Stop Running Analytics Projects Backwards! End User Testing Is Key!


Hey…This is Melissa Bryan, your Business Analytics Coach. It’s my continuing quest to socialize the nerds so that the world can be positively impacted and transformed though data and analytics and today I want to talk about End User TestingEnd User Testing

Does it feel like it’s always struggle for you to complete projects on time and on budget…No matter how good your intentions are?

Do you tell yourself that this time it’s going to be different but seldom is that the case?

Does it feel like no matter how diligently you gather requirements end user testing always highlights a million issues and a couple unwanted surprises?

Have you ever released a project even though you knew testing wasn’t 100% complete because you had to “GO LIVE” by a particular date?

Let’s take it a step further. Are you guilty of missing your kid’s soccer games, date night with your sweetie, or spending time with friends because you have to work late or weekends clearing issues to meet a deadline?

I know this story all too well. You’re tasked with building a new forecasting system that includes expenses, salary & headcount, revenue, capital and cash flow models. In the waterfall world, you would interview HR and Finance team members, take a million notes, ask for sample reports, develop a project plan and have the end user sign off that all you heard and noted it was correct.

With your development bible in hand, you go off and build until you were 100% complete. Then weeks and weeks after the initial interviews, you ask the HR and Finance departments to test the results. However, because their schedules are crazy and everybody these days are doing the job of two people, getting them to start testing is like pulling teeth. Even more frustrating is that you know in the back of your head they’re not giving it proper diligence.

Then, once they finally get some testing done, you hear, “Oh…did I tell you?” The five words every developer and consultant hates, because, no you did not tell me! You find out they forgot to tell you about some “special exceptions,” and oh by the way, two weeks ago Sr. management decided that we are no longer calculating productivity using a partial factor and we need a more robust method to deal with the complexity. They need you to change all that logic to a multifactor productivity calculation.

You built the productivity model weeks ago. Now you have to go back, take the time to understand the code, make the changes, and have the end user retest. The worst part…these are only for the issues found in productivity. They still need to test expenses, revenue, capex and cash flow.

You are now only a couple of weeks from go live. All these bugs have to be fixed and then need to be tested again! Since we were at the end of the project, we were out of time and running dangerously low on budget. Talk about stressful! No wonder so many people are unhappy at work.

After years of working in this stressful environment, I started thinking there has to be a better way or I need to find a new profession.

I wanted more success and less stress. Isn’t that something you want too?

Lucky for me the universe heard me. As I was posting my resume on LinkedIn and Monster, the owner of my company was reading, “Get twice as much done in half the time” and this was when I was introduced to agile methodology. My life was changed forever.

Your thinking, “Melissa…it changed your life? Really…your life?” Yes! It completely shifted how I work how I communicate, and how I interact with others. But the biggest shift has to do with my expectations – the expectations I place on myself and others.

The alternative to waterfall, or the traditional sequential development, is agile. Agile teams respond to unpredictability through incremental, iterative work cycles, known as sprints. At the end of the sprint, which are typically 2-4 weeks, a product or a portion of a product is fully tested and shippable.

Agile has completely revolutionized how we run our business. We don’t just use it in all our project, but the entire organization is run with an agile approach. Our leadership team even uses sprints and daily standup meetings to keep us focused on the longer term strategic objectives.

You say…That’s great Melissa, but my company by no means is ready for agile. Transparency is something we give lip service to. We have too many data hoarders, empire builders and micromanaging middle managers to have self-forming teams. The shear thought of giving up their perceived power scares the bejesus out of them.

I know that most organizations are not ready for Agile or a Scrum culture, but there is one simple change I learned from the agile guru, Mike Dwyer, that you can make now. This one simple change can have dramatic effect on your project success and start getting you out of the office by 5 o’clock. It’s so simple and makes complete sense yet there are people out there who will doubt it and be naysayers even before they try it.

Here it is…

Don’t wait until the end of the project to develop your test scripts. Have your customer build the test scripts before you start the development of any particular module. Make it your first priority in each build. It’s that simple. This is completely opposite to the traditional waterfall method. Although it is a simple change, many will find it rebellious. That’s ok. New, no matter how simple, can feel distressing.

