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BBC Interview Series: Nicole Robbins at Railinc

September 25, 2017 | BBC Interview Series, blog

BBC 2017 Speaker Series – Practitioner:  Nicole Robbins, Business Architect, Vocabulary & Rules Specialist at Railinc

In anticipation of her presentation at Building Business Capability in Orlando, Nov. 6-10, 2017, we asked Nicole Robbins, Business Architect, Vocabulary & Rules Specialist at Railinc, a few questions about transforming the business. Check out this interview in relation to her BBC presentation entitled, Ensuring the Quality of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules in an Agile SDLC. 

Q: In what ways do you see your group helping your organization handle business transformation?

A: Poorly managed business rules (that are often hidden in code, user stories, and various documentation) and the lack of an enterprise business vocabulary severely limits the business’s ability to react to changing customer needs and demands. My group has established the business vocabulary governance and taught business rules capture and management techniques to our project teams. As a result, our company will become more responsive to customers as these teams mature in applying these techniques as well as others we will continue to introduce as the need arises.

Q: Can you describe the challenges you face or have already overcome in establishing more robust business transformation capabilities for your organization?

A: Learning new techniques takes time, but is easy to schedule and get done. However, applying the newly learned techniques requires a change in behavior which takes support and time to solidify. In an agile environment, with multiple projects per team, this behavior change has been one of our biggest challenges.

Q: What are your short-term goals for becoming more agile?

A: My goal is for our teams to take ownership of the new business standards and techniques, allowing them to leverage existing vocabulary and rules across the enterprise, thereby reducing silos and enabling agility.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in the past year?

A: I have personally learned that each person needs varying levels of support in order for the new techniques to become integrated in their preferred way of working.

Q: What do you see as the most important goal or trend for business analysts and other professionals to keep in mind?

A: Business rules are engrained in most every customer requirement. The ability to recognize business rules, capture them, and manage them over time are core competencies for business analysts.

Q: What’s the latest method/process/tool you’ve implemented to help your business operate more effectively? Have you seen any results yet?

A: We have assigned all vocabulary and business rules an owner so there is accountability and responsibility for the lifecycle of those business assets. We are beginning to see the benefit of managing the assets in this way because it points out discrepancies in meaning when terms and/or rules are used across product areas.

Q: If you could go back 5 years in time and give some professional insight or advice to yourself, what would it be?

A: I’d want to know everything I know now so I could apply the knowledge to the challenge areas we’ve encountered – just like the old adage, “if I knew then what I know now…”

Q: What’s one question you wished you were asked in this interview but were not? And how would you answer?

A: What is my experience and how has it helped me in my current role? I started my career with 10 years doing customer experience design for software, then joined Railinc as a business analyst which I did for 7 years before stepping into my current role. This experience provides me full understanding of what our BAs and product teams do, the pressures they are under, and the competing priorities they are dealt. With this perspective, I’m in a good position to understand their challenges and help design approaches to adopting new techniques.

Q: Sneak preview: Please tell us a take-away that you will provide during your talk at the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference this year?

A: We will be sharing the strategies we’ve put in place to ensure the quality of our enterprise business vocabulary and rules – some worked well and others were created as a result of the challenges we’ve faced. Attendees will walk away with lessons learned which may help them in their own company’s quest to manage quality business assets.

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Don’t miss Nicole’s presentation, Ensuring the Quality of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules in an Agile SDLC, at Building Business Capability on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. Click here to register for attendance.

Building Business Capability is the only conference that provides insight into Business Analysis, Business Architecture, Business Process, Business Rules, Business Decisions, and Business Strategy & Transformation toward the pursuit of business excellence.

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