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.

Business Analysts are catalysts to success

People outside of IT often wonder what a Business Analyst does and that includes our business partners who we work with. Their is great concern that we do not provide “Value Add” services.

 in the BA times recently wrote an article about BA’s thinking of themselves as bridges and how that is wrong.

I have seen the bridge thinking BA’s in action, and they are no more than note takers and usually midway through a project nobody is happy with the results.

As Business Analysts, we are there to act as one of the catalysts that make the project successful. However that does not mean a BA that does well in one project will do well in another if they do not have the skills.

If you look at the job search engines you will see that BA skills required for roles can vary from company to company and department to department.

Examples:

  • Data Warehousing BA’s are expected to understand database structures and know SQL.
  • Business intelligence BA’s can need some of the skills of the Data Warehousing BA along with reporting tools and statistics.
  • Front end BA’s are expected to understand UI/UX, use cases.
  • BA’s that specialize in Business Process are expected to understand the business they are working with.

What we can see from the desired experience is that companies want a BA that can mentor and guide. Having the ability to just gather requirements is not enough. There is an expectation that a BA will bring knowledge and experience to the table along with other soft skills such as negotiation.

It should be noted though, that some companies are not prepared to let the BA mentor them because of their thought of the BA being just a bridge between IT and Business. It is up to the Business Analyst to break down this stereotype to make them realize the “Value Add” that a BA can bring to the table.

Lead Business Analyst – what do they do?

For your next role as a Business Analyst, you may be approached to be the Lead BA . This post is about some of the skills you may have to use in the role.

1 – Project estimates of BA involvement – Identifying how much time and resources it would take to complete a project. I have had to estimate the hours, the duration and how many BA’s I would require to complete a project.

2 – Interviewing of BA candidates – presumably you will have lots of experience in this from the interviews you have been at yourself.

3 – Peer review of work – You should be familiar with this from your time of service as a Senior BA.

4 – Mentoring of junior BA’s – I have sat in on junior BA’s requirement gathering sessions, reviewed their work and provided constructive criticism where needed.

5 – Delegation of work – As the lead you will be expected to monitor the work load of your team and adjust the assignments accordingly to best meet the need of the overall group. This could mean taking work away from one BA to free them up for a project they are more suited too.

6 – Client relationships – Part of the role will be to check that the client is happy with the work of the BA’s assigned to them. If problems are encountered, then the Lead BA will be expected to propose a solution.

7 – Handling of problems – In general if something is going wrong, the Lead BA is expected to help resolve it. This is where your negotiation skills come to play.

 

Where Senior BA’s end up

I am actually going to take it easy this week and refer you to an article written by someone else.

This article is good reading if you are considering a career as a Business Analyst or are at the more junior end for it lets you know what the 10 year career path is.

After reading it, you may want to reflect and consider where you would like to end up and steer your ship in that direction.

What is the future for Senior Business Analysts

Happy reading

Sixth Type of Business Analyst

December 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, General News 

It was pointed out to me today that in addition to the 5 0ther business analyst types I had identified there is a 6th one.

This 6th business analyst type is someone whose focus is in support of a specific piece of software.

6 – Application Support Business Analyst

This role is finely tuned to the support of one or more software applications used by their business or IT partners. Examples of this would be like SAP modules, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials, Salesforce. They are somewhat of a cross between a user and a product owner because of the in depth knowledge they have around the applications they support.

In you can think of any other types of Business Analysts be sure to let me know.

5 Common Types of Business Analyst

November 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills 

A lot of people these days call themselves Business Analyst (BA) but put them in a room to talk and you will soon see they are quite different.

This difference also creates problems for employers as they need to find the right BA for their role.

For this post I have broken the types of BA’s into 5 distinct groups that require unique talents to be successful. I am sure that there is more and feel free to comment with your suggestions. It is quite possible for a BA to have been in all 5 roles but the longer they are in one role, the weaker their skill become in the others. In later posts I will go into depth on each role so you can gain an understanding of what the pro’s and cons are.

1 – Business Process Analyst

The focus of the Business Process Analyst is to look at Business Process and see opportunities for improvement beyond the limitation of IT. They may suggest hiring additional people in a role, timing changes of process events and even communication methods. May even suggest IT solutions. Note however that they are not limited to just Information Technology. Generally a Business Process Analyst is knowledgeable about the business to the point that they could perform tasks within the business realm. In fact a lot of Business Process Analysts once worked on the business side, even gaining licenses in the chosen field. Think about Nurses or Doctors advising on business process because they know the role very well. It is unusual for an IT Business Analyst to end up in this role for they do not know the business from not having worked in it. Business Process Analysts, generally are the highest paid of the Business Analyst roles.

2 – Business Data Warehousing Analyst

Data Warehousing is all about data and to be in this role, you need to be comfortable spending you days looking at data elements, tables and database structures. This is a great role if you don’t like interviewing people to understand their job so that you can capture requirements. Most of the focus of this job is gathering data to store in the Data Warehouse and responding to request for data from the Data Warehouse. My friends in this role like it because it does not change much and they don’t have to deal with business users as much.

3 – Business Reporting Analyst

Sometimes this role is included with the Data Warehousing role but other times it is not. These BA’s spend their time pulling data and formatting it for report generation. Knowledge of databases, reporting tools and ways to slice and dice data is usually a requirement for this job. As well as a keen understanding of the requirements that go along with reports – summary fields, paging, sort order etc.

4 – Business Infrastructure Analyst

They gather the requirements around IT infrastructure upgrades. It is a technical role (at least you have to understand technical jargon relating to networks, servers and software upgrades) and rarely involves direct business involvement. Focus is more about making sure IT projects have their infrastructure requirements documented and met. Think along the lines of a Windows Upgrade project and you will get the idea.

5 – Business Application Analyst

Consider this role the more traditional IT BA role however it is going through some changes which I will discuss in a later post. These BA’s work closely with the business to provide IT solutions that tie in with their business process. Generally they are approached by the Business to provide an IT solution or enhancement to their existing business process.

So there you have it, 5 possible BA roles that you may end up in. Each role requires different skills to be successful in and I look forward to discussing them with you at a later date.

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