Repositioning Our Business Analysis Flex With Vicky Di Ciacca

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In this conversation, Vicky Di Ciacca and I explore the difficulties of the past and embrace the challenges of the future to reposition the business analyst role and find its flex.

Vicky cofounded Be Positive, a BA consultancy based in Scotland. Be Positive was established 19 years ago and now helps customers in the UK and beyond build their BA capabilities.

Here are just a few of the highlights in this episode:

🤦‍♀️ "I actually fell over on my way out of the interview, so I did literally fall into an IT profession." Vicky tells her story of how she landed the business analyst role and how her fascination for breaking down and modelling complex systems and complex problems keeps her engaged in business analysis, driven by her enjoyment of creating solutions and collaborating with others.

🧩 🤔 🙋 "The key thing that really stands us in good stead as business analysts is asking the right questions." Vicky highlights how business analysts are crucial in helping organisations understand decisions, make sense of ambiguous data, identify patterns, and solve problems. She stresses that framing the right questions is a critical skill that sets business analysts apart.

🧰 🔨 🪛 🔧 "Having that toolbox of BA skills that we still can use regardless of the technology that we're working with." Vicky shares how business analysts must not forget their foundational skills and adapt them to emerging technologies and trends. 

🔭 🌅 "They don't always know what they're going teach in the last year of a degree because things are changing that quickly." Vicky highlights how business analysts need the foresight to see the broader view on the horizon and the skills and techniques to cope with whatever's thrown at them. Adaptability is going to be the business analyst's mindset for success.

💪 "What's the thing that gives us the difference, the thing for us to say, well actually that that's our flex." Vicky encourages business analysts to find their "flex". She suggests their genuine difference is in considering the holistic impact, ensuring coherence and traceability, and addressing real business needs rather than focusing solely on technological solutions.

🥅 "The end is a business outcome; it's not a new IT system." To close, Vicky emphasises that the key focus for business analysts is the ultimate goal.

Tune into the episode below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your podcast player of choice. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by Business Change Academy skills development and career building business analysis courses.

The transcript of this episode can be read here.

  • [00:41] How Vicky landed up in business analysis and what keeps her in the profession 
  • [02:56] Overcoming the difficulties of the past to store, manipulate and understand data
  • [06:29] How requirements shape the responsibility of the business analyst in the data life-cycle
  • [08:38] Growing tentacles into data, automation, AI, augmented reality, and the unknown
  • [11:49] Difficulties keeping an eye on the horizon and adapting to ever-changing circumstances
  • [16:56] Blurred lines and digital natives shifting the positioning of the business analyst 
  • [20:42] Having confidence in your skills and abilities, and the flex to connect the holistic view
  • [25:39] Predicting what a day in the life of a business analyst will look like in 2033
  • [31:21] Getting involved in activities at every stage to show off the range of skills and abilities
  • [35:04] Conducting business analysis by stealth to eradicate the strategic analysis paradox

What was your favourite quote or insight from this episode? Please let me know in the comments. 👇👇👇

🧠 Add your brains to the  👉 Future Business Analyst survey.

Joe: Hey everyone, it's Joe. Welcome to another episode of the Future Business Analyst Podcast.

My guest today is Vicky Di Ciacca, managing director at Be Positive Vicki established B positive 19 years ago and helps a range of customers in the UK and beyond to build their BA capabilities.

So, Vicky, thank you for joining me today. My pleasure. Yeah, it's nice to have you building business analysis capabilities. And I, I think we've got quite a few questions to cover today about building those into this, this sort of unknown future. But maybe we can start with a bit of background about you. How did you land up in business analysis and what still keeps you, uh, in this profession?

Vicky: So, I'm, I, I actually, landing in business analysis is quite a, quite an interesting question. So I, I started as a programmer, um, at IBM, but the reason I became a programmer was because I had an interview to be an accountant, and I actually fell over on my way out of the interview. So I did literally fall into an IT profession because accountancy didn't work out.

Um, but I, I, as I said, I started as a programmer at IBM and I had a real fascination with modelling. Okay. It was, it was modelling was the thing that, that, that caught me. And it was sort of being able to take a complex system or a complex problem and breaking it down. And, uh, even, even today, I'll find myself, um, producing data models or process models to try and make sense of, of, of complexity and complex problems.

Um, and so I, I remember being delayed once at an airport and trying to work out why they couldn't just use the planes that were on the runway and using a data model to work that out because of the type of plane, the route, the pilot, the skills of the pilot, um, and trying to, to do that. So it's that, that's what keeps me in business analysis. Uh, it's that, it's that it's that real enjoyment to solving problems and working with people to, to solve the problems.

