What I Learned from an Inflatable Penguin

02 Nov 2017

Recently I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the IIBA Business Analysis Professional Day in Melbourne.  With nearly 300 people in attendance, this was a great opportunity for me to meet with a really broad cross-section of BAs from various parts of Australia.  My colleague, Louisa Leung, who is the Head of Process and Consulting for DDLS, attended and spoke at the concurrent Sydney event.

For those that don’t know me, I’m the Principal Practitioner for Business Analysis for DDLS, but that’s not all I do.  I’m also a technical trainer and I deliver classroom training across both the technology and process spaces.  My two big passions are Business Analysis (BA) and Business Intelligence (BI) and how those two things come together.  In the BA space, I’m the Chair of the Perth Branch of the IIBA.  DDLS have been a strong supporter and sponsor of the IIBA across Australia for many years.

These networking events are always good fun, but they also offer a unique opportunity to find out what’s happening in the world of Business Analysis.  There were some pretty strong themes coming through at the Professional Day, at least at the Melbourne event. 

IIBA BAPD Melbourne 2017.

Agile (big “A” Agile) was of course a very strong theme, as it has been for several years.  There has been more than enough said and written about Agile so I won’t give it much “air time” here.  One thing I will say though is that BAs need to themselves be more agile (small “a” agile), and their skills need to extend beyond the traditional requirements gathering and formal documentation.  We need to recognise that in Agile projects, someone with BA skills and performing BA tasks might not have the BA title. 

One recurring theme was on the need for BAs to be more facilitative.  The opening keynote, James King, spoke about BAs facilitating problem solving, being a roaming detective, diplomat and community facilitator.  James also spoke of how businesses want rapid experimentation, not locked in plans and how the BA can facilitate the design process.  This is something I have believed for a while, having previously co-delivered presentations on the need for facilitative BAs for IIBA Perth. 

Another theme was the need for BAs to do more with data.  The keynote stated that logically speaking, evidence trumps opinion, therefore we should use data rather than conversations to understand stakeholder needs.  To this end, BAs need strong BI skills.   This transitioned beautifully to my presentation on self-service business intelligence subtitled “Think outside the Spreadsheet”.  To be most effective, BI needs to be done by someone with a detailed understanding of business requirements, knowledge of the business domain and key processes, familiarity with business systems and data and an established rapport with key stakeholders and decision makers.  This of course describes the BA.

The closing keynote was delivered by Hadyn Thomas.  He came on stage with an inflatable penguin.  You always know you are in for some fun when there’s an inflatable penguin, right? The penguin was introduced to the audience as “Fred, the meticulous executive”.  Fred and his penguin pals were woven into the story that Haydn told of how to stack the odds for project success.  Haydn reinforced the themes that BAs need to be more facilitative and also back up their business cases with data though he of course said it much more articulately.

There were dozens of presentations, workshops and quick bites in between the opening and closing keynotes, too many to list or describe here.  It was a great day, and I learnt a lot.  So what am I taking away from the Melbourne IIBA Professional Day? Wherever there’s change, BA skills are needed.   Let’s face it, there will always be change, therefore we will always need BAs though we might not always call them BAs.  BAs need to be evolve just as business has evolved.