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The Business Analysis Center of Excellence; A Vital Strategic Asset

The Business Climate

In the twenty-first century, business processes have become more complex; i.e., more interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated than ever before. Businesses today are rejecting traditional organizational structures to create complex communities comprised of alliances with strategic suppliers, outsourcing vendors, networks of customers, and partnerships with key political groups, regulatory entities, and even competitors. Through these alliances, organizations are addressing the pressures of unprecedented change, global competition, time-to-market compression, rapidly changing technologies, and increasing complexity at every turn. Since business systems are significantly more complex than ever, projects that implement new business systems are also more complex. To reap the rewards of significant, large-scale business transformation initiatives, designed to not only keep organizations in the game but make them a major player, we must be able to manage complex business transformation projects.

Why Now?

Centers of excellence are emerging as a vital strategic asset to serve as the primary vehicle for managing complex change initiatives. A center of excellence is a team of people that is established to promote collaboration and the application of best practices (Geiger, Jonathan G. Intelligent Solutions: Establishing a Center of Excellence. BIReview: March 20, 2007. http://www.bireview.com/article.cfm?articleid=222). Centers of excellence exist to bring about an enterprise focus to many business issues, e.g., data integration, project management, enterprise architecture, business and IT optimization, and enterprise-wide access to information. The concept of centers of excellence (COE) is quickly maturing in twenty-first century organizations because of the need to collaboratively determine solutions to complex business issues. Project management offices (PMO), a type of COE, proliferated in the 1990s as a centralized approach to managing projects, in response to the challenges associated with complex projects in an environment with low levels of project management maturity and governance. Industry leaders are effectively using various types of COEs, and BACOEs are among them.

A Slippery Slope

We are fortunate to have learned from the implementations of PMOs. The Project Management Institute’s research program studied PMOs in an attempt to publish a PMO standard. However, they were unable to do so, because they found out that there is no real standard practice for PMOs (Hobbs, 2007 PMI PMO Research Report). Here is what they discovered:

  • PMOs have been prevalent since the mid 1990s; yet, most have been in existence for two years or less
  • Only 50% of PMOs are seen as relevant and adding value
  • Most operate autonomously from other PMOs
  • Most organizations have trouble finding the right “fit” culturally and politically
  • Closure and restructuring happens frequently
  • Implementation time takes six months to two years; yet, there is a short time to demonstrate value before being closed or restructured; many are closed or restructured before they are completely implemented
  • There is a wide variability in the percentage of projects within the mandate of the PMO
  • Either all or none of the project managers are located within the PMO
  • Most PMOs have a very small staff due to the key issue of cost

Conclusions: it is a difficult endeavor to establish a center of excellence that is accepted and supported by the organization. A considerable amount of due diligence is needed to make sure the new center is successful.

It’s About Value

For a BACOE to be viewed as adding value, one of the critical functions is benefits management, a continuous process of identifying new opportunities, envisioning results, implementing, checking intermediate results, and dynamically adjusting the path leading from investments to business results. Therefore, the role of the high-value BACOE is multidimensional, including: (1) provide thought leadership for all initiatives to confirm that the organization’s business analysis standards are maintained and adhered to, (2) conduct feasibility studies and prepare business cases for proposed new projects, (3) participate in all strategic initiatives by providing expert business analysis resources, and (4) conduct benefits management to ensure strategic change initiatives provide the value that was expected. The BACOE is staffed with business/technology experts, who can act as a central point of contact to facilitate collaboration among the lines of business and the IT groups.

Implementation Considerations

Integration

Although the BACOE is by definition business focused, it is of paramount importance for successful centers to operate in an environment where business operations and IT are aligned and in synch. In addition, the disciplines of project management, software design and development, and business analysis must be integrated. Therefore, to achieve a balanced perspective, it is important to involve business operations, IT, PMO representatives and project managers, and representatives from the project governance group in the design of the BACOE. Indeed, your organization may already have one or more centers of excellence. If that is the case, consideration should be made to combining them into one centralized center focused on program and project excellence. The goal is for a cross-functional team of experts (business visionary, technology expert, project manager and business analyst) to address the full solution life cycle from business case development to continuous improvement and support of the solution for all major projects.

