Sat | Feb 27, 2021

The ICT business analyst – Agent of digital transformation

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2021 | 12:06 AM

In a previously published article, The Gleaner’s Shipping Feature discussed how digitalisation is proving its immense value to the shipping industry by helping to keep the supply chain operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digitalisation uses digital technologies and digitised data to improve workflow, transforming companies’ customer engagement and helping to create new revenue streams. Today, we present the second part in this series on digitalisation in which we will focus on the role of a key participant in this process of industrial transformation – the information communications technology business analyst (ICT BA).

It was in 1954 that General Electric’s Major Appliance Division plant in Louisville, Kentucky, installed the UNIVAC1 computer for payroll processing and manufacturing control programmes – the first business use of a computer in the United States. Since then, the world has experienced an age of digital transformation in every form of business, and the masterminds behind this include the ICT business analyst. To get a better understanding of the role of this key member of a business team, we spoke with Shannon Brown, an ICT BA atADVANTUM, a leading provider of ICT services in the Caribbean.

PROBLEM-SOLVERS

“ICT business analysts are problem-solvers,” Brown stated unequivocally, adding that “the ICT BA is in charge of analysing and designing an organisation’s processes and systems, assessing the business model and its integration with technology”. He said that BA specialists also carefully review the business to identify change needs, assess the impact of the change, capture and document requirements, and then ensure that these requirements are delivered, whilst supporting the business through the implementation process.

Brown explained that to be able to carry out these crucial tasks, the ICT BA must have knowledge of the organisation’s software development life cycle and possess analytical and communication skills to capture, analyse and articulate business requirements. He further explained that this ICT professional must be able to facilitate meaningful interaction between stakeholders, especially the software engineers and the software consumers (those who will actually be using the software).

The ADVANTUM business analyst noted: “An intriguing aspect of the evolution of modern software is that the pace and cyclical nature of its development requires a focus on delivering value in ‘bite-sized chunks’. What this means is that the ICT BA needs to offer a solution to the client even while it is being built and customised for the specific needs of the business.”

STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH

Before proposing solutions that involve digitalising the business ecosystem, the ICT BA will first want to assess the client’s objectives. Brown pointed out that, oftentimes, these objectives are directly related to profitability and therefore require in-depth analysis of cost and income generators, and their processes.

Brown revealed that “the ICT business analyst’s next step in the problem identification and solution process is to garner information on how things are currently being done”. He said that this will involve observation of the various processes, the roles of those involved in the process, how data is exchanged, what documents are being produced and used, and what monitoring and control mechanisms currently exist. It is at this stage that the analyst will identify ‘pain points’; these are the sites, or stages in the process, at which problems need to be solved.

“Having identified the problems, the ICT business analyst will consider a range of options for improving the process, including technology-based solutions,” Brown explained, adding that “ICT solutions often focus on simplifying the process through automation”. He revealed that the method used by the ICT BA to arrive at the best option involves asking scenario-based questions, beginning with ‘What if ...’ and projecting the implications of the new system being considered. The client will need to be involved in this process to provide information about what data is important, the frequency of data reviews, and what factors inform the actions at each stage.

SOLUTIONS FOR MSMES

The ADVANTUM business analyst is quick to point out that ICT solutions are not always expensive and beyond the reach of small operators, even in shipping. One solution Brown recommends, which is affordable and can make a big impact on their earnings, as well as cost-saving, is ADVANTUM’s cloud/subscription-based Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) freight solution. Pay-As-You-Go cloud computing (PAYG cloud computing) is a payment method for cloud computing that charges based on actual, not expected, usage. This practice is similar to that of utility bills, where the user pays only for the resources that are consumed.

One major benefit of the PAYG method is that there are no wasted resources, since users only pay for services procured, rather than provisioning for a certain amount of resources that may or may not be used. With traditional enterprise design, data storage is allocated to handle the maximum expected workload, but the PAYG cloud computing method allows users to be charged only for what they store.

Other ICT services that ADVANTUM offers include: requirements management/need assessment; implementation coordination/support and software change management. The ADVANTUM team is proud to be an agent of change for companies and organisations as they embrace the need to move into the digital realm.

Our next article in this series on digitalisation will look at the ‘Third-party connections’, and how ICT has helped transform our ports and their operations.