Now, more than ever, the business world seems like a hectic, fast-moving and sometimes volatile place. Businesses operate within fast-moving environments and the rate of change can be phenomenally high. Data flows around organisations, and in many organisations decision makers can see more and more data about their business and its environment than ever before. Emerging technology means that previously unimaginable things become plausible, and societal changes and trends mean that customers expect better and better service.
It is an exciting time to be alive, and as business analysts we are front and centre of this ever-changing world. I suspect many people reading this article will be working on some type of initiative that is responding to (or pre-empting) an external change—perhaps a competitive force, a regulatory edict, or a change in customer need.
Yet with such a fast-moving environment, we risk being a generation of knee-jerk decision makers. With so much information and data zooming around an organisation, it is easy to perceive a trend—to see urgency—when we are actually looking at a “blip” or outlier. Or if a trend is emerging, it is easy to make a tacit assumption as to the causation. You can imagine a Sales Manager demanding to know why sales from the website are down 30% in the last few weeks, asking for an urgent analysis of the technology (as she fears the server must have been down). This might lead to a whole “infrastructure refresh” programme and significant levels of investment. But perhaps the real reason (and the bigger problem) is a new competitor has emerged, or an existing competitor ran a temporary promotion. Jumping straight to solution—without appropriately and holistically thinking through the problem—can be a recipe for wasted effort.
This is where business analysis is essential. Of course, I could write about pre-project problem analysis and strategic business analysis techniques—but instead I want to discuss something ‘softer’ that is often overlooked. Namely, our ability as professional change agents to create space.