Let’s challenge our current professional environment and ask the big business analysis question “Why?” Having consulted the bones, read the runes, tea leaves and gazed into the crystal ball: What is our future?
As the world of change has rushed to offshore and near-shore business analysis has largely remained unaffected and the need for the stakeholder relationships to trump all the advocated advantages. Global organizations now have no choice but to work remotely, the business analysis being geographically separated from their stakeholders. They are working through the challenges of making this work and the culture, technology, and processes to make it happen are coming together.
These geographical challenges present themselves to local organizations. Go to any multi-site firm, and you will find people rushing between offices to meet with people. Congestion, car parking issues, travel, and energy costs and of course the lack of geographical mobility in much of the workforce means companies are seeking better ways to connect people.
Once you can connect people, it doesn’t matter if you are half a mile away or on a different continent. With the ability to offshore and near shore your business analysis capability creates a real opportunity access to a larger pool of talent, lower costs, and the ability to speed delivery by following the sun has got to be attractive. Faster, flexible and cheaper transformation is possible.
The Rise of the Center of Excellence
Companies are investing more and more in their business analysis capability in terms of the number of people, salaries, and training. Fantastic! Looking at Business Analysis Practices and you see professional, well-run outfits focussed on delivering great outcomes.
Stand back and look at the bigger change picture. It is slightly different. Many organizations change capabilities are large, with complex demarcation and extended communication lines with questionable delivery records. How’s this going to play out in our “disrupted” future?
We already see “shadow” IT and transformation departments within business units and a growing desire to move away from the classic project delivery model to increase speed and flexibility. Does this herald the move of business analysis into the wider business? In this world business analysis skills become important to everyone in the company.
This is largely how HR now operates; it provides a Center of Excellence supporting the wider business. In the new world business analysis becomes a core business capability, supported by specialists in the Center of Excellence.
Our beloved functional and non-functional requirements will disappear. Why? All requirements will be business requirements as the boundary between IT and the Business erodes. You can see the blurring already. At one point user experience was expressed as a set of non-functional requirements. Remember screen response times? No longer, we have our digital teams working closely with consumers to deliver great experiences.
Look at little further at cyber security. If I am the operations director what am I going to care about more: a security breach or my operational process? And cyber security isn’t just a non-functional technical challenge; it’s a people and process one as well.
You could argue that our classic non-functional requirements are now our major business requirements. This will have an impact on how we manage them. The black and white world of functional and non-functional requirements will no longer exist with the labels having limited if any meaning.
The Dominance of Design
Think Design. The skills, tools, and techniques we use will still be valid, but the way we organize and use them will change, and new ideas will come to the fore. Design Thinking put simply is about exploring the problem as much as the solution. If the brief for your solution isn’t the best i.e. you haven’t asked the most relevant questions, then your answers and outcomes will be deficient. But then this has been the business analysis mantra for a long time, and Design Thinking can help give it validity.
Architecture is already considering Design Thinking in how it operates. One might argue the Scalable Agile Framework, tries to encapsulate Design Thinking for Agile. The convergence of Business and IT will support this move as people start to work across traditional boundaries and old structures are broken. This is already happening in a few of the more forward thinking Blue Chips who are adopting (by plan or otherwise) Design Thinking across the organization.
Design Thinking doesn’t replace Business Analysis, but it provides a fantastic framework for those skills to be applied against, to create really valued experiences and valuable outcomes.
I mentioned earlier that when you look at companies change structures and processes they are bloated and complex. My observation is that the individual elements have grown up with little regard to each other. That means they don’t fit; they have gaps and overlaps.
The multiple roles and the terminology make simple concepts complex. Recently I was involved in an exercise to understand how: capabilities, services, and requirements relate to each other. Surprisingly difficult given they all basically refer to what an organization needs.
As organizations demand a faster pace, greater flexibility, and fantastic outcomes the way they organize and manage will have to adapt. Perhaps people being defined by their unique competencies rather than a generic job title would create a more transparent and flexible workforce.
HR is open to change. It is worth noting that many organizations are moving away from the formal appraisal systems that have been the bedrock of people management, well for as long as I can remember.
Clearly, there are many barriers that may impede these predictions coming to pass. Not least human nature and organizations cultures. But what if the forces of disruption light the burning platform of change?
What if your organization was at the forefront of realizing some of these changes? Think of the competitive advantage and how your workplace could become more dynamic and exciting, with business analysis sitting at the heart of it.