Mission

Understanding the business drivers behind establishing the BACOE is of paramount importance. The motive behind establishing the center must be unambiguous, since it will serve as the foundation to establish the purpose, objectives, scope, and functions of the center. The desire to set up a BACOE might have originated in IT, because of the number of strategic, mission-critical IT projects impacting the whole organization, or in a particular business area that is experiencing a significant level of change. Whatever the genesis, strive to place the center so that it serves the entire enterprise, not just IT or a particular business area.

Placement

One of the biggest challenges for the BACOE is to bridge the gap that divides business and IT. To do so, the BACOE must deliver multidimensional services to the many diverse groups. Regardless of whether there is one COE, or several more narrowly focused models, the BACOE organization should be centralized. “Organizations with centralized COEs have better consistency and coordination, leading directly to less duplication of effort. These organizations configure and develop their IT systems by business processes rather than by business unit, leading to more efficient and more streamlined systems operations” (2006 USAG/SAP Best Practices Survey: Centers of Excellence: Optimize Your Business and IT Value. SAP America Inc. February 16, 2007). Best-in-class BACOEs evaluate the impact of proposed changes on all areas of the business and effectively allocate resources and support services according to business priorities.

Positioning is equated with authority in organizational structures; the higher the placement, the more autonomy, authority and responsibility is likely to be bestowed on the center. Therefore, positioning the center at the highest level possible provides the “measure of autonomy necessary to extend the authority across the organization, while substantiating the value and importance the function has in the eyes of executive management” (Bolles, Dennis PMP. Building Project Management Centers of Excellence. New York, NY: American Management Association. 2002). In the absence of high-level positioning, the success and impact of the center will likely be significantly diminished.

One Size does not fit All

The “perfect fit” takes several elements into consideration:

  • The maturity of the organization’s processes and capabilities
  • The size of the organization
  • The diversity of the products and services

bacentreexcel_1

What is the Focus?

The current state of the organization must be taken into consideration, as in the effectiveness of the strategic planning and project portfolio management practices, the business performance management processes and strategies, the maturity of IT architecture, development and support processes, and the strength of the business focus across the enterprise. Clearly, organizations with more mature practices achieve higher levels of value from their COEs. Organizations can absorb a limited amount of concurrent change, while maintaining productivity levels, at any given time. Therefore, a gradual approach to implementing the BACOE is recommended. One option is to adopt a three-phased approach moving across the BACOE maturity continuum from a project-focused structure to a strategic organizational model.

Where to Start?

Based on the history of best practices for setting up centers of excellence, there is a proven implementation approach, including the steps listed below.

  1. Visioning and concept definition
  2. Assessing the organizational knowledge, skills, maturity, and mastery of business analysis practices
  3. Establishing BACOE implementation plans
  4. Finalizing plans and creating action teams to develop and implement the infrastructure for the center

Visioning

It is important to create a vision for the new center. Create a preliminary vision and mission statement for the center, and develop the concept in enough detail to prepare a business case for establishing the center. Vet the proposal with key stakeholders and secure approval to conduct the assessment of business analysis practices and plan for the implementation of the center.

During meetings with the key stakeholders, secure buy-in and support for the concept. Large-scale organizational change of this nature typically involves restructurings, cultural transformation, new technologies, and forging new partnerships. Handling change can well mean the difference between success and failure of the effort. Techniques to consider during the visioning phase include (Kotter, John P. (2002) Getting to the Heart of How to Make Change Happen. Boston, MA: Harvard Business):

  • Executive sponsorship – A center of excellence cannot exist successfully without an executive sponsor. Build a trusting, collaborative relationship with the sponsor, seeking mentoring and coaching at every turn.
  • Political management strategy – Conduct an analysis of key stakeholders to determine those who can influence the center, and whether they feel positively or negatively about the center. Identify the goals of the key stakeholders. Assess the political environment. Define problems, solutions, and action plans to take advantage of positive influences, and to neutralize negative ones.
  • A sense of urgency – Work with stakeholder groups to reduce complacency, fear, and anger over the change, and to increase their sense of urgency.
  • The guiding team – Build a team of supporters who have the credibility, skills, connections, reputations, and formal authority to provide the necessary leadership to help shape the BACOE.
  • The vision – Use the guiding team to develop a clear, simple, compelling vision for the BACOE, and set of strategies to achieve the vision.
  • Communication for buy-in – Execute a simple, straight-forward communication plan using forceful and convincing messages sent through many channels. Use the guiding team to promote the vision whenever possible.
  • Empowerment for action – Use the guiding team to remove barriers to change, including disempowering management styles, antiquated business processes, and inadequate information.
  • Short-term wins – Wins create enthusiasm and momentum. Plan the implementation to achieve early successes.
  • Dependency management – The success of the center is likely dependent on coordination with other groups in the organization. Assign someone from your core team as the dependency owner, to liaise with each dependent group. A best practice is for dependency owners to attend team meetings of the dependent group, so as to demonstrate the importance of the relationship and to solicit feedback and recommendations for improvements.

Organizational Readiness

The purpose of the organizational readiness assessment is to determine organizational expectations for the BACOE and to gauge the cultural readiness for the change. Form a small assessment team to determine key challenges, gaps and issues that should be addressed immediately. The ideal assessment solution is to conduct a formal organizational maturity assessment. However, a less formal assessment may suffice at this point.

Planning

Develop a BACOE Business Plan and Charter that describes the center in detail. Planning considerations include the elements listed in the table below. It is helpful to draft the plan and charter, and then conduct a BACOE kickoff workshop where they are viewed, refined and approved.

Planning Considerations
Description of Kick-off Workshop Agenda Items
Strategic Alignment, Vision and Mission Present the case for the BACOE, and reference the business case for more detailed information about cost versus benefits of the center.
Assessment Results Include or reference the results of the assessments that were conducted:

  • Maturity of the business analysis practices
  • Summary of the skill assessments
  • Recommendations, including training and professional development of BAs and improvement of business analysis practice standards
Scope Describe the scope of responsibilities of the BACOE, including:

  • The professional disciplines guided by the center, (i.e., PM and BA, just BA)
  • The functions the center will perform
  • The processes the center will standardize, monitor and continuously improve
  • The metrics that will be tracked to determine the success of the center
Authority Centers of excellence can be purely advisory, or they can have the authority to own and direct business processes. In practice, centers typically are advisory in some areas, and decision-makers in others. Remember, the organizational placement should be commensurate upon the authority and role of the center. When describing the authority of the COE, include the governance structure, i.e., who or what group the COE will report to for guidance and approval of activities.
Services A center of excellence is almost always a resource center, developing and maintaining information on best practices and lessons learned, and is often a resource assigning business analysts to projects. Document the proposed role:

  • Materials to be provided, e.g., reference articles, templates, job aids, tools, procedures, methods, practices
  • Services, e.g., business case development, portfolio management team support, consulting, mentoring, standards development, quality reviews, workshop facilitators, and providing business analysis resources to project teams
Organization Describe the BACOE team structure, management, and operations including:

  • Positions and their roles, responsibilities, and knowledge and skill requirements
  • Reporting relationships
  • Linkages to other organizational entities
Budget and Staffing Levels At a high level, describe the proposed budget, including facilities, tools and technology, and staffing ramp up plans.
Implementation Approach Document formation of initial working groups to begin to build the foundational elements of the center. In addition, describe the organizational placement of the center, and the focus initially: (i.e., project centric, enterprise focus, or strategic focus).

Launch

After the workshop session, finalize the BACOE Charter and Business Plan, and launch the center. Form working groups to develop business analysis practice standards, provide for education, training, mentoring and consulting support, and secure the needed facilities, tools, and supplies.

Final Words

Establishing centers of excellence is difficult, because it destabilizes the sense of balance and power within the organization. Ambiguities arise when all stakeholders are adjusting to the new model. These may manifest themselves as resistance to change, and can pose a risk to a successful implementation. Therefore, coordinate and communicate about how the center will affect roles and responsibilities accompanies the implementation of the center. Do not underestimate the challenges that you will encounter. Pay close attention to organizational change management strategies and use them liberally.

