Welcome to Rich Pictures, the first of the IRM webinars dealing with topics that come up in our courses.
Watch the webinar above or read the script below.
My name is Colin Dent, I’m one of the presenters for IRM. If you’ve attended one of my courses welcome back. If you haven’t, well I’m one of the nicest presenters IRM’s got. So I’ll be doing this, the first of the webinars that IRM’s decided to do, just to add extra value and provide extra information to their delegates who’ve attended the courses.
Feel free to submit questions through the webinar software any time you like. We’ll probably take about 15 or 20 minutes to do the presentation, after then we’ll try and answer them before we finish. If you have any questions later today or tomorrow feel free to email IRM at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll still answer those questions if they come in a few days time or even a week. We’ll still respond to those and I’ll try and answer everyone’s questions about Rich Pictures.
So we might as well get started. OK. Tonight’s webinar is the first in the series probably the only one we’re going to do this year, but the topic this time is Rich Pictures. Now Rich Pictures are not a popular technique but an extremely useful one and it’s on where we’ve touched on it during the course but we haven’t explained it in a lot of detail. So we thought we’d tie up a loose end of some people who expressed an interest in it in some of my courses. I thought we’d give a webinar and some information on how to use it. So… a bit of background.
Rich Pictures is a technique developed by Peter Checkland and others when they wrote the soft systems methodology. It was deliberately designed to help with requirements which are not easy to understand. They realised that there are some circumstances where the problems are ill structured and messy and there is no clear view of what constitutes the problem itself. If we talk to different stakeholders, we get different answers as to what they believe the issue actually is. Consequently, there may be no clear action that should be taken, no obvious solution to the problem.
There could be many reasons why stakeholders cannot articulate their requirements. There could be many reasons why they cannot define the problem that they are dealing with. They only see the symptoms and cannot identify the cause of the problem. In these circumstances we need techniques which will allow them to express themselves freely and informally about their problems. This is when Rich Pictures comes in.
It is designed to help stakeholders avoid making poorly thought out decisions in reaction to circumstances they do not fully understand.
Rich Pictures can be written with any software tool or by hand, depending upon the assignment and the preferences of the business analyst.
When do we use Rich Pictures?
Rich Pictures is used for messy problems as we said. It is used when the objectives of stakeholders diverge. They might diverge because of hidden agendas, but that is a different story. I am talking about when user perspectives diverge due to the different ways in which they view the problem. When culture, social background or the organisational background of stakeholders cause them to see the problem from different perspectives, they might not all have a complete view of the problem. Each stakeholder may see only their side of the problem. They are being honest and truthful about how they perceive the problem. But cannot see the full picture.
To get around this problem there needs to be negotiation and compromise from all parties. People need to be able to communicate about the problem in a way that circumvents differences in professional and even cultural perspectives. This is where Rich Pictures comes in.
What is a Rich Picture?
A Rich picture is a highly contextual, possibly even a cartoonlike representation, of a problem that cannot easily be defined. It helps to define the issues, problems, processes, actors, relationships (internal and external), conflicts and other interesting features.
The Rich Pictures are drawn by the users, stakeholders to illustrate their perspective on the problem in a way that is free from professional, social, or cultural differences. It is deliberately designed to be free of jargon or any baggage that people bring with them into a meeting. It allows people to interact free of these things. In some ways they are free to communicate like children who express themselves in simple art.
The Rich Pictures can be labelled with text that describes aspects of the problem or requirements, but only in the form of very short notes. In this way, the issues are described graphically, but also with personal statements from the stakeholder who is drawing the picture.
The Amateur Dramatic Society Problem
The only way to fully understand Rich Pictures is by example, so let us now take some examples of Rich Pictures and see how they work.
The Amateur Dramatic Society has a problem. Let’s read what the problem is all about:
The local Amateur Dramatic Society is concerned. Membership has been declining slightly. There is little money available to fund activities, and none of its members seem willing to undertake administrative duties, which are especially important when it gives performances. As it is a performing society, and number of administrative tasks must be managed. What might they do about this situation?
If we talk to different members of the society to solve this problem, they will each give different definitions of the problem. They all see it from their own perspective. After talking to each of them we can draw our own Rich Picture to express what we know. In this instance we will have just one picture that expresses the problem, in practice there could be many, one for each member.
The Amateur Dramatic Society Rich Picture
Here we can see the illustration that expresses the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. The ellipse on the bottom right shows the Society. The members in red and orange are happy when they are performing. They are not so happy when they have to do administrative tasks such as looking after the money or selling tickets to their performances. On the left we see that the amount of money available for performances is declining.
At the bottom left we see the local community who are deciding whether to join the Dramatic Society, or invest their time in other clubs or activities that are on offer.
On the top right we see the source of funds in the form of council grants available to societies that offer activities in the community. The Amateur Dramatic Society must be attractive to new members so that they will receive a healthy grant from the council.
