Presenting on digital business analysis at IIBA meet-up

by John Barris on 26/06/2019 01:00

Equinox IT Principal Consultant John Barris presenting on digital business analysis at an IIBA meet-up

Last week I presented on the topic 'Digital business analysis - thinking differently in the age of digital disruption' at the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) meet-up in Wellington.

Here is a summary of some of the points that I made:

  • Disruption is not just a 21st century problem - think about the disruption to the transport industry as we moved from horse-drawn carriages to cars. We moved from blacksmiths to mechanics and stables to petrol stations.
  • The MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) introduced the acronym SMACIT to highlight the technologies that are driving disruption today - Social Media, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud and Internet of Things. IDC extended this set with their '3rd Platform' to include amongst others Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, 3D Printing and Blockchain.
  • As business analysts we need to look beyond these technologies to the opportunities they present.
Technology Opportunity
Social Media Communication
Mobile Location, reach
Analytics Insight
Cloud Availability, capacity, scalability
Internet of Things Connectivity, insight
Augmented Reality Experience
Artificial Intelligence Decision making
Machine Learning Automation, decision making
Robotics Automation
3D Printing Physical production
Blockchain Trust, confidence

Look beyond the technology to the opportunity


  • As we then bring these technologies and opportunities together in combination we get further opportunities, such as driver-less cars.
  • Digital disruption is changing customer expectations and this increasingly means we need to disrupt ourselves, invest in digital capabilities, reinvent our organisations with the customer in mind, and collaborate with others in our ecosystems.
  • As business analysts we need to look beyond our business to our customers and our ecosystems. This may involve substantial change in how we approach customer experience, operational excellence and the creation of new products.
  • This in turn means that as business analysts we need to look beyond our standard business analysis tasks to the outcomes we need to deliver.
  • As we move from 'users' to 'customers' the 'Who' question becomes central to business analysis, where previously we focused on 'Why', 'What' and 'How'.
  • This leads to hybrid questions 'who's why where?', 'where what and who needs to change?', 'who cares how much about what?' and 'when should what happen and how?'
  • Requirements move more to hypotheses, that you can test and if they are proven to be right, they were the requirement. Our treatment of scope moves from 'boundaries' to 'focus' and that focus may change as decisions are made on which items on an Agile backlog have the highest priority now.
  • I presented the following diagram as an updated business analysis approach model for a Digital, Agile or Lean context:

Digital / Agile / Lean analysis approach model


  • For 'Discover' I stressed the importance of going beyond the business to the customer, using frameworks such as Dave Snowden's Cynefin Model, being visual with canvases and maps (not full requirements documents), and using approaches such as design thinking to diverge and converge.
  • For 'Design' I spoke about thinking of customers, environments and ecosystems rather than users, systems and businesses. I emphasised the importance of a 'lite' approach but still one that is 'considered'.
  • For 'Scope' I encouraged the audience to move away from seeing it as a boundary and towards seeing it as a focus on value driven increments. I also suggested to move away from being product oriented and focus on outcomes and capabilities.
  • For 'Deliver' I discussed the idea of story mapping to deliver fast but meaningful results, but expanding backlog items to include other business change work items such as insight stories, business stories, integration, configuration and process stories.
  • A fundamental part of the approach is feedback loops for collaboration, learning, adapting, gaining feedback and continuously improving.

Thank you to the IIBA for running the event and to Momentum for providing the venue for the presentation.

John Barris is a Principal Consultant specialising in business transformation and business analysis, based in our Wellington office.


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