
b – Sales information could be tracked from online and physical stores.
c – Surveys could be performed on potential and actual customers.
d – Certain key words/phrases could be searched on in the Search Engines.

3 – Integrate and absorb the data from the Channels.
Once the source of the measurements has been identified, the next step is the actual integration of this data into your reporting system so that it can be sliced and diced to provide the measurement of success reports. Your PHD mathematician may also be needed here to weight the data accordingly so that no one channel skews the results unrealistically.

4 – Present the success data to the consumers.
Finally with all the data, reports can be designed / generated or data outputted for consumption by those who will make the determination that the goals have been achieved. At this point knowing who the consumers of the information is becomes critical as you need to present the data in a format that the consumers can understand and consume. You may need to engage UI/UX experts at this point if the presentation is using new technology so that they can help design the presentation.

Are you just a glorified factory worker or do you focus on enhancing Skills/Experience?

Times have changed and along with it the expectation of the Business Analyst role.

There was a time when Business Analysts were hard to find and the skills of the role were high. Now however, a lot of roles are getting labeled as Business Analysts which is causing confusion since the people in these roles feel they are Business Analysts. In other cases, skilled Business Analysts are finding their roles not what they expected.

I make an analogy to the “Factory Worker” to state that if your skills are not unique then what value do you personally have to differentiate yourself from the competition for work? Factory workers are tied to the factory they work at. Certainly some of them may be skilled in operations of machines that can transfer to other factories but overall, the focus of the role is:
– turning up on time to work
– being efficient at the task.
– being able to complete a shift.
– skills required of the task are low.

If the above describes your current role, you may need to start questioning your future since now your success is tied to the metaphorical factory which can always move or have your role taken over by a cheaper resource. Just ask any US factory worker of the past 30 years if they are aware of this happening.

Focusing on the phrase of “skills required of the task are low”, think about the fact this means the person can be replaced by another easily. It would not take much to train a person to do their job. Now ask yourself if in your present role you are using skills/experience that could quickly be picked up by another?

If you are not careful and you take on a role or end up in a role that has low skills you are putting your future career at risk.

Time and time again, I see Business Analysts putting in long hours thinking that this will guarantee their future without looking at learning skills/gaining experience that will bring uniqueness to their personal skill set. End result for the ignorant Business Analyst is a future drop in salary and probable unemployment.

2 failings in ecommerce that cause lost sales!

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI, UX / UI, Web Sites 

How well is your company managing it’s ecommerce?

The following two examples show areas where sales can be lost.

Today I came across 2 failures in ecommerce that should not happen but companies allow to happen.

1 – Online sales feature that is not available.
2 – Failure to respond to negative comments about your products.

Online sales feature not available
Today I tried to change my cell phone plan online with the company I currently have. This morning and afternoon, I was told that “We’re sorry. Change plan is not available online at this time.” How many more times will I try before I start to look at other companies to provide my cell phone service. This failure to provide a feature online at best might cause dissatisfaction with the company but at worst it gives me time to start looking at the competitors offerings which may tempt me to switch to another company! Companies cannot afford to have software that is part of the sales pipeline not functioning. It is truly like the sales pipeline has a hole in it that is leaking sales.

Negative reviews on products
Online I see two kinds of product management.

  • People behind the products respond appropriately to reviews
  • Negative reviews are left with no response
  • As a buyer online, there is no salesperson to offset the negative reviews left online nor to complement the nice reviewers. This means sales can be lost if buyers are presented with negative feedback on the review. Sales is about overcoming objections to the purchase, unfortunately with ecommerce reviews I can end up with more objections to buying an item than when I started the purchase process. It is important that your company has someone responding to reviews so that you do not loose valuable sales.

    Not knowing Business Terms can affect your hireability.

    Since I have been working for so long at different clients I have gotten a good understanding of terms used in the business world. However others of you may not have the same experience. This lack of understanding can affect you doing your job and even getting hired in the first place since you may have to do a scenario interview.

    To help you with this, I have added a link to a online dictionary of terms used in the work place to my blog and also provided it below.

    Office Business Terms

    Happy reading!

    Do your client’s business protocols match the current physical environment?

    October 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, Project Management, ROI 

    Businesses can spend a lot of time documenting protocols for how certain events are to be handled when they occur. However, these protocols can be left to gather dust until the next event happens.

    From a business point of view, the business needs to consider all protocols it currently has defined and weigh them up against priority of use – meaning that just because an event has not happened for a while does not meant that a slow response will work as gaps in protocol are uncovered due to changes in the environment. Protocols that require immediate response will be considered higher priority for review of relevancy versus those that can have a delayed response.

    Examples of protocols:
    1 – What to do when the stock market crashes?
    2 – How to handle regulated products?
    3 – Backup locations for offices if the current ones can no longer be used?
    4 – Bad weather grounds plane throughout the country, how to get the planes back on schedule?

    What usually gets businesses is an event that does not happen very often that has a high priority resolution required. As there is lack of practice some protocol steps may no longer be valid when the event occurs, people may not be trained in their use and the right licensing may not be in place to perform the task. Failure to respond quickly and correctly to the event can lead to significant income loss for the business involved.

