BSG (UK) reflections on the UNICOM Business Analysis Conference 2013 0
Posted on 30, September 2013
in Category bsg insight
Authored by Andras Rusznyak
Consultants from BSG recently attended a Business Analysis conference hosted by Unicom. Shortly after the conference, the BSG delegates collectively identified some key themes which were evident in a number of the presentations.
Talk to the customer
Our world is shifting and decisions are no longer made behind closed doors between Business and IT. At least they shouldn’t be. Customers are increasingly using online channels and leaving their footsteps in the front-end systems of every organisation. If IT people can observe these steps they’ll get a better understanding of the customers.
Profiles, personas and behavioural pattern data is growing, ready for analysis. If we ask the right questions, we can validate customer need for almost every improvement. Moreover, customers demand the online presence of the companies who should take advantage of this. Social channels create context for cheap two-way communication and you can easily hear the voice of the customer directly.
BAs are well positioned to champion these. Let go of the traditional gap between Business and IT and open the bridge to the customer. Emerging methods, like User Experience Design and the influence of lean startup principles, provide direction on how to do that. With the new insights gained, BAs will have more opportunity to influence strategy as well and guide the organisation on a customer facing journey.
BAs and agile delivery
Agile: a word shaking the world within IT circles. As a “new” philosophy which has been here for more than a decade, it still causes controversy. While some praise it and others fear it, the agile way of working is leaving an indelible mark on the software industry. Recently it has a huge influence on the business side too. We hear corporate sponsors asking their projects to be agile, because it’s “better by definition” (a turn of phrase which, itself, demonstrates a lack of understanding).
Although the agile methodologies were created to be more adaptive, a poorly designed agile project will underperform a well-managed waterfall type delivery. Projects are delivered in context and agile is a way of configuring resources to meet the business need. The agile approach calls for greater collaboration between between business and IT, and, we would argue that the voice of the customer needs to be directly represented as part of business.
So, do BAs have a role in the agile world at all? Surely business folk can simply meet with developers and spitball requirements? Thankfully (for us BAs), it’s not that simple. Projects still need to be shaped, benefits cases created, requirements sought from wide stakeholder groups (including the customer) and documentation created (to an appropriate level of detail).
BAs need to step up from being merely authors of requirements to being agents of change. As the agile methodologies require much more trust and collaboration, BAs could and should be the glue which holds the whole system together. But because every environment is different, BAs have to fully understand their responsibilities to be able to bring value for the organisation.
On the edge of business analysis
In this profession we can’t simply restrict ourselves to a thin slice of the business we work for. We are responsible for understanding the operation of the whole mechanism, time to put our systems thinking hat on. The conference included some topics that, on the surface, wouldn’t typically be considered in the BA’s area of responsibility however, as they were discussed further, the links became clearer.
One such topic is reputational risk management. Customers are increasingly using online channels for communication and expect their beloved brand to use them too. The most important aspect of reputational risk is how your actions appear in the eyes of the clients and this is central to how you communicate with them. Customers ideally expect you to be online when they are, or, as second best, at least manage their expectations about your online availability. These expectations need to be built into the enterprise’s process as central to their customer relationships.
David Reinhardt, a BSG (UK) principal consultant, delivered a presentation titled “Did BAs become irrelevant when business learned to code?”. The talk focuses on the evolving role of the BA in response to a narrowing business-IT gap (including the “introduction” of the customer into this gap). The presentation material can be found here.
BSG has previously published a paper on the role of BAs on agile delivery teams. Read it here.
Andras is a BSG Consultant who has experience in retail and commercial banking.