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Have a knotty problem at work? Need help navigating the treacherous waters of a crazy project? Just ask Betty the Business Analyst! She’s here to drop some wisdom on you for the asking.

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Dear Betty,

I was sitting in a meeting today when my stakeholder started swearing quietly, in French. What should I have done?

Monolingual and Confused

Dear Monolingual,

Just say this phrase: “Allons chercher une bouteille de vin.”

Betty

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Dear Betty,

Help! I must provide estimates for developing a set of features, but the feature team hasn’t even had a chance to review the user stories yet! There’s no way I can give accurate numbers. What should I do?

Under the Gun

Dear Under the Gun,

Remember that there are several levels or classes of estimates. From least to most defined, these are often called Order of Magnitude, Intermediate, Preliminary, Substantive, and Definitive. Or, as I like to call them, Dartboard, Wild Guess, Educated Guess, Rough Estimate, and Pretty Close Estimate. If you have to provide estimates before you have enough information, just make sure that the audience knows what the level of confidence in the numbers is given the project status.

Betty

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Dear Betty,

My project team is tense! In a meeting this week, one of the stakeholders started ranting about another stakeholder (who wasn’t in the room). It was really uncomfortable. What should I have done?

Shell-shocked

Dear Shell-shocked,

Yes, that can really be a difficult situation to deal with. You can’t say “shut up and grow up” no matter how appropriate it would be. Sometimes people need to vent, but don’t ever jump into the mud with them. “I can tell you’re really frustrated” or something like that shows that you’re a sympathetic listener without agreeing with or encouraging the negativity. If you stay calm and professional, that will help diffuse the situation. Just repeat silently to yourself “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Betty

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Dear Betty,

A project stakeholder sent out an email yesterday criticizing the quality of the requirements I’ve written. The project management and the development team are really happy with my work. How do I deal with this and keep it from snowballing?

Nervous

Dear Nervous,

There could be a few different things going on here.

  1. The stakeholder had a bad day and was just venting. Today the problem may dissolve on its own.
  2. Your requirements, although terrific, may not fully meet the needs of every stakeholder. Talk to your project team about any follow-up communications that may be needed. Remember that requirements are never really perfect and never really complete. They represent the information and knowledge that were available to you when you created them. Ongoing dialog about the requirements will be needed for the life of the project.
  3. The stakeholder is a professional whiner. Do your best and trust in karma.

Number 2 is the most likely scenario, but whatever you do, take a little time to calm down and collect your thoughts. Don’t fire off an emotional response!

Betty

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Dear Betty,

I worked really hard on a requirements document for a project, then we shuffled staffing and I moved to another project. The person who took my place on the original project is taking credit for all the great work I did, and everyone thinks he’s brilliant. Grrrr.

Underappreciated and Cranky

Dear Underappreciated,

Just remember these words “What goes around comes around.” The good work you did will help your previous project succeed. You set a pretty high bar for your successor to meet. So what if your work gave him a boost? Now leave it in the past and focus on your current project. The cream always rises to the top and so will you!

Betty

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