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2013: An Exciting Year For Business Analysts

If you ever watched the 1970s sitcom, “The Jeffersons,” you know the tune, “Now we’re up in the big leagues…” This theme song is making a comeback in 2013, but this time for business analysts (BAs)!

The new year brings new trends in requirements, collaboration, Agile, and the role of the BA, to name a few. Agile adoption and implementation will fall on the BA and user stories will be repurposed for BAs to use in an Agile environment. The role of the BA is expanding and their value is being recognized. Translation: this is an exciting year to be a business analyst!

Take a look at what is coming your way this year:

  1. The roles of the business analyst and product owner will be solidified and respected
    The BA’s role in an Agile project is to work with the product owner to help define the priority of the backlog to bring the customer the greatest value. Product owners make decisions about what the backlog is and which items should be developed first. In 2013 product owners will come to respect the role of the BA and better understand their own roles in the process, resulting in improved results from Agile projects.
  2. Strong user stories will be the force driving effective requirements analysis and product backlog prioritization. If a BA is working with a product owner, then his or her focus should be on eliciting and analyzing user stories, allowing for better prioritization of the product backlog. BAs will increasingly understand that successful user stories rely heavily on what they already know about requirements management and development (RMD). The BA’s RMD skills will be the foundation for successful Agile projects. Practice makes perfect, and in 2013 there will be a major push forward in better user story development.
  3. In 2013 it’s all about collaboration and convergence 
    The goal of Agile is to deliver a workable, usable product every four to six weeks. This goal weighs heavily on the role of the BA to help identify the “what” that the product owner needs, its value, and its priority. Consensus-driven approaches to RMD take longer and often do not achieve what the customer really wants. Accordingly, BAs will focus on elicitation skills that are based on collaboration and convergence of requirements to deliver working products on a regular basis.
  4. BAs will become the new PMs through Agile
    Regardless of title, “project managers” are not the only people who lead projects. In Agile, everyone, theoretically, is a “generalizing specialist,” meaning the Agile team has multiple, complementary skills to support the delivery of iterations on a project. In 2013 more BAs will take on this generalizing specialist role to help “manage” the iteration scope, develop better defined user stories, and prioritize the product backlog. As a result, there will be an uptake in training for BAs in core project management skills such as planning and estimating, risk, and team collaboration.
  5. BAs will be seen as the keystone to adopting Agile
    Since the BA’s core focus is on gathering requirements, organizations will realize that if they are to be successful in their Agile projects, they need highly trained professionals able to map out the AS-IS, define the TO-BE and work with the project owner to make it happen. Requirements gathering is the core function of the job and the people assigned to this important role will be seen for what they are: the keystone of success. Will this new appreciation for BAs mean an increase in IIBA’s CBAP® certification? Not if organizations don’t know about it or realize its value.
  6. The U.S. federal government will slowly recognize the value of business analysis as it becomes more Agile. Requirements management is a recognized problem within government, but, the federal government has been slow to embrace the BA title and role. However, the role of the BA has not been diminished. In fact, better RMD is a key driver for Agile in the government space, and as Agile is used on a greater number of projects, the value of business analysis as a separate discipline — practiced by highly qualified professionals — will become more apparent. With shrinking budgets and fiscal cliffs, Agile, and the BAs who practice it, just might be the extra “fire power” the government needs.
  7. Strategic enterprise analysis will become the foundation of business architecture
    Strategic enterprise analysis focuses on defining the value streams of an organization by analyzing the impact of core business processes and business capabilities to achieve strategic goals. Business architecture leverages the skills of the BA to create and maintain a set of business-owned information assets that serve as a blueprint for planning and execution of strategy. The purpose of business architecture is to define the “what” of a business, such as what it does, what it needs to meet goals, etc., which perfectly aligns with the skills of the BA. More companies will be looking to senior BAs to step into the emerging role of business architect.
  8. BA Centers of Excellence will focus on proving their worth and driving innovation
    In 2013, the BA COEs will concentrate on staffing (with senior BAs to fulfill the role of business architect) and on establishing a common, enterprise-level business language and framework for documenting how the business is structured. This will set the stage for defining the “what” of a business as it relates to strategic project investments. This trend goes hand-in-hand with the 2013 PM trend of project management offices focusing on proving their worth and driving innovation.
  9. Modeling skills take precedence in business analysis training
    Modeling techniques will be a key focus area for BAs in 2013 as these tools will become critical in depicting the impact of solutions on the business. As such, the written word will continue to slowly lose its appeal and significance when describing solutions and impact to customers.
  10. Communicating “up” will become critical to articulating requirements’ impact on a deliverable.  In most cases, BAs understand the effect a requirement has on the solution, as they are intimately aware of the needs of the business. However, many BAs struggle to communicate the impact of these requirements to a broad spectrum of people, especially those at higher levels in the organization. BAs will recognize that their careers will be limited if they cannot have these crucial conversations and, consequently, they will concentrate on how to communicate “up” through practice, training and mentoring. In doing this, the BA will be viewed as even more of an invaluable resource and a main point of contact for business capabilities.

Every new year, in every industry, change is inevitable. In 2013 business analysts have many challenges to face, but also many exciting changes to look forward to, including some well-deserved acknowledgement. Prepare yourself for what is around the corner: more responsibility coupled with more respect, a bigger burden to prove the worth of the BA and a bigger realization of the BA’s expertise by the organization. This is an exciting year for BAs in general; make it a meaningful and successful one for you.

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