Um, but yeah, that's how I literally fell into business analysis, fell. Into it.

Joe: Okay. And yeah, it's, it's, it's trying to understand the complex problems and how to solve them as well, I think, isn't it?

I was talking to somebody today actually, about data and, and we were, we were discussing where data is visible in the world, and actually airports came up because you get the departure, um, boards that give you all of those sort of planes and times and destinations and all of those, those attributes.

And I know when you completed the, this survey, one of the things that you picked out for perhaps being one of these future trends is data. Um, tell me a little bit more about what, what you see and how you see data being such a major future trend.

Vicky: Yeah, I th I think for a long time, data was really difficult. It was really, really hard. And there were so many stories in the press around failed data warehousing and data mining projects. So lots of organisations tried to do it, and there just wasn't the, the technology there really to support data, um, particularly the volumes of data that, that, that you need in order to be able to spot patterns and spot trends.

And I think that's one of the, the big technological changes is, is the ability to, to store, manipulate and understand data that's meaningful because da data itself isn't meaningful, as we all know. We need to, to, to look at it. We need to analyse it, we need to turn it into information, we need to gain knowledge from that information. So I think it's, it's about using data for, for organisations to make good decisions.

And as business analysts, I think we can help in a number of different ways. One is, is understanding what decisions need to be made by asking the questions that, that are insightful at the very, at the, the very heart of business decisions. But then also making sense of ambiguity where we've got just the data that doesn't really mean anything, spotting patterns, being able to solve problems with the data and to be able to, um, really make sense of just stuff.

So, so if we, we have all that stuff, how, how do we, how do we frame a question that will help, um, make sense of that stuff?

We've been doing a lot of work around, um, uh, AI chat, G P T, and, and it, it will throw up all sorts of stuff. I asked it when I was talking you, I was going to talk to you, I asked it, what, what's the future business analysis? But, and it does throw up lots of things. But the key thing I think, uh, and it's that really stands as in good stead as business analysts is, is asking the right questions.

And it's knowing questions to ask of the data. Cuz the data, the data's the data. Yeah. If we trust it, we trust it, but we really need to be able to know which questions are going to give us the answers that are gonna help us. And I think as business analysts, that's one of our, our core skills and one of the core things that will mark us out from everybody else, um, when it comes to sort of the future trends, uh, particularly in technology and, and the changes there.

Joe: Yeah, I mean, you said quite a lot in there. There's like three or four things I actually want to unpack with you, and I'm not quite sure which sequence to do it in.

But let, let me start with this data thing because that's where we started, right? And I really like what you said, um, starting with the end in mind, like what decisions need to be made and if we know what decisions then what kind of data would you need to see to be able to make that decision. And we can almost work backwards from there.

And and when you mentioned about storing, manipulating, and showing the data, you gave that full life cycle as well, which I think is fantastic because there's all this focus on sort of data analytics, business intelligence stuff, stuff like that. But people often forget that that that stuff on there needed to come from somewhere in the first place, right? It, it needed to be captured into a system.

Um, so do you see ba sort of taking responsibility of, of, of that full sort of spread from the moment that we are gonna capture it in some form of sort of interface, I don't even wanna say an IT system anymore, who knows what this interface is gonna be, but um, we capture it all the way through to the moment that it's displayed to somebody to make a decision?

Vicky: Yeah, and it, it comes down to requirements. Uh, absolutely comes down to requirements.

So, um, I was chatting to, to one of, uh, bas that that, that I work with yesterday. And we were saying, so it, it really doesn't matter how you frame the re frame the requirements or the user stories, he was doing some user story mapping. Uh, so it doesn't, it really doesn't matter how you frame it. What what you need to be able to do is to think through all the different, um, the, the different stages in that process.

And it is what we, we were talking about there is that process, that life cycle of, um, and it's a good old fashioned cru, isn't it? You created, you use it, you delete it, and, and that's it's stuff we've been doing for, for 20, 30 years.

But yeah, it's about how, and I think this again, is one of the, the things around the future trends is taking some of those basic building blocks and not forgetting them and applying them against whatever technologies or whatever, um, what whatever it is that, that we're looking at as business analysts.

And, and yeah, as a, as a BA we can, what we should be doing, and it's, again, it's a bit of a cliche, but having that talk box of BA skills that we still can use regardless of the technology, um, that we're, that we're working with.

Joe: Yeah. Um, and, and, and yeah, we're talking about this data, um, and I'm thinking we work it backwards, as you say, there's a life cycle. It, it's like good old crud and crud isn't gonna change, right? CRUD is gonna be crud for forever. It, it seems, um, do you see things like, uh, uh, I mean DAMA, there's, um, the data, um, group, they've got the DMBOK and things.

