7 Trends to Watch
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As part of IIBA’s influencers to watch in 2021 blog series let’s take a closer look at opportunities for business analysis professionals accelerated due to changes driven by the global pandemic.
The need for global connectedness has never been greater and organizations’ need for technology-assisted capabilities combined with an increasing consumer appetite for on-demand services, greater transparency, and accessibility have resulted in accelerated digital transformation, growth of the product owner role, widespread adoption of agile, and more emphasis on data driven forward planning and the importance of cybersecurity.
#1 How Agile Was Unavoidable in 2020
In 2020, Agile and BEING agile was unavoidable for most of us! We all experienced what it means to be able to pivot! We saw that agile teams NEED analysis and a customer centered lens to pivot and deliver fast! Angela Wick the founder of BA-Cube and BA-Squared says some trends to watch as we move forward are things like bringing an extreme customer focus to your analysis work, using hypothesis and experiments, and finding more ways to get user behaviour insights to guide proactive requirements. “Our assumptions can literally bring us to our knees, and we must integrate them into the analysis and delivery, not just list them,” warns Angela. Agile Business Analysts that facilitate user value will continue to find new ways to bring their teams value in 2021!
#2 Laser Focus on Customers
This opinion is seconded by Emily Midgley, CBAP, Systems Analyst Lead in Small Business Insurance IT at Progressive Insurance who says business analysts transitioning to product owner roles need a laser focus on customers. “They must empathize with people who buy and use their product so that they understand problems and can weigh multiple potential solutions. After making changes to the product, Business Analysts do a solution evaluation to see if the change implemented actually addressed the customer’s problem. Success is not how it used to be judged with projects, when all that mattered was putting the solution in production. Instead, product success is about whether the change made a difference for the customer,” emphasizes Emily. This brings us back to the beginning - having empathy for the user and caring about whether we address problems they have.
#3 Visual Thinking Superpowers for Product Owners
QA expert Pardeep (Paddy) Dhanda is Head of Agile Practices at QA Limited and is also an agile coach, trainer, doodler, and speaker. Paddy sees growing importance for visual thinking skills in a product ownership role. Imagine a world where written words were the only form of communication. As a product owner, think about the challenges this would pose? Working remotely with culturally diverse teams without the use of visuals would lead to ambiguity, disengagement, miscommunication and, most importantly, uninspiring products. Tom Kelley (IDEO) says “if you acknowledge that creative thoughts are the engine that drives innovation, suddenly creativity becomes really important.” So, the good news is visuals have never been more important than they are today, and they are here to stay. Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users and combined with other platforms, such as Pinterest and YouTube, social media has become an ocean of visuals and creativity. “In the world of business, visual thinking is becoming an ever-growing field and one of my biggest personal passions. As Agilists, we regularly use visual thinking techniques without even realising it. Just think about some of the visual information radiators you use, such as Kanban boards, burn down/up charts as well as a variety of other visual facilitation techniques for running retrospectives,” says Paddy. Product owners can leverage visual thinking superpowers in a variety of ways. Complex problems can be broken down into more understandable forms through visuals and storytelling. The use of visual metaphors can boost team engagement by designing a variety of canvases. Or simply seeking buy in to a compelling vision can be achieved much more effectively through a visual. “Let your creativity run wild,” advises Paddy. Don’t worry if you don’t think you can draw; just give it a try!
#4 Taking a Product-Centric Approach
2020 has shown the need for organizations to be adaptable. Adrian Reed, Director and Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business, host of BA Fringe, blogger, speaker, author and past IIBA UK Chapter president and a true advocate of the profession shares his insights on three trends to watch in 2021. Adrian flagged Product vs Project as one to watch. “We’re seeing discussions over whether to take a product-centric (instead of project-centric) approach,” notes Adrian, adding, “currently there’s tension in some organizations that try to combine the two.” He also flagged systems thinking, we live in an interconnected world with many messy problems to be solved. The BABOK® Guide lists systems thinking as an underlying competency, and it is one that is more relevant than ever. Another trend is strategic business analysis. 2020 has shown us that removing ‘slack’ works well in predictable times, but when the environment changes organizations need the ability to adapt. “Strategic business analysis will continue to be crucial,” adds Adrian who wisely sums up his trends to watch stating, “business analysis continues to be a broad and evolving discipline."
#5 Data Driven Forward Planning
Lori Silverman, Founder/CEO and Shift Strategist, Partners for Progress®, says she started 2021 by reviewing hundreds of articles, white papers, and research reports surrounding business data analytics. Afterwards, she realized little movement has occurred since 2015 on the “human side” of the equation. While “Data Literacy” became popular, focusing on an “individual’s” ability to work with data rarely advanced “organizational performance.” COVID caused upheaval when tried-and-true algorithms no longer worked. Yet it didn’t spark smarter, more nimble decision-making — nor did transforming enterprise-wide culture to make this a reality gain traction. Her advice to business analysts? YOU can move the needle: Embrace a decision-first mindset. Start using a methodology for collaborative data-informed decision-making. Take the lead on transforming culture.
#6 Cybersecurity Should No Longer Be Disregarded
There were more than 445 million cyberattacks reported in 2020 and cybercriminals have been adapting to capitalize on the pandemic situation. “As business analysts, the service we deliver is our expertise to solve business problems and security is part of that, says Bindu Channaveerappa, a Business Analyst Consultant in the UK, co-author of IIBA’s Cybersecurity Analysis certification (IIBA®-CCA) and volunteer Communities Director for IIBA UK Chapter and a frequent conference speaker on cybersecurity. According to Bindu, the security solution can come from various experts from technical to compliance. But including all the scenarios and requirements is a business analyst’s job. “When I say all scenarios, I mean every scenario of a genuine user and a fake user or a hacker,” states Bindu. Unless we raise all the possibilities, the business problem is not resolved. Business and systems don’t protect themselves, we have to build the protection, and business analysts must call them out.
#7 Business Analysts will Drive the Importance of Investing in Cybersecurity
When it comes to security controls it is not the sole responsibility of the IT or security department. It is also the responsibility of the team that’s designing and building the application or performing the integration including developers, project managers, product owners, and business analysts. “At the end of the day, investments in cybersecurity should be transparent and value-added,” says Terry Baresh a senior Business Analyst who works with cybersecurity experts, architects, engineers, and analysts to design, deploy, and integrate enterprise-wide security processes. Business analysts are best suited for understanding and communicating the security requirements and ensuring they are incorporated into all designs and test plans. This applies regardless of how the team is configured including those using Agile, Kanban, Scrum, and Waterfall. Business analysts can drive the importance of injecting cybersecurity into solution designs and test plans, educate project and QA teams on basic cybersecurity principles and factors, and enable teams to enlist cybersecurity experts into the process early on - shifting left - to save time and cost. It's expensive to add cybersecurity controls after the fact; and they are rarely as robust and efficient when they are tacked on to a solution after it's deployed warns Terry. And as identity management solutions grow in complexity with cloud deployments and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), so too are the controls around securing customer identities. Business Analysis methods and practices described in the BABOK® Guide and by those professionals practicing business analysis prescribe processes for working with business leaders to understand their client and customer needs and how to translate those into the organizations' risk-based cybersecurity framework while ensuring they are tracked, measurable and articulate the importance and value to business.
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