Having the business users develop the test scripts before we develop does two things. First, it challenges the business to demonstrate their understanding of the math and the business logic behind their processes. It also helps mitigate risk. I worked with many teams that are greener than green. If you’re working with a department of Kermits, I wouldn’t build anything until they can demonstrate an understanding of their business. Otherwise, you are going to be burning through those budget dollars. Do you want to be the one to tell the CFO why the company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and has nothing to show for it?  Me either!

Secondly, it gives you the answers! You now are building from the right specification on day one. Specifications designed by the user. You can now test your build every day. If the code you write doesn’t produce the answer, you’ll know it now and not 16 weeks down the road.

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and try this one small change on your next project. Much of what we do in business analytics can be tested right in excel and excel is a tool that all finance, marketing, sales, operations and HR professionals know how to use. So find that subject matter expert or business analyst who knows their stuff and have them build your answer set today…not in 16 weeks.

I would love to hear how this small change is impacting your work! Post your comments below. From one socialized nerd to another, go forth and transform the world through data and analytics. And for more information on agile read, “Scrum – Art of Doing Twice as Much in Half the Time“ and don’t forget about Lodestar’s Faster Cheaper Analytics program which can help you decrease stress and increase productivity with agile and Scrum. Email us at for more information!

Increase End User Adoption with BAAM

Increase end user adoption
Keep your lients close & engaged – BAAM

As business analytics coaches, it is our passion to talk about things that make your job easier. Today we are going to talk about developing applications & working closely with the client to gain end user adoption which is the essence of Lodestar’s new BAAM (Business Analytics Agile Methodology) program. Since planning and analysis software is becoming more focused on the citizen developer, it is even more important to now empower the client to be engaged in the development of their application. For too long, the cycle of creating complex applications with too many unnecessary bells and whistles has been going on. In many cases, this is done deliberately to create a dependency. Developers create black boxes that are only understood by them and the client has difficulty either maintaining or modifying the model. This just alienates the client and forces them to go back to environments that are familiar to them like Excel.

New vendors in the performance analysis space have taken this issue as an opportunity and focused on self services and citizen development capabilities. These vendors have promoted benefits like rapid prototyping, rapid development and quick deployment as benefits of their products. These concepts have forced some of the traditional players to change course and now they are trying to play catch up with the new breed of product offerings. By in large, this a good thing for the end user because it cultivates transparency and clarity in the model. What this also does is allow for ideas to flow freely and the best ideas get incorporated in the application. Going back to the subject of keep the client close, it can be seen that there are a number of advantages to that. At Lodestar, we have been developing application from a remote site. We schedule web meetings for the entire duration of the build and it allows the client to view, advise, and participate throughout the entire process.

Lodestar Solutions has created BAAM by incorporating Scrum and Agile methodologies into application development. Using this structured approach allows us to further immerse the client into the process. The client in most cases plays the role of Product owner and developer in some cases. They are part of the team that goes through sprints and deliver a potentially shippable product increment to the stakeholders. They are extremely intimate with the increment and can present it to the stakeholder with authority. In addition, at the end of every sprint, they are highly capable of eliciting feedback for the next increment of product development. In a waterfall approach, this is not possible because by the time the product (entire product) is delivered, it is too late. Either the delivered product is entirely different from what the client wanted or does not meet the core requirements. By making the client part of the core team, this can be avoided. It ensures course correction and allows the client to make requirement changes as the project progresses to the end.

Keeping the client close ensures constant communication, feedback loops, and active participation in the model that belong to them. If they have a say in how it is built, it is highly likely they will be its champion in the organization, hence…a higher end user adoption. A happy client will always come back to you for the next problem they want to solve.

