Thursday, 27 April 2017 08:03

The Business Analyst of Tomorrow

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Business Analysts of today - we are no longer the hired help of years gone by. Handing over Business requirements to IT to interpret and build and then moving onto the next project.

Business Analysts are no longer the bottom of the rung on the ladder or passive contributors who follow orders. Business Analysts are not arbitrarily adjusting scope, timescales, and budgets from week to week.

Business Analysts and Business Analysis now have a growing voice – but more than that, we are finally being heard.

Business Analysts is now our time to make a real impact in the world. To take advantage of the now and ensure the role of BA of Tomorrow (BAoT) is flexible and in-tune with what our Business, Customers and Technology partners want and need.

Why Now? How Did We Get Here?

We have adapted. We had to! We have gradually, painstakingly moved from the periphery into the center of our Business and Customer worlds. Our jobs dictate that we are experts in people, process, and technology. We have created a space in this new world by collaborating, iterating and staying relevant.

We are driven by the wants of our customers, the needs of our Business and through data and evidence-based attitude that makes us increasingly hard to ignore.

We Empathetically Understand Customers

Business traditionally interacted with customers only to understand and gauge a particular market or segment for a product launch or other Marketing purposes. Business Analysts historically never got to speak to real customers which made our jobs difficult. Things are changing. A design-centric view of the world - which is riddled with ambiguity and empathy - is the realm in which the BAoT starts adding value. Removing age-old stigmas, notions, and perceptions like:

  • ‘The business already knows what the customer wants, so why would we need to speak to customers?’
  • ‘The solution was already determined, so do not challenge it!’
  • ‘We cannot showcase that to a customer. It is not ready!’
  • ‘Well our competitor is doing it, so we must do it as well, they probably know more than us!’

Business Analysts have been integral in shifting these perceptions and expectations. Business Analysts have a proven value in talking to customers to elicit fantastic insights and hard evidence to back up good business solutions. The evidence is the key here. Business Analysts have played a huge part in changing the mindset of our business partners to accept the compelling evidence for creating the hypothesis to solve real business problems (1). Compelling evidence is drawn from ethnographic (2) studies which gather insights to real life problems are further proof the BAoT uses empathic thinking to solve the right problems at the right time for the right customers.

We Speak the Language of Technology

Traditionally this is where BA’s have excelled. Being required to act as a conduit between the Business and IT ensured we kept our skin in the game – albeit at a functional level. The new Business Analyst has to be even more conversant in the languages of our technologists. Defining the ‘what’ - simply extrapolating a business requirement into a functional specification to be consumed by a ‘techie’ - is no longer the sole role of the BA. We need to ensure that directionally, a project, program, portfolio, or strategic direction of a Business starts with the correct approach for the team, solution, technology and business. Being able to direct ‘how’ work is done (as well as ‘what’ work needs to be done) is critical to the success of the Business, and we play an important role in kicking off and guiding this work.

We Care About Results

The core competencies of fail fast-learn faster, agility, lean, customer centricity is the ‘action’ to our ‘thinking.' Prototyping, testing, and measuring (think, make, and check) ensures our solutions address real problems and we can make decisions quicker by continuously learning. We bring everyone together to solve problems then quickly validate the ideas with customers, so time and money are not wasted.

Business craves results. The dynamic Agile world that demands business agility is here to stay. The Agile manifesto initially was a set of simple principles, but it has changed the way we all look at and perform work. It is not a fad, and the BAoT needs to ensure they take everyone on the journey to realization with them. Evangelism through pragmatism and espousing common sense to those uninitiated in Agile, CCD/Design Thinking is where real breakthroughs will be made.

The BAoT ensures the Business’ bottom line, goals, the things the Business determines to be critical to success are kept front and center at all times. We will ensure the problems and opportunities identified are real and that the solutions to these problems can be achieved and measured. We work to understand what success looks like and how we best achieve those results. Critically we measure that success so that we can learn how we can refine and improve.

BA’s Unite

Business Analysts act as the fulcrum between technology, the business, and the customer. We design solutions which solve genuine customer and business problems. We ensure the voice of everyone is heard. We make sure we are doing the right thing at the right time. We ensure the biggest value add is understood, delivered and measured. The role has finally got a voice at the table. We have moved on from being passive bystanders to vocal advocates of the Customer to activists of success for our Business to campaigners of critical thinking. We offer real value in this ever-changing world. Business Analysts now is our time!

Editor Notes

(1) Scientific Method is a systematic and ordered approach to the gathering data and solving problems. The basic approach is the statement of the problem which is then followed by a statement of the hypothesis. A hypothesis is a statement which attempts to solve the statement of the problem. Experiments are created to test the hypothesis. Experiments will either confirm or negate the hypothesis. The results of the experiment are observed, and conclusions are drawn from observed results. The conclusions may tend to uphold or to refute the hypothesis. Results of experiments may also find the statement of the problem as invalid or in need of modification.

(2) Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. BABOK refers to a similar technique called Observation. Observation is also known as “Gemba” (meaning respectful observation) and is a Six Sigma technique.

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Ben Harvey

Lead Business Analyst - Bankwest

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