Tuesday, February 26, 2008

March 3, 2008


Recently I wrote a paper on the general state of craftsmanship which was geared more for public consumption as opposed to any specific industry. To my way of thinking, craftsmanship is a universal concept that touches all industries, regardless if they are product or service related. This resulted in a flurry of e-mails to me questioning how it pertains to specific types of work, including Business Systems Analysis (BSA) which, of course, is applicable but I question whether we have truly realized craftsmanship in this field.

From the outset, let me say unequivocally that BSA is not a new concept and has been with us for a long time, actually predating the modern computer era of the 20th century. Prior to this, companies had formal "Systems & Procedures" departments with analysts focusing on streamlining business processes and primarily using paper and manual procedures. As tabulating and other office equipment emerged, they were responsible for their integration into the business. But as computers were introduced, a new function was devised that greatly impacted the future of analysts, namely programmers. Slowly but surely analysts were replaced by programmers. By the end of the Structured Programming/CASE mania of the 1980's and 90's, BSA was phased out almost to the point of extinction. In other words, companies were more concerned with programming as opposed to grappling with enterprise-wide systems. Consequently, systems were attacked in piecemeal, usually one program at a time, which resulted in fragmented and disjointed systems, erroneous information, and redundancy in terms of data resources and work effort. Slowly, companies began to realize that a higher level person was needed who understood the business and could engineer integrated systems to serve it. Hence, the rebirth of the Business Systems Analyst as we understand it today.

Several of today's BSA's came up through the ranks of programming and are actually programmers in sheep's clothing, and tend to see things only from a computing point of view. However, there are many others whose roots can be traced to today's business schools. I view a true Business Systems Analyst as the intermediary between the end-users and the programming staff. This means they have the ability to understand both business and technical concepts and communicate them effectively with both the end-users and the programmers. In other words, one of the key roles the analyst plays is that of translator.


In my article, I defined craftsmanship as...

"The practice and pursuit of excellence in building/delivering superior work products by workers."

By this definition, craftsmanship and quality are not synonymous. Whereas quality is primarily concerned with zero defects, craftsmanship implies a human trait in "pursuit of excellence." To better describe the concept, I came up with the following formula:

"Craftsmanship = (Knowledge + Experience + Attitude) X Success"

This itemizes the variables associated with craftsmanship. Before we discuss "Knowledge," let's consider the others first. "Experience" means the worker has been able to apply the knowledge he/she has learned, not just once, but repetitively. "Attitude" addresses the person's sense of professionalism and dedication to his/her craft, that they possess an intellectual curiosity and continually strives for improvement. And "Success" means the worker has demonstrated he/she can produce products to the satisfaction of both the client and the company he/she works for, not just once but routinely. Regardless of the person's knowledge, experience and attitude, if the worker cannot successfully deliver the work product, it is for naught.

To me, the "knowledge" variable is the Achilles' heel to craftsmanship in Business Systems Analysis. As mentioned earlier, BSA is not a new concept, but was almost made extinct. Fortunately, it is beginning to rebound and, as part of its resurrection, the industry is reinventing systems theory with programming muddying the waters. For example, how BSA is taught at the college level is certainly not uniform. Sometimes it is taught in the business schools and others in the computer science schools. Further, how one professor may teach it will not be the same as the next. I have seen this not just in this country but overseas as well. In other words, BSA is not yet a teachable science. To qualify as a science, there needs to be a governing body of knowledge consisting of proven and accepted concepts and principles. This includes a standardization of terms in order to avoid a "Tower of Babel" effect. Unfortunately, uniform standards are few and far between in the BSA field. To illustrate, there are numerous interpretations of what a system is, or what information is, or even data.

There are two parts to the "knowledge" variable: initial education/training, and continuous improvement. In terms of initial education/training, you can either learn BSA through the "School of Hard Knocks" or from an accredited institution. I will not digress into the specifics of what a BSA curriculum should include other than to highlight general areas:

* History of BSA.
* General business courses, including such things as general management, organizational analysis, work simplification, industrial engineering, industrial psychology, corporate law, statistics, etc.
* Communications courses; e.g., speech, persuasion, negotiation, corporate and technical writing, interviewing, etc.
* Basic math to calculate such things as return on investment and cost/benefit analysis.
* Project Management.
* Introduction to computer technology (including operations and networking).
* Principles of software design.
* Principles of data base deign.

Aside from the initial education/training, the "Knowledge" variable requires a program of continuous improvement. This can be done by attending supplemental training, by reading and researching articles and books, and active participation in trade groups, such as the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

As an aside, the forerunner of the IIBA was the Association for Systems Management (ASM) which went defunct back in the 1990's (another indicator of how BSA almost became extinct).

Certification in a chosen profession is also useful for continuous improvement, but without an industry accepted body of knowledge it is pointless. And being certified does not automatically make you a craftsman, but rather it is indicative of your desire to seek further knowledge and improve yourself.


In my earlier craftsmanship article, I described how a company should devise a suitable corporate culture to embrace craftsmanship; to summarize:

* EMPOWERMENT OF THE WORKER to make certain decisions regarding development of the work product. This involves less micromanagement and more participation by workers in the planning process. In other words, managing from the "bottom-up" as opposed to "top-down."

* CREATION OF A MORE DISCIPLINED AND ORGANIZED WORK ENVIRONMENT promoting a more professional attitude amongst the workers. This includes a corporate position of zero tolerance in defects and inferior workmanship and the adoption of standard methodologies thereby defining best practices for building/delivering work products.


