6 Trends Impacting Business Analysis to Watch in 2021


Despite the ongoing COVID challenges in the world, 2021 will be a year of transition in many organizations. Some organizations have needed to fundamentally rethink their very existence, others are thriving, and most are pivoting in one or more ways as they enter the new year. In economic terms, the outlook for 2021 is optimistic with 5.5 percent global growth forecasted for the year, according to the January update from the World Economic Outlook. If this forecast materializes, it will be a significant rebound from the global growth contraction for 2020 that is estimated at -3.5 percent.

In all of this, we see tremendous opportunities – and challenges – that the business analysis community can contribute to as the practice evolves.

In 2020, COVID fundamentally changed many things in addition to learning how to best work remotely. Dynamic shifts in consumer behaviour prompted organizations to gain a deeper and faster understanding of their data to guide decision making and, in some sectors, accelerated digital transformations. In particular, IIBA has identified some key areas where business analysis has developed a critical voice in response to the rapidly changing landscape. That voice and the impact business analysis professionals will continue to provide will play an important role in helping organizations navigate trends, uncertainty, and opportunities in 2021.

#1 Continuing convergence of business and technology skills.

Technology is now essential across all areas of business operations, driving the need for business analysis professionals to play a critical role in strategic transformation initiatives. Business analysis professionals are in a unique position, traditionally straddling both technology deployment and end-user analysis to enhance business system value. As business and technology priorities continue to converge, titles may change but the need for business analysis competencies and skillsets will remain vital. Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2021 stresses that technology choices bear a greater role in enabling, or potentially constraining, organizational strategy. There will be demand for agile business analysis to inform decisions, manage implementations, and reshape organizational business strategy.

Business Analysis Focus


#2 Amplifying the impact of corporate social responsibility.

Purpose matters. Corporate social responsibility used to be important - now it is an imperative. Organizations are focusing on their social purpose as well as holistically reassessing their business objectives. This trend will continue for businesses of all sizes, impacting varying communities. But, before an organization acts, proper analysis is needed to understand the risks and requirements of enacting intentional, successful change. Business analysis professionals can help by guiding organizations to ask the right questions and develop a deeper understanding of consumer, partner, and employee needs to align with sustainable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives with tangible business objectives.


#3 Remote work changing tactics and resource needs.

A Gartner CFO study reports over two-thirds of companies plan to permanently shift some employees to remote work after the pandemic ends. Traditional business analysis techniques need to be adapted to better support this new reality. This evolution will fuel the expectation for accessible, mobile, engaging resources and assets geared toward ‘on-the-screen’ problem solving to aid, and help standardize, real-world scenario responses. Organizations will look to business analysis to provide data insights necessary for developing an effective workplace strategy to optimize performance, streamline costs, and transform company culture to deliver an engaging remote experience.


#4 Accelerated demand for data and security analysis talent.

As more organizations implement artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies and zero trust becomes the common model for cybersecurity work, the need for focused, domain-relevant business analysis is increasing. A recent Harvard Business Review survey found a significant number (72%) of organizations were not getting value from their AI projects. Not surprisingly, this is often the result of an ill-defined problem/product or bad data. We expect to see continued growth in distinct focus areas for business analysis. IIBA started addressing this several years ago in our work on agile analysis, and more recently with business data and cybersecurity analysis. IIBA’s 2020 Global Business Analysis Salary Survey of 5,400 global respondents found 18% of business analysis professionals report working in cybersecurity, 38% in data analytics, and 72% practice agile approaches. In addition to growth in those areas, LinkedIn identified product owner as an emerging job in 2020 with a 24% annual growth in the US. In 2021, IIBA will add support for product ownership analysis, an increasingly critical area of need.


#5 Renaissance of fundamental business systems.

Core operational systems are front and centre in many sectors now; quality and responsiveness to customer needs is being ruthlessly tested. Rigid processes and tightly engineered supply chains were disrupted under the pressure of rapid change imposed by the global pandemic leaving many organizations scrambling to create agility and responsiveness in their core processes. Organizations are looking to build more comprehensive and customer-focused approaches to how they operate in order to thrive post-pandemic as reported on by McKinsey & Company. Analysis to uncover what is mission critical and what is misaligned with the intended purpose or business outcome needs to happen quickly but also rigorously. Business analysis skills will increasingly be relied upon to help with big picture, strategic questions to assist organizations in responding to disruptions to value chains, analyzing support activities, and identifying operational system efficiencies and vulnerabilities.


#6 Deep understanding of customer journey is crucial.

The pandemic significantly influenced online behaviours, prompting many organizations to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. Forrester reports 27% of brands improved their customer experience in 2020, up 13% over the previous year, by focusing on core experiences. Customer journeys are now more complex, expectations are higher and new process requirements demand creativity and careful thought. Business analysis will be key to helping user experience and user interface designers unpack customer experience insights from both transactional and non-transactional interactions to create marketable, human-centred, data rich digital experiences.

Be better prepared for the year ahead. Stay connected by tapping into leading business analysis resources and accessing the most current data and perspectives from thought-leaders to support your career path. IIBA can help you respond to the rapidly changing market in 2021 and beyond.

Delvin Fletcher - IIBAAuthor: Delvin Fletcher

Delvin Fletcher is President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®).



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