For more info on increasing end user adoption, BAAM, or ideas on Agile & Scrum, feel to reach us at


Save time with Agile Scrum for BI and Analytics


Do you wish you had more time to work on your Business Analytics strategy? Looking for faster cheaper analytics? As a Business Analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions, my goal for 2016 is to coach you to deliver analytics by working smarter not longer. Whether you have IBM Cognos, Oracle, Microsoft, Tableau, QlickTech or others, Lodestar’s goal is to help you get twice as much done in half the time by leveraging an Agile or SCRUM approach to Business Intelligence, CPM, and Analytics.  Welcome to Agile Scrum for BI!


Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development methodology for managing product development. An Agile Scrum recognizes that during the implementation, customers can change their minds about what they want and need. (That never happens in a BI implementation does it?) An Agile Scrum is a flexible, holistic development strategy where the implementation team works as a unit to reach a common goal, but the method of delivering the goal is not set in stone. Scrum enables the BI or CPM teams to self-organize by encouraging physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members. The communication challenges common to projects are removed with a brief daily meeting among all team members called a Scrum, in which team member share what they did yesterday, what they are working on today, and challenges they see.

An Agile approach for Business Analytics accepts that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined. They evolve as more information is discovered. It focuses instead on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements, and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions.

An Agile Scrum process benefits the organization by helping it to:

  • Increase the quality of the deliverables
  • Cope better with change (and expect the changes)
  • Provide better estimates while spending less time creating them
  • Be more in control of the project schedule and state
  • Increase job satisfaction of team members

If you want to learn more about Scrum, I strongly recommend Jeff Sutherlands books: Art of Doing Twice as Much in Half the Timeand “The Power of Scrum“.


You are probably asking, “If Scrum is so great, why don’t our consultants use it in our implementation?” Moving to Scrum is a major shift in approach. Consulting firms are reluctant to switch because Scrum does not focus on hours. Instead, it’s focus is on the speed that you achieve the goals, known as the sprint velocity. Firms would need to massively overhaul their implementation approach, all their implementation tools and the skills of their team. But most of all, the Scrum approach fosters the client to become self-sufficient and, if you think about it, that’s just not good for consulting firms that have a large number of resources and want to keep the billings up. But, there are some firms that believe in using an Agile Scrum implementation methodology to business analytics.

Agile Scrum for BI

At Lodestar Solutions, our certified Scrum Masters have developed our software agnostic agile implementation methodology specifically for Business Analytics deployments. These include Business Intelligence (BI), Corporate Performance Management (CPM), Budgeting, Dashboards, and Predictive Analytics which we call Lodestar’s BAAM – (Business Analytics Agile Methodology).   If you have questions on how an Agile Scrum approach to Business Analytics can deliver results faster and cheaper or would like to talk to a Lodestar Business Analytics Coach, contact us at or call 813-254-2040.

Lodestar Solutions 2015 Year in Review


2015 Year in review2015 has brought some exciting new programs and changes to Lodestar Solutions. Not only have we implemented a new goal setting system within our firm (Traction) but we’ve also created new valuable content & programs for our clients. From Cognos Planning migrations at to software agnostic business analytics coaching at, we have broadened our offerings so that you can not only increase profits but increase communication and look like a ROCK STAR within your organization. So without further adieu, Lodestar's 2015 year in review:

