South African Business Analysts Presenting At BA Conference Europe 2016

Interview with Mohamed Bray, Engagements & Practice Manager at Saratoga and Ryan Folster, Business Analyst at Britehouse.

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2016 will be taking place in London in September. As attendees and speakers, what are you hoping to gain from the conference?


For a long time, SA Business Analysts have believed that we are right up there with the best. From an IIBA Chapter perspective, we have won many awards and this opportunity for me personally is somewhat of a test of that belief. I’m looking forward to hearing different perspectives on our industry and to engage in dialogue that also shares SA’s thinking on the profession. As a speaker, I want to benchmark myself on an international stage in an effort to learn, grow and become better at what I do. This will also play a vital role in helping me shape other speakers both at Saratoga and the SA IIBA community by sharing the knowledge gained.


Attending conferences such as this often overshadows the speaking opportunity itself given the diverse content that is available along with the thought leaders presenting. What excites me most is gaining an international perspective on business analysis and a point of reference to compare the industry and my role here in SA to. I’m often fascinated to see how far ahead the local profession is in certain aspects of the role and I’m excited to use this opportunity to show that business analysis and its practitioners in SA are on par with our international counterparts.

Mohamed, in your talk ‘Think like an analyst, act like a consultant’, you share ‘9 secrets to deliver like a consultant’. Give us a short preview of your talk and some tips for analysts looking to improve their consulting skills?

This talk was crafted from a failed business initiative I undertook and what I learnt from that experience. The initiative didn’t fail because of a lack of BA skills or techniques, and instead failed because my approach from a people perspective was all wrong. I share deep personal insights that I hope will take the audience on a journey of discovery. Insights discussed in the talk include how sharing knowledge empowers others and sets you free and how not to be biased to your solutions. This is my personal story and my aim is for delegates to learn from my misadventures.

Ryan, tell us more about your talk, ‘The Indispensable BA: Becoming a compass for change’.

My talk focuses on the customer and ensuring that the business directs its change initiatives in a way that ultimately benefits the customer. I aim to elaborate, using a few case studies, on how companies often end up building solutions that do not have the overall desired effect – which is to increase the bottom line. Business is simple: provide great products and services to a market that has a need for them. We tend to make this more complicated than we need to and end up with over-designed products and services that offer features that do not really solve an actual customer problems.

The most memorable talks leave audiences feeling inspired or shares new valuable insights. How do you prepare your presentations and make an impact with your talks?


Presenting talks is a very personal experience for me. Every time I present I keep telling myself that people are choosing to give up their time to hear my talk and that in itself is a major privilege that cannot be taken for granted. This also creates a healthy dose of stress that keeps me motivated and focused on making sure that I deliver a strong message and that there are key take away points. My presentation style is from a story telling perspective so that people can go on a journey and immerse themselves for the 50 to 60 minutes they have with me. I have learnt that people connect with speakers who present through story-telling and from a deeply personal position.


I like to include real world examples and draw insights from what is happening in the world at the moment. This ensures that whatever I message I am trying to get across can be seen in a real context. Using fictitious examples often doesn’t allow the audience to completely gauge a concept.  As soon as you are able to add a perspective that the audience can relate to they start to actually understand the message.

Making the leap from presenting at local conferences to international conferences may seem daunting to analysts. What advice can you give to analysts looking to present abroad?


Experience has taught me that no matter where we are in the world, people all share common traits such as the desire to learn, be heard, understood and engaged in dialogue. Embracing the fact that there will be a difference of opinion helps with positioning yourself and accepting that a different audience may not agree with you and that is OK. The most important thing to take away is the other person’s opinion of difference and learn from it.

With Africa re-emerging as a continent of immense opportunity, it’s not surprising that other nations want to hear from us. We have great stories to tell and the world wants to hear them. So, my advice to aspiring speakers – go tell your stories! The world awaits.


I’ve been fortunate to present at two international events in the past and look forward to presenting many more in future. The first time I presented internationally it really opened my eyes to the potential of South African business analysis. We tend to think of countries like the US and the UK as being superior and first world but in many instances they are not. There is a large amount of value that we as South Africans can provide to the rest of the world. Skills that we have are sought after and that means people want to hear from us and our unique perspective. The advice I would give is to just do it! It might seem daunting but the value derived from speaking and attending international conferences is massive.


Click here for more information about the Business Analysis Conference Europe 2016 and follow @SaratogaSA for insights from the conference.