The role of business analysts in data-driven environments

The role of business analysts in data-driven environments

Settling for the ‘same-old’ in the modern world of business is simply not enough. That’s why organisations are continually looking for ways to advance their processes, products, services and technology. The role of a business analyst is pivotal in this space, particularly in helping companies bridge the gap between technical and business operations to drive efficiencies.

Blending both technical and functional requirements is increasingly important in data-driven environments, according to Harsh Jain, one of Optivia’s senior business analysts. “Technical analysis improves the quality of analytics processes and data requirements, which can help inform what’s necessary for the functional, business-operations side of an organisation,” explains Harsh.

The role of the business analyst (BA) is critical to this and can turn business woes and inefficiencies into effective processes and productive solutions to help deliver results. To understand how they do this though, we first need to talk about the main challenges to becoming a data-drive business.

The challenges for organisations striving to be more data-driven

1. Poor data governance

If data is being captured in multiple places, if it’s floating around in a non-standardised environment, or if it’s managed in a siloed way, this means that your data infrastructure is probably poorly governed

“Poorly governed information environments lead to discrepancies across the data, as well as different data IDs, which will reduce the overall quality of your business intelligence. This makes it really difficult to get any meaning from your data,” says Harsh.

2. Manual & time-consuming processes

Despite periods of rapid digital transformation, some organisations still rely heavily on manual processes. This could be because business users may be reluctant to change old habits or the time it takes to learn new processes may seem daunting.

“What we often see as a result of this is that manual processes end up being much more time-consuming than the implementation of an optimised, automated process,” says Harsh.

“In many ways, we associate ‘manual’ with ‘mistakes’ as there are often missing parts of the project scope which create a cascading effect. This then requires reworking at many other levels, costing the business more unnecessary time-wasting.”

3. The struggle to derive meaning from data

Data is exploding in the digital age, and managing and extracting insights from such great volumes of information is a significant challenge for businesses.

“Unfortunately, many business teams still do not know how to analyse data to solve business problems effectively. This is further affected by the way data is stored, gathered, and governed. Making business intelligence interpretable and relevant with visualisations and dashboards is essential to deriving meaning from it,” says Harsh.

How business analysts respond to these challenges

So, what does a BA do? In short, the role of a business analyst is to bring greater efficiencies to organisations by solving these challenges with regards to specific problems. This can include an extensive and varied list of tasks. BAs use their data analytics knowledge and techniques to gather insights, which they blend with their detailed understanding of the business context to drive successful projects, whether that be incentivising a strategy or identifying a best-fit solution. This process can be broken down into three steps.

1. Uncovering the problem

Sometimes businesses don’t have the right tools to identify the actual problems they’re experiencing. Without access to the right data and insights, this makes it near-impossible to properly address company issues, such as why customers are leaving or why employee productivity has decreased.

BAs have the know-how to identify challenges within an organisation. They can devise a problem definition by holding workshops and conducting mind mapping exercises with teams and stakeholders within a business, as well as using data analytics tools to understand an organisation’s current state.

“Before finding a solution, we start with ‘why’. The ‘why’ informs the next steps forward in identifying the ‘must-haves’ for optimising business processes and performance,” explains Harsh.

2. Defining and prioritising business requirements

Once there is visibility of the problem, BAs use data to solve it. Their technical skills and business acumen help generate data-driven recommendations. They write the user stories to identify requirements and prioritise them in order of urgency, as well as which will quickly bring the most profit and value to the company. 

“Prioritising requirements enables us to arrive at the best solution or process specific to the business’ needs and to prove how conducive it is to the delivery of each requirement,” says Harsh. 

3. Demonstrating value and getting stakeholder buy-in

The next step in the role of business analysts is to get business stakeholder buy-in. This involves managing change and convincing business users of a solution’s value, such as how it will make their work processes more efficient through clear reporting.

 “This is arguably the most important aspect of the BA’s role. Once you prove the value of your initiatives and the stakeholders and executives are on your side, then the positive impact of the particular solution can really be felt,” says Harsh.

 “In organisations where few or no effective processes have been laid out, this is where BAs can carry out process reengineering to enable businesses to be more productive now and in the future.”

While some companies have internal BAs, many also choose to hire external consultants to solve specific challenges. External business analysts can provide a fresh set of eyes, without biases or internal loyalties. This is particularly useful when teams and business users are so engrossed in what they do that it’s difficult to take a step back and identify the business problems for themselves – or find the time to do this! By employing an external BA who is equipped to bridge the gap between business and technical functions, you can have a dedicated resource working on finding solutions to your most challenging problems.

To learn more about how Optivia’s skilled and experienced business analysts can power incredible efficiencies in your organisation, contact us.

At Optivia our consultants have decades of experience in deploying data modernisation and analytics solutions to solve critical business problems. We are experts at combining industry knowledge with technology, so contact us today to discover how we can deliver seamless transformations for you.