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Business Analysis is Dead, Long Live Business Analysis

FeatureArticle Jan8 KupeThe start of a new year is a good time to reflect. I have been thinking about where business analysis has come and where is it headed. During my thought process I came to the conclusion that business analysis is officially dead or at least on a respirator. I have been involved in the BA space since the turn of the century (with it being 2013 that’s not as long as it sounds, but it sounds so much better than the mid 90’s). The profession has transformed dramatically in the last 17 years. When I broke into the field a trend was taking off where companies had roles dedicated to business analysis work and titles like Business Analyst, Systems Analyst or the more common Business Systems Analyst. These titles were found primarily in IT organizations and companies started seriously thinking about how to train people that performed the sole role of business analysis. There are many reasons that sparked this trend.

In the United States one reason was the interpretation of governmental regulations. Many project teams implemented a strict process in how they elicited, documented, and communicated requirements. Another reason was due to companies around the world implementing large ERP systems. Having people specialize in business analysis work was necessary due to the amount of process, data, and functional analysis that was needed. Reports were saying the biggest cause of project failure was due to poor requirements. How teams were developing software almost required a team of BA specialists to be more efficient. At this time some key vendors created curriculum and training for the role. In 2003 the IIBA emerged to help have a common definition of the profession and to certify people as business analysis professionals. There are more reasons, but you get the picture.

Since a role was emerging there were serious, passionate discussions about the various levels of business analysis professionals and what does a business analysis career path look like? The largest debate was do BAs grow up to be PMs or something else. You are probably thinking, “I just had a conversation about that last week!” You are not alone. These conversations are still happening year after year. There is a lot of talk now about BA career paths and what makes a good junior BA, a good intermediate BA, and a good senior BA. This discussion and need primarily comes from IT groups and more specifically related to project work. To some extent this is necessary. There has to be some entry point, some launching point, and this is the space where most people start to learn their BA skills. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Is business analysis really dead then? No…not at all. Although, it is dead as we knew it. The larger impact of business analysis is needed now more than ever before. The question I pondered regarding the future of business analysis was is business analysis a profession that someone aspires to have and continue through a career or is it a skill that you can continue to work on and use in any career. My answer is business analysis is shifting away from a career someone has to the value of business analysis activities regardless of one’s role, title or job function. If we are to grow the awareness and impact business analysis has on companies focusing on junior, intermediate, and senior BAs is a disservice. It is time to expand the horizons. 

There are two major trends happening today driving this shift. The first is IT project teams are building software differently. Even though I wrote a blog about agile being a fad, Agile is a Fad; agile practices are not a fad at all. After a conversation with a vice president of a large IT group this thought of the shift really hit me. He said he no longer hires Business Analysts. After a little digging he meant he does not hire someone that wants their role to only be a Business Analyst. He needs people that can be flexible and play the roles needed by their team or teams. The scale is tipping away from BAs solely doing business analysis work within project teams. More companies are realizing everyone needs to perform business analysis to some extent on the team. Everyone needs the BA mindset because business analysis is not done in a black box or a vacuum.  Business analysis is a true team sport. 

The second trend is traditional BAs are growing up and out of IT project teams using their skills in other roles and being successful. More business analysis professionals are moving into more strategy roles like enterprise or strategic BAs, business architecture, management consulting, and managing lines of business in large and small companies. This is where individuals and companies really see the value of business analysis. Look around…business analysis work is happening all around you.

These trends are very positive. Think of them as an opportunity. On project teams you will get to use other skills you have and try new things. You can help coach and mentor other team members to embrace the business analysis mindset. For your future the end is not a senior BA. That is just the beginning. Think of the BA skills you have, and continue to build upon, as tools you will use in any position. Positions like CIO, manager of a business area, and the owner or employee of any business. These trends show that business analysis skills are not only for people with the Business Analyst title. They are important to everyone. Long live business analysis.

All the best,

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