We are several months into what is a world-changing event in the COVID-19 global pandemic and while some countries are starting to think about how to return to some sense of normality, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the normal we once knew is likely consigned to history.
Many industries, such as the leisure and travel sectors, have been decimated and layoffs and furloughing of staff has left many in a precarious position. Governments worldwide have had to implement unprecedented financial measures in a bid to stave off a global financial depression, from quantitative easing to furlough payments for those who can no longer work.
These are extremely uncertain times and the old ways of doing things are no longer as effective or indeed, useful. As business analysts, we are often required to be capable of embracing change at the micro and macro scale, but few things could prepare us for the challenges that we face now.
I’m still working through the ramifications of how the pandemic will alter my path as a business analyst. I honestly think that life will not be the same again once we come through the other side of this crisis – and we will come through it. Nevertheless, I am taking steps to adapt to this new way of life both presently and for the future. Here are some of my thoughts on how business analysis will be impacted in the light of COVID-19.
Ways of Working
There are many people who, through no fault of their own, have unfortunately found themselves unable to work or conduct their day to day duties. This may be due to the organisation being unable to carry out its core business activities (e.g. those who work in gyms, restaurants or cinemas) or through the financial impact of coronavirus resulting in employees being furloughed or having their employment terminated altogether – it’s worth noting that contractors may be particularly at risk of the latter. Business analysts are somewhat insulated against the adverse impacts of the pandemic as their core activities and deliverables can theoretically be executed anywhere there is a means of capturing and communicating information.
However, the way in which we carry out business analysis has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. Many business analysts are used to having ‘boots on the ground’, and being able to physically interact with clients and colleagues alike. With most countries putting social distancing measures in place, the ability to interact face to face with someone in order to carry out analysis has been severely compromised. Collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have enabled communication through remote working to be maintained, but these tools do not come without risks.
At a practical level, the lack of physical presence can drastically hamper the ability to extract and extrapolate information in a precise and efficient manner. It is much harder to run a workshop with multiple parties online than it is to have people in the room together. Likewise, practical activities such as shadowing a Subject Matter Expert – to model a process, for example – can prove to be frustratingly difficult, and time to deliver is likely going to increase as a result. These are just a few of the ways in which the practice of business analysis has changed in recent months, but we must be able to adapt in order to support our clients and deliver to the best of our ability.
Career and Skills Development
I’ve spoken previously about the need for business analysts to be well-rounded in their abilities, and nothing about that has diminished since the start of the crisis. If anything, the opposite is true – this is a time for you to expand your skills even further.
Do you specialise in business process engineering? Perhaps now is the time for you to start looking at how you can develop your knowledge in systems development.
Have you only ever worked on waterfall model delivery? Then this is an excellent opportunity for you to develop your knowledge in Agile methodology.
Business analysts should be using the opportunity to up-skill where possible. This may also be the time to explore a formal qualification – either within a specific function or vertical such as HR or information security, or through securing a business analysis-related qualification such as CBAP or BCS Business Analysis qualifications.
There are a wealth of resources available – many for free – which can further develop your skills and knowledge, while advancing your abilities as a business analyst and supporting your future goals and career aspirations.
You owe it to yourself not be the same business analyst at the end of this crisis as you were at the start of it.
The Global Job Market
In respect of job opportunities and openings, the impact of the pandemic has resulted in a global slowdown in hiring. This, coupled with the huge layoffs seen across the world, companies folding and increasing numbers of unemployed paint a worrying picture for the jobs market. Yet there are still opportunities available, more so now that we have been lead to move towards a digitally-driven remote working environment.
It is my view that the likelihood of traditionally office-based roles being moved in increasing numbers to a home working model will increase as infrastructure and tools become more effective in supporting remote working. Countries will have their own specific concerns which will also impact local job markets, such as IR35 in the UK. Business analysts should be pragmatic about the market conditions facing them over the next 12-18 months. While the full spread of COVID-19 is not fully known, the global job market remains unstable and we should exercise caution about making any significant changes in our personal and professional circumstances in the meantime.
Your Personal Well-being
I continue to champion the importance of maintaining the balance between career and health, and in light of the present circumstances, I believe this message is more relevant than ever. Quite aside from the serious health risks from contracting COVID-19, the impact of isolation and disruption to your normal lives is significant to say the least. From not being able to see family and loved ones, to losing access to health facilities, there are myriad ways in which the pandemic has changed our lives. It is vitally important then, for business analysts to keep on top of their physical and mental wellbeing while this crisis unfolds.
We must be at the forefront of exploring new methods of working remotely while exploiting existing and new technology platforms. We must be quick in redefining the paradigm for what can be achieved under these dire circumstances and deliver it to the highest standards possible. We must be responsible for our own development and look to continually push forward the discipline of business analysis.
In the meantime, stay safe everyone.