Do you perhaps see like business analysts getting involved in some of these other bodies of knowledge needing to sort of leverage that? I'm now thinking like data management, data quality management, you know, um, as much as you give that information, it needs to be like cleansed. You know, it needs to be, it needs to be correct. Might we say, see a shift that we don't have this entirely like BABOK focus, but we bring in some other BOKs too.

Vicky: Yeah, I think so. And I think, I think it's, it's across a number of different things. I think there's data, I think there's automation.

So, um, I think when I started, uh, as a, as a BA it was very much around, so I started back in the 1990s. Um, and, and it was very much our automation of large scale processes, really, that's what, that's what we were doing. So automation really not being anything new, but I think now with, uh, it's that integration of data and process and AI and machine learning and all of those sorts of things.

So I think there's a, as, as bas there's a huge, the, I think we've, we've got our core BA stuff mm-hmm. , um, but then I think that needs to, that needs to sort of have, um, tentacles out into other, um, things like data, like automation, um, like, um, and probably some stuff that we don't, we don't know about yet.

I mean, the augmented reality, I mean, is, is is is just there on the fringes, isn't it? And then the stuff that we don't, we don't know yet that, that we we're gonna have to, but I think, I think as, I think as bas, we've got a responsibility to inform ourselves about, um, some of those, that, those areas that we need to know about and be aware of the ethics that are involved as well.

I think, um, particularly with data, data is one of the places where ethics becomes really important because of how we're using them. And we've got legislation, um, about how we use data, um, how long we keep data for what, what we're doing with it, who's got access to it.

And I think we need to be informed about all of those, particularly, particularly around the ethical considerations when it comes to something like data. So yeah. So bodies of knowledge in those other domains, I think are, it's vital for us to, to, to be informed about them.

Joe: Yeah. No, I might throw in, I just wanted to throw in security with that too as well. I feel like that's gonna be another, another big thing, right? Yeah. Um, yeah, I mean, let, let's go. I mean, you mentioned augmented ai and I, I, I'm, I'm not going on much of a technology trend necessarily. We'll go wherever you steer the conversation, but, um, what you said that was really important in there is what we don't know yet.

Like, there is this stuff, they predict that there's gonna be more change in the next, I think it's 50 years than there's been in the last 10,000 years. We, the change that we can expect, expect, I don't think we can expect, we've got absolutely no idea about what's coming.

And one of the things, another one of the things that you said in your response here was, um, wider knowledge of tech, right?

Yeah. And I feel like that's, yes, we sort of need to know what's out there, what's available, what we can do with it, but I feel like we also need to try and look a bit further, not be as reactive, like when this thing hits us, I mean, chat, g p t hit us, right? And then suddenly everyone's on that bandwagon, but nobody was really ahead of that wagon, right? So everyone was sort of behind.

So do you, do you think that into the future as bas we could perhaps have a more of an eye on the horizon than we've got now?

Vicky: Yeah, I th I think it's really difficult. Um, I, I was, I was, I do some work with one of the universities, um, here in Edinburgh, and I was chatting to, um, to some of the lecturers in that that work with the computer science students. And they said, and the first year of a degree, they don't always know what they're gonna teach in the last year of a degree because things are ch really, things are changing that quickly.

I, I think as business analysts, what we need to be able to do is have the skills and techniques to be able to cope with whatever's being thrown at us. So I think we, we need that wider view. We, we need to see the horizon if we can, if we can make sure that we're, we've got that wider view ourselves, but we can, we've got the tools and techniques so we can pick things up quickly.

We've got, um, we can use methodologies that as technology agnostic, we can, we can, we can adapt. So I think adaptability is gonna be one of the big mindsets that we need to have.

So when I started data modelling, it was entity relationship diagrams, and then we've moved into class models. And, but some of those basics of data understanding, data modelling and data structures, if we can take those and understand them well enough to apply them to whatever's coming next. So it's, it's having those core BA skills, it's knowing that technology will change. It's having an adaptable mindset and being able to apply whatever that is to whatever comes next.

Joe: Yeah. It's a bit like we're gonna have different means to do the same things that we've always done, right? Yes. Um, business is sort of business. So we know that there are customers, we know that there are products and services that we need to serve them with through processes using data. So just different tools. Yeah. Same end. Yeah.

Vicky: Yeah. I, I think where it's really interesting for us, and I think this is one of the things that, um, the pandemic really brought to life was how as business analysts, we can use technology in our business analysis.

