How Business Analysis serves your customers’ experience

Delivering value through Business Analysis in a customer-centric organisation

Libby Vincent
Jan 4 · 6 min read
A disposable shopping bag printed with a smiling face and the message “thank you for your patronage”
A disposable shopping bag printed with a smiling face and the message “thank you for your patronage”

Customer-centric is an approach to doing business that focuses on creating an outstanding experience for the customer.

The overarching business theory is that great experiences create loyal customers; customers who will both spend more with you and be less likely to be tempted away by a better price. Consistency is then vital as customers penalise those who under-deliver twice as much as they reward companies who over-deliver.

It is nice to be nice, but it also pays to be nice. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer; which goes some way to explaining why increasing customer retention by as little as 5% can increase profits from 25–95%. No wonder the majority of CEOs recognise that mastery of the customer agenda is essential.

In contrast, product-centric organisations invest money and effort in developing new, better products, and their product lines define their business identities. They create new products by leveraging technology or specialised skills that exist in the company.

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.

Steve Jobs, Apple CEO

A product-centric approach where the team starts by looking internally at the business capabilities rather than externally at unserved customer needs may feel like a more natural fit for business analysis, but not so fast — leading and governing a customer-centric organisation is complex.

High-quality business analysis is the foundation of a high performing customer-centric organisation.

Let me explain;

Kodak defined its self as being in the photo processing business. When the shift to digital came, Kodak resisted this because of the impact on its “products = photo processing” business identity.

Steve Sasson, the Kodak engineer who invented the first digital camera in 1975, characterised the initial corporate response to his invention this way:

But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute — but don’t tell anyone about it.’

Steve Sasson via The New York Times

In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection.

Kodak’s story is just one of why many brands now claim to be customer-obsessed, but words are cheap and implementing a customer-centric model involves more than treating the customer well. Real customer focus requires an operational and cultural change whereby the business architecture shifts from product to customer-centric.

In his book “Business Analysis: Best Practices for Success”, Steven P. Blais defined the Change Agent role as “The business analyst is explicitly or implicitly responsible for the successful adoption of changed processes, products, and technologies in the organisation… as a business analyst, you have to understand the business community and its ability to absorb the change.”

Should your organisation decide to make the change to customer-centric, your business analyst is essential in aiding the powers-that-be to understand the corporate appetite and capacity for change. Your BA will ensure that the scope of those affected by an upcoming move is well understood and those instrumental or impacted understand their role in the successful realisation of benefits.

In an organisation already successfully aligned to user journeys, the cross-functional nature of excellent customer-experience puts a premium on smart governance. A matrixed BA function, such as the one I lead promotes a holistic view of the network of business functions required to serve each customer experience. My Business Analysts have the tools, expertise and objectivity needed to bridge the communication gap between departments and interest groups in pursuit of a common goal — customer satisfaction.

When acquiring software, many cost-conscious companies choose to buy only the components that they need for their next stage of growth. As the organisation evolves, the multitude of independent tools impairs productivity and informative data analysis.

“Challenger brands, often unencumbered by legacy systems and processes, are gaining on their larger competitors by offering straightforward, personal, seamless and quick service experience,”

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service via The Telegraph

Luckily, systems integration is here to save your business and your customer experience.

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Specialists in integration understand there is no such thing as standard systems integration. Each company uses every subsystem differently to achieve their specific goals. A systems integrator needs to know your system and your requirements very well.

A common misconception is that business analysts gather requirements. Requirements aren’t gathered, they are decided. Your Business Analyst facilitates understanding; expressing initially complex, obscure or unobserved information in such a way as to promote high-quality decision making.

Informed by robust analysis the system, process and business requirements that advise your integration work are positively made decisions moving you towards the organisation your customers expect you to be.

To be customer-centric, an organisation must foster a culture of listening to and acting on the feedback of customers; active feedback provided through social media and online surveys and passive feedback, collated by tracking customer behaviour while using digital products.

A too complicated data structure takes time to implement, and the high volume, velocity, and variety of customer data it produces may overwhelm decision-makers. Worse still, the additional page weight may impair the customer experience.

Too little data is often the result of an Agile delivery team remaining product-centric; focusing on feature improvement and deprioritising or neglecting to implement a well-designed data structure. The real-world user impact of their change cannot be understood or used to inform the next iteration.

Independent of which data structure you use to track the digital behaviour of your customers, your Business Analyst will use business requirements to design a Goldilocks solution.

Collation is half the battle; half of the CEOs surveyed struggle to leverage “big data” with many executives are unclear on how to capture signals of change in the marketplace or how to develop customer insights. “Big data” is massive data sets analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. The challenge for these CEOs is translating information into knowledge.

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“Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight, and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the mind of the knowers. In organisations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organisational routines, practices and norms.”

Gamble and Blackwell, 2001

Your Business Analyst is your specialist in contextualising information. Your Business Analyst is responsible for ensuring stakeholders at every level understand the “so what” and have the appropriate information to decide how to act upon the “why”.

If businesses find that their efforts in improving customers’ experiences fail to generate clear outcomes, the CFO may struggle to justify continued investment. For this reason, many organisations struggle to be (or remain) genuinely customer-centric.

Even within an Agile methodology, your business analysts can build a finance friendly business case. Lightweight experimentation provides most of the information required to produce a convincing business case. Your business analyst is responsible for improving the accuracy of time/cost and benefit quantities by conducting just enough analysis to highlight risks, resolve uncertainties and challenge assumptions.

There are few challengers to the assertion that marketing leading customer service will be your differentiator. Customers have never been better informed or more demanding. Your business needs to be focused, aligned and equipped for change.

Whether or not you choose to pursue this goal through customer-centric organisational alignment, customer focus must not be at the expense of determining solutions to business problems. It is only by taking responsibility for resolving business problems and not passing them on to our customers that we may become genuinely customer-centric organisations.

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Libby Vincent

Written by

Head of Business Analysis for a FTSE 50 Tech Company based out of London, operating globally

Analyst’s corner

All aspects of organisational analysis: business analysis | enterprise architecture | quality

Libby Vincent

Written by

Head of Business Analysis for a FTSE 50 Tech Company based out of London, operating globally

Analyst’s corner

All aspects of organisational analysis: business analysis | enterprise architecture | quality

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