However, with ever growing annual concerns over data integrity, hacking, cyber crime, information security and the increased financial threat of ransomware it may not be a luxury going forward. In my view, gone are the days when an organization should take the risks with having both key roles handled by one individual or even including the tech lead role combined into that one super human entity. Gone. That was 2000 or perhaps even 2010. But the climate has changed drastically and it is a more dangerous and less forgiving tech world out there now as we approach 2018 and beyond.
When I quizzed just my circle of current and past clients a little over 40% of them responded that they had been the victims of at least some sort of hacking incident in the past year. Thankfully none were a result of any oversight on my part and thankfully none were serious or of the ransomware variety. But still... more than 40%. Wow. I was guessing the number would be closer to 10%. Surprise, surprise. But this is reality and we have to get used to it - and defending against it and trying to avoid it will take time and money and still there will never be any guarantees. Do we want to cut corners on our critical projects? Do we want to reduce budgets and personnel needed to hopefully keep our data safe and our clients happy? Probably not.
For the purpose of this discussion, I'd like to cover some key reasons why business analysts become more of a necessity than a luxury in 2018 and beyond... and now, actually. Let's consider these reasons why business analysts are a must on projects in 2018... in my opinion... and please share your opinions when you've finished reading this...
Cyber security needs increase.
Everything can be hacked and the use of ransomware is growing fast. So concerns with sensitive data on our projects has now grown from just sensitive client data falling into the wrong hands to the potential to have to pay millions of dollars to someone who can grab the data but doesn't want it for anything other than financial gain from you.
Having the business analyst inserted on every technical project as another layer of skilled oversight plus the combination of business process and technical understanding that the good business analyst brings to the table will help alleviate some of the risks. Our data sensitive projects must have a business analyst working alongside the project manager, technical team and customer now and in 2018 and beyond.
Cross over skills necessary as more budgets tighten.
As project and organizations' budgets tighten, having the business analyst role becomes only more critical. The business analyst can help fill the void left by an understaffed technical team - not as a coder but certainly in a design and process configuration mode. And the business analyst will help when budgets are tight by further ensuring the smaller likelihood of rework and poor requirements definition due to their dual responsibilities, understanding and skill set.
Data integrity at the center of most tech projects.
At the heart of many - if not most or all for that matter - IT projects is at least some sensitive data. If it isn't data being processed by you or by the project client that is involved in the engagement you are managing or the technology you are implementing for them - like a new accounting system for example - then at least your handling of the client information is sensitive. And any or all of that data's safety is at risk on every project you manage or work on. Along with that is client confidence and satisfaction which will also be at risk on every engagement. That risk is increasing daily with each new report of a data breach by skilled hackers. Having the experienced business analyst role filled on the project is essential to detailed understanding of the client's business processes and any potential vulnerabilities or security risks that may be present.
Project teams are stretched across multiple projects.
The business analyst serves as that technical liaison between the project manager and the technical parts of the project team and with the project customer in many areas. The business analyst is also most likely thin across multiple projects, but the role is still essential and critical to help ensure gaps are filled and business processes on the client side are properly understood, documented, and translated into the requirements, the functional design and the technical design. That is the groundwork to building a good system that will minimize potential risks.
The gap between project manager responsibilities and tech team liaison needs is widening, not shrinking.
The project manager has enough on his plate. The tech team and tech lead are deeply entrenched on the detailed technical solutions that our tech project clients are demanding and in need of. They are getting more complex as technology solutions and implementations become more complex. The need for the business analyst liaison role to bridge that gap is becoming greater – not smaller. And it will probably never get smaller – only those in denial will try to skip over that gap thinking they can save money in the process only to find they quickly lose it in rework and scope management issues. It's only going to get harder and harder and technology is only going to get more complex on these projects we manage.
Summary / call for input and feedback
In my opinion – and from my experience - the best route is to always have a project manager and business analyst in designated and dedicated roles on every project. I realize there are organizations out there and projects to manage and customer wants, needs and budgets to worry about where that may not be feasible financially or on the table as per the timeline. But it works, and it works for the best.
Readers - what is your take on this? If you're a business analyst, do you think your role is or will become necessary on every project? If you are a project manager, do you have a business analyst assigned to every project? What is the business analyst model in your organization? Please share and discuss.