Day: November 10, 2016

What is the BA’s role in shaping what customer data to store, if at all?

What is the BA’s role in shaping what customer data to store, if at all?

data

What is the BA’s role in shaping what customer data to store, if at all?

Business analysts have a critical role to play in deciding what a customer data, if any, needs to be stored for a system in development to achieve its objectives.

Two main considerations need to taken into account in arriving at this decision, which include:

Business Considerations

What data is necessary for the system to effectively function and produce value for the business?

Taking into consideration requirements elicited and business rules articulated, the following questions must be considered:

  1. What data needs to be collected for short term use but is not required to be stored?
  2. What data needs to be collected and stored temporarily?
  3. What data needs to be collected and stored for longer periods of time?

Questions may be difficult to answer as different stakeholders may have different opinions. A business analyst must be able to keep focused on the objectives of the system under development and what ultimately produces greatest business value.

Legal Considerations 

A business analyst must be able to balance business considerations regarding data with legal requirements. He or she must be aware about the boundaries according to the law and what data is legally allowed to be collected on customers.

In NSW, customer data collected is subject to laws namely, the Privacy & Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) and the Health Records & Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW) which governs the manner in which data is collected, stored, used and disclosed. Corporations are prohibited from collecting the following data including details of ethnic/racial origin, political opinions, religious/philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, sexual activities and any previous criminal records.

A pragmatic approach is necessary in arriving at appropriate decisions regarding customer data storage. The general rule is: if you don’t need to collect or store particular customer  data – don’t. Customer data should only be collected and stored if it satisfies business needs and legal requirements satisfactorily. A Business Analyst acts as a medium between business (who may not understand what data is necessary for a system to function effectively) and IT (who don’t understand necessarily what data is critical and gives business value). He or she has to tread a fine line to satisfy stakeholders but remain compliant and sensible in a business and legal point of view.

Ethics in ICT projects and Kaizen

Ethics in ICT projects and Kaizen

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Both small and large-scale ICT projects pose ethical questions for individuals including business analysts, developers, business product owners and strategy makers.

Many questions may be raised including:

What ethical standards are applicable for projects?
Why are ethics important?
When should ethics be considered (before, during, after or continuously during a project)?
Who should ultimately be responsible for the creation, implementation, checking and continual improvement of compliance with ethical standards within companies?
How should ethical behaviour be developed practically within a company?
How should ethical standards be communicated within an organisation?
How should ethics be linked with agile project management and system development?

Ethics is a difficult matter in that what is legal is not always ethical and what is ethical is not always legal. The concepts of legal compliance and ethical compliance are not synonymous, nor are they of course mutually exclusive. Business can excellent in their knowledge of the law, such as those governing privacy, and in not technically breaching regulations; however there is often a grey area regarding ethics. The common human tendency to rationalise behaviour, arguing that the ‘means justify the end’, can lead individuals to perform unethical actions which they deem to be right. An organisational obsession on short-term goals and profits may lead them to condone unethical behaviour in particular in their use of technology and data. Rewarding short-term performance may put pressure on employees and can compromise their ability to clearly judge what is right and wrong, ethical and unethical.

Ethics in ICT projects is strongly linked to the concepts of data privacy, property, accuracy and accessibility. Any IT system functions on a platform of data, people, processes and technology. It is in the matter of data that business can fall into the trap of unethical behaviour. Sensitive data may be collected on customers that, although legal, is entirely unnecessary and inappropriate. A business may further breach the law, be clearly unethical, and collect data about customers which clearly violates their privacy. Customer data may also be used by the company not only for their use, but sold to third parties for profit. This has been done by large corporations such as FlyBuys which is known to sell customer data onto other corporations.

Data accuracy is important in that customer data may not maintain its integrity when used in systems. Invalid data may have consequences on customers, after which the company may not want to claim any responsibility for any damage incurred. Companies also need to be concerned about data accessibility as it could be construed to be unethical for certain individuals to have access to data across numerous departments, which may lead them to take advantage of their position and access to information for personal gain.

Clearly articulated ethical standards regarding data privacy, property, accuracy and accessibility are very important in all ICT endeavours as they function is the basis for trust between businesses and consumers. Ethics are important not only because they often lineup to what is legal, but because they place the customers best interests at top priority. Ethics need to be considered before, during and after an ICT project is completed and continuously assessed. The concept of kaizen is very relevant in this goal of the ethical compliance. Organisations need to continually seek ways to improve compliance with ethical standards; they need to focus on the greatest risks and implications first, they need to fix problems immediately when they are identified and they need to brainstorm possible ethical dilemmas that may arise in their sprint-cycles. Agile software development allows companies to continuously develop and assess their policies and strategies to properly guard sensitive customer data that needs to be collected and stored, insure that customers know their rights regarding their data and the use of their data (outlining what the system will use customer data to do), ensuring that there is data integrity throughout business processes and insuring that system architecture is developed in such a way that data is protected from access by unauthorised parties (be it outside or internal to the organisation).

Why being ethical is important in Business Analyst’s role?

Why being ethical is important in Business Analyst’s role?

Ethical people are those who recognize the difference between right and wrong and consistently strive to set an example of good conduct. In a business setting, being ethical means applying principles of honesty and fairness to relationships with coworkers and customers. Ethical individuals make an effort to treat everyone with whom they come in contact as they would want to be treated themselves.

Build Customer Loyalty

Consumers may let a company take advantage of them once, but if they believe they have been treated unfairly, such as by being overcharged, they will not be repeat customers. Having a loyal customer base is one of the keys to long-range business success because serving an existing customer doesn’t involve marketing cost, as does acquiring a new one. A company’s reputation for ethical behavior can help it create a more positive image in the marketplace, which can bring in new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. Conversely, a reputation for unethical dealings hurts the company’s chances to obtain new customers, particularly in this age of social networking when dissatisfied customers can quickly disseminate information about the negative experience they had.

Retain Good Employees

Talented individuals at all levels of an organization want to be compensated fairly for their work and dedication. They want career advancement within the organization to be based on the quality of the work they do and not on favoritism. They want to be part of a company whose management team tells them the truth about what is going on, such as when layoffs or reorganizations are being contemplated. Companies who are fair and open in their dealings with employees have a better chance of retaining the most talented people. Employees who do not believe the compensation methodology is fair are often not as dedicated to their jobs as they could be.

Positive Work Environment

Employees have a responsibility to be ethical from the moment they have their first job interview. They must be honest about their capabilities and experience. Ethical employees are perceived as team players rather than as individuals just out for themselves. They develop positive relationships with coworkers. Their supervisors trust them with confidential information and they are often given more autonomy as a result. Employees who are caught in lies by their supervisors damage their chances of advancement within the organization and may risk being fired. An extreme case of poor ethics is employee theft. In some industries, this can cost the business a significant amount of money, such as restaurants whose employees steal food from the storage locker or freezer.

Avoid Legal Problems

At times, a company’s management may be tempted to cut corners in pursuit of profit, such as not fully complying with environmental regulations or labor laws, ignoring worker safety hazards or using substandard materials in their products. The penalties for being caught can be severe, including legal fees and fines or sanctions by governmental agencies. The resulting negative publicity can cause long-range damage to the company’s reputation that is even more costly than the legal fees or fines. Companies that maintain the highest ethical standards take the time to train every member of the organization about the conduct that is expected of them.