    Ebola case in Dallas 2014 highlighted several failures of protocol:
    Lack of training / proper equipment lead to further infections.
    Inability for toxic waste to be carried off site immediately because of transportation license restrictions placed on the waste which the transportation company did not have.
    Limited ability for Hospitals to deal with their own sterilization as this has been outsourced in a lot of cases requiring the receiving location to be licensed to transport / handle the waste at a level they may not be used to.

    As business analysts, we need to mentor our business clients through the risks of these often ignored protocols and ensure that they get the review they deserve. At the same time we need to limit the effort spent on protocols that do not have high priority resolution associated with them so that we can be good advocates of our business client’s expenses.

    Project behind schedule it must be because of the Business Analyst

    Often I hear a fellow Business Analyst say that the sponsors of his project and the project manager are complaining that they, the Business Analyst are taking too long.

    Assuming that the Business Analyst is competent then why does this project delay occur?
    1 – Business did not really know what they wanted or needed from the project but they thought they did.
    2 – New Technology or unproven technology is involved.
    3 – Project schedule was unrealistic to begin with.
    4 – People that need to answer questions are not making themselves available or are not available.

    Business Analysts need to determine the above issues as quickly as possible and bring them to management attention. Delay in recognizing these problems will lead the blame on project delay to be directed towards the Business Analyst instead of people working to find solutions to the obstacles.

    Note: Not all managers are created equal! Business Analysts have to be aware of how a project runs and be willing to bring issues to management attention hopefully with recommendations on resolving them.

    Is the development of your product missing an objective?

    Sometimes we invent an wonderful product for a job but then find out it is missing a supporting component.

    While watching a recent program about fighter planes in the US Vietnam war it talked about how initially the planes were only equipped with missile technology to shoot down enemy aircraft.

    What was found in practice was that shooting down an aircraft from a distance was great but unfortunately at the time the pilot firing the missile did not know if the aircraft was friendly or not. The pilots would then close into investigate and end up in a dog fight where their missiles were not as good as a gun. Eventually guns were added back to the aircraft.

    Taking from this lesson 2 points that were missed during the design / testing phase:

    1 – Tests carried out were too controlled and did not reflect reality of the environment. It is not enough to be able to  shoot down an aircraft at a distance, we also need to know if it is meant to be shot down.  This identification piece did not come up in testing since the pilot picked a target he was given and shot it down.

    2 – Focus was on single objective without consideration of supporting objectives. Objective of being able to shoot down an aircraft at a distance, did not include a secondary objective of how to identify if it was to be shot down.

    If we look at a High Level requirement statement for the above:

    “Pilot of airplane needs to be able shoot down an enemy plane first”

    Main points of the requirement:

    1 Airplane:

    a) Needs to work with the device that will shoot down the plane

    2) Shoot Down

    a) Enemy plane needs to be removed from the sky somehow

    3) Enemy

    a) Need way to identify the Enemy from friendly

    4) Pilot

    a) Needs way to target device against Enemy plane to be shot down

    5) First

    a) Hit the enemy before the enemy hits them.

    All but points 3/5 were completed successfully. Since the understanding of the word Enemy is common place, there is the assumption that technology will also understand what an enemy is without instruction. This was the failure of the project.

    Lead Business Analysts need to maintain authority in communication

    When working with clients, it is important that your role as a Business Analyst is not degraded.

    In my last post, I talked about how Business Analysts are involved with negotiation. Part of negotiation is maintaining a tight control on communication so that mixed messages are not communicated that can lead to misunderstandings of roles / responsibilities.

    Never allow someone on the development / production team (builders of solutions / project managers etc.) to contradict a statement that you have made to the users of your products / lines of business that you are doing the analysis for. It is fine for the development / production team to make suggestions on changes with you personally so that you can craft a response to share with your users / lines of business that does not alter your perceived position.

    If the communication is not managed, then the users / lines of business can start to wonder if you are the person they need to be talking with since others can present statements that make them seem as if they have the final say on what is analyzed. Nobody wants to waste time talking to the assistant. If others can contradict you, it makes your role seem like the assistant role. You will then find that people will make themselves less available to talk with you or will question your ability to do your job because they perceive someone else as being the lead.

    Make sure therefore that all understand the rules of communication after you have presented information to your users / lines of business.

    Negotiation benefits of defining Risks.

    Negotiation is an important part of the work I do and sometimes the clients I work with are stuck in the mud when it comes to accepting progress.

    When a client refuses to move on after the benefits of the new product / solution are explained, then I move at them with the risks.

    Simply put, I document the risks of staying with the existing option and get them to accept that they are willing to live with those risks.

    Purpose of the exercise is to make the client think about their current approach from their point of view, not with me trying to sell them on it. If the client has managers further up the food chain, and they are advised of risks being present they also help to put pressure on the hold outs to think carefully about their approach.

    Usually after a few days of discussion on the client’s side around the risks, the client is willing to adopt some part if not all of the new product / solution. Even if they do not adopt, I have not wasted my time negotiating against a brick wall.

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