If you are a cynical business owner, as I am, you hear the word “analyst” and the offer of “a report” and you assume that someone will take a lot of money off you to ask you obvious questions so they can then tell you stuff in a report that you already knew. Unfortunately this is all too often the case.
So let’s explore what is an analyst, and when and why we should let analysts into our businesses.
According to my friend Wikipedia:
Business analysis is a research discipline of identifying business needs and determining solutions to business problems. Solutions often include a software-systems development component, but may also consist of process improvement, organizational change or strategic planning and policy development. The person who carries out this task is called a business analyst or BA.
Business analysts do not work solely on developing software systems. Those who attempt to do so run the risk of developing an incomplete solution.
A good time to perform analysis is when:
- Profits or cash flow are above or below expectations
- Customer satisfaction is low
- Staff attitudes are slipping
- Industry changes are forcing internal technology adoption
- Budgets are being set for internal projects
- IT security has become important to the organisation
Expanding on these thoughts, when we are not getting the business results we anticipated it is wise to understand why. If the results are good then we need to know what is driving the good results, so we can do more of the right stuff and not lose the edge we have. If the results are poor we need to know what to change before the negative impact takes us out backwards. Careful analysis helps us to avoid impulse, assumptions and costly mistakes. In small to medium enterprises (SMEs), decisions are made on hunches and products are bought because slick salespeople offer us an apparent solution to a perceived problem.
When we are about to embark on spending money to make money or spending money to save money in a business, there is a chance that others have followed this path before and have specific knowledge that is missing within the business talent pool.
So there are advantages to making use of business analysts even if just for a short period. Some of the reasons why are:
- To avoid implementing a costly solution that is not suitable for the organisation
- To gain the advantage of the analyst’s perspective and experience
- Getting an independent opinion with a different point of view (especially in a family business)
- It can force a pause to reflect on the current situation before embarking on change.
- Change is risk, so it helps to identify and mitigate risk
- Introduction of a broader range of technologies
Of course there is much more to the lists above but you should have the concept. Entrepreneurs by their nature are optimists and often do not pause to reflect on the risks associated with an action or acquisition for their business. The analyst’s balanced approach of identifying and mitigating risks can be an excellent balance to the entrepreneurial mindset.
The trick is in finding analysts who know enough about your particular industry or the particular problem you are trying to solve or the technology sphere you need to draw your solutions from. For a small business, it is not feasible to employ and train your own analysts. Even for a small business supplying analysts, it is hard to have the right people on the team, so the solution for the SME community is to tap into networks of analysts to have the right people to call on for short projects.
So if you are an analyst looking to connect with the SME community, I would love to hear from you.
If you are running a business that needs to improve your IT systems, security, functionality or processes I hope that you will include an analyst in your planning to ensure a better outcome. I would be delighted if I could connect you with the right analyst for the job.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for solving business problems with IT. How can we help?