So the, the whole idea of, um, of workshops. So I think workshops is one of the great examples of, um, so of when we used to sort of, we used to hang around, we used to have all of these post-IT type things. I've got my different color post-its, and so, so, so the, these were the tools of our trade. So we'd have our brand, we'd have our marker patterns, and I do have my marker pens next to me as well.

So we'd have all of those things and we'd rock up to a workshop and we'd say, right. Let's mo map this process. We'd have a break, we'd have a cup of tea, we'd come back, we'd carry on mapping our process.

So what I think the pandemic forced us to do was to really think about how we use technology. Yeah. So how, how can we use virtual collaboration tools? Yeah. Um, so we, uh, uh, be positive. We use Miro quite a lot. Yeah. Cause that, that's the tool that we use for our, for our, our virtual workshops. But we've got some people who are now really, really good at doing Miro and are able to use that in the same way that I've been using these sorts of things for Yeah. For 20, 30 years.

And so I think for us, that's, I think that's a really exciting thing that, that what we can start to use technology in a way that we, that that the pandemic's sort forced us into Yeah. For to, and, and it, and it widens the scope of what we can do. We can talk to stakeholders in different places. We can, we can, we can, we can work from home, which might suit people, um, in different circumstances.

So, so we can, I think, I think using, and that's just one example is that, that facilitation of remote workshops, one example of where technology will really help us in our job. And it's not just about the technology that our, our, our, our customers are using because it's, it, it, some of that, uh, will be I think sort of crystal bull type territory.

But if we can harness some of that for ourselves and, and even things like, I mean chat, G P T, I mean, it's, it is the thing that, that is a thing at the moment. But what we can use it for is to, if we're going to see a customer or see a new user or a different part of an organisation, uh, say we're going to work on a regulatory project, we can, we can maybe get some key things. Yeah. That, that, and it'll start, it'll speed up the process.

It doesn't actually replace the process. Cause we still need to go and find things out. We need to go and talk to people. We need to elicit all those good requirements, but we can maybe start things off quicker and we can speed things up. So I think there's the, we do need to be careful use these things with care. Yeah. But I think it is quite exciting that we can maybe use things in a, in a different way Yeah.

And become users of technology rather than, um, rather than sort of that, that sort of sitting in between the business and it, which is what bas have sorted. We move around a wee bit. But it's that sort in between business and it.

But I think, I think that's one of the big changes as well, is those lines are blurred. So we don't have, the BA doesn't now, I don't think sit between business and it Yeah.

And I think there's a number of reasons for that. I think a lot of organisations, particularly if you look at the financial services organisations, the solutions that they give their customers, the technology solutions, they're not banking solutions. Yeah. The, the, the tech is so embedded in what they do that it's not, it's, it's not a, the two aren't separate anymore. Yeah.

And then I think the other thing, which I think is, is a big change for that of sitting between the business and it is digital natives coming into the workplace. Yeah. So people, people that are coming in that are sort of early career have used technology and, and I mean, I'm, I'm blown away with how they Yeah. How they work. They, I, I said I've, I've been working still in it since the 1990s. Yeah. Um, which, which, which is actually four decades, which makes me feel very .

Joe: Um, but gosh.

Vicky: Okay, well. Work this out to, it's the, the nineties, the two thousands, tens, and the 2000 twenties. So it covers four decades, which is Yeah. Quite scary. Yeah. But the.

Joe: There's this point in your career when you write down and like the number of years you want to like embellish and show, and then you reach this point and we go, actually, I wish these would just slow down a bit now.

Vicky: Yeah. You can, you can see why Hollywood stars embellished their or change their ages to really go to a certain point.

But, but I think that, that, that, that, so the early career bas are coming in now have such an appreciation of technology that, that, that that wasn't there sort of 10, 15 years ago. Yeah. Um, cuz everybody uses their, right. These at school use it at college. Yeah. Everybody. And, and it's not seen as something different. Yeah.

Whereas I'm, I'm still amazed I can take photos on my iPhone. I mean, that, that's still No, no. But, but that's, that, that's what people have grown up with that now coming into the, the workplace that are people that are involved on projects.

Joe: I, I, I, yeah. And, and I, and I was thinking about, um, when you, when you mentioned that in your response, I was thinking about it, that I was thinking, this is really interesting, and I had a couple of questions on it.

So one, I I feel like the word to maybe use for them is dexterity. They've got this amazing dexterity with tech. Like, I mean, even if I use a silly example in my son's remote control for his, um, Xbox, the number of buttons on there compared to the number of buttons I had to play with when I was growing up. It's like four times as many. And he just, when, when I'm like, clumsily trying to do this thing, he just laughs at me. And he is, he is just got such dexterity to do it.

