Emerging Role of the Business Analyst

By | January 3, 2006

Many business areas got tired of waiting for a large, slow moving IT department to rollout yet another cumbersome application. They began learning to do things for themselves, or hiring consultants, often called Business Analysts, who would report directly to them, to help with automation needs. This caused even more problems for IT which was suddenly asked to support software that they had not written or approved. Small independent databases were created everywhere with inconsistent, and often, unprotected data. During this time, the internal Business Analyst role was minimized and as a result many systems did not solve the right business problem causing an increase in maintenance expenses and rework.

New methodologies and approaches were developed to respond to the changes, RAD (rapid application development), JAD (joint application development), and OO (object oriented) tools and methods were developed.

As we began the new millennium, the Internet emerged as the new technology and IT was again faced with a tremendous change. Once again, more sophisticated users, anxious to take advantage of new technology, often looked outside of their own organizations for the automation they craved. The business side of the organization started driving the technology as never before and in a large percentage of organizations began staffing the Business Analyst role from within the operational units instead of from IT. We now have Marketing Directors, Accountants, Attorneys, and Payroll Clerks performing the role of the Business Analyst.

In addition, the quality movement that had started in the 70s with TQM, came into focus again as companies looked for ways to lower their cost of missed requirements as they expanded globally. The ISO (International Standards Organization) set quality standards that must be adhered to when doing international business. Carnegie Mellon created a software development quality standard CMM (Capability Maturity Model). Additionally, Six Sigma provided a disciplined, data-driven quality approach to process improvement aimed at the near elimination of defects from every product, process, and transaction. Each of these quality efforts required more facts and rigor during requirements gathering and analysis which highlighted the need for more skilled Business Analysts familiar with the business, IT, and quality best practices.

Future of the Business Analyst Role

Today we see Business Analysts coming from both the IT and business areas. In the best situations, the Business Analyst today has a combination of IT and business skills. Each organization has unique titles for these individuals and the structure of Business Analyst groups is as varied as the companies themselves. However, there is a core set of tasks that most Business Analysts are doing regardless of their background or their industry.

The Business Analyst role becomes more critical as project teams become more geographically dispersed.

Outsourcing and globalization of large corporations have been the driving factors for much of this change recently. When the IT development role no longer resides inside our organizations, it becomes necessary to accurately and completely define the requirements in more detail than ever before. A consistent structured approach, while nice to have in the past, is required to be successful in the new environment. Most organizations will maintain the Business Analyst role as an “in-house” function. As a result, more IT staff is being trained as Business Analysts.

The Business Analyst role will continue to shift its focus from “Software” to “Business System.”

Most Business Analysts today are focused on software development and maintenance, but the skills of the Business Analyst can be utilized on a larger scale. An excellent Business Analyst can study a business area and make recommendations about procedural, personnel, and policy changes in addition to recommending software. The Business Analyst can help improve the business system not just the business software.

The Business Analyst role will continue to evolve as business dictates.

Future productivity increases will be achieved through re-usability of requirements. Requirements Management will become another key skill in the expanding role of the Business Analyst as organizations mature in their understanding of this critical expertise. The Business Analyst is often described as an “Agent of Change.” Having a detailed understanding of the organization’s key initiatives, a Business Analyst can lead the way to influence people to adapt to major changes that benefit the organization and its business goals. The role of a Business Analyst is an exciting and secure career choice as U.S. companies continue to drive the global economy.

Who Makes a Great Business Analyst?

Must be an outstanding communicator; Must understand the SDLC; Must enjoy very detailed research and recording; Must be skilled at organizing and managing large amounts of information in various forms; Must be customer-focused; Must be flexible; Must come prepared with a toolkit of techniques to elicit excellent requirement.

Training for the Business Analyst

The skills set needed for a successful Business Analyst are diverse and can range from communication skills to data modeling. A Business Analyst’s educational and professional background may vary as well—some possess an IT background while others come from the business stakeholder area.

With backgrounds as diverse and broad as these it is difficult for a Business Analyst to possess all the skills necessary to perform successful business analysis. Companies are finding that individuals with a strong business analysis background are difficult to locate in the marketplace and are choosing to train their employees to become Business Analysts in consistent structured approaches. First, organizations seeking formal business analysis training should examine vendors who are considered “experts” on the field with a strong focus on business analysis approaches and methodologies. Second, you will want to examine the quality of the training vendor’s materials. This may be done by researching who wrote a vendor’s materials and how often they are updated to stay abreast of industry best practices. Third, matching the real-world experience of instructors to the needs and experience level of your organization is critical to successful training. Business analysis is an emerging profession and it is critical that the instructors that you choose have been practicing Business Analysts.

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