Project Manager advises how to carry out transformation projects 

Business Analyst and Project Manager at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Azik Chowdhury, exclusively reveals to Software Testing News Journalist, Leah Alger, the importance of carrying out business analysis on large-scale and transformation projects

Chowdhury has worked as a business analyst and project manager for more than 20 years’, effectively combining solutions with delivery requirements, such as; timeline, resource, external and internal resources, expense, capital expenditure, issues and risks.

He worked with the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Defence for 5 years earlier in his career, as well as spent a year at Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Whilst having a solid manufacturing industry background with Diageo and Urenco, Chowdhury’s experience has been predominantly in financial services, while focusing on reducing waste through IT or lean processes.

He admitted that his own experience of working in the private and public sector is that the public sector often takes a very long time to make a decision around committing to change.

Knowledge and experience

Chowdhury continued: “What I found was that organisations often drowned in bureaucracy – at times it felt as if the paperwork was more important than the change. I once described it as worrying about your curtains whilst your house burned down.

“The private sectors are not perfect either. In their race to reduce the bottom line a lot of shortcuts are taken. For example, I have seen redundancies made without real consideration of the knowledge that is being lost.

“There is known knowledge and experience that, at times, the private sector does not value experience.”

According to Chowdhury, the role of business analyst is required within any organisation wishing to make effective change.

“The business analyst role at JLR is very much needed since JLR are going through massive changes. Some of these changes are as a result of the new hybrid and full electric vehicle race. This is exciting times, but a lot of work,” said Chowdhury, while touching upon JLR and Blackberry’s multi-year agreement to collaborate and develop technology for the automotive manufacturer’s next-generation vehicles.

Understanding the business plan

From a business analyst point of view, to fully understand the business plan, it is important to understand the end-to-end process in an organisation.

Chowdhury explained: “Any change has an impact – there are very few changes that work completely in isolation. To give you an example, a prosthetic lower leg impacts not only the way you walk, but also how your entire body reacts to walking, running, standing, and resting.

“There isn’t a lot of difference in the application of change, large, medium or small. You may find that with large-scale changes you have more elements to consider, for example; cross-border, multiple languages, network and telephony coverage to minimise downtime, multi-currency; the list goes on.

“Ultimately the change is still part of the overall organisation process, and therefore it should be viewed in that way. There are some pitfalls with global change, and here are 2, which caught me out the first time I worked in the region. In Muslim countries, the working week is Sunday to Thursday, and in countries where Arabic is the mother tongue, screens are written and read right to left.”

Meeting stakeholders needs

According to him, the way to ensure projects are managed securely, up-to-date and fit for purpose is to make sure you have sufficient review points, upwards and downwards, as well as ensuring there is regular communication with stakeholders and customers, so proposed change continues to meet their needs.

Despite this, the pitfalls of going to old technology stacks to new, such as physical servers to VM and telegram messages to digital, can be challenging.

Chowdhury advised: “You need to consider and test your application, database, routine tasks, scheduler etc. on your new environments, even before configuration to avoid failure. Change should take an organisation forward, not back.

“This is a very big area and is based on an organisation needs. Therefore you should look to make a checklist of everything that is moving to VM, or messaging which is being updated. This should also show touch points, of systems or processes, which are not directly impacted by these changes. Ensure all handshakes between system continue to push file or instruction to continue and complete the process.”

Business intelligence

Differently, he then explained how business intelligence (BI) is dictated by what your requirements are.

According to Chowdhury, if you are looking for a simple error message report, and your underlying database is SQL, you can get a simple report using SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

“If you are looking for a dashboard, consolidation, KPI’s etc., you may want to deploy TM1 or Hyperion. This is really about tailoring your BI based on the organisations needs – there is no exact science to this,” he added.

In regards to approaching a project and what principles to implement, Chowdhury believes you should get involved and gather information from those working in the area where change will be implemented.

“You’ve got to understand the processes deployed by those using the app or process to know which parts are currently changeable and those, which are not,” he revealed.

The most effective methodologies and modeling techniques he uses are BPMN and UML. He also believes a process model should be understood by anyone viewing it, and that you shouldn’t need a doctorate to figure out the solutions being proposed.

Documenting actions

“There are many methodologies, Prince II, waterfall, and agile to name a few. Again, this is really down to the size of the organisation, and the scale of the project,” he added.

“All methodologies will have certain control functions and gateways, it is really about an organisation deciding how many of these they want to put in place.”

Furthermore, understanding and documenting a list of actions or event steps typically defining the interactions between a role (known in the Unified Modeling Language as an actor) and a system will help achieve a goal.

He also noted that the ratio of work carried out by people vs software is changing, so parts of the process carried out by software need to be thoroughly tested.

Written by Leah Alger