Value to the Organization

To establish BACOE to last, demonstrate the value the center brings to the organization. Develop measures of success and report progress to executives to demonstrate the value added to the organization because of the BACOE. Typical measures of success include:

  • Project cost overrun reduction – Quantify the project time and cost overruns prior to the implementation of the BACOE, and for those projects that are supported by the BACOE. If a baseline measurement is not available in your organization, use industry standard benchmarks as a comparison. Other measures might be improvements to team member morale and reduction in project staff turnover. Be sure to include opportunity costs caused by the delayed implementation of the new solution.
  • Project time and cost savings – Track the number of requirements defects discovered during testing and after the solution is in production prior to the implementation of the BACOE, and for those projects that are supported by the BACOE. Quantify the value in terms of reduced re-work costs and improved customer satisfaction.
  • Project portfolio value – Prepare reports for the executive team that provide the investment costs and expected value of the portfolio of projects; report actual value new solutions add to the organization as compared to the expected value predicted in the business case.

Great Teams…You Need One!

When staffing the BACOE, establish a small but mighty core team dedicated full-time to the center, co-located, highly trained, and multi-skilled. Do not over staff the center, as the cost will seem prohibitive. Augment the core team’s efforts by bringing in subject matter experts and forming sub-teams as needed. Select team members not only because of their knowledge and skills, but also because they are passionate and love to work in a challenging, collaborative environment. Develop team-leadership skills and dedicate efforts to transitioning your group into a high-performing team with common values, beliefs, and a cultural foundation upon which to flourish.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below


Kathleen (Kitty) Hass is principle consultant, K. Hass and Associates, specializing in strategy execution, business analysis and project management disciplines. Ms. Hass is a prominent presenter at industry conferences, author and lecturer. Expertise includes implementing a mature BA Practice, implementing PMOs, BACOEs, and portfolio management, facilitating IT strategic planning, leading software-intensive projects, executive coaching, building and leading strategic project teams, and managing complex programs. Her company provides high-value facilitation and consulting services to agile and traditional organizations. Ms. Hass has provided professional services to Federal agencies, the intelligence community, and Fortune 500 companies. Professional certification include: SEI CMM appraiser, Baldrige National Quality Program examiner, Zenger-Miller facilitator, and Project Management Professional. She is Director at Large for IIBA and a member of the BABOK committee serving as lead author of the Enterprise Analysis chapter. She authored numerous white papers and articles on leading edge PM/BA practices, in 2008 published the Business Analysis Essential Library Series; Managing Project Complexity – A New Model, and in 2009 contributed to The 77 Deadly Sins of Project Management. Ms. Hass can be reache at [email protected]

This article was originally published June 2009 in ModernAnalyst.com www.modernanalyst.com

Estimating the Business Analysis Phase of a Project. Is it Even Possible?

Years ago I worked on a large effort to reengineer a distribution center for a major retailer. We provided an estimate for both the business analysis work and for the entire project, which would involve the organization’s first use of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), new business processes, many software changes, and the purchase of new barcode scanners. The business analysis effort took far longer than we anticipated, and at the end of it we refined our estimate for the total project. When we reported the new estimate to the president of the company, he literally pounded his fist on the table and asked, “How did we get to this point? Why didn’t we know sooner? You’ve already spent all this time on the project and what do we have to show for it? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!”

I have always thought of business analysis as the most ambiguous and the most fun of the project phases (by phase I mean phase, increment, or iteration). However, for many years it was my least favorite phase to estimate. I felt like I was guessing, simply pulling numbers out of the air. No wonder we were so far off.

Estimating the business analysis phase(s) is not easy. It is not hard, but it takes a willingness to think about exactly what work will be produced, and many business analysts do not have the patience. So for those of you who do not have the “stomach” to spend the required time to estimate business analysis, here are some tips.

  1. Break the effort into manageable pieces. We can estimate a whole lot better when our business analysis phase(s) are small.
  2. As we progressively elaborate our requirements, we can progressively elaborate our estimates. We go from Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) to budgetary (deliverables identified) to definitive (requirements defined to a low level of detail).
  3. It is helpful to use a variety of estimating techniques. When we’re first asked how long business analysis will take, we really cannot be precise. We use analogous estimating, or experience with a previous project. If we have good history, we might be able to use parametric estimates. For example, if we know that it takes two hours to model a business process and we have five processes to model, it will take ten hours to model business processes. Providing detail on each of these techniques is beyond the scope of this blog, however.
  4. I have found it helpful to brainstorm with the people who are actually going to do the work. They usually have a more realistic idea of what needs to be done and how long it will take. I also like yellow sticky notes, since they can be easily added, taken away, and moved.
  5. But here’s the real key to estimating business analysis. Identify all the deliverables (work products, artifacts) you will produce during the business analysis effort. It is essential to first identify the approach you’re going to take, whether plan-or change-driven (Waterfall/Agile). It is also helpful to use the BABOK knowledge areas to identify which work products will be completed. During the course of an Elicitation event, for example, we might send out an agenda (one work product), update our traceability matrix (another deliverable), create an “as-is” process model (another deliverable), and update our list of issues (yet another deliverable). Next we think of the tasks needed to complete each work product, and finally how many hours the task will take.

Of course the real, real key is having the courage to communicate bad news. Which brings me back to the president pounding his fist. What I should have done was reported the plan vs. actual of the business analysis effort regularly, rather than surprising him after months of work.

What a lesson learned!


Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CEO and Co-Principal of Watermark Learning (www.watermarklearning.com) has over 25 years of experience in business, project management, requirements analysis, business analysis and leadership. She has presented workshops, seminars, and presentations since 1996 to thousands of participants on three different continents. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes, PMI North American, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific Global Congresses, various chapters of PMI, and ProjectWorld and Business Analyst World. Elizabeth was the lead contributor to the PMBOK® Guide – Fourth Edition in the new Collect Requirements Section 5.1 and to the BABOK® Guide – 2.0 Chapter on Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. Elizabeth has co-authored the CBAP Certification Study Guide and the Practitioner’s Guide to Requirements Planning, as well as industry articles that have been published worldwide. She can be reached at [email protected]

Combining Productivity with Creativity

If I may state the obvious, high productivity is good; low productivity is bad. That applies both to individuals and to projects. A number of factors affect individual productivity. Internal factors such as a person’s basic sense of self worth and the amount of discipline they bring to the workplace directly affect their output. Workplace environment and their supervisor’s management style can directly affect personal productivity.

The perfect business analyst would appear at work, immediately put their head down, and come up for air eight hours later, having generated prodigious amounts of high quality output. The reality is that most people only spend a fraction of their work day actually doing productive work. It is hard to maintain the needed focus, and people find many creative, and often unconscious, ways to avoid it. There are techniques that individuals can apply to significantly reduce this wasted time. The business of bringing systems into existence is by its very nature creative. But most of the time, IT professionals tend to behave like plodders. We all get creative inspirations, but few of us recognize or act on them. Those who do so regularly are seen as creative geniuses.

A manager’s personal style has a direct impact on the productivity of their staff. While I think a supportive style works better that an aggressive one, there are plenty of the latter types around. Unfortunately, we are programmed to respond to fear and intimidation, so it can work. But when an aggressive manager’s behavior turns outright abusive, disaster will result. I once had to rescue a contract where the program manager had driven off every single first and second level manager and senior analyst on the contract within six months of taking control.

The ability of a project manager to effectively utilize the capabilities of the staff assigned to them can have a huge impact on the quantity, quality and timeliness of the work products of the project team as a whole. In some respects this is just Management 101. The key to real success is a combination of deep knowledge of what team members can do, combined with a great deal of flexibility in making and adjusting work assignments, including a willingness to jump outside of normal schedule when roadblocks are encountered. In addition, better results can be achieved if people are used in multiple roles.

My personal favorite is to use the same business analyst(s) who have elicited requirements to do system testing. Who else is better qualified to know whether a system has met its objectives? Quite a few immigrants come to America every year to work in the IT industry. These individuals tend to be hard workers, and can be very productive, but linguistic and cultural differences can be barriers to achieving that productivity. A supportive manager who is sensitive to these differences can work with these individuals to overcome these differences and realize their full potential.


John L. Dean is a seasoned IT professional with many years experience, including systems engineering, systems analysis, requirements analysis, systems architecture and design, programming, quality assurance, testing, IV&V, and system acquisition, equally split between technical and management. He has worked both the contractor and government sides of the fence, has been an employee of large (IBM, CSC, Booz-Allen, MITRE, ACS) as well as very small companies, and is currently an independent consultant. He has a Masters degree in Operations Research from Clemson University. You can reach him at [email protected].

Let the Celebration Begin!

Thank-you! Thank-you! Thank-you!

We are officially one year old today! Without your involvement, it would have never happened. When we launched BA Times a year ago, we had two simple strategies to achieve our goal of serving the global Business Analysis community:

1. Provide current educational content and information
2. Create a forum for BAs to exchange ideas and information

Our internal goal was to have 2,000 subscribers by the end of the year! Well, I’m happy to say that we’ve successfully accomplished that goal and then some…

I’d like to recognize a few people who helped us along in our first year:

First 10 official BA Times Subscribers thanks for taking a chance on us:

  • Janette McGrath
  • Paul Thiara
  • Samuel McGrath
  • Paulina Corpuz
  • Kathy Vezina
  • Jenny Jones
  • Steve Willingham
  • Kate Edwards-Davis
  • Charmaine Jacskon
  • Sherri Marx
First Content Contributors thanks for trusting us:

  • Kathleen (Kitty) Hass
  • Glenn R. Brûlé
  • Janette McGrath
  • Marcos Ferrer – our first Blogger
Internal team – without their support and dedication, there would be no BA Times:

  • Mike Morton
  • Sean Butt
  • Ollan Delany
  • Jimmy Manuel

BA Times has emerged as the industry’s leading BA portal and eNewsletter. We’ve grown to 5,726 subscribers worldwide! Here is the breakdown:

Subscribers Come from 86 Different Countries – Highest Subscriber % from:

  • United States – 50%
  • Canada – 20%
  • India – 8%
  • Australia – 5%
  • South Africa – 4%
  • United Kingdom – 1.5%
  • New Zealand – 1%

We’ve continued to refine the site and offerings over the past year and will not stop improving. Thanks to all your feedback and suggestions, we’re building more features!

Changes You’ll See Starting Today:

  • New site template with a cleaner look and drop down menus from the main menu
  • New event calendar, including the ability of subscribers to post events
  • Custom images for each subscriber and contributor

Here’s what’s coming this year:

  • Content Categories – we’ll be placing all our content into categories to help you better navigate both new and archived content
  • BA Times Sub-Communities – you’ll have the ability to create virtual private sub-communities within BA Times. Great for IIBA Chapter communication, dedicated country communication and networking, or any other reason you can think of
  • Elibrary – where users can submit book titles and comments for reference
  • Online Stats – where you can see stats of subscribers online and connect directly to build your professional network and opportunities

It’s been quite a year! We truly appreciate your support of BA Times and would love to see it continue to grow to support the needs of the Global BA Community. Our initial objectives have not wavered:

  • Provide current educational content and information
  • Create a forum for BAs to exchange ideas and information

We will continue to ask for feedback and improve the site based on your needs! I ask only one thing of each of you: If you like our content and online experience, then tell a friend in the industry about BA Times. Either forward them a current eNewsletter or our URL. We’ve grown over the past year solely by word of mouth and intend to do the same this year. All our resources go back into improving the website, not marketing for new subscribers. We are constantly striving to improve what we offer our current subscriber needs, not hunting for new subscribers. So spread the word!!

Thanks again for a great first year! We appreciate all of you!

Best Regards,

Adam R. Kahn
Publisher, Business Analyst Times
[email protected]

Struggling to Define Business Analysis and the Role of the BA.

There is still a lot of debate in business analysis circles around what our role is, and what is offered by the various organizations, representing and supporting business analysts. Is the role all about requirements analysis? Are we just interested in IT and systems analysis or are our practitioners focused on the broader business and processes? Is certification of business analysts the answer?

I came across an interesting article forwarded to me by some information architecture friends. The article on the discipline and role of Information Architects (IAs) was written by Jesse James Garrett in 2002 and the issue of defining the roles of information architects that they were struggling with back then, are very familiar issues that we are now facing as BAs. If you enter the phrase “defining the damn thing” in Google you can still find remnants of that debate.

Garrett argued that there is a discipline known as information architecture as well as a role known as information architect and that they evolved hand in hand, but that the time had come for change. Similarly, just as there is the discipline of business analysis, there is the role of the business analyst.

If we define the discipline based on the role then we may potentially be too broad, as the role of a BA varies from organization to organization and encompasses BAs working as commercial, process, financial, technical and systems analysts. Organizations representing business analysts are looking to certification or accreditation as a way of defining the role, and bringing in some level of standardization in order to decrease ambiguity in the marketplace. Garrett, however, cautions that if we go down the track of defining the role we inevitably threaten someone’s sense of identity. If the BA’s role differs from the organization’s job description, then does it follow that they are not business analysts?

Alternatively, if we define the role based on the discipline, then whatever the field of business analysis is, those who are specialists in this field are business analysts. This definition however could, in practice, become too narrow. The potential to be “boxed in” may result in BAs having little influence or control over important aspects of projects, where BA competencies and capabilities are of great value and add strategic value to organization goals and objectives for process improvement.

As a BA I’m more often involved at a strategic level.  Rather than my involvement with projects ending with the delivery of requirements, I’m utilized throughout the project: I bridge the gap between the business and the technology team; review processes and operations; as well as investigating and advising on the project’s impact and dependencies on other systems and programs initiatives across the enterprise.

All this activity means my role is not easily defined. This is not because I’m trying to be all things to all people (the Project Manager, the Business Analyst and the Systems Architect) or take over another project team member’s role, its more a reflection of the discipline of analysis being increasingly seen as a core capability and that the frameworks and tools used for analysis can be drawn upon for expertise throughout the life of the project, and through all the programs across the enterprise.

In short, as a business analyst I do lots of things. Don’t put me in a box or label me and don’t predefine what I do … it limits the possibilities for my involvement to add value within projects, between projects, across programs and across the enterprise.

Garrett suggests that we seem to be at an impasse in the definition debate:

 “Any definition broad enough to encompass the role is too broad to foster useful discussion of the discipline; any definition narrow enough for the discipline is too narrow for the role….basing either definition on the other means one is going to be insufficient. Trying to do both at once isn’t working, producing a classic chicken-and-egg problem”.

This is where our business analysis “Community of Practice” can come together to shape the future of the profession. We should define the scope of what is business analysis as a discipline. Once we achieve this end, this will empower us to look at what the discipline offers in the way of frameworks and tools to interested practitioners, as the specialists in this field.

Ultimately, the definition, role, responsibility, and the future of BAs will be determined not by us, but by organizations that will base their decisions on their resourcing needs. It is therefore up to us as a Business Analysis Community to continue to promote what we do and how we do it, and share our knowledge, understanding and expertise within the community. By doing this as a community, we can go out to organizations and showcase the capabilities and competencies of business analysis. This will show the value of the discipline regardless of the role within the organization.  Instead of prescribing what a business analyst is or isn’t, let’s talk about our frameworks, our theories and what tools are out there to get the job done.


Maria Murphy is an experienced business manager and information and communications specialist. She has over 10 years senior management experience within the commercial environment, medical/pharmaceutical industry, not-for-profit organizations and government. She has experience with managing large federal government contracts and project management of large scale ICT business system reviews, development of requirements, systems planning and change management.

Maria is the Regional Lead for a Business Analysis at SMS Management and Technology and provides advice to her colleagues on developing requirements specifications for appropriate IT systems to support clients’ programs and initiatives. She can be reached at [email protected].