Being a BA in the Screen-Scrolling Economy: Business Analyst as Stakeholder Advocate

There is little doubt that social media platforms have created new ways for people to interact with each other. Whether it’s staying in touch with friends, exchanging holiday snaps, or “debating” the day’s hot political issues with strangers, there’s bound to be a place for it somewhere in the social-mediasphere. Often there is a treasure-trove of opinion, ranging from well-considered and well-considered arguments and counter-arguments, right through to knee-jerk assertions from people who have done little more than reading the headline. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this type of forum provides a useful space for debate.

I was recently going through into, reading the comments section on an article about snow (a relatively rare occurrence in the South of the UK, and one that tends to hit the transport infrastructure fairly hard). The comments ranged from valuable ideas, through to moral outrage, through to individuals expressing clear objection to certain political ideologies and beliefs. To a certain extent, this makes sense, but I suspect that of the hundreds of authors of those comments, precisely (or nearly) zero:

  • Wrote to their Member of Parliament/elected representative
  • Wrote to the service involved with their suggestions
  • Went to the relevant local council meeting to give a verbal deputation about weather preparations
  • Looked for a charity, or other types of a non-profit organization, that shares their views and volunteered

I’m not for one moment suggesting everyone should do these things, the choice on how, whether, and how much to engage with issues is always a personal one and nobody should feel under any obligation or pressure. However, I wonder if the ability to “share” and “like” something on social media reduces the propensity to take other actions. In our economy of endless scrolling, rewarded by an occasional dopamine hit when somebody “likes” our post, are we at risk of being fooled into a culture of inaction? Sharing that video of the poor polar bear on the shrinking iceberg feels like the right thing to do, but is it the most effective way of creating change? Are those that are able and prepared to make a change even watching?!

What This Means For Business And Business Analysis

We might logically argue that this phenomenon is nothing new, I’m sure people have been exchanging views and debating in coffee shops and bars for hundreds of years. And the wider practical, ethical, and policy effects of this possible phenomenon are far beyond the scope of this article. However, if we accept that people express opinions via social media,then it follows that people are expressing opinions about your company and its services on social media all the time too.

This is hardly surprising, is it? Yet how often do projects and other initiatives tap into this source of insight? I suspect the answer is “not often enough”.

    • To broadcast corporate messages and press releases that nobody really wants to read
    • To placate complaints

There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but if the scope really is set this narrow, we miss a golden opportunity to solicit and analyze feedback. People often tweet, share, or rant during “moments of truth” that we’ve got wrong. Of course, solving the issue for the individual customer is crucial. Adapting the process or service so that it never happens again is a much bigger win.

I’ve written before that complaints can be a useful form of insight. Social media is another often untapped treasure-trove. Each of these sources will represent only a subset of our customer base, and we need to ensure that no voice is marginalized, and of course, not every idea is going to be desirable and feasible. Yet with careful analysis and planning, we can use this insight to make a range of relevant testable hypotheses for change. There is a crucial role for us to play here as business analysts: we are well placed to understand different stakeholder perspectives, consider and advocate different views and ensure that any intervention proposed will maximize the potential value across our stakeholder communities.

By building the capture and consideration of feedback into the very fiber of our organization, we enhance our ability to understand these perspectives, learn, adapt, and stay relevant. By empowering operational teams and those that are responding to social media and other inquiries to capture and escalate trends, we create a new “listening post” for customer insight to flow from. By consciously ensuring projects and other change initiatives tap into this information, we can assure better customer alignment.

In our economy of seemingly endless screen-scrolling, we would be crazy not to consider the direct feedback our customers are giving us. Wouldn’t we?

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