I watched some of this social media stuff and they've got these apps, and suddenly we've got, um, captions and we've got memes and all this stuff going on. And somebody created that in probably 20 minutes. I take half a day to do something like that. It's ridiculous.

So as you say, we've got these people coming in who are so of fa so skilled with technology. They're, they're, they're possibly more skilled than the bas in some way. Yeah. So either, and, and, and these were the sort of two angles that I saw on this. Um, if, if I can find it.

But one, one, they might not need you because they can solve their problems themselves, right. They know about the tools and they can do that. So they can say, well, I've got this problem, let me just get on and fix it. I mean, they, they're gonna be like a proxy ba really solving their own problems.

And the second thing is, if they can do that, but they still have problems to solve, then they're gonna expect a lot more from you as a BA than what you can currently provide.

Vicky: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I, I think, I think the, I think the latter is really important.

And I think that's where, as bas, and I think it's having, partly it's about being confident in what we do. So it's not, it's not just about it, it's, it's that, it's that holistic view. I mean, I know that's, that's, again, it's bit of, another bit of a cliche, but it's that thing that says, well, that, that might solve your IT problem, but then how's that gonna impact the, the people and the team that you are working with?

So, so, or what if you do that? How's that going to affect your customers? So if your customers, and, and again, this is where ethics maybe comes into things as well. So if, if you've got an expectation that, that I know maybe you can share data between systems, then what, what are the ethical considerations that you need to, to think about that?

So yeah, you can, you can, you can, you can use, uh, uh, some sort of interface to, to transfer information between two systems. But what are the impacts of that on your customers? What are the impacts ethically are the regulations that are gonna be, be, come into to force with that? What, what's the impact on, um, the, the wider process? So, so, so if you want to share that data, actually, where is it being stored created, red, updated, deleted.

And so bringing in asking those questions and those challenges to make sure it's not just sort of that, that, that, that bit, that the, um, sort of that, that sort of, that, that dexterity gives them. Because I think dexterity is great, but if it's dexterity, that that gives them that, that ability to flex in different situations. I think what we, I think what we need to find, and this is something that my 16 year old daughter was talking about, is, is what's our flex?

So what's the thing that gives us the, the difference, the thing for us to, to say, well actually that that's our flex. And I, I think what it is, it's that, and it's a gen, it needs to be a genuine flex. It needs to be the thing that says, this is genuinely where we make a difference.

And I think it is in that, um, that taking a view of the whole impact. So it's not just that, that that bit that they can solve, um, with, with, with, with their, their knowledge of technology and their ability to use it. I think it's about, um, making sure that everything links together and it's good traceability. So it's making sure that there's a genuine need to do something.

And if you've got that need, is there justification? Is there the scope for it? Is there the funding for it? How does it impact maybe different parts of the organization? Um, and it's about making sure that that, that, that everything's considered and it's, it's the people, it's the process. It's the, yeah. Um, it's any regulations, what's, what's that overall change that's needed, not just that bit, the technology bit.

Yeah. Which is, which is important, but there's so much more around it as well.

Joe: Yeah. There. Is, it's that word, holistic. There's so much more around it. And I mean, you know, traceability, what, what, what we're really doing there is this, if we pull on the end of a thread, we can see what else like moves when we do that.

Um, and if people are creating these own solutions, um, and I've seen that in the past as well. People have, people have created their own solutions in their past in isolation. It becomes unsupported. You know, nobody really knows what it is.

Vicky: And Yeah. How, how many of those spreadsheets still exist on people's PCs because

Joe: ridiculous,

Vicky: somebody's, somebody's managed to, somebody knows how to do pivot, pivot tables really. Well, and. Yeah. And, and yeah, there. And so they, they, they've got, they've got the spreadsheet that governs the whole department and the problems and the risks of that, that that causes. And we've, we've seen that. We've got the scars from doing that.

And I think that's where we can build, we can bring that, um, that, that, that, and I think it is those battle scars. I think, yeah. Particularly for those of us that have been around for a while. It's those baffle scars of knowing where it's really gonna hurt and what the consequences are for doing things in a particular way.

Joe: But, but the thing about those pivot tables is there isn't a better solution than those pivot tables , that the alternative, they don't like as much a a as what they've currently got. And we are sort of saying, you need to change. And they're saying, well, we don't want to change to that. We're, we're, we're happy. Um, I'm sure we're gonna have those kinds of, um, those kind of conversations.

