Business analysts are key in unlocking informed strategy

Today’s modern organisation is producing more and more data; automated information that with the correct direction and interpretation could direct management towards better & informed strategic decisions.

The role of today’s advanced business analyst has thus evolved beyond the historical eliciting, analysing and documenting requirements within the software environment to that of a key strategic contributor; armed with valuable data to fire up organisational performance.

Through the full utilisation of their skills in gap analysis, feasibility studies, problem resolution and application of key assessment information, the modern business analyst can support senior management through four key areas in organisational strategy development as identified in my years of consultation; Assessment, Internal Business processes alignment, Strategy execution and strong project management rollout.

Organisational strategy leads and guides the organisation in an agreed direction; It lays out a roadmap for organisational growth and is usually the best agreed thinking in the room on how the organisation will achieve its goals. But, how do we know that our strategic hypothesis is relevant and based on information that is linked to environmental scanning, the measurement of process efficiency and strategic evaluation?

A process-driven approach that drives extraction, assessment and application of strategic research and analysis activities is where the business analyst becomes a key partner to better inform the discussion. It also eliminates chances of strategic decisions being opinion and assumptions driven instead of evidence based. The following focus areas are key for business analysists in a strategic assessment and imperative for strategic improvement; Customer needs and wants, Competitor analysis, Regulatory compliance or non-compliance, Capabilities in people, skills, technology and resources to only mention a few.

Another area of strategic development and execution where proper analysis is fundamental is the evaluation of the internal business processes and how this will inform and become leading indicators for driving effective strategic results. It is only when strategic plans show impact through better turnaround times, improved efficiency, improved quality and reduced risk that we experience an output driven strategy; strategic focal areas that are mapped out in a process that marries internal efficiencies to expected outcomes. The strategic role of the business analyst is the ability to map out these processes and ensure quality elements and measures are an inherent part of it, while securing the proper documentation that support controlled change management and organisational synergy.

Effective performance frameworks are enabled through the cascading and alignment of broad organisational strategic objectives all the way down to business units, departments and functional units. The business analyst becomes the facilitator in ensuring the translation of strategy to organisational performance frameworks, but is also able to provide relative and relevant measurements for ongoing improvement.

Once the execution of the strategy has started the feedback and analysis of data becomes the challenging task where the analyst can greatly support the Strategy Department. The use of this data in drawing of conclusions is critical information that senior executives need to monitor whether the strategy is actually working. With the business analyst’s input, executives can now make informed decisions on continuing or changing elements to achieve better results.

Making strategy everyone’s business is certainly something to strive towards and today’s executive should realize the importance of fully engaged organisations in driving strategy. We found that The Balanced Scorecard is one of the most effective and dynamic Strategic Performance Management Systems that can be used to achieve this - a strong systematic methodology that allows us to design frameworks fundamental to organisational performance and success. Through facilitation in the design, monitoring and communication of aligned processes today’s analyst can utilise their skills to influence and contribute to the strategic discussion, ensuring sound performance frameworks, organisation-wide buy-in and ultimately setting in motion a fully aligned strategy driven culture.

Mark van Rooyen is CEO of Project Management Dynamics Africa ( PMD Africa) and a senior partner of the Balanced Scorecard Institute in America

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