Over the last few years, organizations have demonstrated a renewed interest in bringing more and richer data into their business decisions. What’s driving them toward more data-informed decision-making? Overall, they want to become more nimble, leaner, smarter, and closer to their customers — what better way to accomplish this than to infuse decisions with more qualitative and quantitative information.
To facilitate this change, significant effort has been made around procuring new and different technology to aggregate, analyze, and visualize large amounts of data. Additionally, there has been an increased focus on hiring talent to oversee and perform this work — think Chief Data Officers, Data Scientists, and Data Analysts, to name a few.
Seeing an opportunity to strengthen the role of Business Analysts by pairing analysis with analytics, the IIBA jumped on the bandwagon — generating a number of papers on business data analytics and digital business analysis — and even creating a certificate in Business Data Analytics.
What an exciting time to be a business analyst! Just think: If BAs immerse themselves in the data needs of the business and facilitate the collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting of results in the delivery of their services, they would be helping to internally monetize the value of data to benefit the enterprise and enhance their role.
While the IIBA has been rolling out its new data-focused initiatives, a number of research studies have emerged that demonstrate the shortcomings of existing efforts to making this happen. In Randy Bean and Tom Davenport’s February 2019 Harvard Business Review article, “Companies are Failing in Their Efforts to Become Data-Driven” they cite research from NewVantage Partners that is glaring: People AND process are the number 1 obstacle.
For this to significantly shift, the authors state that organizations must address “cultural barriers to business adoption.” We need to acknowledge that data in and of itself is meaningless unless a culture is put in place that supports ongoing collaborative data-informed decision-making. Currently, this kind of culture is not actively being forged as an organizational standard, nor do most enterprises have a commonly utilized decision approach in place. This opens up more opportunities for BAs to assist their enterprise.
This outcome is further supported by Gartner’s Third CDO Survey which found that the biggest internal roadblock to the success of CDOs is “culture challenges to accept change.” In a separate report called “A Data and Analytics Leader’s Guide to Data Literacy,” Gartner claims, “By 2020, half of all organizations will lack sufficient AI and data literacy skills to achieve business value.”
At first glance, it might appear that the optimal role for BAs would be to perform data analytics within the confines of their position. However, when combined with their business domain expertise, change skills, and project experience, the addition of data analytics fundamentals perfectly positions BAs to fulfill a new and needed, broader and more significant role — that of a “data interpreter/translator” — or what has recently been called “decision scientist/decision analyst.”
For enterprises to overcome the people and process cultural barriers mentioned earlier, the need for someone to orchestrate a collaborative approach to data-informed decision-making across all functions becomes critical. Working with key business leaders, the data interpreter helps clearly outline and prioritize decisions, problems, and opportunities to ensure the right data are utilized. A key element of this work is to bring the right technical and data talent, business staff, and resources to each situation and help them synergistically work together. To achieve short and long-term value to the enterprise, everyone’s overarching focus becomes moving from data — to insight — to demonstrated action (beyond adoption) — in an aligned and nimble manner.
There is no time to waste. While this new role is emerging, CDOs and those in the data science and data analytics communities see themselves as sufficiently skilled to handle it. However, what BAs know better than anyone is that being experts in the “business of the business” and the organization as a total system are critical ingredients to making this new role a success.
Now is the time to learn and implement a collaborative approach to data-informed decision making, and the culture to support it, in your organization. What first step will you take to make this a reality?
– Lori Silverman