“The world is being transformed by new technologies, which are redefining customer expectations, enabling businesses to meet these new expectations, and changing the way we live and work.”
Over my 12 years of involvement at IIBA, I have stood alongside BAs and organizations from across the community, as our profession, our discipline, and our role has developed, evolved, and adapted to a changing world. While the practice continued to evolve during that time, we can expect even greater changes to take effect more rapidly as we move forward. It is with this lens that we look to the digital transformation and we realize that the moment for business analysis is now.
A NEW STRATEGY DESIGNED TO EVOLVE AND SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY
This year, I had the opportunity to lead the development of the new IIBA strategy and 3-year Strategic Plan. The work has been a culmination of stakeholder engagement, research and bold thinking that started last February. Working closely with the IIBA President and CEO, Ken Fulmer, and supported by our Board Chair, Michele Maritato, several other members of the Board and the IIBA staff, we put together a comprehensive plan that will allow us to capture the opportunities of the digital transformation, which is underway.
To kick-start our efforts, a high-level strategic framework was established, which included an initial draft of key strategic imperatives for the organization. This information provided the basis for conducting a series of elicitation sessions about the future of IIBA. Dozens of individuals from our member communities, Chapters, business partners, and strategic partners participated and provided their insights and perspectives.
In parallel to the elicitation sessions, we conducted an assessment of the marketplace and competitive landscape and research on the impact of digital transformation on the work, the workplace, and the practice of business analysis. The output of those activities was shared as a comprehensive report with the IIBA Board of Directors and Senior Leadership Team to support the formation of our new strategy and strategic plan.
Over the previous months, I have spoken with many business leaders, technology vendors, strategic partners, and decision makers as I looked to gain their views and perspectives on this transformational journey. I have been privileged to meet with leaders from organizations, including Accenture, Cognizant, CGI, Microsoft, Deloitte, IBM, Shell, Deutsche Bank, ING, Spark Systems, Forrester, IDC and many more.
The conversations I had with these corporations and other stakeholders from across the BA community have provided me with an enhanced perspective on what is possible and what is essential. Across all of these conversations, a common message and theme emerged: the digital transformation is big, it’s fast, and we don't exactly know how to deal with it yet. What has become clear is that we are at an important time and business analysis is a key to unlocking the door to the many of the new opportunities ahead.
A NEW ERA OF BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION
At the beginning of the century, Ray Kurzweil, Futurist and Chief Engineer at Google, predicted that 20,000 years of progress would be crammed into the next 100. For what has been observed and experienced so far, the progress and change have accelerated at an even faster rate than many had expected.
Last year, Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum announced that civilization is entering the 4th Industrial Revolution. The early stages of a new era of industrialization is set to completely transform the way we live, work, create, and consume as both corporations and consumers. He further explained that the 4th Industrial Revolution is building on the 3rd and has been occurring since the 1950s. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
The velocity by which this is taking place has no historical precedent. It is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace, and the combinatorial effects of new technologies and disruptive innovations are accelerating change.
This transformation not only impacts what we do but, also, who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it, including our sense of privacy, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure and how we develop our career and cultivate our skills. It is within this paradigm that the role of business analysis professionals is evolving.
A PARADIGM SHIFT THAT HAS JUST STARTED
In 1993 Peter Drucker predicted that “The most probable assumption is that no currently working business theory will be valid ten years hence — at least not without major modifications.”
Businesses are now in the midst of the most significant disruption in decades. Big data, cloud computing, advanced analytics, cyber security, the Internet of Things, robotics, and artificial intelligence are all arriving at an accelerating speed and the falling costs of those technologies are making it more affordable for organizations to leverage them.
Increasingly, businesses will sink or swim according to how they react to this new data-driven model of business. Those with a solid data strategy in place and innovative ideas about how this wealth of information can be used to drive change will prosper. Those who fail to act, or fumble the ball and missing crucial opportunities, will probably not.
Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), in particular, will change the world, and humanity will need to adapt and “regardless of how they develop in the years ahead, almost all pundits agree that the world will forever change as a result of advances in AI. The AI genie has already been released from the bottle and there is no way to get it back in.”
It’s not surprising then that AI-based innovations such as virtual agents, data visualization, cognitive robotic, etc. are quickly becoming adopted and part of the new business reality. Real-life benefits are being demonstrated by a few early-adopting firms, making it more urgent than ever for others to accelerate their digital transformations.
AI Technologies are an important part of the transformation that the banking industry is going through.
The rise of FinTechs has been enabled by these technologies, and savvier customers are expecting more personalized and digital experiences. It is also due in part to traditional firms leaving a gap of unmet customer needs.
In 1995, Bill Gates famously said, “Banking is essential, Banks are not.” In recent years, technology, disruptive innovations, and payments have also started to merge in a big way, and the results of this disruption are happening globally.
