Business Analysts? Aren’t those the folks in the basement who write documents?

Today I write you having recently returned from the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference in Las Vegas, the premier Business Analysis conference globally. Like most of us going to similar events, I come back energized and full of information, and one such chunk of news strikes a chord with me…so I’m sharing it here.

If you’ve read my posts out in the Internet ether, you’ve read that I believe that we business analysts must collectively STOP referring to ourselves as requirements experts, which connotes one who documents requirements and results in others evaluating us on said requirements that we produce. We must START vocalizing our skills in strategic, system, enterprise and critical thinking which deliver value to our team, our organizations and our customers.

A new study (http://www.iiba.org/Learning-Development/L-D/research-and-study-impact2016.aspx) has just been released that validated a number of things that I have been writing about, and that others have also been espousing about the trends in business analysis and the obstacles related to these trends.

“IIBA engaged KPMG Canada to study how business analysis can continue delivering value to organizations. In conducting this study, we heard from global practitioners and business leaders, and augmented their insights with KPMG’s 2016 CEO Outlook1 and other proprietary research. We heard from many who feel traditional business analysis skill sets and capabilities will no longer be sufficient to add the value that their organizations need to compete.” (1) 

I highly recommmend that we all take a peek at the study results, which are both alarming and right on the mark, in my opinion. The crux of the results point to disparate opinions between practitioners and C-Suite executives about what each group THINKS business analysis is, the value it provides, the purpose of it, the utilization of it and the location of practitioners in organizations. For instance, cited in the report is a comparison of where BA Skill Sets are perceived to be located in organizations. 19% of BA practitioners indicate that these skill sets exist in C-Suite and/or Strategy groups while 68% of C-level executives and 81% of strategists feel that those skills reside in their respective higher level groups. That is an abyssmal gap, but what does it really tell us? To me, it says that the latter combined groups, those who drive innovation, company direction and strategy feel they have the skills do to the job. Conversely, those that are practicing and updating Business and Architect skills daily, getting trained and getting certified see very few practitioners engaged, and little evidence of skill utilization, at this level to proved value.

Another very potent result is the fact that predictions of industry trends for the next three years have organizations, based on responses, looking for more strategic thinking, better leadership skills and enhanced creative thinking and innovation. Today’s skill sets deemed valuable are led by domain knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving and requirements elicitation and documentation.

Finally, a shift in analytical capability that provides VALUE based on outcomes and away from tactical analysis (read requirements analysis) is also taking hold. Business analysts mired in paralyzing granularity will struggle to break out to provide strategic capability wihtout C-level executive recognition that these capabilities exist in this group and understanding on how to first free up these resources and then how to capitalize on it to serve not only customers directly, but also peer teams in the same organization. Analytical capability is crucial in sales, enterprsie and business architecture, strategic planning, financial planning and the like.

While I was at the conference, and before I had a chance to read this study, I had an opportunity to sit down for a short chat with Alain Arseneault – Director, Corporate & Business Development at IIBA. I expressed concerns that I felt IIBA global/corporate must do more to assist lone evangelists in marketing the skills of a profession that I’m very passionate about to organization executives. I also described the difficulty that single persons and groups of practitioners battle when trying to illustrate value and sell BA skills and capabilities to those 68% of executives mentioned above. It is an almost impossible task without the power of a professional industry leader to convey how much we can offer our repsective firms, and I politely encouraged IIBA to give us a hand in the messaging through the power of their corporate aliiances. Thankfully, the study bears this out and there was significant dialog at the conference about efforts underway to make this happen. However, it really is up to each of us to self-promote what we are capable of, and the urgency is never greater!

Speak up and be heard! There is no downside to communicating this message!

(1) 2016 KPMG LLP Business Analysis – Positioning for Success

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