Ivan Jureta is an entrepreneur, AI engineer, author of Analysis and Design of Advice, researcher at University of Namur, and a business analysis professor.
What is your definition and purpose of business analysis? What is the role of business analysis in businesses today and in the future?
Ivan: Business analysis aims to bridge business strategies and goals, with day-to-day activities of people in an organization. It is a set of conceptual/cognitive tools and methods, which are usually, but not always, applied by people with an interest and expertise in management and information technology.
Historically, “business analysis” was a term introduced by the IT industry and research (where it is usually called “requirements engineering”), to solve the problem of service quality of information systems: businesses invested substantial amounts into the engineering of information systems, only to find that, while these systems fit their specifications, they failed to be relevant enough for the business itself; in other words, systems had high engineering quality, but low service quality. It was and still is argued, in business analysis, that systems must be aligned with business goals and needs. Achieving that, however, is proving to be hard; it is generally expected from business analysts to solve such problems.
Already today, business analysis is an integral part of product design and product management in organizations.
It is also a critical part of designing artificial intelligence (AI): business analysis is used to identify and define the purpose AI has in a product, understand the human processes that AI should automate, and design simulations to perform as an AI prototype, before a comprehensive AI implementation.
What is the relationship between business analysis and brand equity management?
Ivan: Business analysis needs a direction, an aim which drives it. That aim is critical, because it tells the analyst if she understood problems, and how well her solutions fare. She does analysis towards that aim, it gives her criteria for her decision-making.
I see brand equity management as being able to give a relevant direction to business analysis efforts.
Looking at it the other way around, business analysis is a tool for brand equity management. Given the aims that brand equity management sets, business analysis is a way to ensure that the organization has a common language, processes, positions, and technologies, to achieve these aims.
If the direction comes from brand equity management, then business analysis can helps align the organization to realize brand equity management goals.
I have seen this applied in the past. In various ventures, we started from brand values to convey, trusting that if we achieve that, we will generate value for everyone involved, including – critically – our customers. It is one thing to want to convey values, than it is to know that customers actually perceived and experienced these values. We used business analysis to decide how to ensure that our designs of products and services would manage to convey brand values. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture, be in growth or contraction. Brand equity management helps set that big picture, and business analysis helps translate it into operations.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and managers?
Ivan: Two specific pieces of advice come to mind. Firstly, you can think a lot about brand equity, but it only becomes relevant for your results if your organization is set up to realize/grow it. Business analysis is indispensable to that, and the earlier you have business analysis capabilities internally, the more you are able to manage the risk of a gap between expectations on your brand equity, and what you actually achieve. Secondly, there is a resilient, but mistaken assumption on business analysis. It is that it can be a one-off effort, something you buy at a specific time in the lifecycle of a product or service. For example, you involve business analysts to specify requirements for technology in your product, and presumably you are done; you then go on to engineer and manufacture the product according to specifications. Instead, business analysis needs to be a sustained activity throughout the product/service lifecycle, since it is only in that way, that you can keep adjusting the product to the changes in market and competitive conditions, consumer behavior, and so on.
In general, have competent business analysts inside the organization. And in any case, ensure that you can bring excellent ones on board for more demanding initiatives.
Signals which show that you have a need for more or higher quality business analysis include, for example, innovations which have no dedicated owners in the organization, difficulty to fit processes and business strategy, IT systems which are not used enough, new ideas which do not get realized, product changes which are late. Look at your best business analysts as potentially great product managers, and perhaps candidates for executive positions.