Over the last few years, organizations have demonstrated a renewed interest in bringing more and richer data into a variety of business decisions.
What’s driving them toward this goal? Overall, they want to become more agile, leaner, smarter, and closer to their customers.
Significant effort has been focused on procuring new and different technology to aggregate, analyze, and visualize large amounts of data — and in hiring talent for new positions — Chief Data Officers, data scientists, and data analysts, to name a few. Seeing an opportunity to strengthen the role of Business Analysts by pairing analysis with analytics, the IIBA jumped on the bandwagon — generating a number of papers on business data analytics and digital business analysis — and creating a certificate in Business Data Analytics (see https://www.iiba.org/standards-and-resources/business-data-analytics/).
What an exciting time to be a business analyst! Just think: If BAs immerse themselves in the data needs of the business and collect, analyze, interpret, and report the results in the delivery of their services, they would be helping to internally (and maybe even externally!) monetize the value from data to benefit the enterprise and enhance their role.
At the same time the IIBA has been rolling out its initiatives, a number of research studies have emerged. Randy Bean and Tom Davenport titled their February 2019 Harvard Business Review article, “Companies are Failing in Their Efforts to Become Data-Driven” (see https://hbr.org/2019/02/companies-are-failing-in-their-efforts-to-become-data-driven). The research results they cite from NewVantage Partners (see http://newvantage.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Big-Data-Executive-Survey-2019-Findings-Updated-010219-1.pdf) are glaring: People AND process are the number 1 obstacle. For this to significantly shift, the authors state that organizations must address “cultural barriers to business adoption.”
This outcome is supported by Gartner’s Third CDO survey (see https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3834265/survey-analysis-third-gartner-cdo-survey-how-chief-data- ) that finds the biggest internal roadblock to the success of CDOs as “culture challenges to accept change.” In a separate report called “A Data and Analytics Leader’s Guide to Data Literacy,” Gartner claims, “By 2020, 50 percent of organizations will lack sufficient AI and data literacy skills to achieve business value” (see https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/a-data-and-analytics-leaders-guide-to-data-literacy/ ). These studies are not alone in pointing out issues.
On first glance, it might appear that the optimal role for BAs would be to perform data analytics within the confines of their position. However, when combined with their business domain expertise, change skills, and project experience, the addition of data analytics fundamentals perfectly positions BAs to fulfill a new and needed, broader and more significant role — that of a “data interpreter/translator” — or what recently has been called “decision scientist/decision analyst.”
Why is this new role necessary? For enterprises to overcome the people and process cultural barriers mentioned earlier, someone needs to orchestrate a collaborative approach to data-informed decision-making across all functions within the enterprise. Working with key business leaders, the data interpreter helps them clearly outline and prioritize decisions and problems in need of data to resolve — that will result in short and long-term value to the enterprise. Key to this is bringing the right technical and data talent, and business staff and resources, to each situation. The overarching focus is on helping everyone move from data to insight to action in an aligned and agile manner.
There is no time to waste. While this new role is emerging, CDOs and those in the data science and data analytics communities see themselves as sufficiently skilled to handle it. Only, what BAs know better than anyone is that being experts in the “business of the business” and the organization as a total system are critical ingredients to making this new role a success. Now is the time to learn and implement a collaborative approach to data-informed decision making in your organization. What first step will you take to make this a reality?
© copyright 2019 Lori L. Silverman. All rights reserved.
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