Demand for business analysis skills is exploding as companies globally and locally increasingly realise the importance and necessity for wholesale digitisation for survival. As technology presents organisations with endless new opportunities to scale, enhance productivity and reduce costs, it is also equalising the playing field, making it more difficult to compete on the old-fashioned notion of cost and service, because customers now demand better, personalised experiences through service differentiation with competitive, or even lower, costs.
To address this exponentially growing demand for BAs, the industry needs to ensure that it attracts a steady flow of talent with different levels of expertise. Simultaneously, though, we need to retain these dynamic professionals as they move up the corporate ladder.
To do this, BAs need to be equipped with skills that can adequately meet the unique new demands in their world of work. This requires a holistic understanding of the complex and ever-changing landscape in which we now operate as well as of the skills that BAs require in order to provide real value in this technology-driven environment:
Business analysts need to champion digital transformation. This means that we can’t just keep on at business as usual, but need to be the drivers of disruption in our industries. In addition to keeping our BA skills current, we also need to understand what’s happening in the related areas of user experience, process engineering and usability.
After all, nothing is more frustrating than interacting with a service that has not been fully digitised, or that offers a poor user experience. And don’t forget that we are seeing disruption come from new, unexpected, competitors. So, while your bank may be comparing itself to other banks, the disruption is likely to come from another industry altogether.
In order to ride this wave of disruption, BAs need to be at the forefront of implementation. This demands that we spend less time planning, testing and perfecting our products and more time implementing and updating them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the smart phone/app store mentality where perfection is substituted for functionality that is improved on the fly. Apps must be delivered to market as quickly as possible to gain or retain competitive advantage so they’re launched with the bare bones in place and customers are expected to suggest improvements as they engage. This leads to high customer expectations of seeing those improvements implemented – that personal experience I mentioned before – and results in a rapid-fire innovation cycle by default.
Another characteristic of the mobile-driven market is that customers expect processes to be consistent from desktop to mobile. I may check in for my flight on my computer, but I want my boarding pass to be delivered to my phone. BAs need to drive this consistency and ensure customers are satisfied with the user experience.
With this consistency in place, there exists great opportunity to leverage information gathered across these various interfaces. In addition to maintaining a competitive advantage, this information must be harvested, processed and used for marketing, operational efficiency and managing risk and compliance. As BAs, we can’t rely on other departments to take care of these requirements, we need to ensure that we have the skills and insight to design for big data. Having a solid understanding of how information will be used will allow us to ensure that we create the right hooks in the right places, which will prevent retrofitting expensive and time-consuming interventions later.
In addition to the forces of change and innovation that already exist in and around the BA, our industries are going to be disrupted by artificial intelligence – AI – machine learning, robotics and blockchain to name just a few technologies. We need keep current of these developments and ensure that we are experimenting for usage. A successful Sandton-based investment bank already employs a team of six blockchain developers and specialists as they realise that they can’t wait any longer to gain an understanding of this highly disruptive technology. Amazon, too, employ 1000 people in the AI space, not to mention their heavy investment in robotics and drones.
The moral of the story? If you think your industry is not going to be disrupted, think again. This is why we need to ensure that BAs are equipped with adequate skills to pioneer innovation and disruption within their own organisations, while constantly harnessing new technologies for broader industrial and economic growth.
One of the ways we are addressing the increasing demand for BA skills is through the Mindworx Academy which brings entry level skills into the market. To do this we have devised and stress-tested a battery of assessments that accurately predict performance in an analytical role. Successful candidates are then put through an intensive two-month training programme to grow BA skills, but also to prepare for success in the 21st century workforce. Mentoring these young learners in the workplace is an essential role of experienced BAs and we partner with organisations who recognise the value of this and are open to implementing such programmes.
Since so much of our responsibility going forward will be in areas we’re unlikely to have played in before, we need teams that are creative, flexible, resilient and curious about learning new skills.
What an exciting time to be a business analyst! Clearly though, resting on one’s laurels is not an option in this fast-paced world. Don’t get left behind.
As Mindworx’s COO, Martin Pienaar is a strategic and visionary thinker, he is a natural solver of problems – and not on a small scale either. He brings his open-minded approach to finding ways to improve education in South Africa, making it more relevant to the local reality. To find out more about one of Martin’s projects, the Mindworx Academy have a look at our online brochure or read Martin’s article on how generation X can future proof their working life.