Author: Kathleen B. Hass, PMP

21st Century BA: You are the Decider!

In the 21st century, enterprise business analysts (EBAs) have emerged to fill the gap in strategic analysis needed to make appropriate decisions about the way forward for your organization and its enabling technology. According to Forrester: Technology-empowered, digitally savvy customers are changing the world, the economy, and business. How you (your organization) respond determines whether you win in the age of the customer.i

It is at the enterprise level that BAs can really make a difference by driving decisions based on value, and driving innovation based on creativity. Yet, EBAs have so many decisions to make about the direction of their careers that it can be overwhelming. It is tempting to sit back and just “see where our career is going.” But make no mistake, you are the decider! You need to continually develop, review and update your professional development plans, and then steer your career in the direction you have chosen. Three key areas for BAs to consider include:

Related Article: 21st Century BA: How to Become a Business Technologist

  • Enterprise Business Analyst Roles,
  • Business Domains, and
  • Technology Domains.

ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYST ROLES

No one individual can fill all of the potential roles of the enterprise business analyst. And as businesses mature and respond to the challenges of the marketplace, more roles are emerging at every turn. In this article, we examine the most prevalent EBA roles in play today:

  • Trusted Advisor
    • Business Relationship Manager
    • Internal Consultant
  • Business Technologist
  • Strategy Analyst
  • Business Benefits Manager
  • Designer/Innovator
  • Agilist/Minimalist
  • Team Leader
  • Data Scientist
  • Business Architect
  • Data Architect
  • Process Architect

Prior articles discussed in depth how an EBA works as a Business Technologist. For this article we will discuss the additional critical enterprise roles, starting with a focus on EBA as trusted advisor and strategist….the very top of the food chain of the business analysis practice.

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TRUSTED ADVISORS

To become a trusted advisor to middle- and senior-level managers, you must be perceived as a credible, knowledgeable, strategic thinker. The EBA role is to fill the gap in holistic thinking and creative leadership at the enterprise level of organizations. As this new leadership role emerges, don’t miss out!

There are several roles EBAs fill as trusted advisors. Make no mistake; these are leadership roles within organizations that are undergoing significant change. These roles are typically placed within the Professional Services or Shared Services groups of most organization models.

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Business Relationship Manager

  • Striking executive level relationships
  • Ensuring effective executive sponsorship of projects
  • Driving issue resolution to achieve business outcomes quickly
  • Understanding the business context, and communicating a holistic view of the technology, data, and process perspectives
  • Assisting in establishing priority and portfolio objectives by driving value management
  • Managing change at the organization level and stakeholder impact level

Internal Management Consultant

  • Act as a critical source of decision-support information to business leaders

STRATEGY ANALYST

Enterprise BAs provide the essential analysis needed for executives to make informed decisions about the future. EBAs lead strategic research and analysis activities to capture the information listed below to provide executives with decision-support information. Without this vital information, executives are flying solo. Exceptional strategic EBAs use tools (not templates), capture and validate the information in teams of diverse, credible, influential thinkers, and prepare lean, straight-forward executive-level reports. Decision support information includes:

  • A deep understanding of customer needs and desires
  • Competitive analysis and market research
  • Current state capability analysis using easy-to-understand visuals including a typical SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Regulatory environment compliance and non-compliance analysis
  • Strategy Road Maps. Capture all of the research information into an organizational roadmap including:
    • Vision, mission, goals
    • Strategy arenas, differentiators, economics, conduits
    • Capability assessment
    • Recommendations: solution, outcomes, risks
    • Implementation approach prioritized by value
    • Success criteria
    • Strategy Execution Framework. Many organizations are unable to execute on well-formed strategy because they have no framework to guide them on the journey. The balanced scorecard has evolved from its early use as a simple performance measurement framework to a full strategic planning and management system. The balanced scorecard transforms an organization’s strategic plan from an attractive but passive document into the “marching orders” for the organization on a daily basis. It provides a framework that not only provides performance measurements but helps planners identify what should be done and measured. It enables executives to truly execute their strategies. Perspectives that are measured include the customer, financial, learning and growth, and process for a holistic view of progress towards achieving strategies. See link below for an example and explanation.

Learn more from the Balanced Scorecard Institute online at https://balancedscorecard.org/Resources/AbouttheBalancedScorecard/tabid/55/Default.aspx

BUSINESS BENEFITS MANAGER

In order to execute the strategy, someone needs to drive the analysis to convert the goals and objectives into valuable change initiatives. It is the EBA who brings the right people in the room and facilitates creativity sessions to identify innovative solutions, and then conduct a feasibility analysis of alternative solutions. The results of the analysis become proposals to build the most feasible solution in the form of a business case.

Typically, a business case is no longer used once a project has been approved, resourced, and funded, and implementation is underway. However, as you design and build the solution, it is the EBA’s job to continue to validate the expected costs and benefits, and update the business case. Alert your executive sponsor and steering committee if the original assumptions or projections are at risk, and recommend a course correction. This validation/update cycle is essential to keep the business case alive, particularly to keep everyone’s focus on the business benefits. Remember, the business case is developed when we know the least about the endeavor, so it will no longer be valid unless it is updated as more is learned.

After the new solution is deployed, measure the value to the customer and the effects to the bottom line. If the value of the solution does not measure up to the original benefit projections, recommend adjustments and improvements. Manage so that the worth of the solution is directly related to value to the customer and benefits to the business, both of which lead directly to wealth to the bottom line.

Innovation experts are advising us to abandon traditional business case methods, and focus on mini business cases (just seven or so slides) that propose change in the context of the customer and the innovative product. The trend today is to use a mini business case that will strengthen the persuasiveness of your proposals and get you noticed. Typical information includes:

1. The customer
The customer situation
The customer need
The customer problem/challenge
2. The product concept
The new product
The business model
3. The discriminator
Current solutions and competitors
Our competitive positioning
4. The feasibility
Technical feasibility
Cultural feasibility
Process feasibility
Economic feasibility
Marketing feasibility
5. The value
Value to customers
Wealth to bottom line
6. The timing
Why now
If we don’t do it, then….
7. The Decision
Further effort to confirm the viability
Further effort to examine uncertainties, risks, complexities
The team, the process and the timing.ii

DESIGNER/INNOVATOR

Innovative solutions very seldom emerge using traditional BA requirements elicitation techniques. Rather, design-centered EBAs realize that innovation is about designing a great customer experience. EBAs foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation when working with groups at all levels of the organization to design the transformation. Understanding that all people are creative, EBAs seed creativity across the organization. Your challenge is to learn quickly how to use design principles to foster creativity; prioritize these activities high in your professional development plans:

  • Discover creativity-inducing tools and techniques used by facilitators everywhere for problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Examine how to augment structured facilitation techniques with investigation, experimentation, and creativity-inducing activities.
  • Learn how to reinvent your team facilitation model often to keep your teams engaged in the innovation process, whether working on incremental enhancements or breakthrough innovation.
  • Discover the magic of design thinking, and how it is being used in progressive organizations to develop breakthrough solutions to complex business problems.

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Design thinking is a collection of practices that help teams better identify with customer experiences, and shift from logical problem solving to creative experimentation. It involves multiple thinking approaches:

  • Systems Thinking: holistic, linkages, logic, deductive. Think ecosystem.
  • Inside-out thinking: business view of customer experience
  • Outside in thinking: customer view of customer experienceiii

Universities and colleges across the nation are beginning to use design principles to teach their students how to design innovative, transformational solutions to complex problems (often referred to as wicked problems). The Institute of Design (D. School, http://dschool.stanford.edu/) at Stanford has become one of the trendy, most talked about drivers of design thinking because of the practices they are spreading around the world to improve our lives through a collaborative approach that inspires human-centered innovations. Design thinking is a mindset of combining creative and analytical thinking and applying it toward solving a specific problem. Stanford offers a crash course with the tag line: Be a Design Thinking Facilitator! The process includes six steps:

  • Empathy: understanding your customer through observation, engagement, immersion
  • Define: drafting a problem statement from needs
  • Ideate: brainstorming wild and crazy ideas
  • Prototype: experimenting, welcoming early failure, inventing, re-inventing
  • Test: gauging customer desirability, financial and technical feasibility, business viability
  • Repeat

You will know Creative Leadership when you see it. Teams are engaged in constructive dialogue. The EBA is considered an expert facilitator. People want to work on her teams. The EBA has exceptional technical skills, deep knowledge of the business, a highly flexible style, superb relationship-building skills, and is comfortable with uncertainty. Often innovation teams are removed from the day-to-day operations, fully funded, fully supported from the top, but time-boxed to bring about innovation before the competition.

AGILIST/MINIMALIST

Agile projects are those that involve incremental delivery of value to the customer. Let’s face it: Agile projects are more successful. Standish Group provides us with this information, based on more than 10,000projects from 2011-2015 segmented by agile process and waterfall method.iv

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Agile, incremental projects are taking the world by storm because iteration is the best defense against complexity and risk. Smaller projects are just simply easier to manage because of the reduced number of decisions that must be made and dependencies that must be managed. Start by mastering the lingo of the agile movement: (there is always new terminology!):

  • Communication – visualization, daily stand up meetings
  • Consensus – collaboration, co-location
  • Business case – business value
  • Requirements – product backlog, user stories, story maps
  • Solution Scope – product vision
  • Documentation – sticky notes
  • Project management – self-organizing teams

For each successive iteration, implement the minimally viable solution. Strive to make these basic principles apply to all projects:

  • Active user involvement is imperative, as it is about the customer experience
  • The team must be empowered to make decisions
  • The timescale is fixed; this helps minimize scope and accelerate decision-making
  • Capture requirements differently, lightweight & visual; requirements evolve
  • Develop small, incremental releases and iterate
  • Focus on frequent delivery of products prioritized based on value
  • Complete each feature before moving on to the next
  • Apply the 80/20 rule (remember, only 20% of features are typically used)
  • Testing is integrated throughout the project lifecycle – test early and often
  • A collaborative & cooperative approach between all stakeholders is essentialv

Despite the evidence that agile management is successful, organizations are having difficulty transitioning to an agile approach to projects. Institutionalized structures and processes are designed to support the more serial approach to change. It’s a leadership issue. EBAs are well positioned to provide the requisite leadership and to help accelerate the transition to bring about value to customers and to the organization quickly, thus sustaining or advancing competitive advantage.

TEAM LEADER

EBAs spend most of their time working through and with others; they are famous for pulling teams together to bring about innovative results quickly. Sometimes team members are not located in the same place, making team leadership even more challenging. Global teams are a vital asset to expand resources and to capture the nuanced preferences of different global markets. Indeed, about 80% of our project teams in existence today have members who are not physically co-located. And the trend is only going to continue. For many CEOs, seeking partnerships and forming global teams is a high-priority endeavor. EBAs are stepping up to assist in this struggle.

EBAs understand that virtual teams add a significant amount of complexity to change initiatives. The challenges of virtual teams include:

  • Fostering creativity at a distance
  • Building and sustaining great teams of diverse characteristics
  • Distributed team leadership, communication, collaboration, and decision-making
  • Using virtual teams as a strategic advantage
  • Encouraging innovation through edge-of-chaos leadership
  • Managing agile distributed teams with a light touch
  • Managing innovation projects that are always urgent at a distance
  • Leading unplanned, urgent projects as they emerge

EBAs also understand that high-performing teams share a number of characteristics:

  • Team members are diverse, high trained and highly practiced
  • Clear goals, direction, priorities
  • Clear roles among team members
  • Cooperation
  • Engagement
  • Prioritization based on value
  • Common expectations
  • Robust communication
  • Defined decision-making practices

EBAs are stepping up to manage the numerous transformational change efforts facing organizations today. Transformational change is profound, fundamental, disruptive, and irreversible, and it is essential today for organizations to remain viable. It involves breakthrough practices, structures, businesses, and technologies. Incremental continuous improvements to the way we do things today are not enough in the 21st century inter-connected, innovation-driven economy. Transformation requires:

  • Visionary leadership, a holistic approach
  • Clear understanding of goals
  • Understanding of the ‘as-is current state’, the ‘to be innovative future state’, and the gap between them
  • Sophisticated risk management and change management

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DATA SCIENTIST

In this knowledge economy, your business is smart when it acts on the basis of data, information, and rules. It is the EBA who becomes the business intelligence specialist – the data scientist. Converting data into information that can be used to make decisions. There are a myriad of components that comprise business intelligence:

  • Customer behaviors
  • Competitive trends
  • Technology trends
  • Business rules
  • Operational business decisions
  • Business analysis
  • Business architecture
  • Business processes
  • Business vision, mission, strategy
  • Business policy monitors (KPIs)

ARCHITECT

Business architecture is a holistic view of the business and the supporting technology. It is a set of visual and textual representations of the essential components of a business and their relationships. It can be thought of as a blueprint used to plan change and align strategy with execution. EA supports business transformation by providing a holistic approach for planning change, provides a common understanding, leverages new technology capabilities, and harnesses the unwieldy IT environment. Many organizations focus on just the IT architecture. A holistic view includes both business and IT capabilities that are viewed as an integrated whole. Strategic capabilities include the following. EBAs sometimes specialize in one or more of these areas.

  • Business capabilities: functions, structures, processes
  • Information capabilities: information entities, application portfolio
  • Technology capabilities: supporting technology
  • Solution capabilities: business applications and tools

Business architectures are used as a tool to communicate about the business. Business architecture is developed and used by visionaries, strategists, executives, architects, managers, consultants – everyone working at the enterprise level. Then project teams build out the details of the architecture for the areas undergoing change. Change-driven organizations are using architectures because they bring about a certain level of maturity, an understanding of enterprise capabilities.

