Who doesn’t enjoy a visit to Las Vegas? Even when on business, a trip to America’s Playground is always a welcome change of pace and a great backdrop in which to network, discover new opportunities, and strengthen partnerships. The Sapiens Decision team did just that at the annual International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA) conference on Building Business Capabilities (BBC 2023) in early May. Attendance at this year’s conference was a robust 1,000+ delegates, making it the place to be for business analysis professionals from a variety of industries.
The team converged on the relatively new Caesar’s Forum conference center, a terrific venue for a large show with well-appointed ballrooms, a spacious exhibition hall, plus the obligatory 15-minute walk back to the hotel through a smoky casino. But the walk gave me ample time to reflect on the conference, as well as the major themes and discussion trends that arose throughout the week.
Some Conference Takeaways
Conference attendees are always debating the best way to get the most out of these events. I find that a combination of attending sessions and speaking to booth visitors is the best way to keep up with industry hot topics. For this event, the team noticed three distinct trends emerge:
AI is everywhere, but the sheer volume of company data that remains untouched is still mind boggling. Data scientists are working hard to unearth competitive and customer insights by applying data management and AI techniques. Business analysts are taking a lead role working with data scientists to operationalize insights and incorporate machine learning (ML) model outputs in business requirements. But both groups agree that it’s getting a lot more complicated to manage requirements when ML model results need to be integrated with declarative decision models (think business rules). Data scientists don’t want to build integrations to systems and shouldn’t be expected to do so. This puts business analysts in the spotlight to ensure AI/ML inputs and outputs are reflected in developing requirements for IT.
Business Architecture has rapidly gained traction as the focal point for aligning business strategy with technology solutions, bridging the gaps between objectives and execution. Among many other responsibilities, business architects work closely with business analysts to conduct in-depth analysis of the organization’s structure, processes, systems, and capabilities to identify areas of improvement and opportunities for innovation. We can foresee dual career paths for business analysts: moving up and across the organization, growing into business architect roles, or specializing in specific product areas to become product owners. Of course, the beauty of business analysis is that it is such a rich field that great practitioners can develop an entire career by perfecting their craft and continuing to add value to their organization.
Change management will always be a team sport and business analysts can play an essential role. My colleague and conference presenter, Roland Philbin, got many heads nodding while presenting his experiences in driving change in large organizations. He defined the typical situation where the same handful of enterprise software solutions dominate the industry, technology roadmaps are fixed, and operations leaders have their own [strong] opinions on how things should get done. Business analysts can drive meaningful change by getting quick wins in the “middle,” between strategic industry level efforts, like system replacement, and more tactical projects, like policy updates. In the middle, there’s a sweet spot where business analysts can affect real change rapidly by applying decision management techniques to achieve decision automation. Needless to say, it was exciting to speak with a growing number of business analysts who had figured this out already and are stepping up to engage their organizations.
The Final Word
After a week of session participation, networking, and manning our booth, the team agreed that we learned a tremendous amount at BBC 2023. Most notably, that the trends in data and AI are not surprising, although operationalizing AI will remain a real challenge as the use of ML continues to grow. The emergence of the Business Architect as a key transformation role is also exciting and will open new opportunities for business analysts across organizations. Of course, seeing more business analysts taking on change management roles in transformation is truly gratifying.
I’m sure that my fellow attendees share my hopes that both the predictions and innovations at BBC 2023 Vegas won’t stay in Vegas, but take hold throughout the business world and become part of the mainstream. We’ll just have to wait until BBC 2024 to find out!