BSG (UK) reflections on the IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe 2013 0

Posted on 9, October 2013

in Category bsg insight

Authored by Olumide Mosuro and David Reinhardt

BSG (UK) Business Analysts recently attended the Business Analysis Conference Europe 2013. Shortly after the conference, the BSG delegates collectively identified a number of trends which cropped up across the conference topics.

BAs and leadership

There were a number of talks focused on the BAs role in organisational leadership and / or how leadership skills can improve the capability of BAs to influence change. Naturally, these positions go hand-in-hand because they, in effect, a virtuous cycle.

Although - BAs and project practitioners - we've instinctively known this for some time, we take the view that this is really a brave step for business analysis as a profession. We're collectively standing up and saying (1) we have a broad contribution to change in the enterprise supported by (2) a skillset influenced by, and in turn influencing, leadership within our organisations.

Which is a great segue to ...

BAs need not be stuck in a traditional "requirements jockey" box

The BA discipline continues to equip BAs with a wide range of multi-disciplinary skills that can be applied across the entire change delivery cycle. As BAs continue to deliver meaningful change, our credibility as change agents becomes well established and so the opportunity for involvement becomes broader and more impactful.

BAs should be very comfortable taking up these new challenges in shaping of strategic initiatives and getting involved through to delivery. This may involve moving beyond the traditional BA role of bridging the gap between business and IT and playing more of a challenger of status quo and advisory role in delivering high impact strategic outcomes.

To illustrate this point, it was argued that perhaps the BA role (as it is typically imagined) is an anachronism and we should be looking to create a more meaningful, broadly impactful role that draws on our BA skills. The BA is dead. Long live the BA.

This is supported by a worldview which says ...

BAs can should be on the forefront of innovation

There is a traditional perception that innovation is conceived and developed in some laboratory or that it involves assembling a number of creative people into a room and being left to generate new awesome ideas. Thankfully, this world view is changing.

Innovation is not necessarily about the next Facebook, Square or well known, publically facing website. Innovation is a mindset: a discipline of changing the way something is currently done in a way that brings about competitive advantage or drives impactful change.

BAs should be playing pivotal roles in driving impactful change in organisations; either through introducing ways of doing things quicker and cheaper, or identifying better ways of exploring existing solutions to make them less complicated and more targeted at real customer problems and needs.

BAs need to shape a role / voice that is positioned to play a bigger part in the entire innovation ecosystem as we can be involved from idea generation through to solution delivery and embedding the change.

Which requires us to be mindful of ...

Solving the real problem or any old problem?

It would be very interesting to see how many projects still fail because a solution has been designed for the wrong problem. If we had a penny for every time our business stakeholders propose "solutions" to "problem(s)" that haven’t been identified or clearly defined, we wouldn't need to raise an expense form for next year's conference.

We also recognise that it is very easy for BAs to be blinded by attractive and elegant solutions. Of more concern, there are times when BAs somehow limit their own perceptions of their role in revisiting a problem statement (especially when they get involved at a slightly later stage on a project).

The conference advocated for a world where during the initial stages of any project some time is set aside to put together a problem definition mechanism: something which (1) clearly articulates the real essence of the problem(s) (i.e. the “WHY”) that a project is planning to solve and (2) also manages any changes as a result of the evolving business conditions.

The ability of BAs to discern and callout such moments where there is a need to take a step back to understand the essence of a problem can prove to be crucial in the success of projects. At times, it might call for recommending that a project is halted - this might not be the most popular recommendation, but, if it is the right choice for the organisation, this will definitely raise the credibility of the BA role.

Once we know what we're solving, we need to be sure we choose a smart way to solve it ...

The BA skillset is as important in the agile world as it was in the waterfall world

As agile becomes increasingly pervasive, there has been a lot of questioning about the role of a BA in delivery. There is no doubt that (where context is suitable) agile practices have come to stay, but it is very important that BAs understand how transferable and applicable their acquired skills are in this space.

The key message for BAs is that their roles within an agile team should be very much about scaling their existing toolset to meet the rather flexible and adaptive-learning approach. The business and / or the customer still need a voice in the design of the solution and the delivery of the change. BAs need to focus on applying their skills to extract key business benefit drivers and ensure that the changes with the highest impact are rollout out first to maximise value creation.

For most of the agile related presentations shared during the conference, the key theme was that the BA role is still very relevant in the agile team structure.

To reference the conference material, please visit

We published a similar reflections paper last year - BSG (UK)'s reflections on the BA Conference Europe 2012.

BSG (UK) reflections on the IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe 2013/bsg insight

Olumide Mosuro
Olumide Mosuro is a Lead Business Analyst with extensive experience delivering change within our banking and retail distribution client environments.

David Reinhardt
David is BSG UK's Regional Head and is really passionate about helping organisations effect meaningful change.

BSG (UK) reflections on the IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe 2013/bsg insight