Leading-edge businesses are embracing architectural techniques to begin to ‘think visually’ about the enterprise and the innovative solution. Through architecture, we increase business agility by managing change visually. Business architectures integrate disparate views of the enterprise to facilitate innovation through rich pictures (sometimes called ‘picture thinking’). The EBA often fills an architectural role, facilitating groups of business experts to ‘design the business’.

Business architects and business process professionals have traditionally focused on designing durable business processes that can stand the test of time. However, new technology disruptors such as mobile and social are forcing teams to rethink business and process design from an outside-in perspective. To deliver next-generation business process solutions, business architects, and business process professionals are shifting from “systems thinking” paradigms that emphasize process modeling to “design thinking” paradigms that emphasize creativity and customer experience. This will require teams to adopt emerging strategies and practices for integrating design thinking principles into their business process management (BPM) initiatives. According to IBM, the key questions are these:

How can your organization achieve sufficient business agility to accomplish your objectives among growing economic uncertainty? Does your business model take advantage of smarter technology and differentiating capabilities? Ultimately, are you capitalizing across business and IT to embrace increasing complexity to become a standout performer in your industry?vi

DECIDE WHICH ROLE YOU WANT TO PURSUE

Working at the strategic, enterprise level is vastly rewarding. Leap from a project-focused BA to an enterprise business analysts (EBA) in a single bound. You can then be a part of crafting the future of your company.

However, there are additional decisions to be made. Which business domain are you passionate about (financial, healthcare, engineering, education, etc.)? Which domains are out there looking for enterprise, holistic thinkers and problem solvers? The EBA role can be very challenging, so it helps immensely if you are forging the future in the business domain that excites and rewards you. Once you have chosen the business domain, research to see which technologies are emerging to support better or even drive the future of that domain. Future articles will examine the domains that are undergoing transformations and the technologies that are enabling the change.

https://www.forrester.com/home/

ii Gijs van Wulfen, May 23, 2014 Blog. “How to Present your Idea to Top Management”. Online at: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140523142826-206580-how-to-present-your-idea-to-top-management?trk=prof-post (accessed May 2014).

iiiFranz, Annette, August, 2015. Outside-In vs. Inside-Out Thinking, Online at: http://www.cx-journey.com/2015/08/outside-in-vs-inside-out-thinking.html

iv Standish Group, Standish Group 2015 Chaos Report – Q&A with Jennifer Lynch, October, 2015. Online at: http://www.infoq.com/articles/standish-chaos-2015/

v Waters, Kelly, 2007. What is Agile? Online at: http://www.allaboutagile.com/what-is-agile-10-k

vi Design For Disruption: Take An Outside-In Approach To BPM, Forrester, Online at: https://www.forrester.com/report/Design+For+Disruption+Take+An+OutsideIn+Approach+To+BPM/-/E-RES91465

21st Century BA: How to Become a Business Technologist

In the 21st century, all businesses are technology companies. To survive in the global economy, indeed to thrive, world-class, agile and flexible technology is a necessity.

Without it, organizations cannot cope with the ever-changing competitive environment. Competition is fierce, and an organization’s competitive advantage is always at risk. In addition, the business environment is stunningly complex. Innovation is a precondition to survival. Technology advances are coming fast and furiously. Organizations are struggling to find the talent needed to drive changes to the business and the technology to achieve and sustain competitive advantage.

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WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE

The business analysis discipline needs to elevate its thinking, discarding the notion that requirements management is the most important task at hand. That is a very narrow, and frankly doomed view of the scope of business analysis. As enterprise BAs, striving to fill the role of Business Technologists, we are adopting a core enterprise perspective that is driven by the need for business/technology investments to create optimal business benefits in terms of value to customers and wealth to the bottom line.

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WE NEED A HOLISTIC VIEW OF THE BUSINESS AND THE TECHNOLOGY

The effective Enterprise BA/Business Technologist thinks big. Thinks strategically. Thinks holistically. Thinks about the customer. Understands that the business and technology components of the organization are part of an ecosystem that is always changing and adapting to variations in the competitive environment and transformations in technology, resulting in requisite changes to business processes, technology, products, and services. While there is no technology that is the silver bullet, we continue to seek out technical products and technical managers to solve all of our problems.

There is no single silver bullet. It’s about being able to identify technologies, understand their implications, combine them in an effective way, and make intelligent decisions in employing them, creating a set of operational processes and organizational structures to surround them, which is a much harder thing than simply investing in one technology versus another.

