Business analysis: the catalyst for business change

The business analyst is emerging as a force for change, bridging the traditional gap between IT and business

Tags: BCS The Chartered Institute for IT (www.bcs.org/)
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Business analysis: the catalyst for business change Business analysts need a mix of skills, especially interpersonal skills, says Bernsten.
By  Erik Bernsten Published  November 21, 2013

The business analyst is emerging as a force for change, bridging the traditional gap between IT and business, writes Erik Bernsten, Regional Director, Middle East, BCS The Chartered Institute for IT.

Over recent years, organisations have shifted their focus away from isolated IT projects and onto business change programmes. This integrated approach requires specific roles and skill sets to support the successful delivery of the business change initiatives. Here, I take a look at how business analysis brings business benefit, taking excerpts from our book; Business Analysis, Second Edition.

To thrive in our volatile and dynamic business landscape, organisations must make the right decisions at the right time, which is only achievable if they have the right information and the right people. Enter the business analyst. Business analysis is vital in helping the organisation obtain this detail, effectively managing and leading change. As a result the role of the business analyst has become key to business success.

“In the past, business analysis was merely gathering requirements for software projects; now, business analysts are frequently involved in, and sometimes lead, large scale business transformation, and those roles require very different skills.” Lynda Girvan, Senior Business Analyst, UK Government.

The business analyst’s place within the business change lifecycle is critical if organisations are to benefit from those changes. Business analysis offers an opportunity for organisations to ensure that technology is deployed effectively to support their work, and also to identify relevant options for business change that take account of budgetary and timescale pressures.

Business analysts can also offer objective views that can challenge the received wisdom and identify where real business benefits can accrue. Over the last few years, they have continued to develop their skills such that the breadth of work they can engage in has become extensive. As internal consultants, experienced business analysts are not just able to bridge IT and ‘the business’; they can also improve areas where success has traditionally been a struggle, such as the achievement of predicted business benefits.

What skills must a business analyst have to influence business transformation?
The challenge for analysts is to ensure that they develop the extensive toolkit of skills, both behavioural and technical, that will enable them to engage with the problems and issues facing their organisations, and assist in their resolution. The challenge for organisations is to support the analysts in their personal development, ensuring they have the authority to carry out business analysis to the extent required by the situations they face, and listen to their advice.

Perhaps the most important skill for an effective business analyst is their interpersonal skills. Behavioural skills including communication, problem-solving and relationship building are all vital to success. Business analysts need to communicate with business colleagues in a language and style they are comfortable with and avoid what they perceive as ‘techno-babble’. However, it is essential that these skills are accompanied by strong business knowledge and an understanding of key techniques such as project management, requirements engineering and business system modelling.

To be a successful business analyst on business transformation projects, there isn’t a clear list of skills to tick off. However, there is a lot of support available for organisations and individuals to ensure that business analysts not only master the underlying business analysis techniques and skills that are so essential, but also hone the softer skills that together will give the credibility and justification for the organisation to trust them with its most strategically important projects.

Change is about getting things done through people. A business analyst needs to be the leader of change; it’s not just about the end objective, it’s about managing people to cope with change. To successfully adopt a leadership of change, they need to be able to assess the needs of the employees and the needs of the business, to more closely align transformation activities and achieve a better set of goals. Through this stakeholder engagement a business analyst can understand perspectives, and assess how to support change and manage resistance. Being able to establish an effective relationship; understanding people, their personalities and tendencies; and creating a clear communication culture; these have to be at the forefront for any business transformation effort. Failing here could undermine the entire project.

We work with the world’s largest organisations to apply technology solutions to meet business needs. Worldwide, the Institute has certified over 70,000 business analysts, supporting businesses in developing key business analysis skills and competencies, and enabling individuals to become catalysts for positive change within their organisations.

Our Business Analysis Professional Certification ranges from foundation through to expert level, covering all the concepts, approaches and techniques that are applicable to business analysis. The foundation level provides a basis for career progression allowing candidates to continue with the Institute’s range of specialist modular certificates in the areas of business analysis, IS consultancy and business change. The foundation level also provides business analysis knowledge for specialists in other disciplines, particularly project managers and system developers.

To find out more about Business Analysis Certification and developing your employees' business analysis skills, see www.bcs.org/me/businessanalysis

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