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Is Business Analysis the Foundation for Innovation?

Every organization performs business analysis and good business analysis is all about better business performance.

Together, technology and good business analysis is the key to superior results—and, in this century, it also means innovation.

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn, and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” Mark Twain

Innovation is “the process of translating an idea into a good or service that creates value for which customers will pay” (from Invention is not innovation — invention is coming up with a great idea, while innovation is executing a great idea and getting it to spread.

When Elon Musk was asked by TED Talks why he was a natural innovator, he said, “A good framework for thinking is Physics where the first principle is the reasoning. Boil things down to fundamental truths and reason up from there rather than reasoning from analogy.”

I think innovation only comes from fully understanding the present state (as is), asking “why not” and testing, rather than asking why something would not work. Asking why is exactly what the six knowledge areas of the BABOK® Guide encourages and many business analysts (BAs) perform every day.

A typical process we would follow is Design Thinking, Lean and Agile from strategy, investment, delivery, and change. A shared understanding of current state is a must and is often a trap for young players as they jump to flash innovation. Ideas are easy to generate—we find no shortage of ideas within an organization. The key is to conduct enough research (which is often lacking as the “let’s jump into it” is the louder call) and do enough prototyping and building, prioritizing innovative ideas, then make the change to a future state both internally and externally.

Many BAs are great at facilitating innovation as the intellectual property retained, having a deep knowledge of business analysis, which in some cases is better than end users of how end-to-end services and products are delivered to customers.

I have been delivering through Agilely for over fifteen years. Many people who follow Agile approaches focus on software, sometimes throwing out words around software innovation. Again, this is a trap: Software can help innovation, but it must be started with good business thinking. Creating a new “funky” piece of software that is user-friendly is no good unless it is delivering services and/or products to customers.

Often Agile approaches are great for engaging stakeholders and satisfying their wishes, but better business performance is so much more. Customer experience (CX) is more important than user experience (UX).

Large business transformation occurs at the business layer, not at the software layer. Uber is the perfect example—using private vehicles to transport people is nothing new and neither is matching supply and demand, while mobile apps have been around since 1992 when I used an Apple Newton. Combining these concepts under a single scalable business model, with a well-designed UX mobile app, a transparent service-delivery rating system, and improved CX is new.

Remember: The acid test is not just companies that have great software, but those companies that have great customer experiences through their apps, and that are continually and consistently innovating to provide their customers better experiences through end-to-end products and services delivery.

Being a bank that is “the best at Agile” is not useful if the bank is not great at selling products and services to customers.

A business analyst who is well trained, experienced in the breadth of business analysis from strategic to detail, and who is industry aligned, certified, and practice-supported, is the best person to improve business performance through innovation.

By using an expert in business analysis, your innovation will be created for you to the highest of standards, and your risk of failure will be far lower. Proper business analysis engages and empowers stakeholders, enabling them to deliver value to customers in better ways.

It is all about helping more companies to think about the “why” before going ahead,

preventing a technology project or initiative providing little or no value to an organization.

An expert business analyst requires a unique skillset many senior executives have never experienced, so it is difficult for management to distinguish between average business analysis and good business analysis. Often, subject-matter experts or untrained individuals are used as business analysts to deliver suboptimal business analysis.

Good business analysis is the foundation for organizational

  • innovation
  • business agility
  • cost reduction
  • cyber security
  • risk control
  • technology efficiency.

The BABOK® Guide also states that “a business analyst is any person who performs business analysis tasks described in the BABOK® Guide, no matter their job title or organizational role.”

The BABOK® Guide does not make the distinction of business analyst quality, competency, and experience in the breadth of tasks and techniques; however, IIBA® certification does require breadth across the six knowledge areas (KA). Evidence in the field strongly suggests that good business analysis is more likely to be achieved by a well-trained, industry-aligned, certified, and practice-supported business analyst who is experienced in multiple approaches and end-to-end business analysis across the BABOK®.

As organizations look to become more innovative to survive and prosper with technology in overcrowded industries, employing skilled business analysts is critical. Businesses today are more competitive than ever, and good business analysis can deliver an advantage that gives businesses the differentiating edge they require to prosper.

Is innovation just good business analysis? If good business analysis is about better business performance and innovation is about improving business in an innovative and distributive manner, then good business analysis is the foundation of innovation. Business analysis is much broader than just innovation as it includes continuous improvement, delivery, and business as usual, but good innovation uses business analysis.