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Are you keeping your business analysts in the dark?

Business analysts are under-utilized, and it may be your fault. The most effective analysts work across the business. Before investing in high-priced data scientists, charge up your business analysts to unleash information potential.

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Note the disconnect—while so many business analysts report to IT, the organization values their business knowledge more than their technical knowledge.

In the best organizations, business analysts are the liaison between Line of Business professionals and IT. They drive analytics, business process improvement, master data management, data stewardship and data governance. In others, they are in the far corner of the organization, trying to guess at the most important drivers of the business.

What are the core responsibilities and skill sets of your business analysts?

On average, business analysts fulfill at least 3.7 roles, according to TDWI.1 These roles are often tactical in nature. While breadth of role is important, it’s not sufficient. Successful business analysts state that depth of knowledge in their organization’s business processes and insights into overall organizational strategy is significantly more important. We believe that organizations can realize greater return on investment by cultivating skills and expanding strategic roles of business analysts.

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Is your business analyst the go-to person for information management strategies?
  • Is he/she "at the table" of key strategic planning initiatives?
  • What role does he/she play in those initiatives?
  • Do you invest in cross-training, certifications, and incentives to help business analysts live up to their potential as a key driver of business initiatives?
  • Do you have a rotation program for business analysts to gain multi-disciplinary experience?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you are probably leaving opportunity on the table.

 

Experience and Organizational Design Matters

The best business analysts come out of business. They are the people in the organization with high business acumen, a nose for data and an eye for process optimization. They seek out best practices and look to scale them throughout the business.

Unfortunately, many business analysts are focused on a single functional area (such as sales or operations). Moreover, they are usually generalists, without direct business experience. And they are faced with multiple responsibilities. These include reporting, requirements definition and management, business process improvements, enterprise application implementation, migration and upgrades, and data warehousing and business intelligence projects.

Additionally, many of these business analysts report to IT. Note the disconnect—while so many business analysts report to IT, the organization values their business knowledge more than their technical knowledge.

So what can you do?

Assess the business and technical knowledge of your business analysts. Tailor rotation and learning programs to strike an ideal balance of skill sets.

  • Establish mentor forums and socially collaborative communities. These are a good way to bring business- and IT-oriented professionals together for best-practice sharing.
  • Consider rotating a rising business or IT star into the position. This will signal the value of the position and put the practical knowledge to work in the function.
  • Challenge the organizational model. Consider establishing a place at your strategic table by moving the business analyst function into the business.

The business analyst is one of the unsung heroes of business. He/she should exhibit the perfect combination of business and technical acumen. Take steps today to ensure that he/she has the experience and mentorship to achieve that balance.

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