For all businesses, these are strange times.
Time was, looking back, business was quite straightforward – sure there were talent shortages, market forces to contend with and the fridge always seemed to be out of milk when you made a brew. But really, before the pandemic and the upending of the geopolitical landscape – what did we even worry about two years ago?
In business IT Project Management, this last couple of years has been a real period of reflection and reframing. From remote project management to the shift to more reactive and urgent programmes, IT Project teams have had a lot to deal with and one group of colleagues have come into their own.
Step up and take a bow – Business Analysts.
Digital revolution driving the BA revolution
The digital revolution is the driving force behind the growing demand for Business Analysts and the role of BAs is an evolving one.
Of course, it varies from one organisation to another but broadly speaking, the BA will, through data analysis, help your business improve processes, products, services and software. They are, effectively, a bridge that spans the gap between IT and the business strategy.
Talking with businesses and business analysts over this past twelve to eighteen months, it feels that the role of BA is evolving again. Many BAs are being asked to have more of an input into more aspects of project lifecycle, in turn delivering greater efficiencies and returns on investment.
“At the project initiation stage, my role has changed slightly. I was always responsible for helping defining goals and aligning project goals with business strategy but we’re now devising KPIs and SMART goals against which this can all be measured.”
Others tell me there’s been a ramping up of their remit. “We’re still identifying how to deliver the solution to a specific business need but we’re also identifying business opportunities more and more.”
So, they’re identifying extra opportunities, benefits and extra stakeholders beyond the ones highlighted by project managers and sponsors.
We’re also told that businesses are leaning on their BAs more, placing greater value on their contribution and BAs are feeling more significance as a result. As one shared, “I feel we’re even more involved in the greenlighting of projects. As a BA I’m having to look further into the future and help the business make judgement calls about whether proceeding with a project will deliver the business need. In this capacity, I’ve been instrumental in killing bad projects before they’ve even started when, either better ways to solve the business challenge are identified or the data casts doubt on the project’s ability to deliver its objectives. We always did feasibility studies, but business realities now make our guidance even more crucial.”
The significance of the Business Analyst role elsewhere in the project life cycle has been amplified too. It stands to reason, when every penny counts, you deploy your best asset to achieve the greatest efficiencies.
The vibe that I’m getting from BAs is that they are taking on more responsibilities. They’re not necessarily all breaking new ground or pioneering, they’re just seeing an expansion in what they proactively (or their organisation) consider the role to be. So, whereas their role may have once included some of what I call the key attributes of a BA, and other members of the team may have taken onboard some of the others, BAs are increasingly ‘hoovering up’ more or all of them – and super delivering on business need as a result.
The experience of a BA friend, Bex, and her extended influence in the realms of Root Cause Analysis is a great example of this. She’d always been involved when a business need was identified to be a business problem. Indeed, her data and insight would be crucial to make sure that the team was working to solve the real issue and drill down to the true source of the trouble, but she’d be seconded to carry this analysis out – she used to joke she was the fourth emergency service. Now though, she is the one who is flagging up problems, identifying the cause and prescribing the solution often before the rest of the team or stakeholders are even aware that there is a problem.
Of course, I have seen other BAs operate in this way, you might read this and think “I do that!” – but for her organisation there was a hierarchy applied to problem identification. It would be up to the project leader to spot the problem and call Bex in to work her magic, by this time though, the issue might have done most of its damage or at least caused a significant seepage of value. Bex’s suggestion was that the best person at recognising the root cause of a problem might also be the best at spotting it in the first place.
She first mooted the idea four years ago but came up against a wall of “this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it-ism”!
Post lockdown, when the projects they were working on became reactive to the changing environment, budgets and timelines had been constricted, and problems that would once been an inconvenience could lead to a project fatality – the organisation saw the value in Bex’s idea.
As a slight aside, the inspiration for Bex’s insight four years ago is also quite interesting. Driving along a country road Bex’s offside front wheel hit a pothole, damaging the tyre, wheel, and steering alignment. Annoyingly, about a month before Bex had noticed that someone from the council had been out to paint yellow circles around the potholes, including this one. Reflecting on this at her local branch of Mr Tyre later, Bex wondered if, instead of sending someone out with a can of spray-paint to identify the potholes, it might have been better if the council had sent him out with a bucket of hot tar to fix them! As it is with business IT projects, simply identifying a pothole is not what will save your project – fixing it is!
Streamlined and Efficient
Anecdotally then, Business Analysts are increasing their sphere of influence in Business IT Projects and that can only be a good thing.
Organisations with BAs are significantly more streamlined and efficient, they save time and money and allocate resources more effectively. As well as helping struggling businesses to survive, and growing businesses move to the next level, a business analyst can act as a conduit between your IT department and the rest of your business. Many co-workers are not aware of the work of the IT team and the impact it can have on the company and its performance. BAs can really bridge this communication gap and ensure that the relevant people are in possession of jargon-free, easy-to-understand information which, in turn, leads to a greater understanding about your business’ IT processes.
BA as a Service
Some organisations though, don’t have a Business Analyst option on their books, some are identifying that by spreading their BAs more thinly they’re risking the very value that they can add – giving the plate spinner another then plates to spin would probably lead to the occasional breakage!
Business Analysis as a Service (BAaaS) from Stoneseed can provide the solution to this and any other BA related challenge.
BAaaS is offered as part of Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) portfolio. From production of a business case for an IT Project, requirements gathering or data analysis to help with project implementation, we can supply BA expertise and resources.
BAaaS, like PMaaS, can be tailored to your specific needs. Stoneseed’s BA team are experienced across multiple technology solutions, sectors and industries and we work with all types of projects and programmes such as Business Change, Transformation, Infrastructure, Digital or IT Project Delivery.
You may be wary of increased cost and reluctant to commit to a full-time hire or contractors, Stoneseed’s BAaaS resource on demand model allows you to dial up and down IT project resources in sync with your delivery needs giving you more control over your costs.
We also offer a full range of project services including PMO, Project and Business Analysis, available on demand remotely or on-site, offering rapid response resources.
Resources can be deployed to support just one project, multiple projects, or a programme of projects in any geographical location. You can align resources as and when you needed, on a cost effective, full-time, or part-time basis.
We’re seeing BA growth that is in line with the UK’s eSkills initiative report which predicted that, in the IT & Telecoms sector (of which business analysis is a part), skills would grow at a rate of 2.5% per annum for the next decade, five times faster than the rate for other careers!!).
The BA revolution is happening, and, thanks to BAaaS, your organisation can benefit from all that this amazing role can deliver. Call me on 01623 723910 or email email@example.com to find out more.