Three Ways a Business Analyst Can Help With Your Big Data Initiative

Big Data and Business AnalysisBig Data is certainly a popular topic these days, with good reason.  With increasing numbers of software tools and the ability to leverage inexpensive computing power, organizations are able to accomplish things that would not have been financially practical just a few years ago.

Tapping into “Big Data” capabilities can bring big rewards but have no guarantee of success.  Organizations that leverage Business Analysts for such initiatives will have many advantages. Included here are three aspects that can pay off.

Maintain your Focus

Big Data tools, capabilities and sheer data complexity can easily distract technical teams and cause shifts in what the solution will do versus what the business objectives are.  A good Business Analyst will always keep the business need clearly in focus.

Another contributor to solution diversion is the fact that many Big Data projects are externally focused.  These projects are working to achieve an internal business objective by servicing an external customer need in a way not historically possible.  Whether it is customer internet behaviour for tailored Ad delivery or using human genome information for health treatments, these types of exciting possibilities can distract various stakeholders from the ultimate business need.

The Business Analyst aids in keeping the stakeholders and potential solution aimed at solving a business need.  The skills and tools a BA uses to manage requirements and stakeholder engagements will ensure focus is centred in the right place.

Establish a Process

A second aspect of Business Analysis in a Big Data initiative is examining process and role.  New capabilities brought on by Big Data power can dramatically change decision and action processes.  For example, social media trending awareness is often only useful for a short period of time.  If your product is getting a great deal of Twitter “buzz”, your organization must have reaction and decision processes that can act quickly to take advantage of the information. A BA will work with stakeholders to identify and define the new processes.

The Big Data may have very broad stakeholder implications in your organization.  For example, your organization may have large scale data retention issues for a project that tracks product movement by RFID.  If you had a product recall, the organization may have to keep all the detailed tracking information for extended periods for liability purposes.  Business Analysts will rigorously tackle stakeholder identification and include roles like legal counsel when necessary.

Create a Common Language

Definition of measures and metrics is a third area where Business Analysts provide major value in a Big Data project.  Big Data will receive a lot of focus inside an organization and may touch many roles and responsibilities.  The BA is a focal point to make sure that all of the measures and metrics have a common meaning to all stakeholders.  Many Business Intelligence or Business Analytics systems run into adoption issues because the parties don’t agree on what the reported numbers mean.  This is true of Big Data projects as well and the BA will ensure everything is defined and there is a plan in place to educate stakeholders on “the” definitions.

Conclusion

Big Data technologies offer a lot of promise to organizations that use them well.  A good Business Analyst who applies sound tools and techniques will go a long way to ensuring that Big Data projects return the maximum value for the investment.

Al MartinThis blog was written by Al Martin, one of the instructors in Sheridan’s Business Analysis certificate program. To learn more about Al – check out his bio.

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