Here we can see that what is a complex situation for the members of the Society can be illustrated graphically, even in a fun way, so that all agree on what the fundamentals of the problem are, without referring to language or personal issues that cloud their judgement as to the true nature of the problem. Now we hope that the Dramatic Society can begin to discuss their problems together from a common viewpoint.
Customer Booking at Travel Agent
Here we can see another example of a Rich Picture that describes a complex problem. It looks at the activities of the travel agent during the day and the problems they encounter attracting new customers and satisfying all customers.
In the centre we have a pin person which represents the travel agent. We have two-way arrows which indicate the interaction they have with other parties. On the top right we have new customers. New customers ask where should I go, when should I go, how much will it cost. The travel agent must provide much more fundamental answers to questions from new customers and be much more of a mentor to them.
For experienced customers in the top left, the travel agent has less to do. The experienced customers know what they want, where they want to go and how they want to get there. The travel agent must be aware of the tastes and preferences of their returning customers.
The routine jobs of the travel agent are to book seats, book hire cars, organise visas, provide travel insurance and currency conversion to their customers. These provide extra income to the travel agent, the more value-added services they provide to all of their customers.
Call Centre Operations
Let’s have a look at a more complex Rich Picture in a business context that may be more typical of the types of Rich Picture business analysts have to deal with.
Here we have an illustration of some of the activities of a call centre belonging to a retail organisation.
There are two types of activity illustrated. The first one is illustrated by the pin people in red within the box that represents the call centre boundary. Front-line support answers calls from customers using IVR to provide technical support to their customers. Their customers can be individual customers, or business customers.
If there is a problem that they cannot solve, they will refer difficult problems to level 2 support. If level 2 support cannot provide a solution, the problem will be escalated to the vendor that developed the product the customer uses.
The green pin person in the call centre provides sales support to the customers and new prospects. Their job is to provide a good deal.
Other messages that can be sent to customers and the public in general, are information in the form of newsletters or advertising. These are shown by the blue arrows at the top and bottom.
Also illustrated are the graphs that monitor these activities. The green graph at the top shows sales over time. The red graph at the bottom shows the number of calls answered over time. These are normal performance measures we would expect to be used within a call centre.
How to use Rich Pictures
To use Rich Pictures to maximum effect, they should be introduced at a workshop. This could be a brainstorming session, in which case it is used in the first meeting when ideas are created. In other workshops it is used in the early stages when we are trying to identify the nature of the problem and are establish a collective understanding of what the problem is.
Every stakeholder is asked to draw their own Rich Picture of their perspective of the requirements or problem in the workshop. People are free to discuss these pictures among themselves, exchange and share them.
The business analyst reviews the Rich Pictures, looking for common elements and new requirements, risks, constraints, anything.
The Rich Pictures are reviewed by the users and business analysts, often at a second workshop. The artist of each Rich Picture is the best and only one who can explain it fully.
It is useful if each stakeholder explains their own Rich Picture to other members of the workshop. This enables a greater understanding of each person’s perspective of the problem, which is the prime objective of using Rich Pictures.
From this common understanding a single definition of the problem can be agreed upon. There may be a need for negotiation and compromise among stakeholders, but at least a common understanding of the problem will be achieved.
Rich Pictures can be used in many circumstances. For example, they may be used as an idea generation technique in a brainstorming workshop. When it is used in a creative scenario like this, the activity must be fun and light, it must be stress free. Remember that stress kills creativity, so the activity must be fun. Things must be kept informal.
Mind Mapping is a similar technique that can be used. Rich Pictures and Mind Mapping are both informal and even fun.
Rich Pictures can be used with any other creative techniques you wish.
The analysis of Rich Pictures from all stakeholders enables common ground to be identified. They also help to identify essential requirements that may otherwise be lost because of the assumptions of the stakeholders. This is a common mistake in requirements gathering. The stakeholders assume that we know something that they want because they would never dream of an application being developed or a problem being solved without a certain process, or piece of data being included. A layperson such as a business analyst would not easily make that assumption. This is a common source of missed requirements that business analysts must look out for. Always make sure that assumptions are articulated in as much detail as possible in the requirements documents.
This is all we’ve got to say about Rich Pictures today. If you want to see any more Rich Pictures, there are plenty available on the Internet. Simply Google “Rich Pictures Examples” to see more. Look at them using the Google images folder rather than the websites themselves.
Alright, that’s basically it. Are there any questions? Feel free to enter them in and we’ll have a look at them after we finish the webinar.
If you want to know more, please feel free to submit a question. If a question occurs to you later and you want to us to answer it, please feel free to email at the normal information email address at IRM which is email@example.com and we will try to answer it as soon as possible.
Thank you for attending and listening to our first webinar. We hope you have enjoyed it and will join us for the next one. Please send any suggestions you have for ways in which you think we can improve them.
To learn more about diagramming and modelling as a valuable part of analysis attend our 4-day Business Analysis course or check out some of our helpful articles: