Friday, 03 February 2012 11:41

Why Good Isn’t Good Enough: The Global State of Business Analysis, Part 2

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Part 1 of “Why Good Isn’t Good Enough: The Global State of Business Analysis” provided the key highlights and conclusions of a survey of more than 1,600 business analysts and others involved in business analysis activities in both public and private organizations around the world.  This second installment takes an in-depth look at study survey recipients’ responses to questions about business analysis practices in their organizations.   

SURVEY RESULTS

Project participants missing the big picture

The ultimate impact that projects have on decreasing costs and increasing revenues is directly related to profitability; profitability is the reason that organizations do projects at all.  In our questioning of respondents about the state of BA, we believe the most significant finding is that project participants are failing to make the connection between their tasks and activities and their impact on business profitability. 

Organizational profit impact ranked 5th among the top criteria for successful projects when survey respondents were asked which were most important to both them and the organization.

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While the larger business issue of profitability could be understandably overlooked at the task-oriented level, organizations should be aware that such inattention could be a root cause of related and unrecognized project deficiencies.  Given these results, organizations have the responsibility to establish the training and communication needed to point out these links at the project level.

BAs lack enterprise perspective

The project activities for which most survey respondents said they are responsible are project management (69 percent), requirements analysis (69 percent) and requirements management (68 percent).  Among the activities for which the least number of respondents were responsible are portfolio management and enterprise analysis (both cited by 20 percent).

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Looking at the time spent on project activities, 44 percent of survey respondents said that project management takes up the greatest amount of their time, followed by requirements analysis (39 percent) and requirements management (37 percent). 

 

Glenn_Chart5Given the focus on project management, it is likely that not enough BA muscle is being flexed, and organizations are relying on project management to steer the right course.  Since PM focuses on what is urgent while BA focuses on what is important, the results indicate that a more balanced portfolio of project activities between the two disciplines will prevent the ‘urgent’ taking precedence over the ‘important.’   

Reported BA proficiency, project success in question

Survey respondents reported high rates of proficiency of overall BA and individual BA activities, although later in this report, we will see that a lack of experience and professional certification call these ratings into question.

35 percent rated the overall proficiency of their BA function as very good or excellent, while 39 percent rated it “good.”

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Respondents also rated their organizations’ proficiency as “good” to “excellent” in

    • Business analysis, planning and monitoring (70 percent)
    • Elicitation (62 percent)
    • Requirements management and communication (68 percent)
    • Enterprise analysis (52 percent)
    • Requirements analysis (73 percent)
    • Solution assessment and validation (69 percent)

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As noted in the executive summary, organizations should be aware of contradictions between reported project success and BA proficiency rates, compared with the known realities of projects and failure rates. 

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If current BA proficiencies are so highly rated and a large majority of projects considered successful, then the challenge remains for organizations to establish and achieve higher standards of excellence.

Business analyst certifications lagging

Part of the challenge in achieving higher standards of excellence may be due to the relatively small numbers of certified business analysts.  Survey results show that business analyst certifications are currently lagging behind PMP® certification among those practicing BA.  32 percent of respondents have their PMP®, although this is not surprising given it has been available far longer than other project professional certifications. 

Only 7 percent of respondents said they have a business analyst certification.  However, 9 percent said they are planning to earn a business analyst certification within the next six months and 18 percent are planning to in the next two years. 

25 percent of overall respondents and 24 percent of business analyst respondents said they are not planning on obtaining any certification. 

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 Professional experience shows BA still maturing

Responses regarding the amount of time spent actively performing BA activities provide indications of experience levels as well as insight into why a relatively low number of CBAP® certifications has been earned.  Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) have only five years or less of experience, while the CBAP® requires seven years or more years of experience.  21 percent have six to nine years while 30 percent have 10 or more years of experience.

The years of BA experience reported by respondents is also an indication of the immaturity of the profession.

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 Organizational challenges facing business analysts

Survey results showing the challenges business analysts face in the organization offer few surprises.  Communication and cross-functional collaboration lead among top challenges with 47 percent and 46 percent of respondents, respectively, citing them.  These difficulties underscore the importance of training and professional development to reduce impediments to better performance and improved project and organizational results.

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 Fewer projects of longer length  

The majority of respondents said that they work on a fewer number of projects of longer length; 33 percent said they have worked on one project lasting 18 months or more in the last three years.  When considering years of experience respondents reported, it can be inferred that there is a relatively inexperienced population of people working on mission-critical, long-term projects. 

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Tools of the trade

As mentioned previously, business analysts have a surprising lack of dedicated tools at their disposal.  15 percent said they do not use any tools, 14 percent are using basic Microsoft Office software and 5 percent are using homegrown, in-house developed solutions.  While this is a likely a reflection of the lack of maturity of BA in the marketplace, it is foreseeable that five years on, these results will be significantly different. 

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 A growing population of business analysts

Despite the challenges and immaturity of the profession, the BA community has grown and organizations are continuing to invest in their BA competency.  37 percent of respondents said their organizations had increased the number of business analysts in the last two years, and 27 percent of respondents said their organizations plan to increase their number of business analysts in the next two years.  While the survey results did not indicate whether these positions would be filled in house or outsourced, these robust employment findings are a testament to the importance of the BA function amidst economic uncertainty and lingering unemployment. 

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Social media taking a key role in information exchange for BA 

In a sign of the times, social media has taken on an integral role in training and career development in business analysis, as it is has in most other professions.  People are using some social media channels, including LinkedIn (35 percent) and YouTube (13 percent), more than traditional BA communities of practice.

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Survey Methodology

In September 2011, ESI International sent an email survey of 24 close-ended questions to organizational professionals from the executive to project level who are responsible for project activities in public and private organizations in the Americas, EMEA and Asia/Pacific regions. 

1,632 respondents participated in the survey, but not all respondents answered every survey question. The survey was anonymous unless respondents wanted to receive the results, in which case they had to complete their details.

 Survey Demographics

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Glenn R. Brûlé, CBAP, CSM, Executive Director of Global Client Solutions, ESI International, brings more than two decades of focused business analysis experience to every ESI client engagement. As one of ESI’s subject matter experts, Glenn works directly with clients to build and mature their business analysis capabilities by drawing from the broad range of learning resources ESI offers. A recognized expert in the creation and maturity of BA Centers of Excellence, Glenn has helped clients in the energy, financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, insurance and automotive industries, as well as government agencies across the world. For more information visit www.esi-intl.com.

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