… We need technologists who understand more in the way of the economic analysis and business strategy. I would also suggest we need technologists who are more integrative problem solvers, which is to say we need technologists who can solve problems across multiple technology domains, and across business and technology domains.
James Kaplan, Principal at McKinsey&Companyi
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WE NEED TO GROW UP FAST

An IBM CEO study as long ago as 2010 identified complexity as the biggest challenge, and creativity as the most important skill that is needed to understand and manage complexityii. They went on to say, they have not groomed creative leaders from within, and they can’t find the talent they need through traditional staffing activities. Conventional project roles are changing. The EBA focus is now on strategy, innovation, and value vs. requirements management. The PM focus is now on complexity management vs. project management. However, companies can’t find these types of BAs/PMs – critical thinkers with the ability to:

  • Adapt, invent, and re-invent
  • Collaborate, create, and innovate
  • Leverage complexity to compete.

The business analysis discipline, and therefore the effective business technologist, needs to quickly attain breakthrough skills and competencies – en masse. The need is urgent. Realizing that there is so much innovation in technology today, no organization can know all about the different technology domains that are emerging. Therefore, creativity, problem solving and integration skills become much more important that any specific knowledge about a technical domain such as cyber cybersecurity, cloud computing, or big data. To fill the void, organizations that rely heavily on technology such as banks, insurance companies, and healthcare companies are starting to recruit from within and from outside in the high-tech industry. They are seeking out individuals with a broad set of skills, individuals who have the ability to span business and technology domains, who have experience in integrative problem solving.

Staffing and career development operatives are responding to the need. Companies are seeking out internal and external managers and high performers who are willing to move between different parts of an IT organization as they progress. Some business managers are also moving from the business into selected roles in technology organizations in order to infuse more business acumen into the IT management staff. We need innovation in the world of training for business and IT professionals. Instead of focusing on technical disciplines, Kaplan urges us to foster what he calls first-principles technology problem solving or cross-domain integrative-technology problem solvingiii.

ELEVATE YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT APPROACH

For the individual BA who is looking to elevate their career and status in their organizations, it’s time to modernize your career development approach. Get your hands around a new attitude about your professional development. Build strategy-focused, value-based thinking into your advancement plans.

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SEEK OUT NEW ROLES

21st Century EBAs/BTs are bold and courageous. They search for new roles and new challenges to broaden and deepen their experience, knowledge, and expertise. They put themselves in positions with high visibility where the action is. They thrive when working collaboratively with other experts in uncertainty and ambiguity. People in the business and in IT seek them out, asking for them to be on their teams.

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LEAD THROUGH CONNECTIONS

The 21st Century is all about connections. In the global world of business complexity, it takes a high functioning team of experts to negotiate the business and technical complexities. So, perhaps your most critical capability is to bring together a group of experts (first get the right people in the room!), and then create an environment where it is safe to experiment, suggest off-the-wall ideas, challenge and build on each other’s ideas; then rapidly test ideas to determine viabilityiv.

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WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN TO THOSE AT THE TOP OF THE BA FOOD CHAIN?

There are many things you can do to accelerate your transition to an enterprise, strategically focused business technologist. Review the suggestions in this article. Get yourself out there. Promote yourself and your project successes.

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The next few articles will explore other roles for the enterprise BA, as well as business and technical domains that are undergoing significant transformations.

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 Capitalizing on Complexity, Insights from the 2010 IBM Global CEO Study. Online at: http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/ceo/ceostudy2010/multimedia.html
iii 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.
iv Leading Through Connections, Insights from the 2012 IBM Global CEO Study (www.ibm.com/services/us/en/c-suite/ceostudy2012/‎

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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.

The Innovative Enterprise Business Analyst

The Business Analysis discipline is transforming itself in response to the 21st century realities: the Internet of everything is everywhere; change is the only constant, digital, social and mobile spheres have converged; every company needs to be a technology company; competitive advantage is always at risk; software is embedded in virtually every product and service; technology advances are fast and furious and unrelenting. In the midst of these challenges, we strive to reduce costs, do more with less, provide customer value, improve decision making, produce innovations, and advance internal capabilities.

In response to these challenges and to remain competitive, companies are continuously innovating to transform themselves and remain on the leading edge. EBAs are rising to the occasion to foster creativity and produce innovative products and services. Project-related requirements management skills are still needed. However, realizing that creativity is the #1 skill required to succeed in the 21st century, EBAs are continuously exploring their role in fostering collaboration and creativity. EBAs have discovered that deliberate design principles can be used to accelerate innovation of products and services. It is the EBA who is driving the convergence of the key disciplines required by organizations today: business, technology, and design. BAs everywhere are striving to:

  1. Discover the magic of design thinking, and how it is being used in progressive organizations to develop breakthrough solutions to complex business problems.
  2. Examine creativity-inducing tools and techniques used by facilitators everywhere for problem solving and decision making.
  3. Consider how to augment structured facilitation techniques with investigation, experimentation, and creativity-inducing activities.
  4. Learn how to reinvent their team facilitation model often to keep teams engaged in the innovation process, whether working on incremental enhancements or breakthrough technology.
  5. Partner with the PM to work together to insure projects are launched to bring about innovative solutions, value to the customer, and wealth to the bottom line. Make decisions are made with the customer in mind. Seek out changes that add creativity and innovation to the solution design.