  • Traction – Lodestar Solutions has implemented a goal setting system called Traction which has allowed us to stay focused on our internal organizational goals. By using Gino Wickman’s Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), it has guided us in setting short term & long terms goals and has helped us identify our core processes. This allows us to structure our organization based on our strengths & weaknesses by putting it down on paper. Traction tools such as 90-day “rocks”, the Vision Traction Organizer (VTO), and Level 10 meetings keep everyone moving in the same direction/on the same page. For more information on how you can add Traction to your organization, we advise reading “Traction – Get A Grip On Your Business” by Gino Wickman.
  • Waterfall vs Agile (SCRUM) – Lodestar has adopted a new and more successful project management style. Instead of promoting the traditional analysis, design, code, test, deploy “Waterfall” approach, SCRUM, which is a lightweight project management process, can manage & control software as well as product development by embracing iterative and incremental practices. Similarly, instead of being “artifact-driven”, whereby large requirements documents, analysis specifications, design documents, etc. are created, SCRUM requires very few artifacts. It concentrates on what’s important: managing a project or writing software that produces business value. We HIGHLY advise reading the book SCRUM- The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.
  • BAAM (Business Analytics Agile Methodology) – Lodestar is using a new flexible project methodology which includes Pre-project planning, Project Kick-Off, Discovery meetings, Sprints, Go Live, Post Project, and Videos. We guarantee that by utilizing this methodology, you will end up looking like a ROCK STAR and being the “go-to” person within your organization.
  • – Lodestar Solutions has created an online training series at that can guide you in your preparation, design, and migration from Cognos Planning to IBM Cognos TM1. You will learn about requirements gathering, licensing, and setting expectations in the preparation stage. We teach you about design consideration, time considerations, and where to get started as far as pre-project considerations. We also include tips we’ve learned from previous Lodestar migration clients.
  • – Statistics show that 68% of software projects fail. Lodestar Solutions can help you defy this statistic and learn the key critical steps needed to correctly deploy BI, CPM and analytics solutions. Lodestar Solution’s business analytics coaches will help identify your team’s strengths & weaknesses utilizing our BAAM methodology. This allows for understanding the crucial activities that every team should follow to increase their project success rate while reducing the cost and time to deliver. Sign up for our coaching at

Feel free to email us at for more information about any of these programs/methodologies.

Determining KPI’s & Metrics For Your Dashboard


Metrics For Your DashboardDo you have dozens of performance metrics and measures but are looking for a simple dashboard of 5-10 key performance indicators? It’s amazing how difficult it can be to get everyone to agree on which KPI’s to include on your dashboard or scorecard.  As a Business Analytics Coach at Lodestar Solutions, we utilize a process that helps filter through and define the most important KPI’s & metrics for your dashboard that are unique to a client's organization.

Here’s our BAAM (Business Analytics Agile Methodology) approach designed by Heatherized for Lodestar Solutions that you can use in your organization.  You may want to get a small group of 4-9 people together to do this exercise. Why do it as a group exercise? It provides a large amount of value as it will build consensus and “buy in” for each measure. Plus, as a group, you'll feed off each others answers and come up with the best solutions possible.

  • CREATE a list of the measures you are tracking or considering tracking.
  • MEASURE – Write each measure on a large sticky note. (1 per sticky note)
  • WHY – Grab a sticky note with a measure and write down WHY you are tracking the measure. (What will it tell us, why is it important?)
  • HOW/WHAT – Write HOW you will use the information or WHAT action would need to be taken if the measure was outside of the tolerance range then read the measure & contents out loud to the team. Discuss what strategic initiative the measure supports and place it on the appropriate flip chart. If it doesn’t support any strategic initiatives, put it aside as it is not likely to be a KPI. In the event a measure supports more than one initiative, copy the contact and include it on both flip charts. Repeat this step with each sticky note.
  • PRIORITIZE – As a team discuss the measures on the sticky notes that support each strategic initiative and move them so the measure that best supports the initiative is on the top.

The end result is that you will have a handful of flip charts with your strategic initiatives and the prioritization of the KPI’s for each one. To expedite this process, please note that I recommend you set a timer to restrict the amount of time for classifying and prioritizing segments.  You will find that people will be more focused and you’ll get the same results in less time.

Now that you have your KPI’s & metrics defined, we recommend you explore what visualization you would like to use for your scorecards before you implement metrics for your dashboard in your BI solution. You also may want to look at scorecard solutions like IBM Cognos’ balanced scorecard

If you would like to learn more about our proven methods and coaching, join our free community on our where we will provide you with access to our private collection of coaching videos, webinars and more.  Lodestar hosts a Destination Dashboard workshop where you and your team will learn how to do this and more.  Check out our website or call us for dates and locations of the next interactive Destination Dashboard event.

As Lodestar Solutions’ Business Analytics Coaches, we believe you can improve the world by leveraging data and analytics. If you want to improve the world, call us at 813-254-2040 or by email at