As an organisation, there is only one way for you to accelerate through these difficult times, and stand in a very strong competitive position in all economic climates:That is, to get back to business.

Business Analysis Conference 2009

This article is the first in a series of contributions by keynote speakers at the Business Analysis Conference 2009 in London on 28-30 September

This sounds very simple, and it is, however, that does not make it easy. After all, in organisations, we must never underestimate the ability of people to make the simple, so very complex.

Getting back to business means learning the lessons from the last economic downturn, when too many organisations simply did not learn from their past mistakes. It means applying a healthy dose of common sense, and it offers a fantastic opportunity to business analysts everywhere.

Business madness

In the last economic downturn, driven by consultancy hype, academic jargon and very short memories, many organisations simply repeated what they had done over and over – spend valuable money, resources and time on so-called change initiatives. And as a result at they stood completely still – at best. At worst, they died.

Forgive the emotive language, but they did – they were taken over, or they went bust. In addition, in those companies that survived, they found themselves with their greatest asset – their people – largely unfulfilled.

Experts called it the “Information Age.” I call it business madness – keeping on doing what you have always done, while expecting a different result.

Time for change

It is time to shape a future that is very different from the past. We have spent much energy, time and money, looking for success, answers and leadership from outside, from without, when they have always been available from within.

Taking advantage of thiswill require a radical new approach to leadership – and business analysts have a pioneering role to play in this transformation. Indeed, as a business analyst, you must take that lead.

What to do

Success, as defined by you, does not happen by accident – when you, your teams and projects, and your organisation are successful, it is the result of a structure. You have always followed a specific formula:

  1. Know where you want to go
  2. Know where you are now
  3. Know what you have to do, to get to where you want to go, or who you want to be
  4. Do it

So, as a business analyst, your role is to be leaders, facilitators, internal consultants even, to achieve specific outcomes. This involves Information Technology (IT), but goes way beyond it (after all, IT has to get back to business as well).

In my session at the Business Analysis Conference, I will share with you exactly how to perform each of these roles, based on real case studies from world-class organisations in over 30 countries.

Know where you want to go: Cause over cash

It is time to get back to business - to focus on the very core of what you do, the reason you exist.

Spell it out. It must be clear, concise and compelling – understandable by both a ten year old, and your mother.

There must be buy-in from everyone in the organisation – to do this, have everyone in your team come up with their own view – why they come to work in the morning, and ask them to compare their “personal vision” with that of the organisation. You will find over 90% have a match – the rest don’t belong and will leave one way or another.

The leadership keys: Have a bold ambition –hold your heads up, while your competitors are losing theirs.

Know where you are now: Clarity over confusion

Radical Simplicity is a primary requirement. Is everything you and your people do, directly linked to a clear, measurable benefit for your organisation, for your customers, for your P and L?

Any and all activities that do not do this should be stopped. (There are no ‘support’ functions anymore – and IT must now step forward and take their place at the very heart of your organisation).

The leadership keys: Unleash the skills, talent and potential that you already have, AND focus on the big issues by bringing the truth into the room.

The big question– Do your people take ownership, and accountability, for all that they say, and all that they do – you will know if they do, by whether they are part of the company (“us” “we”) or not (“they” “them”)?

Choice within change. Knowing what to do, to get where we want to go

We have to move beyond change for its own sake. The change agenda has not delivered. The same mindset, agenda and actions that got you where you are today, won’t get you out of current problems. If you are serious about being world–class focus on choice, rather than on the meaningless word “change.”

The leadership key – To be truly agile you must make true decisions – fast – and then take immediate action.

The big question– How many change initiatives do you have, ongoing, at the moment, and how co-ordinated are they?

Do it!

Customers over Convenience: Business is not about making mone, it is about delighting your customers. Making money is the result of doing this.

The leadership key – Ensure your new organisational processes, charts and roles reflect this goal. Take ownership of a very clear, horizontal end to end process. Separate the “What” (your outcome that you decide on, the one that is set in stone) from the “How” (your actions, which must be totally flexible).

The big question– Does what you are now thinking, saying or doing help move you closer to where you want to go, or further away?

Do one thing. If it takes you closer, do more of the same. If it takes you further away, then do something else, and if that doesn’t “work” then do something else, and if that doesn’t work…

The bottom line

It doesn’t matter what you know, it doesn’t really matter what you say – your results in all economic climates come down to what you do. What you, your people and your organisation actually do – each and every day. Everything else is just noise.

David Taylor is is also one of Europe’s most dynamic and sought-after speakers on the subject of leadership and personal development. His clients include BP, Procter & Gamble, Eon, Gamestation, and Coca-Cola. He is the author of the global best-selling Naked Leader books, the Honorary Professor of Leadership at Warwick University Business School and the first Business Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust.