Business Analysis Today

Business Analysis in the past has been focused on figuring out how to automate and offshore basic human functions.  This has led to a great amount of savings for companies.  However, the time is coming where that work is no longer yielding the same dividends.  Now is the time to focus business analysis on things that humans cannot do. 
                When I first came into business analysis, there was a great focus on business process improvement.  This equated to finding more efficient ways to perform the functions necessary for the business.  Inevitably, this led to the offshoring of some menial functions, such as data entry, as well as an explosion of business process management tools that coordinated the processes that humans do.  Additionally, there was some automation of the tasks themselves, but that tended to be lower in volume than the other two.  This led to quite a few savings and made people focused on performing the highest value work that they could do.  Now, however, we have mostly exhausted that avenue.  As we look around, we have mostly removed the largest wastes within the enterprise.  That is, the law of diminishing returns is taking over and no longer will the same returns be generated from this analysis.
                The focus is now shifting to doing things that humans cannot do.  The goal of the processes are still the same, but the way to achieve them is changing.  As computers become more powerful and we build more intelligence into them, they can find patterns that no human could.  This power lends itself to finding areas where humans should then go investigate.  Now, not every single enterprise is ready for this change.  The business analyst must make sure to lay the groundwork for the process to change and evolve.  The way to do this is to intimately understand the goal of the process and use your skills to uncover new ways to achieve that goal.  This was never entirely overlooked in process analysis, but it becomes that much more important when the process may have to change significantly to achieve the goal more effectively.
                In all, the ideas behind business analysis are not changing.  However, the focus of the solution and how the goal is achieved are being altered.  The business analyst must be ready to see and analyze that slight difference.