Um, let's, so, so I mean, if we were to like throw our mind forward, and I know that, uh, one of those questions that we get asked when we work for other people is, or in an interview maybe, is where do you see yourself in five years time?

And that's an impossible question, but I wanna throw something a little more impossible than that at you. What does a day look like for a business analyst in let's say 2033, 10 years from now? What, what do you think that looks like? 2033?

Vicky: So, so I think, um, so I think there'll be lots of things that bas do that the same.

So we'll be managing stakeholders. I think I d I think that is a, that's a given. We'll be managing stakeholders. Stakeholders might be different. We might have different sorts of stakeholders that we're managing. We might have stakeholders that know different things, so that we need, so when we're talking to stakeholders, we might need to do some different preparation in advance for, for talking to them and managing them.

So I think, I think we'll, we'll still be doing that. I think we will be, um, we'll still be eliciting information.

So we will be asking questions, but we might be asking them in different ways. And we might be asking them, um, to, um, from different sources. So we might be eliciting information from, um, from data stores, uh, as well as from people as well as from, um, documentation, uh, from, and our idea of documentation I think's gonna change as well.

Joe: I can say, will that exist in 10 years time?

Vicky: It, it, we, we won't, we'll, we'll be storing things different ways.

And I think one of, one of the big changes I've seen in analysis is the, is the demise of the requirement specification. So, and, uh, user stories. And so regardless of whether people are using agile or not, capturing requirements as user stories is one of the biggest changes that I've seen in analysis over the last of maybe 10 years.

So, and so getting away from those requirements, specs, business requirements, documents, those big thick things, user stories is one of the, the, the things where I've seen people, um, people using that technique to be, to, to capture requirements in a, in a, in a different way, regardless of whether they're using Agile or not.

Some organizations are like big thick b r d requirements catalogs. Um, but I do see sort of the user stories as being, um, a way of capturing requirements, um, to, in, in manageable chunks. I think, I think getting atomic requirements as user stories is a way, particularly for new business analysts to, to be able to, to shape things in that way. Still making sure that they're, um, that all those good things about requirements, uh, are there in the user story.

But I think when we're writing requirements, I think user stories will be much more prevalent, uh, in terms of, uh, the work that we do there.

I think business analysts will become much more involved earlier on in the life cycle. So I think some of that strategic analysis will become, um, much, and, and again, it's about deciding, or it's about helping formulate the decisions that need to be made, the questions that need to be asked, and how, um, we source the answers to those questions or the information that's gonna help us answer those questions.

Um, and I think one of the things that will, we need to do as well is to keep ourselves informed. So I think sort of the continuous learning, the continuous, um, familiarization with, um, uh, sort of what's happening with data, with ai, augmented reality, whatever it is, sort of that, that, that constant looking at the horizon that, that you mentioned earlier, I think we'll need to be doing that.

Um, and I think the other thing is that, we'll, we won't be, we'll be doing much more remote work as well. And I think sort of that, I think, I think that's now more embedded in the way that we work as business analysts that we don't, we don't necessarily need to, um, be face-to-face with people, be face-to-face, but on screen rather than, um, rather than having to rely on, and it does pain me that of my store of these as much as it has been in the past. I'm I'll find a way. Yeah. I'll find a way.

Joe: They'll, they'll still get used. Um, . Yeah. I, I, you know, there's still time to meet, there's still time to have workshops and get together, um, uh, both work, but, but also there are other things in the context that require us to get together at time. So, so post-it notes will get used.

There's quite a lot there. Um, but I feel like overall what we're saying is it pretty much stays the same, but we might be just doing it in different ways. Yeah. Um, I, you know, and I, and I'm trying to imagine like, when you say these things, like, okay, how, what would that look like? How would that be implemented?

And, and you said something there about, you know, when we're asking questions, we might be asking questions of data, and I'm thinking, yeah, we might have something like Siri or Alexa or something like that. We might be throwing a question at them to say, Hey, please go away and tell me how many products were returned faulty for reason X over the last quarter.

Um, yeah. I mean, uh, uh, so, so our interfaces are almost gonna change, and maybe we're asking some questions of technology, like literally asking questions of technology. Yeah, I can, I can see that, that coming about, um, still eliciting still asking questions.

And the other thing you said in there, moving towards, um, more strategic analysis. So I'm just interested for your perspective and opinion there. Are we not doing that already, are not enough of us doing that already? In your experience, do you think we are or aren't we fulfilling that?

Vicky: I, I think there's a view, and so in my experience is that you have to be quite experienced as a business analyst to be involved in strategic analysis.

Joe: Yeah. Agree.

Um, so yeah, so I, I think there's that. I th but I think the, so my f I think my first experience of being involved in that strategic analysis, the, the thing that surprised me was just how detailed it was, the amount of detail that, that we went into. I thought strategic high level s you threw up a CPO and that that's it. But, but no, it was very, very detailed and we, we, we needed to find out a lot. We needed to find out a lot of stuff to rule stuff out.

I think, I think that was, that, that was, that was one of the things that, that was a real eye opener. Um, and I, I think the more the, I actually, I think it's, it's more that the more that we can get involved at every stage, the better business analyst we are Yeah. Because we understand what we're picking up and we understand where we're passing it onto.

Yeah. And I think that line's gonna be blurred as well. So I think it's gonna be much more that w w that we'll need to be able to be, um, active wider, um, stages of, of a project life cycle. Um, whether that's agile, whether that's waterfall. Cause I think there probably still is a place of waterfall type projects.

Um, whether that's iterative, incremental, what whatever it is. I think we, we'll still have the same skills, but I think we need to, we, we probably need to have a more, a wider, um, exposure to those other stages in, in the project lifecycle. I think part of it's organizational as well. I think in some organizations that strategic stuff is seen as the domain of the business architect. Yeah. Um, or, or the enterprise architect rather than the bas in there. And it might be a BA that gets seconded into that.

But I think as things change and we become much better at, um, at, at understanding sort of how, and, and I think this is one of the good things around sort of the, the way that the organizations becoming more reliant on technology is that there isn't that separation between say, business architecture and technical architecture. It becomes a true enterprise architecture. Yeah. Because it's, it's how everything fits together. Yeah. Um, and I realize I'm not answering your question at all, but there,

Vicky: you are,

Vicky: but I think, I think, I think as business analysts that brings together of the technical and the business architecture plays Absolutely. To our strengths, because that's, that's what what we do and that's what we're good at. It's that bringing everything together.

So I, I think, so I think some of it is organizational. I think we need to get rid of that perception of you can only do strategic analysis if you are experienced. Um, because there's a lot, there's a lot of stuff in there because, because it is bringing together a lot of that, um, technical.

Joe: But, but it, but it's funny. Let me just hop on. I, I mean, you've made that statement again, and, and there was something I wanted to say the first time. So let me just, um, hop on there.

It's funny because I mean, I agree with you, you are right. Like senior BA does strategic work. Like you need to become that senior ba if you want to do that, that kind of thinking. But actually, if you are a fairly green graduate at a big four or five company, you could well be doing that kind of work because you've been pulled in as part of a management consultancy.

So there's this contradiction there that actually you need to trust a five year BA or somebody who's just come out university six months ago. And, and, and I just feel that that's such a conflict there. And if organizations can trust those teams of people, then they, they could place that kind of trust on the people they know.

Vicky: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And I, I think it does come down to that, that, that having a, a, a, our genuine flex, again, it's, that is that thing that's, um, yeah. Talking like a teenager when I'm talking when I'm talking about having a flex, but, but is, it's about having that thing that, that is actually, it's what's the stuff that we should be showing off about?

Yeah. What, what's the stuff that we, um, that we need to be shouting about and saying, right, this is the stuff that we're, we're really good at. And, um, and, and, and being able to, um, as you say, it's, it's not just about senior bas with five years experience going into doing that strategic stuff.

It's about, it's, it's a skillset of understanding problems. It's about communicating, it's about communicating with stakeholders. It's about understanding, it's about methodologies regardless of what that methodology is and being comfortable with that.

But I also, I also talk to, I also talk about when we talking about methodologies and, and, and some of those techniques, and I think this is approximately that maybe management consultancies do better than, than we as bas do, is that we almost need to be, uh, beast of use them by stealth.

So rather than announcing to everyone, right, I'm going to do, I'm gonna use, I'm gonna use a fishbone diagram in this. Yeah. We just, we, we use the techniques without necessarily announcing them. Yeah. And we, and, and, and we use it, we use 'em by stealth. And I think doing that, it starts to then build up our credibility about, it's, it's not just about applying techniques, it's about having that deeper understanding of it.

Joe: Becomes, it becomes less geeky, doesn't it? If you just sort of Yeah, absolutely. Do it and use it. Um, yeah. It's almost then it's like voodoo magic that these guys are doing, and we don't quite know how they're doing. But you know, we, we, we like it.

Vicky: I, I call it being a ninja. It's being a ninja ba It's like you do your, you forward roll, like Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible and all that. And it's, it's about doing it by stealth, I think. And it Yeah. Is it's then, then it makes it more, um, it's not about just, it's not about applying a technique. It's about having a skillset that, that enables you to solve problems.

