Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Requirements Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

It is beyond doubt that the current times of digital, mobile and social age demand professionals who are versatile, agile, sociable and dynamic. Business Analysts and product specialists are no exception to this. Whether its due to the industry demands, peer pressure, market needs or pure evolutionary tactics, BAs today are far more leading-edge, competitive, assertive and visionary contributors to the products, processes and businesses, at large. From an also-ran team player role, new-age analysts have come a long way as the multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and multi-dimensional professionals. In this post, I will touch upon the many facets of the new-age Business Analyst and how they are adapting to the continual changes happening in the spheres of business, technology, professional and personal lives.

Emergence of the new-age BA/PO

As we discussed in the previous posts, there have been several factors that led to the emergence and evolution of the Business Analyst. The BA today moved on from just a requirements owner and a document expert and is now addressing several facets around products, processes, business and technology. Their focus still remains pretty much around the problem space, compared to the facilitation role in the solution space. The analysts identify problems, dependencies, needs and opportunities. However,  products, processes and business domains. The BAs today have been involved in scoping, release management, continuous engagement with customers and users, strategising, laying out roadmap, and working with multiple teams.  In a nutshell, the Business Analyst of the modern age is much like a leader, architect, soldier, team player…all rolled into one.

NBA_Leader.Architect.Soldier.Team Player_Texavi

Leader, architect, soldier, team player & more – the new-age BA

From being an analyst, the BA needs to transform into a leader, architect, soldier, team player and perhaps many more such roles, all rolled into one. Of course, they need not be all of these roles at the same time. The analyst today has to don one, few or all of these various roles based on the context, time, stage of implementation as befits the occasion. During the initial stages, the emphasis could be on being an architect, while during the scoping it could be that of a soldier. However, throughout the project, or initiative analysts have to keep their hat of leader and team player, no matter what stage the work is in. I touch upon the four primary facets of the new-age Business Analyst in the following paragraphs.

1. Sensible leader, not just an also-ran

You can’t talk enough about the all-imperative skill and art of analysts to work with people. They must have their hands firmly on the pulse of the different categories of people. These include the various stakeholders – direct and indirectly responsible for the product and process, from senior management all the way through to people working on the factory floor. As an able leader, the analysts must not only lead the way, but also set an example by following and working along with the team members. They should  listen actively, take steps pro-actively and be able to put in their efforts with sustainable passion, drive and commitment to achieve this shared vision and common goals.

2. Architect and a builder, not just another player

New-age business analysts must be able to look beyond the near term goals and benefits. They must have a really good and long term vision to not only lead themselves but also the team members and the organisation, at large. They must think far and beyond, using their rich experience, in-depth and specialised domain expertise. The added advantage is that these help the analysts with a “peripheral vision” around the markets, business domains, products, processes and technologies.  Besides, the new-age analyst adds great value by laying a robust roadmap that is flexible, scalable, high-performing.

3. A soldier, well-equipped and prepared

Like a soldier, who is well-equipped and well-prepared to face any kind of challenges, the new-age analyst must be prepared with all the right tools, methods and a positive attitude. The very nature and aptitude of business analysts help them to stay on the top of their game, be it at home or outside their turf. Their ability to adapt easily and quickly depending on the situation helps build on to the agility of the new-age analysts.  Analysts’ skills of being sensitive, scrupulous and open-minded, help them usable insights from ideas and actionable intelligence from information. In addition to these, the BAs try to keep ahead by addressing all possible scenarios, potential challenges and constraints, internal and external dependencies and assumptions – stated and implicit.

4. Team player, not just a one-person show

Business analysts over the ages had been looked at more as specialised consultants who come in, do their work and get out. The contribution of analysts is considered from the prism of a “support” role who comes in early in the project, find problems, specify scope and requirements and exits the scenario. However, with the advent of agile practices such as Scrum, user stories, XP, BDD and TDD being put in place, organisations are increasingly looking for analysts to be well-integrated into the development teams. The analysts today are very much an integral part of the teams and by being  participative, they contribute to the collective value delivered by the team. So, new-age analysts are equally adept at being followers and team members themselves as much as they excel at leading the teams.

I hope this post helped you understand the many dimensions, skills and demands of the new-age business analyst. We will cover more specific details on the tools, and methods for the business analyst/product owner in the upcoming posts, until then, ciao!

Business Analysis, Business Case, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies

“The old computing was about what computers could do…the new computing is about what people can do“, Ben Shneiderman’s saying is as much relevant today as it ever was.  The impact of social business and social technologies on our professional and personal lives is so profound that businesses now are re-thinking their strategies in the light of ‘social’ context. The social web offers a lot of opportunities by harnessing the tremendous potential offered by multiple disciplines ranging from marketing, consumer behaviour, information technology, design, data analytics, gamification and customer experience and cognitive psychology, to name a few. The nice thing with the social strategy is that virtually anybody or any company can get on the board, however it does not guarantee success to all players in the game. The definition of ‘success’ in this context is debatable and fairly open, so I shall consider effectiveness over success. In this post, I wish to highlight the key pitfalls you must avoid, which would help you to get it right with your social strategy.

