Business Impact Analysis: The Importance of Being Ready for Technological Change

The disruption caused by COVID-19 is both a great indicator of the importance of knowing the impact of technology, and an opportunity for the future.

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Business Impact Analysis is a fairly simple idea: assess the impact that disruptions will have on a business and its operations. You might be thinking that this post is coming a bit late to help with the issues caused by COVID-19, and in a sense, you would be right; I’m not going to show you how to go back in time and get a firm ready for lockdowns and demand slumps. Nonetheless, if you need to bring difficult stakeholders on board, there’s also never been a better time; research by Gartner suggests that business leaders “do not see the value of the business impact analysis (BIA) unless the outcomes are clear”, and it is safe to say that outcomes will be clear enough for them now. 

One of the biggest areas that we have seen architects prepare for is technological disruption; in fact, recent research from Forrester suggests that reducing risk from technology is the second biggest driver for enterprise architects generally. In a sense, the effects of COVID-19 are partly technological in nature themselves, due to the requirements for remote working, but even beyond the virus technological change is not going to stop. In both the short and long term, there are challenges that a business needs to be ready to face. 

Short-term challenges 

Looking over the next 6 to 12 months, the ripples from COVID-19 will still have the possibility for surprise impacts. A big question is whether the internet infrastructure will be able to hold up if the remote working situation continues. This is not a localized issue either: in the EU, there are calls for limits on streaming services. While you might be confident in operations continuing remotely, can that be said if connection speeds are slowed or there are network outages? 

Long-term challenges 

As we move past COVID-19, the issues companies are likely to face are more well known. AI and machine learning; big data; increased automation and improved robotics; even self-driving cars are all likely to change the way firms conduct their operations and do business. That’s not to say either that COVID-19 won’t continue to impact on firms, as customers could shift even further towards e-commerce or firms realize they can ditch their expensive offices for more remote working. 

How to start technology impact analysis 

For most EAs, standard business impact analyses will be fairly common, and the basic steps are no different when looking to technology. We’ve already put together a four week long process, but to summarize in brief: 

  1. Know what your aims are: First and foremost, you need to know what you are trying to achieve with your analysis, which questions you are addressing. Are there any particular impacts you want to examine, such as application lifecycle or technology support risk?   
  2. Gather the data: Once you know your aims, you will need to start to gather the data that will help you achieve them. In an EA tool like  iServer, this will involve bringing data into a central repository and fitting to an established metamodel. 
  3. Visualize and Analyze: Impact analysis is nothing without actual analysis, and so the next step is naturally to start performing this. In part, how you perform this step will depend on what your original aims were, and which impacts you were seeking to analyze.  
  4. Communicate to Stakeholders: At last, you will need to be ready to inform and engage key stakeholders, using the visualizations and analysis you have already prepared. 

With the current chaos that has engulfed the world, embarking on major new initiatives might seem ill-advised, but in the words of Rumi, this too shall pass. When it does, there will be firms ready to take advantage, and firms that will not be ready. Preparation needs to start now.

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