Lean Coffees @ BA&Beyond 2023


In late May, BA&Beyond held its sixth annual event, which due to the Covid-related lockdown has evolved from being an exclusively in-person to a fully hybrid event connecting business analysts (BAs) from around the world. The event featured morning in-person sessions, including workshops and so called ‘lean coffees’. According to the official Lean Coffee website, a Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. The subject was set, and so was the format with discussing every topic for 8 minutes, and if the majority votes for continuation another 4, 2 and 1 minute. So max 15 minutes per topic.

I’m Wouter Nieuwenburg, Competence Developer Business Analysis at Pancompany, The Netherlands. On behalf of Pancompany I had the privilege of facilitating two ‘lean coffees’ in both Leuven and Amsterdam, both focusing on the topic of BA and ChatGPT.

While the framework for both lean coffees remained consistent, there were notable differences and similarities between the sessions.

One key takeaway from the discussions is that ChatGPT does not pose a threat to our work, more about this later in the article. However, neglecting to learn how to work with ChatGPT or any other AI could jeopardize your value as an employee.

Where to start with ChatGPT

The urgent topic of “where to start” with ChatGPT was addressed in both lean coffees, leading to the following key points:

  1. Use ChatGPT as a personal assistant or co-pilot by providing it with (public) context and assigning it a role. When interacting with ChatGPT, treat it like a user story, distinct from querying Google for information. It is not a replacement for traditional search engines.
  2. By refining, questioning, and challenging ChatGPT’s responses, you can engage in a more human-like conversation with the AI. Providing additional context during this refinement process will yield better suggestions from ChatGPT. Remember, the AI provides directions rather than solutions.
  3. The AI takes previous conversations into account when generating answers. Additionally, you can let ChatGPT quiz you to prepare for tests or challenge your knowledge in other areas.

Embarking on the ChatGPT/AI journey is a matter of taking action. Test its capabilities by feeding it articles and asking for summaries or seeking its assistance on various topics, such as acting as a travel agent.

Considering that most web content is in English, it is advisable to start using ChatGPT in English. If needed, you can always ask the AI to translate, and its language models are superior to tools like Deepl or Translate.

Does AI change the BA role?

Another significant topic of discussion was whether AI changes the BA role. Participants in the lean coffee unanimously agreed that AI influences all roles, including BAs. The prevailing perception was that AI supports the role of the BA, acting as an assistant that can quickly provide direction. It may also help bridge the gap between IT and business stakeholders, as IT professionals readily comprehend AI, and its adoption by the business side could facilitate greater alignment. Therefore, BAs, along with all other roles, should embrace AI to avoid being replaced.

The topic of why AI won’t replace the BA role was also explored. One essential aspect of the BA’s role is facilitating change, which is something AI cannot take over. Additionally, human empathy and connection are indispensable qualities that AI lacks. While AI can only react and provide suggestions based on the given situation, BAs can proactively work towards driving change. The BA role will undoubtedly endure, although it will undergo transformation.

Continuous learning to stay relevant

Predicting the state of ChatGPT and AI by the end of 2023 raises the importance of staying relevant through continuous learning. Everyone should strive to understand and utilize AI effectively. Numerous free AI courses are available on LinkedIn, offering an opportunity to enhance your knowledge in this field. It’s crucial to remember that AI itself is not a threat; rather, the next generation of BAs who embrace AI pose a challenge to those who resist its adoption.

Another valuable suggestion was to think like or become a prompt engineer. Prompting AI requires providing clear and precise requirements, similar to writing requirements for a software project. Assigning a role to the AI in the prompt influences the answers or requirements received, as mentioned earlier in this review. Engaging in a Q&A “game” with ChatGPT to refine requirements and eventually writing prompts as user stories can facilitate better outcomes.

The ‘dark side’

While the lean coffees focused on the positive aspects of AI, some darker questions and concerns were raised, such as the downside of increased reliance on AI. One major concern was the potential reduction in human interaction and an overreliance on AI, particularly during the initial stages of becoming familiar with the technology. There is also the risk of becoming complacent as AI takes over various cognitive processes, potentially leading to diminished critical thinking. On the other hand, increased AI usage frees up time and resources for developing skills that cannot be replicated by AI—at least for now. Moreover, the risk of bias in AI, as demonstrated by incidents involving Google, highlights the importance of cautious implementation and awareness of potential biases.

Security was a significant topic of discussion, with many concerns and questions raised. Currently, all AI tools, including ChatGPT, Copilot, and Bard, are in the public domain. A cautionary example is Samsung’s experience, where information fed to ChatGPT became publicly accessible. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid including privacy-sensitive or classified data in AI systems. OpenAI has sent an open letter to the American government requesting guidelines, while some governments and companies, like Italy, have temporarily banned ChatGPT due to security concerns. Security measures will improve in the future, but for now, it is essential to educate employees and users about these issues.

In the near future, AI will likely be available in private environments. However, this will introduce new security challenges when connecting internal databases and systems. Ensuring the security of sensitive information, such as VIP data or financial information, will be of utmost importance.

Start exploring now!

The overarching conclusion from the lean coffees is that AI will impact the role of BAs and all other roles, differentiating companies that embrace AI and experience faster development and time-to-market from those that do not. Waiting until you are surpassed by this new technological reality is not advisable. Start exploring the possibilities and limitations of AI today.


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