Around this time of year, I like to predict IT Project trends for the year ahead. Some years I am more accurate than others. This year I’m confident I have nailed it! It’s right there in the title of this blog, 2023 will be the year of the IT Project Business Analyst (BA)!!
If you’re a BA – it’s time to shine! If you don’t have a BA adding value to your business – find out how to get one!
My reasoning is simple. Return on investment (ROI) is under greater scrutiny than ever! There is no one better placed to lead delivery of measurable ROI than a BA.
I asked a few BAs we work with at Stoneseed and, amazing I know, they all agreed with my assessment of the importance of their role.
A BRIEF ANCIENT HISTORY LESSON
A Project Manager friend, Martin, observed recently that he was old enough to remember when IT projects were green lighted by companies without even first measuring ROI, with no real business analysis.
His first IT Project, in the 1990s, was a sales order/delivery note/invoice/purchase order integration.
The objective was to move a company from stand-alone DOS databases (set up in-house to generate these items – remember Ability Plus? Eeek!). These documents were printed on dot matrix triplicate listing paper (bottom copy of everything went to ‘accounts’) and then they were stored in huge lever arch files!
The only metrics for this 1990s IT migration were whether the whole office could have immediate access to these documents, be able to run reports and a promise that it would herald an end to the days of staffshouting obscenities at the dot matrix printer when, 60 pages into a 100-page run, the listing paper slipped the spool and clogged into a pile-up of three-part paper.
When I shared Martin’s memory with the BAs who’d agreed with me on the value of their role, they shuddered at how ‘unbusinesslike’ things were run back then. They have a point. Also, on more than one occasion I had to explain what a DOS database and a dot matrix printer were (I can still hear it spooling away as I type the words).
A BRIEF MODERN HISTORY LESSON
The thing is, and this is a hell of a statement so take time to take it in! Just as there’s a gulf between the ROI expectations of that 1990s IT project and the projects we deliver 30 years later, I believe that a similar shift (if not greater) has taken place between business’ pre-pandemic and post-pandemic idea of what a good ROI looks like.
Put another way, that 1990s migration from DOS databases to early Windows was ground-breaking at the time but compared with a sales order/delivery note/invoice/purchase order systems upgrade we consulted on in the 2010s, it was archaic. They both had something in common though – wriggle room. There was time and budget to iterate, tweak, get things wrong and try again – luxuries now – thanks to post lockdown market pressures.
The margins between success and failure of an IT Project are tighter than ever, ROI can make or break a project … and even a business.
It’s easy to see the evolution of the symbiosis between business case and ROI between comparable projects from the 1990s and, say, the 2010s – but it takes a forensic eye to identify and yield the greater and greater ROI needed today from project to project, month to month. Forensic eyes like those of a Business Analyst, in fact.
HOW DOES A BA, ‘A NEW COST’, ADD VALUE THOUGH?
Rather than me making the case for having a BA on your team, I asked a few of ours for their thoughts.
Before I share them, an observation – they all wanted to remain anonymous.
When pushed about why they were shunning their moment in the spotlight they said it was because their reflections might be seen as pertaining to a particular client or project. How typical. Integrity runs through the DNA of a BA, like writing on a stick of seaside rock, exactly what you need when you place, in someone’s hands, the intelligence that can make the difference between failure or success and stellar success of your business IT Projects.
So, I asked, elevator pitch – what does a BA do?
“From the Business Analyst viewpoint, we can come in and look at the Business, the issues and pinch points, the ‘as is’, root cause analysis to understand better what is working, not working and how this could be improved in the future ‘to be’ ‘blue sky thinking’ through technology, but also culture, change, transformation and training. In essence what is provoked, is the fire which starts a continuum which can be embedded within the Organisation, a different thought approach, a different reflection, a better communication in working as a Team and view for the future, which will harness youth in a long-standing structure. An approach of ‘you said / we did’ a listening and developing Organisation. Staff are the greatest asset from a tacit and non-tacit knowledge.”
How does the relationship work?
“When bringing in the Business Analyst, they may come from different angles, often it could be a therapy session to understand better the history of the Organisation and colleagues should and do feel at ease to disclose information or concerns, and indeed benefits of existing systems. This is an element of trust and listening. Also acknowledging, that colleagues or staff may not wish to disclose information, there is an essence of drawing down the root cause analysis through Ishikawa (fish bone diagram) or even looking at the Organisation as a tree: flourishing at the top, with an interim at the trunk, but perhaps waning at the roots, and you must ask, ‘Is this sustainable’. Often it may be a straightforward IT Solution, but also hand holding in the Organisation.”
“Reflections and confirmation of conversation are documented, with an assured business case, requirements analysis and process mapping, this is shared with all key stakeholders for collective agreement and definition of the way forward. This is a MUST, from a collective way of working and to ensure that cost benefit analysis can be monitored going forward.”
Give me an example of how BAs drive value …
“Existing Suppliers should be pushed to ensure you, as an Organisation, are receiving your value for money. If not, what is the request from staff, how do you approach the market, the Business Analyst can support this through prior steps of communicating with the Business, and understanding requirements, as prior points, what works well and what doesn’t. Aim high in the bid, and have communication with staff, Supplier, Managers, Budget Holders. Avenues to all routes must be accessible to understand the full intent of the solution. Look to the future and mobile technology, what is the art of the possible?!”
How important is it that a client buys into the work of the BA?
“Ultimately, you have to be willing to change. Are you willing to hear voices and take on board the reflections of staff, are you willing to be vulnerable, are you willing for this to be a continuous conversation, for now and for the future? If not, it would be like signing up to Slimming World and stopping for a pint and a McDonalds on the way home from getting weighed!
IT systems may be introduced, but the infrastructure that supports them is crucial, this includes Staff, Suppliers, continuous Business as Usual Activity, communication, and activity. The more engagement across the enterprise, the greater the returns the business gets from its BAs.”
There was a lovely phrase there, did you notice it too? The art of the possible.
Beautiful. That should be on every Business Analyst’s business card, their email signature and on a sign in big gold letters above their office door.
2023 is the year that your business IT Projects must harness the art of the possible. 2023 is the year of the IT Project Business Analyst
If your project team has a BA – show them some appreciation!
If, at the moment, you don’t benefit from the services of a BA, and you don’t have the budget to add one to your headcount … it’s time you checked out BAaaS (Business Analysis as a Service) from Stoneseed.