In their 2015 annual Gates Open Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates stated: “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. Online education will reach hundreds of millions of people. Mobile phones will bring mobile banking and payments to the most remote areas.”
They also predict that by 2030, 2 billion people who currently don’t have access to a bank account will store money and make payments using their mobile phone.
And things are about to get even faster.
The next generation of high-speed wireless services is just around the corner (relatively speaking), 5G mobile networks will cast a much wider net than the current 4G standard. A thousand times faster in fact! It's an information conduit being built to connect self-driving cars, VR headsets, delivery drones, and billions of interconnected devices inside the home.
Now imagine what this means to your organization, to your work, how fast information will move, a world of omnipresent connectivity enabling the most instant digital experiences to take place. Augmented Reality will be the norm for shopping. More disruptive business models will most likely arise as a result of this and consequently alter how we perform our work and live our lives even further.
NEW IMPERATIVES, NEW BUSINESS MODELS
Within this rapidly evolving paradigm, organizations will continue to transform and leverage opportunities to create a better customer experience, increase efficiencies, and leverage increasingly powerful data analytics capabilities to deliver their products and services at a faster and faster time-to-market.
The basic rules of the game for creating and capturing economic value are gone. Business models are changing, disrupting and, in extreme cases, causing destruction.
“New or advanced capabilities and a mindset that start with leadership are now required for organizations to stay in the game, and a very different role for IT groups is evolving.
Today’s organizations are becoming more cognitively complex, more team-based and collaborative, more dependent on social skills, more dependent on technological competence, more time pressured, more mobile and less dependent on geography and are centered on optimizing the customer experience.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder, stated: “In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create, somebody else will replicate.”
THE CUSTOMER IS KING
Theodore Levitt, Former Harvard Business School marketing professor, said “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Businesses are no longer in charge. The smartphone has changed the business-to-consumer relationship. Customers are not simply an audience; they’re an audience with audiences and are in much more in control of their online experience. The one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't work anymore. A new business mantra is quickly emerging, and it includes hyper personalization. If businesses want to reach customers online, they have to enter their personal online world and understand who they are so they can do business with them.
To survive in the customer-led economy, businesses have to adapt to customer behaviors. They need to collect the right data to ensure every interaction with their customers is personalized and frictionless. Organizations must optimize the whole-picture approach to the customer experience and develop a united brand message and identity, across all channels and throughout the entire customer life cycle. The goals are quality and consistency, for every interaction.
“The common trend across all industries is that business-driven solutions are primarily being developed for an improved customer experience, so the industry will need more of these multi-skilled business analysts as it continues to grow.”
Business analysis professionals are in a great position to support organizations in optimizing customer experiences. However, BAs will need to develop a Customer-Obsessed mindset and expand the way they think about eliciting requirements and incorporating Design Thinking approaches, discovery techniques, ethnographic research and customer journey mapping.
There is no doubt that the future of business analysis will be closely linked to the customer experience.
BUSINESS ANALYSIS 4.0
As new business models continue to evolve, so, too, is the function and practice of business analysis. Although it is difficult to predict how business analysis will be conducted in the future, we do recognize that there are increasing expectations on the need to adapt more rapidly.
A world where BAs are conducting their work in collaboration with AI machine is not hard to imagine. So how does the business analysis professional future look like in the DX economy? He or she is “digital”, and so the B.A. of the “immediate” future is a Digital Business Analyst.
AN EVOLVING ROLE IS EMERGING: DIGITAL BUSINESS ANALYSIS
Digital business analysis is an evolution of “traditional” business analysis and the changes to the role and the practice will take place more or less time depending on the industry where the work is being conducted. New skills and knowledge will be essential for BAs to stay relevant and to continue to provide value to their organizations.
What are the characteristics the Digital Business Analyst?
- A combination of excellent digital skills;
- Deep business knowledge expanding to the enterprise level and more strategic in nature;
- Adaptable, nimble and able to work within shorter and faster delivery cycles;
- Ability to operate across silos and within cross-functional teams;
- Possess higher cognitive capabilities and social intelligence; and,
- Ability to stay ahead of the technology changes and continuously upskill themselves.
The core elements of business analysis, as defined in the IIBA BABOK® Guide V3 and the IIBA Competency Model, will still be important and relevant, but they will continue to evolve. The traditional and fundamental business analysis knowledge and skills are still relevant and of great importance, but they are only a part of the knowledge and skills that BAs will be needed to perform in today’s digital economy. The new mantra is ongoing upskilling and learning, and there will be a lot of new skills to acquire.
Last summer, the President of IIBA, Ashish Mehta, Director Thought Leadership & APAC and I were in India meeting with one of the largest consulting firms in the world and the discussion was all about the next generation business analyst. We were discussing their expectations of the evolving BA role. The discussion highlighted that in the increasingly complex business environment, organizations would be needing “super BAs” who were flexible, adaptable, highly knowledgeable, had higher level thinking, and had a highly diverse set of skills.
