TomBlogHeaderI’m a tool junkie! I admit it. From the time I started writing documents, I was intrigued by formatting codes in WordPerfect (remember that one?), macros in Excel (remember VisiCalc or Lotus 1-2-3), stylesheets, HTML code, and everything along the way. I have always been intrigued by finding new tools and learning how to use them. I’ve always thought I needed to understand not only how to use a tool, but how to use it effectively and efficiently.

It drove me crazy that people treated word processors as glorified typewriters and everything they did with them as a “manual adjustment.” Spreadsheets were just fancy calculators where I could type a formula and get an answer. No one realized the power they were dealing with and how it would be more than worth the time to learn how to harness that power.

While all the effort I put into learning tools was valuable, there is a big benefit to tools that I think I may have been missing.

Obviously, a good tool should make your job easier, but what does that really mean?

In the BA world, we have any number of tools and techniques which wind up creating artifacts. There is a value to the artifacts, but there is also a value to the tools we use to create them.

I’m a big fan of having consistent and “neat” presentation of project requirements. To that end, I implemented a requirements management tool which was based on document templates. Those templates provided a consistency of organization and formatting that relieved my BAs from having to worry about it. Was it necessary? Maybe, not. From my perspective, it allowed our customers/clients to have a consistent experience with our documents.

I have been engaged in any number of discussions regarding artifacts like context diagrams. My take on it is that the diagrams are nice (and necessary), but the real value is the work which goes into developing them. It bothers me when people don’t get the value of collaborating to produce or validate them.

I challenge all of you to look at the tools you use and think about where the value derives from them. Are they a means to an end? If so, are you achieving that end? If the tools are not supporting the journey, they may be an impediment. Before you discard them, ask yourself if the reason they are not helping is because you have not asked them to.

– Tom

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