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Where is the Business Analysis Profession Going?

awhittenberger feb4It is customary that at the start of a new year people reflect upon the past and look into the future. I believe you will agree some people are better at both activities than others. In fact, recently Julian Sammy, Head of Research and Innovation at the IIBA® did both. In this recent article he takes a look at predictions that he and other members of the Senior Leadership Team of the IIBA® made in 2011 about what 2013 will look like. He then takes a look at what he thinks 2016 will look like for the business analysis profession.

So I will jump on the band wagon (because it is a popular thing to do and because I have something to say) and give you a look at what I think the business world will look like for business analysis professionals for the next couple years. Trends take time to develop and take hold so I will take a multi-year look into the future, and why I believe Julian looked three years into the future. You will see my analysis has a heavy tendency toward the tactical IT Business Analyst role because, well let’s face it, that is what I know best; and it is still the largest business analysis role in existence today. Maybe one of my trends should be a prediction of how that will change soon. Ok, I got my crystal ball out, are you ready?

Trend 1 – Agile is here to stay

There are those that still believe that agile is a fad, soon to pass. Sorry, anything that has been here for 10+ years is not a fad. Many fashions (remember bell bottom jeans) are a fad; agile is here to stay. Although acceptance of agile methodologies may stagnate a bit, many of the tools and techniques of agile will find their way into IT project work in many companies; further developing the hybrid project approach.

Resistance of agile acceptance will come from companies that “tried” agile and failed. Some will “try” again or for the first time, some will abstain; yet some will realize you don’t “try” agile, you decide to give it your “all” (all the organizational support it needs) or don’t bother. Further resistance will come from the idea of a 100% dedicated team to one project seems an unwise use of resources in today’s business environment; and agile professionals will struggle to answer that concern to the satisfaction of business management. Also, lack of truly effective Agile Coaches will hinder the willingness of companies to give it a go. This will become a valuable consulting role; if you’re looking to drive your career into a role of the future, consider this one.

Trend 2 – Business agility will demand greater collaboration on IT project teams

Greater demand for quicker IT project delivery times will continue to crunch project schedules and resources. The trend of doing more with less will continue. This will demand greater collaboration among the project team. The BA Team, QA Team and PM will give way to the IT project team; with the BA as the liaison to the business stakeholder. They will all merge into the “core” project team with the responsibility to deliver full functionality, on-time and on-budget. The “we vs. them” mentality will slightly diminish between business and IT, but it will drastically diminish among the IT team itself; gaining greater synergies for a more effective working environment.

Trend 3 – Resurgence of Strategic Enterprise Analysis

Continued dissatisfaction with dismal project success rates will bring about a resurgence of the strategic business analysis role. This role demands a whole different skill set than the traditional IT business analyst. Skills to do market research, capability gap analysis, SWOT analysis, benchmarking and feasibility studies will become in greater demand. The skill to create a bullet-proof business case describing the business value of IT projects will become paramount. This role will work with project approval committees to define for them the business value and risks of projects under review, thereby giving necessary support to project portfolio management.

Trend 4 – The Value of Product Vision gives rise to the Product Owner and Product Manager roles

Product Vision will gain wider acceptance as many will come to the realization that this means more than maintaining future enhancement and feature lists, and product roadmaps. System users will become greater source of future direction of product vision of systems development. Yes, these roles exist today, but primarily in large enterprises. We will see this role gain acceptance in Small to Medium Sized (SMB) companies. Even in large enterprises these roles will gain greater recognition with clear career paths. As these roles gain higher profile recognition, people in the role realize that their value comes in communicating that product vision to all business and IT stakeholders so that all have a shared vision of the future product. For business and IT professionals looking to drive their career, this is another good direction for the future.

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Trend 5 – Requirements collaboration tools integrates social media and the desktop

With greater emphasis being put on business agility and greater collaboration on the IT project team, requirements management tools providers will jump on the opportunity, as these tools make the transition to requirements collaboration tools. Transparency of requirements during their development will become enhanced as other members of the project team, including business stakeholders will have that visibility. The requirements tool itself will become the accepted communication tool among the team, allowing them to interactively communicate about the requirements being developed. Yes, some tool providers have already integrated this capability, but organizations will integrate this capability into its business and IT processes, again due to gaining business agility.

