Skip to main content

ITIL for BAs. Part III


How ITIL Can Help Solve the BA Identity Crisis


This post is a slight digression from but still very relevant to the series we started a couple of posts ago regarding the interdependencies between BA and ITIL.  But I want to take this digression to establish a fundamental aspect of ITIL that can greatly simplify the BA’s job in working with IT-based solutions in an ITIL world.



In a May 2008 post I raised the question of where in the organization – IT or the business – a BA should be hosted.  Some great comments were posted pointing out the complexities of the issue, in terms of lines of reporting, experience, variations in the definition of the BA role, the presence or absence of the Center of Excellence, etc. 


My  answer to the question is that the BA – as a role – should be defined in both business and in IT.  Furthermore:

  • The BABOK is the best source for defining the responsibilities of the “Business BA” (and believe it or not, in at least one organization I know of, “Business Business Analyst” is an actual title!)
  • the role of the IT Service Owner, as defined by ITIL V3, is in fact the “IT BA”


In attending the PMI Global Congress, Project World, BA World, and itSMF Fusion events during the last six months, I have had discussions with numerous PMs and BAs who have heard of ITIL and wanted to know what it was all about, in 20 words or less – to which I typically respond: “ITIL is to IT management what the PMBOK is to Project Management and the BABOK is to Business Analysis”.  They pretty much get it right away.


Back to my reason for this digression, though, to take that analogy a bit deeper: ITIL is a practice through which the IT organization is encapsulated by a layer of IT Services, and in which:

  • the IT Service Catalog describes what IT’s capabilities are, in the Customers’ language,
  • the Service Level Agreement (SLA) defines how specific IT Services are to be delivered to specific customers, and
  • the IT Service Owner embodies those IT Service capabilities, marshals the IT Service through its entire life cycle, owns the SLAs, and is measured according to the degree to which actual IT Service delivery meets the terms and conditions of the SLA.


(Actually, the practice of encapsulating IT in this way – the “what” that IT is striving for – is known as IT Service Management, with ITIL being a best practice in “how” IT Service Management can be accomplished.)


Now, getting directly back to the purpose of this “ITIL and BA” series….  The process of identifying business requirements and solutions is iterative and hierarchical – a process of elaboration, as the PMBOK so eloquently points out.  At some point in that process of elaboration, the BA encounters the IT part of the overall solution.  Here is where the BA meets the IT Service Owner and why an understanding of the BA/ITIL touchpoints is so important:

  • Without ITIL and the presence of the role of the IT Service Owner, it is typically the BA who is expected to know the ins and outs of the IT infrastructure and IT’s capabilities, risks, etc.
  • With an ITIL-based IT organization, the IT Service Owner is expected to know the ins and outs of the IT organization, and the costs and risks related to the IT Service required in the solution.


To put it another way, the BA can depend on the IT Service Owner to elicit, analyze, and document, in the form of a Service Level Agreement, what is needed from the IT Service, while the IT Service Owner is responsible for understanding the how – that is, the IT infrastructure and IT’s capabilities to satisfy the what.


With this in mind, the BA’s view of an ITIL-based IT organization, and the IT Services IT is providing, becomes a matter of understanding IT in terms of

  • the ITIL processes that take an IT Service through its life cycle of Design, Transition, Operation, and Continual Service Improvement, specifically
    • inputs needed from the BA
    • outputs consumed by or of interest to the BA
    • activities that the BA can contribute to
  • the Service Catalog and Service Level Agreements as the basis for understanding IT’s capabilities


In the May 2008 post mentioned above, one reader comment pointed out that it is very challenging for BAs to manage solutions that embrace multiple systems.  Encapsulating those various system components as IT Services, managed by the IT Service Owner, can go a very long way toward empowering the BA to deal with those complex solutions more effectively.


If you have any reactions to this concept – pro or con – it would be great to hear them.  I hope you take a minute to mull this over and leave a comment below.  Many thanks!

Comments (2)