How to work with business analysts & intelligence

Man pointing at a chart which is superimposed on a holographic screen.

It is always difficult to define what I do for a living. Being a Business Analyst of technology markets involves different activities and skills such as research tasks, statistical modelling understanding technology, being aware of market dynamics, and a great capacity for engagement with people and companies. Despite all of these expressions, my mother still does not know what I do for a living!

What is a business analyst?

We could say that an analyst designs visions on how the impact of a technology will evolve in markets and societies over a defined time frame. These visions – or interpretations, if you prefer – are based on a robust research methodology. The analyst explores the technology area and its market potential, talking with technology stakeholders, but also reading (which is never enough for an analyst!) company reports, whitepapers and studies from other public/academic organisations and industry consortia. The analyst will then create models that should describe the evolution of the technology under scrutiny. These models can be statistically based, but they can also be qualitative; for example, looking at trends, challenges and societal implications.

In all of this, the analyst’s subjectivity is unavoidable. Actually, it is the real value. His or her thinking, supported by extensive research, is the base of these visions. Therefore, you will be confronted by a number of interpretations. You could find consensus among the analyst community. You can find radically different views. Whoever you have in front of you, and whatever he or she says, the most important aspects are his or her confidence in the topic, ability to transform knowledge and understanding invalid insights and the intellectual flexibility needed to refine interpretations into details through analytical steps. Remember, analysts are human and not Gods. The only truth belongs to Gods, if you are a believer, and certainly not to analysts!

Who do business analysts work for?

If I have managed to provide you with an understanding of what an analyst is, it is now time to tell you which organisations they work for. We can look at analyst house as puzzles. Each piece of the puzzle represents a macro-business area such as information and communications technologies, automotive, energy and so forth. You can find companies who look at many pieces of the puzzle. These are usually large enterprises. Each piece of the puzzle can then become a puzzle itself. For example, in the case of information and communications technologies, they do research in mobile communications, unified communications, security and a plethora of other areas. These areas can then further be split into segments. For example, in the case of mobile communications, they run research in mobile computing, mobile devices, etc. One or more analyst covers each of these pieces of the puzzle. Then you have specialised research companies that look at specific parts of the puzzle, for example, research companies that focus solely on mobile communications (and, indeed, you can go even further with companies that just look at mobile computing). To sum up, there are horizontal research companies looking at different industries and segments within industries and others with a vertical focus, as you can have global companies versus geographic-specific research house. Within those organisations, analysts tend to focus on specific market and technology segments, with the ability to expand the horizon to areas that can influence his or her core focus. But, whatever the size and the coverage of the analyst house, the most precious feature for an analyst is independence. It is not always easy to practice it entirely, particularly in organisations with very structured offers, but it is essential, and analysts jealously preserve it.

What to do with a business analyst?

I hope I have provided you with a decent overview of analysts and analyst houses, but what to do with them? Analysts’ insights are essential for market plans, business plans, and technology roadmaps. Companies’ managers and entrepreneurs simply do not have time to monitor the market, analyse it, make sense of it, and disseminate the resultant outputs. Analysts are out there because they can facilitate all of these phases. For this reason, purchasing a report is not enough. The fundamental value of analysts and analysts house lies in the engagement with them. See analysts as eyes on the markets and technologies in which you are interested. And then speak with them, brainstorm with them, and ask them: “What shall I do?” Invite them to events and let them speak about you and your technology. To sum up, buy their work – studies, videos, infographics and so on – but also buy their time. Analysts will like that. Good analysts want to engage with any type of stakeholder in the market. They gather knowledge through the process, but also develop new collaborations. And, of course, analyst houses are happy to offer you combined packages of studies and analyst engagement.

I hope I have given you some insights on the analyst community and some curiosity for exploring it more. If yes, please, let me know. I will then translate this article in Italian and let my mother read it. Perhaps, finally, she will understand what I do in London!