BAs of the 21st Century: Are We Really Business Technologists?
The good news is that business/technology optimization-focused business analysts are beginning to add value to their organizations at the strategic level. Executives now realize that savvy enterprise business analysts are essential to their success.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY!
Let’s take a look at the how the 21st-century business analysis profession has evolved from a focus on requirements engineering into an essential strategic business practice.
Related Article: The Future is Now: The 21st Century Enterprise Business Analyst
- Business analysts work at all levels of organizations, including strategic, tactical and operational.
- Business analysts work in all business and non-profit sectors including insurance, banking, health, financial services, communications, government, IT, retail, entertainment, energy, health care, education, high tech, community revitalization, and many other domains.
- As executives and managers recognize the value business analysis brings to their organizations, the 21st-century enterprise business analyst is becoming a business-driven strategic player, an integrator, enabler of organizational change, and driver of business success.
- As a strategist, the enterprise business analyst often serves as an internal consultant – a business relationship manager at the top of the food chain of the BA profession.
WILL THE REAL ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYST PLEASE STAND UP
The understanding of the value of the enterprise business analyst is finally coming into view. However, because there are so many different titles and roles, it is often unclear which players are actually working as enterprise business analysts.
The enterprise business analyst fulfills many strategic roles, essentially putting her finger in the dike for many functions that have been woefully inadequate in organizations today, from business relationship manager to internal strategic change consultant. According to IIBA, titles for business analysis practitioners include not only the project-level business analyst, business systems analyst, systems analyst, requirements engineer, but also the more enterprise-level process analyst, product manager, product owner, enterprise analyst, business architect, management consultant, business intelligence analyst, data scientist, change manager, and more. Indeed, to fulfill the core purpose of business analysis and of IIBA, to unite a community of professionals to create better business outcomes, the enterprise business analyst’s role has evolved over the past few years to become a central strategic position within organizations.
Today there is no one job description that sums up the role of the enterprise business analyst. And to make it even more complex, BAs provide support in the way of strategy analysis, problem analysis, competitive analysis, data analysis, and solution alternative analysis to executives, middle managers, project managers, product managers, software developers, and quality assurance professionals. Some say that enterprise BAs relieve “the burden of analysis” that many of these players simply do not have the time, skills, or inclination to conduct. Without this valuable analysis, business decisions are made absent critical information.
THE EMERGENCE OF THE BUSINESS TECHNOLOGIST
Just when we thought we had identified all the possible roles of the BA working at the enterprise level, another has emerged. Suddenly, or not so suddenly, business literature is talking about the role of the Business Technologist. Are you ready to fill this critical role for your organization? It is very much the purview of the enterprise business analysts.
The business technologist fills the void as businesses grow and new needs emerge. As the competitive landscape changes, innovative solutions are needed for organizations to remain viable. World-class technology is the heart and soul of complex businesses today. Businesses are constantly taking another look at where business and technology can come together for even more efficiency and innovation. Enterprise business analysis practices are the way to make sure organizations are always innovating and getting the most out of their supporting and enabling technology. However, IT talent management has not kept up to recruit and develop skilled business/technology optimization experts to conduct this critical work. CIOs are looking at their high performers to become these enterprise, strategic BAs, but not the BAs we have today. As a result, relatively new roles are emerging such as the business technologist, a new more powerful way of talking about the enterprise business analyst.
Successful business technologists need more than pure technical skill: they must know how to solve strategic and operational problems in an integrated way, across multiple technology domains.i
James Kaplan. Principal at McKinsey&Companyii
Business technology (BT) is described as the ever-increasing reliance on information technology by businesses of all types to handle and optimize their businesses.iii James Kaplan defines the business technologist as “an executive or a manager who’s responsible for making sure an enterprise gets the most value from its investments in business technology. It includes not only the CIO and all the CIO’s reports who may be working on issues of technology strategy, or in technology delivery, but also many people in business units, or business functions, who are charged with thinking about what technology investments will create the most business value.”iv
COMBINING DISCIPLINES LEADS TO SUCCESS
The business technologist (as well as the enterprise business analyst) is not a title but a skill set that converges lots of different disciplines such as engineering, architecture, strategy development, operational management, transformational design, project and change management, financial viability analysis, creativity and innovation, and complexity management. Traditional IT and organizational talent management have not sought after or developed individuals with a combination of the skills required of these disciplines. So it is easy to see why the enterprise business analyst working as a business technologist – fulfilling that elusive role that combines many talents and competencies – is emerging as a critical role in the 21st century.
Clearly, one individual cannot embody the diverse skills and competencies required of these disciplines. Therefore, perhaps the most critical skill for the enterprise business analyst/business technologist (EBA/BT) is the ability to bring diverse individuals together to foster creativity, to drive radical collaboration, as the Stanford D-School calls it. BAs transition from project-focused to enterprise work because they become skilled at combining an interconnected set of practices to “…foster the type of integrative, cross-cutting business-technology problem solving that’s required to address the most sophisticated challenges around applying new types of technologies, about addressing new types of business problems, about … creating innovative delivery models to capture opportunities as they arise in the marketplace.”v
Clearly, the business analysis profession needs to step up to the plate to close the gap in business/technology optimization talent, and the EBA/BT is emerging as that transformational role. EBA/BTs are drastically changing the way we manage projects by adopting a more holistic view of change initiatives so that we:
- Focus on delivery of business value and innovation vs. requirements management,
- View change initiatives holistically, understanding that critical projects will likely impact the entire business ecosystem of people, process, organizations, rules, data, applications, and technology,
- Embrace architecture and design to help temper complexity and uncertainty, and
- Strike a balance between analysis and intuition, and order and disruptive change.
In future articles, we will discuss the business technologist in more depth, other roles of the enterprise business analyst, as well as the business and technical domains within which they do their magic.
i Becoming a Better Business Technologist, May 2016. McKinsey and Company. Online at http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/business-technology/our-insights/becoming-a-better-business-technologist.
ii Mark McDonald, Ph.D., former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs http://blogs.gartner.com/mark_mcdonald/2012/01/30/amplifying-the-role-of-the-business-analyst/
iii TechTarget. Online at: http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/business-technology-BT
iv Becoming a Better Business Technologist, May 2016. McKinsey and Company. Online at http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/business-technology/our-insights/becoming-a-better-business-technologist.
v Becoming a Better Business Technologist, May 2016. McKinsey and Company. Online at http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/business-technology/our-insights/becoming-a-better-business-technologist.