If ever you have given instructions to Amazon’s Alexa or Google assistant, undertaken a skype interview for a remote job, scrolled over a thread of conversations on Twitter, or co-edited a document on Google Docs with a colleague, welcome to the world of the latest technological advancements. More revolutionary technologies emerge each passing day and are transforming the way we live our lives.
The last decade has witnessed massive disruptions in human lives and business operations it’s difficult to keep up with emerging technologies. Today, businesses can no longer rely on models that were adopted and used successfully for ages in the past. The business environment is highly dynamic, and customer expectations are ever-evolving. Businesses are more agile, adaptive, and customer-centric as trends shift away from merely mass delivering products or services. Customers demand more attention and personalization, which calls for automation of processes through the integration of relevant technologies into business models.
How has business analysis transformed during this period, and what is the place of the business analyst in all these?
What is business analysis?
Based on the BABOK guide, business analysis encompasses the processes and practices that drive and manage change in an organization. Business analysis involves identifying the need for change in an organization’s operations and facilitating this change to bring about improvements in business operations and profitability. Hence, business analysts are often referred to as agents of change in the organization.
Recommended business analysis solutions should deliver the greatest value to the stakeholders of the organization. For this reason, business analysts are expected to be well versed with the workings of the entire organization at all levels to be in a good and informed position to recommend appropriate solutions.
While they undertake several other roles, business analysts identify and articulate business needs, are involved in strategy formulation, as well as in the planning and execution of initiatives involving technology adoption and process improvements.
Business analysis transformation trends in the past decade
- Evolving business analysis technology
The rise of big data has meant that businesses have to upgrade their data processing capacity thus looking into integrating tools and technologies designed to handle big data. Not just that, big data is ever increasing in volume as it continues to be generated at very high velocity. There are several different sources of big data including social media streaming data, business transactional data, and more. Big data is typically unstructured coming in a wide variety of formats hence demanding more sophisticated storage and faster processing solutions.
To make the most of big data, businesses have in the past decade turned to technologies with streaming and real-time analysis capabilities at lower costs like the cloud. Open-source tools like Hadoop, Spark, and Storm as well as techniques like distributed computing, came up to resolve the dilemma of processing streaming and vast scales of data. Languages like R, Hive, and Python have also gained popularity in the process.
Technology has transformed most business processes, and focus has shifted from the mundane, repetitive tasks that get the job done to innovative solutions that enhance productivity and improve service/product delivery with the business analyst at the forefront. The business analyst plays the key dual role of aligning business needs with technology solutions.
- Focus on the customer expectations and business process improvements
Aside from big data analytics tools and technologies, other software and systems that have gained prominence in the past decade are those that facilitate process and KYC (know your customer) improvements. Business analyst roles are today more focused on the customer and business processes with data informing product decisions. Big data in itself is a channel for process improvements; as such, more businesses are integrating their data analytics tools with business operating systems. These business analyst roles range from defining software requirements for the business, assessing the state of business processes, recommending improvements, as well as analyzing and defining consumer needs.
Customer expectations are evolving at a remarkably high rate it takes an adaptive BA to steer the organization to proactively understand their needs and meet them as fast as they are demanded. Production cycles have become shorter yet deliver higher-value products with fewer reworks. Most importantly, products and services are today more personalized than ever.
Most importantly, BAs are today operating with centralized and agile practices that prioritize collaboration within cross-functional teams. Also, open-source software has gained much popularity over the decade compared to its counterparts.
- Adoption of Agile methodology
Agile methodologies break down departmental silos within organizations allowing teams to collaborate for effective delivery of projects. This is the greatest appeal that agile methodologies have on organizations. That production is not linear but iterative such that much can be achieved within shorter production cycles while taking into account customer feedback. Agile methodology is not only adopted during production but also for business analysis.
BAs have the all-important role of helping organizations to be more adaptive in their service/product production and delivery. Hence DevOps continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) approach has gained much traction over the past decade. In this sense, however, the BA roles are gradually overlapping with the project manager roles, and it is not uncommon to find BAs in agile teams. Thus a BA can advance their career in project management as project managers acquire core BA skills such as analysis, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.
- The evolving role of the business analyst
The last decade has seen BA roles overlapping with other roles as we have seen above while at the same time becoming more specialized. Trends, particularly within the past five years, have seen BA roles cover domain-related skills and experience in addition to general BA roles. Hybrid roles are also quite common, thanks to rapid technological advancements. For this reason, BAs have to constantly update their skills in line with the latest technologies.
Today more specialized roles exist such as:
- Business systems analyst
- Business process analyst
- Business intelligence analyst
- Data scientist
- Business architect
- Enterprise analyst
- Business management consultant
Also, you will come across hybrid BA roles such as business analyst/project manager, business analyst/product owner, and business analyst/UX designer. Yet the role of the business analyst keeps evolving with time.
- Recognition of the critical role that business analysis plays in the organization
In addition to evolving fast, the world is growing in appreciation of the critical roles of business analysts as problem-solvers, advisors, and change agents in organizations. Today BA is more informed and in the limelight compared to the traditional business analyst who was just like any other junior employee.
Businesses are readily placing emphasis on both the technical and non-technical roles of business analysts. BA remuneration has also witnessed an increase. For instance, in 2010, the business analyst position commanded an average annual salary of $82,493 in the United States. By 2013, this had risen by $10,000 to $91,514. Today, BAs attract way higher salaries than they did in 2013.
The future of business analysis and the business analyst role
The future is promising for business analysts as their roles gain more importance within the organization. The focus remains on delivering business value. For this reason, a BA should constantly update their skills and knowledge with new BA practices, skills, and latest innovative technologies to increase the competitive edge of the organizations that they are working for. Emphasis is also on the importance of soft interpersonal skills.