As a veteran of many, many business conferences over a long career, my experience at the International Institute of Business Analysis annual conference at Universal Studios in Orlando stands head and shoulders above most others and resulted in memories I will never forget.
Not finding anything in our Steem Community about this excellent organization, I perhaps have the good fortune to write the first Steem post about them. At this conference, there were numerous references to blockchain technology and its "disruptive" influence on the future, so I think reading more about it will be of interest to my fellow Steemians.
So ... Before covering the conference, what is business analysis? For many of us, our lives have been dramatically impacted by the relentless advance of technology. When talking specifically about computers, we all are aware, to one degree or another, to get them to "perform their magic," someone needs to tell them what to do. We call that programming.
Once computers began to assume an ever greater role in our day-to-day activities, the "user class" grew and grew. Right behind the beginning of using these powerful new tools, the "user class" began to want changes. And they weren't going to create the changes. Programmers were going to do it. What did the users want? How effectively did they communicate that to the programmers? In language the programmers would understand? What was the end result of far too many of these exchanges time after time? Let's just say, a "little less than optimum" ...
Long ago, it became increasingly clear there is (was) a pretty significant gap in communication between these two groups - programmers and users. With the exponentially increasing power of computers, this gulf grew ever wider. Big problem.
Solution? A whole new professional category was developed and referred to as analysts - most commonly business analysts. Their job? Lots of details, but for the purposes of this post, their role is to bridge the "communication gap" between users and programmers.
Realizing the large and relentlessly growing need for collaboration with similarly employed professionals, the International Institute of Business Analysis [IIBA] was created in 2004. Today, IIBA's global network connects over 29,000+ Members and more than 300 Corporate Members and 120 Chapters. Employed as a Business Systems Analyst since 2015, I joined and became an IIBA member in July 2017.
To facilitate collaboration and networking around the world, every year IIBA hosts an international conference.
IIBA's Building Business Capability [BBC] 2017 annual conference was held November 6-10 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. New to the profession, as well as a new member of IIBA, I counted myself very fortunate to receive corporate support to attend. Making the most of the opportunity, I signed up for two days of dedicated courses, prior to the beginning of the 3-day "main event."
While there were many memorable experiences after-hours associated with Universal Studios itself, I would imagine many others have written about that vacation destination, so I won't go into that in this post other than to state the obvious - wonderful food, awesome entertainment, all-around great vacation playground! 👍 😊 👍
So, now for the heart of this post, I would like to share with you highlights of this unforgettable conference.
In the order in which they impacted me the most, first I'll talk about the people, then about the technology.
I have been to several "international" conferences. And, yes, I'm sure there were a few attendees from other countries, but in all the previous "international" conferences I've attended, the vast majority were from America.
Not this one! What a remarkable few days to meet people from so many countries - South Vietnam, Philippines, Croatia, Russia, Australia, China, Brazil, India, etc. I think I talked to someone from almost every country in Europe. I would intentionally pick different tables, both in the courses / sessions and during the meals, to meet as many different people as I could manage. During the whole time, we shared in common the challenges of our new profession. It was fascinating to hear about all of their individual details in their home countries.
While I hesitate to pick a specific one, I think one stand-out example speaks volumes to my fellow Steemians about what I experienced. In my very first course, I ended sitting across a small conference table from a very gentle, pleasant, soft-spoken young lady from South Vietnam. I could tell, with her first few comments, as we worked on team projects in support of the learning experience, that she knew considerably more about business analysis than I did. So ... What challenges was this person facing in South Vietnam? She was working for a client on a new banking system. Where? There in her home country of South Vietnam right? No! In South Africa!! Wow! The world is definitely getting smaller ...
The Best and the Brightest
This conference boasted of bringing together "thought leaders" from all over the world. IMHO, it definitely delivered on the promise.
At the "top of the pyramid," were these 3 gentlemen shown below on my autographed copy of a brilliant piece of their work - The Business Agility Manifesto. Collectively, they have over 120+ years of experience in this profession, each with their area of specialization.
It was my great privilege to have had the opportunity to talk quite awhile with one of them - Roger Burlton, whose Process Renewal Group is based out of British Columbia.
There were also some clear "crowd" favorites, from those who had attended these conferences from years past - as examples, Bob the BA and Kupe Kupersmith. Very entertaining, while still very educational!
We all understand, as mentioned at the beginning, the extraordinary advances in technology over our lifetimes. It is relentless and even accelerating. I lost track of how many times, at this conference, I heard the word "disruptive." And with what word was "disruptive" most associated? From all I heard, a "dead heat" between blockchain and AI.
Yep, this conference covered the impact of both of them. Some sessions were even about the combination of them both used together. Given our own "pioneer" experiences on the newly created Steem Community, I thought you would enjoy knowing that.
Specifics as to exactly how blockchain technology would be utilized, though, were not in any session I heard. My overall impression was these people certainly understood the implications, but it is still "early days" on precisely how this new technology will be applied to solving everyday business problems. So ... Have to check back in BBC 2018! ... 😊
Prior to this conference, my limited exposure to AI was the little (as became apparent, while listening to several sessions on the topic) I had read about "Artificial Intelligence." That's it right? No ...
We also now have "Augmented Intelligence" What is that? At a high level, it involves the "mind mapping" of subject matter experts [SMEs] and then programming the content into various sorts of bots to follow around after those (of us) who are ... uhhh ... not SMEs, to "keep them in line" and make sure business is being carried out at the highest possible level. Combined with "machine learning," it was very sobering to hear some of these projections about what the future might hold.
As a highlight of this last point, I was privileged to sit in on a session from the head of IBM's AI research team. We've likely all seen some of the commercials on TV for their Watson product. What we all witnessed was far beyond anything we see on TV. And this wasn't some science fiction story about what life might be like in 20 or 30 years either. No, he claimed to be showing us technology that is operational right now! Further, he informed us IBM had even more advanced technology he couldn't share with us for proprietary reasons. Beyond the normal business reasons, sort of "between the lines," it was implied there is a "technology race" with the Chinese over the future of AI. And God only knows what level of "control" goes with it ...
Closing with an example of "control" or whatever else you may wish to call it, this gentlemen said driverless cars are in the "not too distant" future. Again, no commitments made, but implications were possibly within 5 years. He said, at some point in time, we would not simply be looking at having this as some optional extra feature on our future cars. No! It would be mandatory and we would not be allowed to drive ourselves. Illegal! Why? "Humans make too many mistakes" ... (reading about some of the recent fatalities involving driverless cars makes you wonder ...)
Responding to some mild protests from his audience, he smiled and said, if we still felt "the urge" to drive, in some sort of reminiscence about the "good ole days," we could come to an amusement park, like Universal Studios in Orlando and drive a car inside a closed track! (Yes, he really said this ... And, yes, he was serious ...)
Many other things I could write, but these are standout memories that will be with me the rest of my life.
I hope my fellow Steemians have found this post to be of interest. Please upvote, resteem, and / or comment as seems best to you. I'll be happy to do what I can to answer any questions about the experience and / or about this new profession.
On this new profession, given the significance of it going forward, it seems to me it warrants its own category in our Steem Community. I am new to it, though, and not sure of the process to create one? Or recommend to someone else that it be created? Or maybe it's too specific ... Any input on this for those more experienced would be welcome.
All the best to you!