It would be difficult for BAs to possess such an array of knowledge and skills to support their organizations. Organizations will need to assemble a multi-faceted workforce of diverse skills and experiences.
SUPPORTING THE EVOLUTION
“The most effective BAs will be those who can think as change leaders—providing clarity and transparency—becoming the single source of truth for projects”. Kate Gwynne, CBAP, CSM Associate Director of Business Analysis at Resource
Although it has been said across multiple sources that this digital transformation will take place at an unprecedented pace, it important to view this as an evolution. Industries and organizations will move at different paces and not all BAs will evolve to become Digital Business Analyst at the same pace either.
Business analysis professionals have several new opportunities that are presented in areas, such as cyber-security, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), data analytics, customer journey mapping, mobile technologies, AI technologies and more.
The information I present below is based on my own assessment following the research conducted and multiple discussions over the last several months. It should be viewed as starting point on how business analysis in the context of the digital economy is evolving. It is by no means final. It summarizes many perspectives, experiences and insights that will most likely continue to evolve and shape the practice of business analysis.
5 Key Aspects of Digital Business Analysis
THE FUNDAMENTALS REMAIN
The core elements of Business Analysis as defined in the IIBA® BABOK® Guide V3 and the IIBA Competency Model are still important, relevant and will continue to evolve. The information contained in BABOK® Guide V3 constitutes the fundamental knowledge required for BA Professionals to perform their job.
A DIGITAL MINDSET
The Digital Mindset is defined as a combination of attitudes BAs need to possess to support their organization’s digital imperatives. It’s an expanded way of thinking about work and how work is to be conducted.
Here are some examples:
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Collaboration and Interoperability
- Customer Centricity
- Data Centricity
BUSINESS ACUMEN AND TECHNOLOGY FLUENCY
Understanding the industry, the organization both at the domain and enterprise level and the market trends are becoming increasingly critical for BAs to perform their job, as well as the ability to leverage data and information to gain insights to drive better solutions and to provide an optimal and frictionless customer experience.
In summary BAs will need to possess:
- Knowledge of the industry and competitive landscape, market segments and customer profiles
- Knowledge of the organization strategy and business model(s)
- Domain and enterprise-level business knowledge
- Understanding of
- Industry trends, challenges and benchmarks
- Cyber security and protection of business assets
- Digital marketing imperatives
And be fluent in their knowledge of digital technologies:
- Cyber security applications
- Visualization/ prototyping applications
- Artificial intelligence (AI) applications
- Robotic process automation
- Cloud computing
- e-Commerce platforms
ADVANCED SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE
The emphasis in Digital Business Analysis is on higher level capabilities; digital literacy, cognitive competencies, higher order of thinking, in conjunction with an augmentation of social skills and emotional intelligence.
Here are some examples:
- Visual thinking
- Design thinking
- UX Design
- Customer journey mapping
- Conceptual thinking
- Systems thinking
- Critical thinking
- Analytic skills
- Virtual teamwork
- Social Intelligence
- Strategic analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Enterprise analysis
- Technical innovative thinking
New roles, specialized roles and an expansion of hybrid roles are emerging. There is no doubt many of those will change or further evolve. New functional titles will be created; however, organizations will require a flexible, multi-facetted workforce in order to compete in an increasingly demanding market place.
New Roles are emerging - Some job posting titles we have observed
- Digital Business Analyst and Marketing
- Digital Business Analyst Agile
- Business Analyst Product Management
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Analytics Business Analyst
- Strategic Business Analyst
- Strategic Insights Analyst
- Digital Business Analyst
- Social Media Analyst
- Security Business Analyst
- RPA Business Analyst
- RPA Consultant
- Customer Experience Analyst
- And many more…
As we will continue to examine the global perspectives, experiences, and insights on the digital transformation, we will continue to evolve and shape the practice of business analysis in order to ensure we are providing increased value.
This is only the starting point on how business analysis is evolving in the context of the digital transformation.
This is only the beginning of an exciting journey for our profession.
 Introducing the Digital Transformation Initiative, World Economic Forum, January 2017
 Marr, B., & Frazier, D. (2017). Bernard Marr: How data is changing the way we work – Hr review
 Wired, Artificial Intelligence is changing the world and humanity must adapt. May 2017
 McKinsey & Company, McKinsey Global Institute – Artificial Intelligence the next Digital frontier? June 2017
 WIRED Magazine 02.23.17
 Disrupting beliefs: A new approach to business-model innovation. (2017). McKinsey & Company. http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/disrupting-beliefs-a-new-approach-to-business-model-innovation
 The Changing Nature of Organizations, Work, and Workplace | WBDG Whole Building Design Guide. (10-05-2016) Wbdg.org. https://www.wbdg.org/resources/changing-nature-organizations-work-and-workplace