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Business Analysis – the next road on the journey

Since entering IT nearly 8 years ago (as a developer) my role has changed ever further from coding more towards requirements gathering, account management, support, ITSM, comms and more. Along the way I’ve picked up certificates in project management (PRINCE2) and IT service management (ITIL and ISO20000). As time passed it became increasingly difficult to state what my job actually was. Whenever a new person joined the team we would go round the room to each introduce ourselves and state our job (“I’m and I’m a developer”) but when it got to me I’d find myself waffling about “…this and that…”

I knew I was doing something every day, quite a lot actually, but it was hard to state in a single job title what this was. I’d tried technical consultant analyst was sort of it but not exactly.

Then I came across the notion of the Business Analyst. This is a job title that appears to cover a good proportion of what I actually do for much of the day. To that end I’ve now bought the book (Business Analysis 2nd Edition, Paul, Yeates and Cadle [Editors], BCS), joined the LinkedIn group, and will ultimately attempt to persuade my employer to at least pay for the exam (if not a full taught course).

BA appears to be what I’ve been looking for, so let’s see where this takes me….

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Learning by doing: MVC4 and Bootstrap for project “Jclub”

Last week I was at a conference about medical education (IAMSE) in St Andrews (Scotland). One lunch-time session was about the use of twitter to do long distance (and long time period) journal clubs. If you’re not familiar with what a journal club is, this is something that occurs commonly in academia (particularly in  scientific and medical research institutions) where someone selects a recently published academic journal paper and with a group of colleagues and/or students, get together in a room and discuss the paper in detail.

The twitter angle is where the discussion occurs unsurprisingly via tweets (using an agreed hash tag), but may continue for a week.

While thought this was a great idea I pondered whether there might be a need for a very simple web app that would:

(i) provide a host, i.e. the person selecting the paper and organising the journal club, to advertise the upcoming journal club, provide links to appropriate literature (so people can prepare), and at the end, provide a summary and perhaps a link to a Storify

(ii) provide a user the ability to search/browse up coming journal clubs, access relevant information, set a diary date, perhaps even register interest in an up-coming journal club

The web app would be very simple – the actual twitter discussion could take place on any platform (TweetChat, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc…). So far I’ve created mock-ups/work flows using Balsamiq – as much as to think through the problem as to define requirements. Next stage is to code it. I seriously considered using PHP but I wanted to take an object-orientated approach and OO PHP is not something I’m familiar with but looks pretty awful compared to C#. So I want to use .net and C# – but I want it to look good, and to most easily do that then Twitter Bootstrap is a great option. Worried that that might a hellish to implement within a standard .net web form I reckon using MVC 4 would be the best approach.

A package for visual studio 2012 for Bootstrap + MVC is available (installed using Nuget) looks to simplify things a great deal but I still have a significant hill to climb in order to get grips with MVC, never mind Bootstrap. And that, essentially, is what this exercise is all about: learning the basics of MVC.

To be continued…



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Dipping the toe into LinkedIn

I’ve had a personal LinkedIn account for a while now and increasingly found the various Groups (IT Service Management, Social Media) a great source of knowledge and ideas, much like forums did when learning about web development. From a work point of view I now need to start getting the ePortfolio onto LinkedIn too, i.e. as a business.

However, before diving in head first I think there needs to be a some planning and strategising to be done first.

As far as strategy is concerned, what are the objectives of setting up a LinkedIn account for ePortfolio? Who are we looking to engage with, customers, users, or both (separately or together)? In what way will the content being delivered or discussed be different from the ePortfolio Talkback blog? How will we know if we a reaping benefits from doing this, how do we measure success?

As for planning, having established that there’s a business case for proceeding, what risks are there? Perhaps most importantly, will there be time allocated to generate content and respond to inputs (probably my time, along side the blogging and tweeting)?

Just LinkedIn?
Broadening the topic slightly, why just LinkedIn? We have pretty much excluded using Facebook, the main reason being that our users are very likely to be fb users already but are quite likely to want to keep their work and non-work social networks separate. The more formal and professional environment of LinkedIn provides a more appropriate (and troll-free??) area to allow more production discussions to progress.

I should say that I’ve set up a Google+ page already for ePortfolio but have to confess as yet I don’t know what to do with, at least understand what might happen here that would be different from LinkedIn. One thought is the google+ might conveniently lie halfway between fb and LinkedIn. By that I mean users may not wish to speak their minds on LinkedIn for fear of future employers reading something even slightly candid the may prove prejudicial in what many see as a their online CV. Google+ could give the users openness without having to mix work with personal fb activities.

Of course there are gazillions of other social media options that could be of interest but one step at a time: in the same way that using a specific software as a solution looking for a problem, launching into a social media environment with a specific strategy and goal will at best waste time, and at worst leave a trail of disused and forgotten accounts littering the Internet. Branded ghost towns that when stumbled upon would leave your organisation looking a little les impressive.

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When are you converted?

Just some thoughts regarding the concept of conversion, i.e. the moment when you go to a web site and do the thing they want you to do. Quite what that is depends on the site of course: Amazon want you to buy something, Twitter want you to tweet something, the BBC want you to find the content and information you were looking for. So not always about sales, but sometimes not a clear, single outcome. The BBC’s conversion might be any number of things.

What about an e-portfolio system? To record an event or learning outcome? To reflect on an event? Learn from something? Learn from everything? A great deal will depend on the user’s relationship with their e-portfolio. The reluctant user will want to just get done what’s required of them. The engaged user some sense of personal overview of their achievements and progression. In reality, for both users there’d probably a bit of both.

So how does a provider of an e-portfolio gear their system to best achieve this conversion when it can mean different things to different people at different times. Add on top of that the requirements of educational bodies who must assert their requirements into the system’s processes – by that I mean, college X requires that trainees complete certain number of assessments and demonstrate a particular set of competencies.

Perhaps the solution to this is to provide multiple paths that a user can follow in any particular visit to the site that will provide multiple possible conversion types. By identifying what these paths are from page 1 then can the conversion be achieved in a more efficient and productive way. The challenge then will be how to identify these paths, but help may be at hand in for form of Google analytics – something designed specifically for this task and best seen when looking at the clear business/e-commerce conversion types. More cryptic conversion types just means the analytics data contains a cryptic solution that will require more careful study of the data.

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Social services

An interesting webinar today – the service desk and social IT:

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Bootstrap bootcamp

Sometimes you hear a short comment between 2 developers along the lines of “there’s a good tutorial about bootstrap at …” and having no clue as to what they were talking about (not unusual these days) I gave it no more thought. But then I caught site of reference to “Twitter Bootstrap” in an article on Flipboard.

One Google search and a YouTube introductory video later and I’ve downloaded the framework and ready to start building something interesting.

Have a look:

Intro and tutorials: http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/series/twitter-bootstrap-101/

Download and documentation: http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/ 


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