There has never been a time in human history quite like now, when technology is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on global organizations to evolve. As part of this evolution, companies are challenging their current processes and ways of doing business. This evolution also challenges how quickly companies are able to react to change, how effective their business processes and procedures are adapted, and how these changes are communicated across the organization.
The “Internet of Things” revolution and related technological advances in the 21st century are accelerating the need for companies to undergo a digital transformation in order to remain competitive. While small companies can swiftly adapt to change, large corporations are being specially challenged to become digital or risk losing market share very quickly.
Regardless of company size, business analysis (BA) practitioners are the experts when it comes to business process development by identifying business capability gaps and making recommendations for closing these gaps. BA practitioners are essential in communicating this information to business stakeholders in an easy to digest language. Independent of the business industry that is evolving, BA practitioners are instrumental in this evolution. They are well versed in the business processes and operations, and can easily point out key opportunities for business improvements and success.
An important question comes to mind: are business analysis skills effectively used in the organizational evolution?
According to a new study released by International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) (1), “Business leaders and practitioners appear to have misaligned views on where business analysis capabilities reside in their organizations. […] The significant variances seen here is likely due to misaligned awareness and perceptions as to what actually constitutes business analysis skills. This represents an important gap for both leadership and practitioners to bridge so their organizations learn to leverage their full potential”.
Here are several opportunities company leaders could consider in order to maximize a business analysis practitioner’s involvement in the evolution process:
- Ramp up unified knowledge: Some companies have multiple areas in which business analysis practitioners are involved. Each business area typically has its own knowledge bank, often segregated from the rest of the organization or business units, due to security, storage location, or because of who actually owns the knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge bank itself is an actual individual, or even a library on that person’s own computer. If information is centralized and optimized in a way that is meaningful not only to the BA team but to the entire organization, it will become one of the most important assets that will enable the business to evolve. Unified knowledge is the source from which BA practitioners would research and find weaknesses, patterns, and opportunities to evolve.
- Empower trust: In some cases, evolving companies would like to hear the opinions of a technology savvy advisor that will provide them with the magical solution to make the evolution actually happen. This advisor will need to understand how the company works, to align with the company strategy, and identify gaps and opportunities in order to come up with the evolution plan or proposal. In the end, the advisor will have to assimilate all of the knowledge that the business analysis practitioners currently have in order to come up with a solid idea. BA practitioners are not always considered to play an advisory role, and they may feel their valuable knowledge is not trusted; this in turn causes several human resource problems such as low engagement rates and high turnover, which negatively impact the company’s ability to effectively meet its objectives. Involving third party consultants has the benefits of receiving fresh ideas, out of the box thinking, and innovative approaches that are definitely desired during the evolution process. However, also using and empowering the organization’s business analysis practitioners in the process will not only allow a more effective use of the time and knowledge, but will also provide valuable feedback based on true industry experience. Therefore, a more robust plan could originate from this hybrid approach where innovation, fresh ideas, and industry experience are combined.
- Think of technology as a business enabler: BA practitioners need to immerse themselves in the technology evolution so they can best consider the options available to help the business stay competitive and ensure that the strategies for the organization transformation are aligned with consumer preferences; especially when there is a market sector of technology savvy users which is growing exponentially. There is a misconception that BA practitioners can only contribute with regards to business functionality and they are not usually thought of as enablers of technology to support business growth. This is an opportunity for BA practitioners to put on their consulting hats and deftly advise the business on how to best meet the needs of the emerging market place, and position the business well to respond, anticipate and lead for greater organizational success.
- Don’t forget expectations: The ability to exceptionally manage expectations is crucial in most areas of humanity and it is not an exception when the topic is an evolving organization. An organization is also a being whose life depends on the contribution, dedication, ideas and motivation of every single individual. Every team member has a role and responsibility to fulfill, and if the expectation is not properly set, consequences can be disruptive for the organization’s health. In any evolution, once the scope has been defined, every team member, including BA practitioners, needs to know what is expected from them. Business analysis practitioners can help to manage expectations properly not only within their own team, but also among the business partners they work with. They can help identify the business expectations that drive the organization’s evolution. They can also identify and reconcile conflicting expectations so the transformation happens based on shared understanding of business goals and objectives.
- Effective and timely communication: Information is what empowers the team members to be part of any transformation. When information is communicated poorly, there is room for speculation and demotivation, especially if third parties are involved. Conversely, when communication is distributed appropriately to the different organizational levels, each team member has the information needed to know what is expected from them and the necessary elements to be part of the process. Now, let’s consider BA practitioners as communicators; they know how to effectively inform business partners about strategic layout or plans for evolution and its direct impact to the business. Including BA practitioners in the communication chain to get the business partners informed and involved in the new processes can more effectively and efficiently provide personalized service to each impacted business area.
In small organizations, the opportunities could also be different as BA practitioners often have to wear multiple hats, and bureaucracy plays a smaller role in the change. Every experience is unique, and opportunities might come along according to the context and reality on which the evolution happens. The opportunities above have been identified as part of the experience I have gained through several organizational transformation initiatives, and after doing a retrospective analysis about what could have been done differently to achieve better outcomes.
BA practitioners can evolve as the organization evolves. Resisting change is natural, but taking advantage of the challenges presented and transforming them into opportunities is just plain smart. Ultimately, have a positive attitude; enjoy the journey. Be confident about what you know and, if in doubt, ask the right questions. And, when questioned, take the time to think before answering so you can positively contribute and provide real value to the transformation process.
(1) Business Analysis – Positioning for success – Oct 21, 2016