The great enhancement in coming years in this area is that these tools will integrate to peoples’ desktop. Imagine being in conversation with a group and needing to schedule a meeting to continue the conversation. Imagine being able to scan everybody’s calendar and having a few suggested dates and times that everyone can make it to the meeting. Upon agreement of a good date and time, imagine everyone in the conversation receiving a calendar meeting invitation moments later; and all this happens right there in one tool. Now imagine that the conversation included vendor personnel who use Lotus Notes calendar while you use Microsoft Outlook; and some participants use Google calendar. Each recipient receives the proper invitation for their calendar.

Finally, the business analyst doesn’t rely on Microsoft Office as their primary requirements tool. Yes, some large, and SMBs, have been past this stage for a few years. However, this trend will become much more wide spread as more and more companies invest in these requirements tools; and those that have had them for a while will invest in the next generation of these tools to gain the benefits of the increased collaboration for their project teams.

Trend 6 – The Business Analyst as Proxy for the Business Stakeholder

In organizations where the Business Analyst reports to IT management and work on IT projects, the company will recognize the value of putting a Business Analyst on the business side to work as a proxy for key business stakeholder(s); this will be an additional BA role within the organization. This will free up the business stakeholder(s) to run the business while their proxy takes on the responsibility of working on IT projects to bring about the change that the key business stakeholder desires. This, of course, means that the business analyst has to not only share the product vision of the business stakeholder, but must understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of all the business change requests with great clarity.

Trend 7 – Businesses increases its Investment in Training

Changes in the business analysis environment will increase at even greater velocity. That along with the increase need of collaboration with a lot of different roles within the business organization will cause business analysts to develop new skill sets. Businesses will continue to see the value in investing in the development of its people, but will look for greater bang for their buck when investing in training for business analysts and other project professionals. Training that take the people away from work for shorter time, allow more people to attend the training for lower cost will see increased utilization over the traditional classroom training class.

Education providers in the space will scramble to beef up their virtual classroom offerings with excellent content, while continuing to offer the traditional classroom training for those organizations that value the in-person interaction with the instructor and other students, and are willing to pay for it.

Local IIBA® chapter professional development days (PDD) will help fill this need as well. PDDs like WI BADD (Wisconsin), I-BADD (Iowa) and SO BARC (Cincinnati, OH) will continue to gain attendance over the next few years. Chapter’s that don’t yet offer this service will see the value and begin to provide this service to their business community. Likewise, local business education providers that have any capability in this space will beef up their business analysis offerings to leverage the opportunity of this trend.

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Trend 8 – Business Analysis jobs will continue to be in abundance

With organizations putting focus on business analysis roles, additional roles will prop in those organizations. With the diverse skill set necessary to be effective, business analysis jobs will be in abundance. We will see an influx of people flowing into the business analysis profession from other professions including project management, quality assurance, business and operations. Now the flow will be both ways as people move from business analysis to project management and the other professions, but the flow into business analysis will be greater. Even with that inward flow it will not keep up with the demand for good business analysts, creating even greater demand for training.

Trend 9 – We will see a resurgence of Business Analysis Centers of Excellence

With all these changes in the business analysis space, organizations will also look inward for training for their business analysts and give them opportunities to learn from each other. Business Analysis Communities of Practice (BACoP) and Centers of Excellence (BACoE) showed rapid growth in 2011 and 2012, and stagnated a little in 2013. Organizations will see their value in training and incorporating best practices across lines of business. They will help ensure the same level of service across lines of business. We will see a slight uptake in BACoPs and

Trend 10 – Business Analyst and Project Manager roles will continue to Overlay

As the Project Management Institute (PMI®) continues to expand its teachings into areas like stakeholder management and collecting requirements they will lose focus on their core purpose and core audience. Businesses will realize that requirements, and stakeholders, need more than just management or documentation. They will realize the different skill set and focus (business focus, not project focus) needed to effectively develop requirements from the business and project management will give way to a project leadership mentality. Businesses will see that dual project leadership roles, one focused on the project and one focused on the solution, has greater probability to lead to increased project success rates.
The practitioners that perform these roles, through their professionalism, will find ways to work together for the benefit of the organization no matter the teachings of the PMI® or IIBA®. As for the IIBA® and PMI®; just like David and Goliath, David will

So that’s how I see the next couple of years for business analysis, and related, professionals. Now let’s see how I stack up to the ESI International’s predictions for the

So which do you agree with? What would you add or subtract from the list?

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.