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THE RISE OF THE INNOVATIVE ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYST

I have written a lot about complexity. Complexity has a direct correlation to innovation. Complexity is everywhere: in our business practices, in our business partnerships, in our digital strategy, in our data and information management, in our projects, and in our effort to achieve business/technology optimization. CIOs are struggling to be able to not only manage, but to capitalize on complexity to bring about the innovations that result in competitive advantage.
The good news about complexity is that it breeds creativity. Complex systems are dynamic, always changing to adapt to transformations in the environment. Complex systems fluctuate between states of equilibrium, which leads to paralysis and ultimately death, to chaos, which leads dysfunction. It is important for EBAs to realize that the most creative, productive state is on the edge of chaos to make innovative decisions to adapt to changes and learnings.

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So because EBAs care about creativity and innovation, they care about complexity. EBAs think holistically and therefore they realize that the average lifespan of a company listed in the S&P 500 index of leading US companies has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today (Professor Richard Foster, Yale University ). What this means is that companies today must innovate to survive. Companies are complex systems, always adapting to changes in the economic, political, competitive and technological fluctuations. Therefore, project teams need to be adaptive, sometimes operating on the edge of chaos, to conceive of the most creative, innovative solutions. The days of the predominance of projects to enhance business-as-usual are ending, being replaced by transformational innovation. As EBAs work with the best minds in the company to design their transformation, they employ sophisticated design-centered creativity techniques to drive innovation.

Related Article: The Transformational Enterprise Business Analyst

TRADITIONAL CREATIVITY-INDUCING PRACTICES

Everyone is creative. Creativity is a skill that can be learned. The 21st century EBA is well positioned and quite proficient at bringing groups of experts together to conceive, test, refine and implement innovative solutions. The key is to get the right people in the room and create a safe environment.

“The skill of generating innovations is largely the skill of putting old things together in a new way, or looking at a familiar idea from a novel perspective, or using what we know already to understand something new. Annie Murphy Paul, author, journalist, consultant and speaker who helps people understand how we learn and how we can do it better. (Her latest book, How to Be Brilliant, is forthcoming from Crown)

The EBA employs traditional and transformational practices to bring about innovation. Some of these practices are common place, some very new to the project scene. EBAs are accomplished facilitators. Skilled facilitation fosters creativity. Creativity-inducing tools and techniques make use of:

  • Structured, problem-solving and decision-making methods, which primarily prompts activity in the left brain, and then
  • Cleverly augmenting them with creativity through investigation, experimentation, and a little bit of chaos, using mostly the right brain.

Structured Decision Making and Problem Solving

Problem solving can take many forms; but if you try to solve your problem without any structure, you may end up with a bigger problem. Businesses are familiar with and often use various problem solving structures, all of which all have similar components.

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Creativity-Inducing Facilitation

EBAs understand that it is their responsibility to create that ‘edge of chaos’ environment among a small group of experts to arrive at the most innovative solution before launching a transformational project. The key is to make decisions quickly, test and experiment to continually improve the concept, and work iteratively in order to adapt to learnings and changes.
The process goes something like this – first create then innovate.

1. Create: divergent thinking

  • Generate Ideas
  • Combine, Refine
  • Invent, Originate, Imagine!

2. Innovate: convergent thinking

  • Analyze
  • Refine
  • Experiment
  • Decide!
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Divergent Thinking: Create

Use divergent thinking to create. Identify as many options as possible. Think “outside the organization” not just outside the box. Accept all options. Look for unusual possibilities, patterns, and combinations. Combine like ideas, build on each other’s ideas. Encourage participants to challenge each other, experiment, get crazy, be chaotic, and get in the creative zone.

There are many idea generation techniques; brainstorming and Idea Mapping are the most prevalent; brainstorming to identify as many ideas as possible; Idea Mapping to visualize the innovation. But beware. Sometimes brainstorming makes us think we are innovating when we really are just minimally changing the status quo. Sometimes it helps to get out of your environment. Insist on transformational innovation. One team told me they did their best work on a sailboat!

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Once multiple ideas have been generated, step back and build on like ideas, refine, improve. Then visualize brainstormed ideas using a colorful diagram. Build rich pictures. Great visualization techniques use both the right and left brain, clarify thinking, save time, foster ability to organize, communicate, remember, and innovate.

