Modernising your business analysis

The world is constantly changing and very little has been changing more rapidly than technology and we are now in a time where customer expectations from service and product delivery are increasing. For example, the desire by consumers to get what they want at a time and destination of their choosing at the click of a button.

The rise of technologies such as Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, organisations are now able to acquire deeper insight into customers behaviours and/or into their own operations. By leveraging this knowledge, an organisation is better placed to meet or exceed customer expectations. In addition, it will be able to improve operational efficiencies, improve customer focus and remain competitive in the marketplace – ultimately achieving the organisations objectives.

With this focus in mind, organisations rely on business analysts to ensure that they understand customer expectations and are implementing processes and programs that will enhance businesses operations, improving productivity and delivering effective outcomes.

At the end of the day, the technology is just a tool and by itself does not deliver insights nor capability. You not only need a professional or team of professionals to develop and implement the technology, but also a trained professional (business analyst) to assist aligning these insights and capabilities with your company’s strategic and tactical objectives and vice versa.

Subsequently, in recent times there has arisen an increasing demand for business analysts who have kept themselves up to date with technological shifts.

With the constant change in trends and technology, a good business analyst will be able to adapt to these changes. There is a significant push for digital transformation, and it is important that employers attract and retain staff that not only have core business analyst skills but whom are very adaptable to this changing world.

The Digital Advancements

The use of technology is a critical element in this rapidly changing digital age. Organisations need to ensure that they have adequately trained staff on hand with each new advancement. There seems to be no end to the changes that are being made and the speed of change seems to be occurring at an increasing rate. Due to this, businesses have needed to ensure their own technology has been assessed frequently to ensure they are best equipped to be competitive in the marketplace. The role of a Business Analyst has changed dramatically over the last few decades and even more so in the last few years, bringing an increasing focus on the digital aspects of business. Two of the most common digital changes that have come about recently have been cloud-based storage and mobile applications.

It is interesting that the older generations are now keeping up with these changes. Initially, these were the people who being technology challenged, thought the word “cloud” in “cloud computing” referred to a rain cloud. However, not wanting to be left behind, they have now accepted the important of technology in our society and are embracing smartphones and laptops, amongst other things.

It is even more important for business to not fall behind, especially since technology advancement is a key enabler of innovation and hence it affects an organisation’s ability to remain competitive. With every organisation capturing significant amounts of data, the adoption of cloud-based storage has been, amongst other things, financially beneficial – enabling consumption of storage hardware on a user pays basis, moving financial consumption to operational expenditure and away from capital expenditure (doing away with the need to purchase large expensive on-premise servers). By eliminating some of the financial constraints, the cloud compute paradigm has enabled organisation’s who are not risk averse, to push forward with innovation.

The demand for mobile applications has continued to proliferate, far exceeding initial expectations. This combined with user expectation of a seamless experience in using digital services between desktop and mobile has placed greater emphasis on the efforts of the business analyst – making the right decisions for the company with respect to application functionality and data management. The analyst also needs to ensure that paramount importance is placed on cybersecurity and that all protocols are being adhered to. The analyst needs to be able to work collaboratively with the solution architect, data engineers, security specialists and of course all internal stakeholders.

Figure 2: Effect of Digital Transformation [2]

The Importance of Agility

It is very important for any company which has not yet adopted agile methodologies, to put this as a priority. The methodology, as explained by the Association of Project Management (APM), highlights this as being an incremental or stepped approach towards completion of a project. It requires the company to be adaptable and accepting of change. The agile approach has become a critical element of enabling an organisation to leverage technological benefits and iteratively move forward to deliver on customer expectations in a fast-moving world.

This approach has the potential of making the role of a Business Analyst even more complex and vital. Under this methodology, the business analyst is expected to work in an environment of trial-and-error, that is to say an environment where the organisation is iteratively experimenting and test theories to see what works best for the business.

Often in these agile projects, given an organisations need to minimise cost, due to the size of some projects or the need to maintain agility within the project, the Business Analyst will take on numerous additional roles such as project manager, change manager and/or test analyst.

As the emphasis for organisational agility increases, the demand for competent, adaptable and agile-friendly Business Analysts also continues to rise. The

business analyst that is suitable for this environment is one who is forward thinking and ensures they have a positive impact on the project by eliminating negative workflows – for example, reassuring employees that are afraid of changing the status quo and bringing them along on the journey. They will need to ensure risks are minimised and be able to seek out creative solutions.

The analyst will face many challenges as the organisation moves towards adopting an agile capability.

Figure 3: Organisation Agility [2]

Importance of Users

Another vital role of the business analyst is to monitor user engagement and ensure that any user interfaces are aligned well to the user experience. A significant part of this role is comprehensively capturing business requirements and ensuring there is adequate usability testing before launching anything new for the customer. While technology is rapidly changing it is often essential to implement only gradual changes, as these can affect how the user interacts with and reacts to the application. Customer engagement, satisfaction and experience are always of importance – without customers, there is no business. Once released to the customer, it is then the job of the business analyst to validate whether customer requirements have been met and whether the customer is satisfied.

What does the future hold?

In such a rapidly changing world, it’s impossible to know for sure what the future will bring

  • the importance of analysis has rapidly increased, will continue to do so and that will continue to go through a rapid change.
  • there will always be a need for cybersecurity and this will only increase over time.
  • staff will need crossover skills – with the nature of the technological advances and importance of data collection the roles of Business Analysts will continue to change and grow with the rest of the business.

Due to these changes there is a likelihood that a significant number of workers will require reskilling or upskilling in the coming years. The demand for skilled Business Analysts, according to IBM released a statement that in the US, is set to increase from 364,000 openings to 2,720,000.

It is therefore imperative that you are catering for your business analysts professional development needs. In addition, please feel free to reach out if you need some project delivery assistance within your organisation.

References:

[1] The future of Business Analysis, Rovena Bytyci, BA Times 2019

[2] Latest trends in Business Analysis, Serena Josh,  Zarantech, 2018

[3] IIBA Trends Article

Feature image by Christian Holzinger