8 Women to Watch in 2021
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Today is International Women’s Day when we come together to celebrate women around the world. We at IIBA are celebrating women in business analysis with a special panel webinar today, March 8th at 12-1p ET. Throughout the world today webinars are taking place discussing a variety of topics as part of International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is centred on #ChooseToChallenge. IIBA is launching a Thought Exchange during our webinar to collectively discuss what women choose to challenge in 2021.
As I was putting together the list of women to watch for this blog, I thought it appropriate to highlight the amazing and inspiring women featured in our list of top business analysis professionals and thought leaders to watch in 2021. I know there are many, many more inspiring professionals that are not on IIBA’s 2021 list. Our intention is to profile leaders to watch so if you think there is someone inspirational that I’ve missed, please share your suggestion with me and I will include them in an upcoming spotlight on social.
Here’s the list of our top 8 female influencers (in alphabetical order) in 2021 to watch!
#1 Adrielle Houweling popped up on my radar in 2020 when I saw her story on social media about her volunteer work with COVID-19 Resources Canada, a central hub designed to help those involved in COVID-19 research and development. Adrielle brought business analysis to the attention of researchers and healthcare professionals. You can learn more about this by watching, Why Business Analysts Wear Capes on-demand in IIBA’s webinar archives. In 2021, Adrielle sees the role of the business analyst playing an important role working with project managers. Using the analogy of a rowboat she explains the importance of a business analyst to time-sensitive and large-scale projects. In a rowboat, you will find the project manager standing at the bow directing project stakeholders to row towards a specific landmark. The rowboat will reach its destination so long as everyone understands and agrees to the project manager’s directives but when more project stakeholders are added and the mission itself becomes time-sensitive those directives may not be enough to guide them forward. Thankfully, the Business Analyst, whose focus is to clarify processes, identify requirements and find solutions, all the while employing the 3 Cs of Business Analysis: Curiosity, Communication and Connecting the Dots can help the rowboat reach its intended destination. In this analogy organizations need business analysis professionals working closely with the project manager and project stakeholders to ensure the rowboat stays afloat, and follows the best course, to efficiently get to where it needs to go.
#2 In 2020, Agile and BEING agile was unavoidable for most of us! With over 1 million learners from her LinkedIn Learning courses, Angela Wick the founder of BA-Cube and BA-Squared knows very well the importance of analysis and a customer centered lens for agile teams to quickly pivot and deliver fast! Some trends Angela says 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 BAs (Business Analysts) that facilitate user value will continue to find new ways to bring teams value in 2021!
#3 Co-author of IIBA’s Certificate in Cybersecurity Analysis (IIBA®-CCA), Bindu Channaveerappa sees cybersecurity analysis as a growing area to watch in 2021. With over 445 million cyberattacks reported in 2020, 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. The security solution can come from various experts from technical to compliance. But including all the scenarios and requirements is the business analyst’s job. When Bindu says all scenarios, she means every scenario of a genuine user and a fake user or a hacker. “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 analysis professionals must call them out,” notes Bindu.
#4 An IT professional with a passion for advancing the business analysis profession, Emily Midgley, CBAP, Systems Analyst Lead in Small Business Insurance IT at Progressive Insurance says business analysts transitioning to product owner roles will 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 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.
#5 You may have heard Eno Eka on Clubhouse or taken her training course. Eno’s personal mission is to help and empower 1 million people to increase their income to multiple 6 figures this year! Eno shares her 7 steps to having a successful business analysis career in 2021. Interestingly, she notes that hiring didn’t really pause for all roles in the midst of the pandemic. Eno says that companies are anxiously looking for business analysis professionals who can help them pivot their business during this global pandemic. So how can you stand out in 2021? According to Eno’s 7 steps to success you need: Mindset, Experience, Knowledge, Skills, Certification, Coaching and Mentorship, and Continuous Improvement. Remember that you are a solution provider! Be sure to ask pertinent questions, a good business analyst will always ask “Why”. Use tools such as your core concept model to guide you as you deliver more value in 2021! You got this!
#6 Esta Lessing, CBAP, a trainer, practitioner and author shares things you should know before pursuing a career in business analysis. One often overlooked business analysis skill important to success is communication skills. Esta notes this is one of the most important sills you can master as a business analysis professional. Communication ultimately consists of conversations and conversations has three stages: Stage 1: The lead up. Build rapport and goodwill even just for a few seconds. Stage 2: The essence. Find the common purpose or desired result of each conversation, great or small. Stage 3: The close. Agree the actions and next steps to maximise value. When you learn to break down conversations and focus on each stage of the conversation with the intent to maximise its value, you will become an outstanding communicator and be a business analysis professional who stands out from the crowd.
#7 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. So, what does Lori advise? Her advice to business analysts is to remember that YOU can move the needle: Embrace a decision-first mindset. Start using a methodology for collaborative data-informed decision-making and take the lead on transforming culture.
#8 Vanessa Lam is a data culture and business intelligence professional who has held business intelligence roles with Mastercard and Optoro before returning to university to pursue her Masters in Computer and Information Technology. In 2020, Vanessa led Building Business Capability’s Practitioner’s Chat for young professionals to share their viewpoints about workplace experiences, what they are worried about, what they are thinking about, and how they are responding to current events to create more community in an increasingly online world. Vanessa sees business analysis professionals as a fundamental bridge between a business need and the technical solution. “They translate messy ideas into implementable rules and requirements. This means that business analysts are becoming increasingly proficient in data, which is the basic language that links the two disciplines,” says Vanessa. One important trend she sees in business analysis is furthering that link by setting a strong data culture. This involves ensuring people across the organization are comfortable with data, they all use the same vocabulary, and there is strong trust in insights found from data. Business analysts sit at this ever more important juncture, where they can influence the data culture across business and technical people alike, improving alignment and decision-making in the long term.
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