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Convergent Thinking: Decide

It is possible that the group is having so much fun that it wants to keep experimenting and creating. But at some point, the EBA needs to determine the moment to decide on the approach to take to move the company forward. First, refine and prioritize the list of ideas. Then determine the feasibility of all high-priority options. Analyze the feasible options, and then decide on the most feasible, least cost, fastest time to market, and most customer-centric ideas. For the most feasible options get physical and visualize by building prototype, mockups, models, story boards, stick figures.

Remember, all facilitation is consensus building. Take the time you need to be truly collaborative, participative, unifying and synergistic. The most important factor is to get the right people in the room. People who are of varying expertise, who love to work collaboratively in ambiguous environments to arrive at places that are unknown and promising.

THE NEXT LEVEL: TRANSFORMATIONAL DESIGNED-CENTERED INNOVATION

The EBA fulfills many strategic roles, essentially putting her finger in the dike for the many areas that have been woefully inadequate in organizations today, from business relationship manager to internal strategic consultant to innovator. Design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500. By 228% over ten years! The most innovative companies in the world share one thing in common. They use design as an integrative resource to innovate more efficiently and successfully. Yet many businesses don’t make it a priority to invest in design – often because the value of design is hard to measure and define as a business strategy. So, EBAs are filling the gap and bringing design principles into their business requirements and solution design processes.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, president and CEO of award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow and member of the Mayo Clinic Innovation Advisory Council.

So what’s the big deal about design thinking? It combines empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the company’s context (Tom and Dave Kelley, in their book Creative Confidence) . Design thinking is converging disciplines to meet 21st century challenges. When driving innovation in the face of complexity, design thinking unites three essential disciplines: technology, business, and art. It focuses fiercely on customer value.
For the first time in the history of business management strategies, we are embracing principles of art and design. Design thinking…a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation… a management strategy…a system that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match:

  • Peoples’ needs, with
  • What is technologically feasible, and what
  • A viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity.
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It is the EBA role that is picking up the mantel and driving innovation through design principles. Fundamental design principles include the following:

  • Empathy
  • Collaboration
  • Diverse points of view
  • Integrative thinking
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Iteration, Invention
  • People-centered
  • Deep user insights
  • Visualization
  • Solve wicked problems
  • Creativity
  • Efficiency, Efficacy

Design Thinking – a Customer-Centered approach to Innovation

Design thinking is a human-centered innovation process that includes the basic elements that the EBA has in her toolbox. It is the EBA who is most primed to bring design-thinking methods to the business innovation process.

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The Genius of Design Thinking

The genius of design thinking is that it integrates innovation, a deep understanding of the customer experience, and business transformation. “Intuition counts heavily, experimentation happens fast, failures along the way are embraced as learning, business strategy is integrated, and more relevant solutions are produced.”

End Notes
  1. Can a company live forever? Kim Gittleson BBC News, New York, 19 January 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-16611040
  2. The Secret Skill Behind Being An Innovator, Mar 26, 2014. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140326034851-84796303-the-secret-skill-behind-being-an-innovator ; 
  3. http://www.beyondlean.com/problem-solving.html
  4. http://www.dmi.org/blogpost/1093220/182956/Design-Driven-Companies-Outperform-S-P-by-228-Over-Ten-Years–The-DMI-Design-Value-Index 
  5. http://www.ideo.com/about/
  6. Inspiration Lab, inspirationlab.org. http://inspirationlab.org/story/5711#sthash.s2nfzgEd.dpuf. http://inspirationlab.org/story/5711.
  7. http://www.ideo.com/people/tim-brown
  8. Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, Thomas Lockwood, Design Management Institute

The Transformational Enterprise Business Analyst

Why do we keep talking about the Enterprise Business Analyst (EBA)? Because it is quickly becoming the pivotal business/technology role of the future.  The EBA is a business-driven strategic partner and integrator, an enabler of organizational change, and the driver of business success.  As a strategic partner, the EBA often becomes an internal consultant – a business relationship manager at the top of the food chain of the BA profession. 

Operating at the enterprise, strategic level, the EBA engages in radical collaboration, as the Stanford University Design School refers to it.  The EBA understands that today’s complex projects demand an unprecedented amount of teamwork and cooperation among all key business and technology roles in a critical project.  Indeed, shared project leadership is replacing old project management models.  Perhaps the most valuable partnership when operating at the enterprise level is the one between the project manager and the business analyst.  

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The BA and PM work together to ensure projects are launched to bring about innovative solutions, value to the customer, and wealth to the bottom line.  All decisions are made with the customer in mind.  Changes that add value are not only welcomed but sought after.  

Related Article: The Future is Now: The 21st Century Enterprise Business Analyst

THE RISE OF THE ENTERPRISE BUSINESS ANALYST

The rise of the EBA marks a significant departure from business-as-usual business analysis.  The EBA is a strategic asset to decompose strategy into valuable change initiatives.  The EBA plugs the gap conducting the burden of analysis that is too often missing from business/technology project prioritization and selection.  