Joe: Yeah. No, I like that. One, one of the things I've joked about in the past is, is is that often as bas, we can sort of pick up the BOK, we can wave it around. We go, no, no, no, no. This is how we've got to do it. You know, and, and the business sort of looking, you go, well, that's nice, but we are over here, you know, like, we are doing this thing, and that's lovely, but you just stay away, you know? Yeah. Um, because we want to solve some things.

I think, um, and to tie something else, you, you, you said into the strategic role, which, which I think might be helpful. It's this bridging the gap between business and it, it's this stereotype that, that came out of the eighties, maybe late seventies. Um, and so that sort of tag has stuck with us that that's what people think our flex is. Right.

And so, yeah, maybe, maybe we do have, we have to rebrand our value proposition, but I, I, I, I mean it's, it is a phrase that I've, um, I've picked on for, for, for many years because I think it's very limiting just having that, it anchors us down in this, in this stereotype role.

And I was thinking today, like, if we do processes, right, processes are central to everything we do. It's the rules, it's the data, it's the people, it's the organization. And, and all of that stuff comes together in there. So if we do processes and we do processes improve, uh, process improvement, and, and during that process improvement, we changed some of the responsibilities.

So those rectangles move swim lanes or whatever's like happening there, but we change boundaries of departments. We change responsibilities of people. Mm-hmm. , we, we, we probably change the, um, the performance of that process. It needs to perform more effectively, more efficiently. So we, we speed it up, we make it leaner, um, and then I start thinking, well, that changes people's jobs descriptions, right? That changes their performance contracts with their KPIs and things, how they're measured.

So why aren't we the bridge behind between business and hr?

Because that's where all that stuff gets changed. If projects are about that outcome, about those business benefits, why aren't we the bridge between business and results? It's like we need that holistic thinking. Like the purpose of us doing this is not to build that tool. That tool is actually something along the way to to, to something bigger, right?

Vicky: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, absolutely. And I think it is that, it's that thinking of the, it, it's probably where we started, it's that thinking of what the end is. So the end is a, is a business outcome. It's not a new I it's not necessarily a new IT system. It's a, it's a business outcome which encompasses all of that.

And, and, and I think that's where we, so our, our, um, skills and our abilities to understand that and to be, to be this of the, the expert in that change, which encompasses hr, which encompasses operations, which encompasses legal, regulatory marketing.

So all the different, so, so we, we've got the, the, like the octopus tentacles, again, reaching into all those different, um, departments that, that we might have in an organization, um, that, that, that give that complete business outcome, which isn't just about a new IT system.

Joe: Yeah. No, it, it is. And it's gonna be so fascinating to see how this develops. I mean, I'm gonna have a few of these conversations. It's been great talking to you and hearing, um, some of these, these ideas, these projections almost, you know, maybe we are projecting a future by getting this sort of collective thinking together, but it's going gonna be so fascinating, um, to see how this does.

I, I, I think, you know, as you say, it's sort of gonna be the same job just in a slightly different time and place. Right?

Vicky: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Joe: Okay. Well, thank you for joining me, Vicky. It's been fantastic talking with you.

Vicky: Um. No, thanks Joe. I've enjoyed it.

Joe: Yeah. Cool. And, uh, we'll chat soon. Cheers. Bye-bye.

Vicky: Okay. Thanks Joe. Bye-Bye.

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About Vicky Di Ciacca

Vicky Di Ciacca (/in/vicky-di-ciacca-0577021/) is co-founder of Be Positive, a BA consultancy based in Scotland. Be Positive was established 19 years ago and now helps customers in the UK and beyond build their BA capabilities. She is passionate about skills development and supporting people to reach their potential and is chair of the board of trustees of WorkingRite, a Scottish Youth Employment Charity.  Vicky recently completed a master's degree in Business Psychology and enjoys running Ultra Marathons. 

About Joe Newbert

Joe Newbert (/in/joenewbert) is is a consultant, a writer, a speaker, but above all, a teacher. As Chief Training Officer at Business Change Academy, he delivers some of the best business analysis training on the planet. He co-authored the original IIBA® Business Analysis Competency Model and served as Non-Executive Director on the IIBA® South Africa Strategy Board. Joe is Showrunner at the business analysis podcast network OneSixEight FM as well as Editor-In-Chief at the Inter-View Report. And he also writes in fits and starts at Newbert's Blog.

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  • I completely agree with Vicky when she says that the future of business analysis will be the same in terms of the core skill set that makes up our BA tool kit. What will change is how we do it, but the key skill sets still remain, the critical thinking, the problem solving, understanding the real business problems we are trying to solve.

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