The future of IT business analysis – moving from ‘what the business needs’ to ‘what the customer needs’

by Kirsten Eriksen on 13/07/2016 10:00


I can’t remember the last time I interacted with a real person at the bank for a “normal” transaction. Digital Transformation is here, and further along than we might realise. As the world continually evolves around us, we must also evolve to stay relevant.

One of our key tenets as Business Analysts is to always understand WHY things need to change, identify WHAT needs to change, and ascertain HOW we will deliver that change. In this post, I take a look at how Business Analysis has evolved and what Digital Transformation means for those of us working as BAs in the IT systems space.

Way back, before we Business Analysts existed, projects used Analyst Programmers to analyse and develop business solutions. While many of these people were no doubt excellent, there was always the risk of projects delivering what the Analyst Programmer thought the business wanted, or what the loudest voice in the room thought was important. The world realised this was a hit and miss way to decide what should be delivered, and the Business Analysis profession was born.

Business Analysis 1.0 – Delivering what the business needs, after they needed it

Ah, the days where we took 6 months to really understand the problem to be solved, and spent what felt like forever writing giant requirements documents.

During this time, we worked with business representatives and subject matter experts to elicit an understanding of ‘what the business required’. The business representatives or subject matter experts were normally people who worked in the business and who brought a deep understanding of the subject.

The problem wasn’t so much WHAT we were doing but HOW we were doing it. These projects took a long time to deliver anything tangible, and as we now know, in the interim the business moved on, and often, what was being delivered no longer met the business needs due to that time delay. In order to succeed in this environment, it required extremely good direction setting and a slow changing business environment; which are both simply unrealistic expections.

Business Analysis 2.0 – Delivering what the business needs, when they need it

In a fast changing world, the business analysis discipline has adopted Agile and Lean techniques to encourage changing needs and to continuously re-prioritise to deliver what the business requires right NOW.

Our time and budget is now focussed on delivering the highest value for the business first. We’re still working with the same people in the business, but delivery is quick, meaning that the business gets what it needs when it needs it.

The ability to change when needed has become an asset to businesses. Being set up to facilitate continuous delivery allows a business to move and flex, and be responsive to the ever changing external and internal needs of the business.

Business Analysis 3.0 – Delivering what the customer needs, when it suits them

Our world is changing again with disruptive new business models and accelerating customer expectations driven by technologies such as social, mobile, analytics, cloud and internet of things (SMACIT). This again means we need to change how we look at our Business Analysis world in order to stay current.

Digital transformation projects are taking the ‘business’ out of ‘business systems’ and making them ‘customer systems’. Customers want to be able to do what they need to, when they need to.

Banks have really embraced this change. Today, if you need to make a bank transaction, you don’t deal with a bank teller for them to organise the transaction in their ‘business system’. You jump on your banking app ‘customer system’ and do it yourself.

More businesses are jumping on this, and we need to be ready for the switch, and in some cases guide the business towards it, as “you don’t know what you don’t know” – if they don’t know there’s a better way, they can’t consider it.

What does Business Analysis 3.0 mean for business analysts?

We can no longer rely solely on business representatives, subject matter experts or product owners. They understand their business requirements and we’ll still need to work with them on those, but do they really know what their customers need from the customer system? They might think they do, but business success may well depend on getting it right, so we should be talking to the customers to make sure.

The techniques for understanding customer requirements aren’t that different to those used for business requirements. The change will be in the need to build up what I call “Companion Skills”, like market research, customer experience and design thinking.

Potential frameworks, approaches and techniques may include (but won’t be limited to):

  • Customer Experience/Journey Mapping
  • Design Thinking
  • Service Blueprints
  • Heuristic Evaluations
  • The 3 G (Gemba, Gembutsu, Genjitsu) Approach
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Simplification
  • Situational Analysis

Personally, I think Business Analysis 3.0 has been a long time coming. I’m excited for the change this will bring to the profession, and therefore to customers. There will be more change to come, this industry and the profession of Business Analysis is one that will always evolve. For me, this keeps things interesting and means that I continue to learn and grow.

Kirsten Eriksen is a Senior Consultant specialising in business analysis, based in Equinox IT’s Wellington, New Zealand office.

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