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BAs are Forging a Path though the Creative World of Digital Marketing

By Kate Gwynne, CBAP, CSM – Associate Director of Business Analysis at Resource

In an industry that combines advertising, websites, mobile apps, and near-instantaneous sharing via dozens of social networks, no one is more focused on innovation and speed to market these days than digital marketing agencies. With advertising dollars shifting towards digital, CMOs are beginning to partner with CIOs to drive their organization’s bottom line. 

Does this open new doors for marketing agencies? You bet! But with the spotlight on technology, the wizard behind the curtain is exposed now more than ever. And herein lies both opportunities and challenges for digitally-minded business analysts.
 
Historically, BAs have not had much presence in agency life. Those present were more likely to be utilized as technical writers, documenting requirements after development, just in time for QA. Whether this small footprint was because BAs were thought unnecessary or because BAs gravitated towards larger, more traditional corporations with more opportunities is not clear…I think maybe a little of both.
 
However, with technology now a major component of marketing, doors are beginning to open for BAs to play a greater role in the fast-paced digital space, working with teams who specialize in areas like branding strategies, market research, social media, and the overall user experience.  
 
As exciting and technologically savvy as this new realm is, BAs will still face challenges as they strive to infuse the value of requirements in a visually-oriented culture. Marketing firms, even digital ones, are still primarily creative by nature. This presents a unique opportunity where BAs have to think differently than their enterprise counterparts, adapting activities and deliverables to better fit the agency workflow.
 
While developers are needed to build the experience, and QA are there to test it, BAs may initially be seen as:
  • Adding more hours to the project when timelines and budgets are tight
  • Adding more people to meetings when streamlining is the goal
  • Creating additional documentation that isn’t engaging
While these may seem without merit, they are nonetheless perceptions that agency BAs will likely have to overcome. Success here lies in a BA’s ability to be an effective change leader who can shift perceptions by influencing, educating, re-educating, and looking for opportunities to show value. As project leaders begin to see how BAs reduce swirl, increase collaboration, and improve clarity on projects, they’ll start to embrace the role.
 
Changing the perception of project partners is one thing, but it may also be necessary to rethink how we see the BA role as well. Agency life is quite different than its counterpart in the more traditional corporate environment, and for the BA who assumes it’s a lateral move agency life can be quite a culture shock. For example:

BA in Non-Marketing Industry
vs. BA in Digital Marketing Agency
Traditional companies may have fairly standard 40-hour work weeks Agency work can be seasonal and a free/busy period over the course of the year looks like a roller coaster, so BAs may work longer hours during busier times
Processes, methodologies, deliverables, and templates are likely to be corporate or department standards Processes, methodologies, deliverables, and templates vary based on the type of project, team dynamic, and client expectations
Project work is recorded on a timesheet, but not necessarily invoiced to another department Project work is invoiced to clients, so BAs strive to be highly billable each week
Business requirements are a standard part of most projects and initiatives Business requirements are only part of larger projects
Business requirements primarily reflect higher level business objectives, goals, and impacted processes Business requirements often serve as high level functional requirements, as much of the business need is derived from functionality
Functional requirements are usually documented in SRS (software requirements specification) Functional requirements are usually depicted in Annotative Creative documents or user stories
Functional requirements primarily reflect how the application or system will work in a desktop/laptop environment Functional requirements must reflect how the site will perform in a responsive environment across multiple device types, sizes, and versions
BAs work with business and technology to communicate requirements Communication with clients are often handled through client service reps
Projects last several months to several years Projects last several weeks to several months
Project partners tend to center on business domain and IT roles In addition to business and IT roles, project partners include Strategy, Creative, UX, and Research
 
The world of digital marketing offers a new twist to BA work and is both exciting and challenging. The most effective BAs will be those who can think as change leaders—providing clarity and transparency—becoming the single source of truth for projects. 
 
Resource is the country’s largest independent, digitally led agency. Resource empowers consumers and delivers results through creativity, technology, and content.