1. Giving only lip service to ‘people power’

All along, we have been hearing companies and people claiming “we are in the people business“, or “I am a people person“. In the context of Social web, these phrases are now acquiring new meaning and perhaps ‘the correct’ meaning. Now more than ever, opportunities are opening up, which will enable you to really do what you mean and put people in the rightful place they belong to and given the attention they deserve. Whether its the customers who bought your products, users who are facing problems using them or those people, who you think, know you by your name or brand are becoming your potential target audience. The nets are widening to reach out to the larger audience and in the broadest of contexts. The social channels are helping organisations reach out, listen to customers’ heartbeats and not just their voices, and providing support to the needy in real time. I have seen instances on Twitter when British Gas attempted to respond, advise and resolve the issues of their customers, on Twitter.

Put the people focus back into your business

 2. Getting aboard all the social trains

Resist the temptation to get on to every social and professional network available. As the old saying goes, “tell me your company and I shall tell you who you are”, the same holds true with the social channels and networks. Carefully consider who your target users are and identify those networks where your presence adds value to your brand, offerings and customers. For instance, just because everybody is creating a Facebook page, you don’t have to create one, when your product is targeted to the older generation users or high-security defence-component manufacturers. Look out for the maximum buzz and check if it suits you to have your presence there. Also, sometimes it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality. For example, Facebook and Twitter might have millions of users, but just focusing on them may not work well, if you are a large brand with global presence and rich legacy. To better leverage your interests and aspirations, a different network, say Pinterest could be a better bet, considering that it is the fastest-growing social network specially for the big brands out there.

Answering the following questions will help you choose the networks, wisely!

  • Who are my target audience?
  • What is my real offering and how does it help the users?
  • Where (which online networks) can I find my target audience, the most?
  • What is the nature of my business offering – social/professional?
  • Which networks should I consider for my presence?

3. Thinking “Social is the flavour of the season”

From businesses, news corporations, traditional media houses, celebrities and common people, everybody is getting active on the social networks. Don’t just focus on the social aspects at the cost of losing the advantage with traditional media. You need to ensure that there is harmony and congruence in your offline and online presence. Yes, it is true that to host a campaign on Facebook or run a series of hashtag tweets on Twitter it might be a lot cheaper or perhaps costs nothing. Add to that it could be the easiest thing to create, track and manage campaigns on these online networks. However, without careful consideration and calculation of cost-benefit analysis, don’t ditch the traditional marketing channels and rely solely on the social channels. With all the positive vibes going around with the social media, there is also another side that needs to be looked at. These social media can make or mar the reputation of your brand in no time with as much ease and speed you had in creating the campaign. For instance, McDonalds ran a campaign on Twitter with the hashtags  #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers, but the campaign backfired thanks to the comments by some ‘enthusiastic’ users and their sarcastic tweets on McDonalds and their products.

4. Excessive focus on your products and services

Gone are those days when only your customers and users were talking about the products and services that they bought and used.  You were happy interacting with the people you know – whether  its your preferred partners, loyal customers or willing prospects. Now the context is changing  rapidly and the landscape has been extending further to prospective customers, friends of users. The World is indeed becoming one global village with inter-connected networks and individuals, intersecting each other in a criss-cross fashion. The interactions that you encourage among the various stakeholders, customers, users and followers need to be focused on the brand and not necessarily the products or services alone. Newer measures and metrics such as awareness, engagement, influence, reach, buzz and total customer value are complementing the good old measures like sales per product line, customer satisfaction index.

Unified Experience goes beyond products and services

5. Quitting before you start seeing the benefits

Let us accept it, just because you have hopped on to the social strategy earlier does not make you a leader in your industry. Getting social has become a sanity factor and more of a tick on your checklist, than a well-thought strategic directive. Often it takes more effort, time and perhaps other resources such as people, money too, to take off to a proper shape. Don’t give up just yet. Here are a few tips that will help you get better at the game of social media.

  • Set realistic goals which need to be tracked on a continual basis
  • Be persistent with your efforts
  • Learn from the leaders and follow the paths which worked right for them
  • Monitor the impact of social operations on your core business
  • Track and analyse the key measures and metrics to assess how you are performing
Hope you find the above tips helpful with your social initiatives. Don’t hesitate to mix and match different things that could work wonders for you. Do share your feedback. We shall discuss more interesting stuff in the upcoming posts. Till then, ciao!