EBAs work up front and personal, in support of an investment framework based on business value.  The EBA performs the due diligence that is so often missing during project initiation. This due diligence includes competitive analysis, problem/opportunity analysis, experimentation, creative brainstorming, early complexity assessment, and captures the results in the form of a business case to propose a new change initiative.

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TRANSFORMATIONAL PRACTICES

The EBA employs transformational practices to bring about value-based decision making and project management practices.

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TRANSFORMATIONAL ROLES

The EBA fulfills many strategic roles, essentially putting a finger in the dike for many areas that have been woefully inadequate in organizations today, from business relationship manager to internal strategic consultant.

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Business Relationship Manager and Internal Consultant

As business relationship manager, EBAs fully understand the needs of the business, from vision and strategy to execution of operations.  EBAs build executive level relationships as well as relationships with lower level managers and practitioners.  They decompose strategy into valuable projects and programs.  They lead creativity sessions to ensure we conceive the most innovative solutions.  They create business cases to propose new initiatives.  They conduct competitive analysis to understand where their industry is headed.  They coach project teams to ensure the teams understand the business need and the value expected from the initiative.

Strategist

The EBA often has a seat at the table with the executive management team, participating in strategy sessions, facilitating the management team through problem analysis, alternative analysis, and opportunity analysis.

Innovator, Designer, and Architect

The EBA understands that creativity is a skill that can be learned.  Understanding and using design principles enable EBAs to lead sessions to design the transformation prior to examining alternative solutions.  Using architectural techniques, the EBA makes the future visible through models and rich pictures.

Business/Technology Optimizer

World-class EBAs stay ahead of trends within business analysis, technology-enabled business practices, and in the industry of their choosing.  However, staying up with trends is a difficult undertaking because of the amount of information that is out there; it is voluminous and can be overwhelming. The trick is to concentrate on keeping abreast of business and technology trends at a high level, and go deep in a just-in-time learning manner.  That is educate yourself on areas of interest at the time when you need to apply them to your current endeavors.  

The EBA thinks holistically about the business, the ecosystem surrounding the business, and about the technology supporting the business.  The EBA understands where the industry is headed globally, and how that will impact their organization.  In addition, effective EBAs understand the current technology infrastructure, and trends that are emerging.  Some of the contemporary areas of focus include:

  • Collaboration and productivity
  • Customer & operations support
  • Cyber Security
  • Digital, wireless, and mobile spheres 
  • Software
  • Open technology
  • Internet of things
  • Compute
  • Networks
  • Social media

Leader, not Manager

In performing all of these roles, the EBA becomes a value-driven strategic resource for the organization.  The EBA has mature influence skills, collaborating with project managers and other key change agents.  The EBA understands how to build and sustain high-performing teams.  In a given week, the EBA might serve as:

  • Strategy and Competitive Analyst
  • Strategy Executor
  • Value/Benefits Manager
  • Creativity and Innovation Enabler
  • Transformational Designer
  • Cultural Change Manager
  • Team Leader

Lead through Connections

The world is hyper-connected. EBAs leverage the collective intelligence that resides in the untapped knowledge of their network. EBAs can embrace the dynamic tension between creative disruption and operational efficiency. EBAs cultivate organizational creativity in an age of complexity.

TRANSFORMATIONAL PROJECT SUCCESS MODEL

The traditional measures of project success have been on time, cost, and scope. Even with advances in technology and the project management and business analysis professions, superior project performance remains elusive. The CHAOS Manifesto 2013 reveals that 61% of IT-enabled business projects continue to fail to meet project cost, schedule, and scope goals.

In the 21st century we need to achieve 90% of projects on time, cost and scope through smaller, incremental development of solutions. And at the same time, our focus needs to be on innovation and value. Companies that fail to innovate will get lost in the dust of agile, fast-moving competitors. So, our new project success model needs to look something like this:

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Clearly, the business analysis profession needs to step up to the plate to close the gap in project performance, and the EBA is emerging as that transformational role. EBAs are drastically changing the way we manage projects. EBAs adopt 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, order, and disruptive change.

Look for us at the Building Business Capability Conference in Las Vegas in November.

i Leading Through Connections, Insights from the 2012 IBM Global CEO Study (www.ibm.com/services/us/en/c-suite/ceostudy2012/‎
ii THE STANDISH GROUP, “CHAOS MANIFESTO: THINK BIG, ACT SMALL,” 2013. ONLINE AT versionone.com/assets/img/files/ChaosManifesto2013.pdf‎ (accessed January 2014).



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