* ESTABLISHMENT OF THREE CLASSES OF WORKERS to denote the level of expertise, such as "Apprentices" (novices requiring training), "Intermediate" (educated and experienced, but not yet expert), and "Master" (expert craftsman).

* ESTABLISH A LINK BETWEEN WORKERS-PRODUCTS-CUSTOMERS to establish a feedback loop to judge satisfaction with a specific product and to the exact worker(s) who produced it.

This approach to implementation is just as applicable to BSA as it is to any other profession.


There are undoubtedly craftsmen in the BSA industry; people whose companies and clients have supreme confidence in their ability and trust their expertise unquestioningly. These are people who should be recognized by the industry in order to become models for others to emulate.

But the biggest problem with craftsmanship in this industry is the lack of uniform standards by which we can teach others in a consistent manner. Without such governing standards, BSA will continue to be viewed more as an art as opposed to a science, and true craftsmanship in this field will not be realized.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.


Defining Information Requirements
"PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletin No. 4 - Dec 24, 2007

Craftsmanship: Its Cultural and Managerial Implications

Keep the faith!


Friends, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

Bonnie Wooding, the President-elect of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


Some time ago I discussed the problem of junk mail. This week I would like to discuss Junk Faxes; you know, those irritating ads and offers that propagate on our fax machines. First, I believe fax machines have outlived their usefulness. Rarely do I ever use it, except for those obscure situations when someone needs to send us something. Most of the time I am communicating by e-mail or telephone. But even for a small company like mine I sure get a lot of faxes. This is the main reason I no longer give out our fax number unless somebody positively, absolutely has to send us something. Nonetheless, our fax number inevitably gets on a mailing list and we suddenly get swamped with faxes; seems like a waste of paper to me.

I don't know if you actually look at these junk faxes, normally I don't, except to lookup a number at the bottom of the fax where you can call to be removed from the sender's mailing list. Most of the time its a toll free number, other times its a clever ruse to pay for a phone call. You have to be careful.

I recently investigated this on the Internet and came upon an interesting site called "" which gives some valuable tips on fighting off junk faxes. For example, they list the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 ("TCPA"); let me read it to you:

"The TCPA (47 USC § 227), and its implementing FCC regulations ( mainly 47 CFR § 64.1200) prohibits the transmission via facsimile of any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any product, service or property to any person without that person's prior express permission or request.

Under the (ACT) TCPA, recipients of unsolicited fax advertisements can file suit in state court to collect the greater of $500 or actual damages for each violation, and/or obtain an injunction (a single junk fax can, and often does, contain multiple violations). If a court determines that the violations were willful or knowing, the damages can be tripled at the discretion of the court."

The web site also provides instructions for filing a complaint.

Well this sounds all well and good, but who is really going to take the time to report some trivial faxes? Not many people that I know of; not unless they are being bombarded by faxes every few minutes. Most people just rip them up and throw them away, or call the fax removal numbers at the bottom of the sheet. All the junk faxes do for me is push me a little closer to pulling the plug on the machine altogether. If you really want to get hold of me, there are basically two things you can do: give me a phone call (I am one of the few remaining souls that don't believe in voice mail unless I am truly out of the office), or send me an e-mail with an attachment. Otherwise, forget it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received the following e-mails from my "Pet Peeve" entitled, "Naysayers":

A P.J. in Washington wrote...

"Great blog. I agree that sometimes people just have to turn off the outside world or just take what other people say with a grain of salt. Sometimes you have to go out there and do it as they say, whether others think it's a good idea or not.

On the same note though, sometimes there are those who are exactly opposite of naysayers and become just as annoying as the naysayers. Sometimes there comes a point where you know you'll never be Michael Jordan or even Keith Van Horn. And then there are those people who say the sky is the limit yet never really do anything to reach that limit. People who tell their kids that they'll be doctors one day, which is fine, except the kids never study, the kids never do good in school, and the parents just praise them for getting an F and still refuse to acknowledge that sometimes it takes a little hard work and not just positive thinking to do things. They become more "the world is great" theorists who aren't much better than "the world stinks" theorists.

I think thinking objectively is what many people refuse to do these days.. Whether it's the naysayers or the sky is the limit sayers. Just because somebody tells you that it's not worth it or it can't be done, really doesn't mean it can't. But also just because you say the glass if not only half-full, but fulll, doesn't really mean much if you never really work hard to achieve that or you just don't have the ability to achieve it.

Telling someboody they will never be Michael Jordan can push a person toward great things if they believe in themselves and not what others say. But telling somebody they will be Jordan over and over could also push a person into disaster if they keep hearing the praises that are really never warranted."

I received the following e-mails regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "Stess":

A D.A. in Ann Arbor, Michigan wrote...

"I like to remind myself that the only time I won't have stress is when I'm dead. Stress is probably the root cause for our evolution; the only thing going for us is our mental capacity and our reaction to logically think our way out of dangerous situations which is triggered by stressers. Now we have a reserve of that chemistry in our modern world bodies with nothing else to do but worry, feel depressed, or feel anxiety. Our world was completely different even a hundred years ago and we're still playing catch-up."

An A.M. in Frisco, Texas wrote...

"A healthy level of stress can be a good thing but too much can have devastating effects on our mental and physical health. We'd all do well to learn to deal with the stress rather than treat the symptoms. There are so many resources out there to help deal with stress - a good belly laugh is one of them. This treats stress so much more effectively than a pill."

Again, thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2008 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."




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