Digital Transformation and Business Analysis

If you are reading this, there is every chance that you have come across the phrase, ‘Digital Transformation’.

I felt it necessary to write about WHY the role of a Business Analyst is of critical importance in the age that we are in, the Digital Age, (you can argue, Information Age, Computer Age, New Media Age etc).  And there is no better place to start than with the effect that Digital Transformation has had on businesses and the subsequent rise of the importance of the Business Analyst within Digital Transformation.

Digital transformation is creating a shift in the way business is done across the globe and this has created a ripple effect across industries, sectors, and professions. Competition is getting stiffer, as the internet has enabled organizations to reach a whole new global audience, customers have more choice and more voice as they are able to drive businesses to make a rapid change, now more than ever before.

Digital Transformation is said to be the way in which organizations transform their business model to leverage the opportunities created by digitization. Digital transformation can be as localizes as changing paper forms to web forms and as globalized to changing an entire organizations business processes and business model to an online one. It can even include creating entirely new markets and industries. 

Digital Transformation has come to stay and it is global, not local. Every business will experience Digital Transformation at some point. From the street hawker who now has to call in their replacement order or fill in a form online, to the small business owner installing an accounting software for the first time. From the law firm trying to reach a new audience online to the Manufacturing company who has to create digital designs and prototypes to reduce costs. Gone are the days when an organization can be content being a brick an mortar business. To survive, businesses are quickly realizing they need to move with changing technology.

The choice organizations have to make is usually about ‘how’ they leverage technology to either exploit their opportunities, overcome their weaknesses, enhance their strengths or combat external threats. This is where the Business Analyst is critical to an organization’s success. In chapter 9, we break down what Business Analysis actually is, and what it is not. We also define our role with clarity, to ensure everyone, including ourselves, know who we are and what we do.

I recently worked with a start-up Higher Institution that required all it’s business processes digitized. From its enrolment process to its bursary process, to its learning management. This was a Digital Transformation program that seemed simple but became complex really quickly, due to the multiple layers of decision making that were required. Questions like, should we make all students enroll online? Should we allow brokers and agencies take cash? Should we digitize all library books? Should we have classroom content online? Should we train lecturers in the learning management system? All of these questions have technological implications that required a cost vs benefit analysis to make the right decision, the questions also have dependencies that needed to be considered, as well as risks to prepare for.
Digital Transformation as a concept, drives businesses to succeed by using the opportunities made available by technology. Digital Transformation as a practice, drives businesses to make intelligent decisions daily while transforming the organization an embedding change into its fabric.  Digital Transformation is about the happy medium between the use of technology, management of business change and intelligence of business decisions across all levels within an organization.

It is critical to have a Business Analysis exercise when going through Digital Transformation. Business Analysis is all about analyzing a business situation, to find out where improvements can be made and how improvements can be made. It also includes a process to arrive at a sound business decision when embarking on any change, including Digital Transformation. In order to make a sound business decision, an organization should understand its organizational context, including its strengths, weaknesses, external factors that may affect it positively or negatively, Its strategy, its culture, its competitive landscape and more. Once that context is understood, an organization should seek to carry out an internal investigation of its current problems to identify the causes of failure in any given area. After which, it should consider the individual perspectives of key influential stakeholders within the organization. Before carrying out a Digital Transformation program, an organization should also carry out a gap analysis to gain clarity of where they currently are and where they would like to be so that a list of potential options for change can be evaluated. Once an evaluation is done, usually through the production of a business case, then the Digital transformation may commence. By far the most popular business analysis exercise is the gathering of requirements, where a Business analyst is usually required for bringing together the requirements for the digital transformation program and any associated projects within it.

Business Analysts help businesses to make the right business decisions across strategic, tactical and operational levels. The BA’s primary role is to help the business make improvements, as a result, all of the activities mentioned above can be carried out by Business Analysts.

The Business Analyst is an expert in the Business and knows what the business needs in order to improve. As a result, the BA ensures all the moving parts of any transformation program are held together in a way that coherently drives the business to a successful change.

Companies are spending record amounts on Digital Transformation and many are struggling to see the transformation succeed. According to Digital Journal, 85% of executives said they will spend 25% of their entire budget on digital transformation in 2018. However, only about 50% of organizations are achieving any significant success. This is good news for the BA as I have seen, in my personal experience that programs with a robust Business Analysis function tend to achieve success. This, I believe is down to the role of the BA as the conduit between Business teams and technology teams and the clear view that the BA has on the program as a whole.

In other words, Digital Transformation needs Business Analysts now, more than ever before, an Its about time that Business Analysts realize the opportunity in front of them.